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From 60 Minutes' fascinating interview with FBI agent George Piro, who led the American team to interrogate Saddam Hussein:

Piro says no coercive interrogation techniques, like sleep deprivation, heat, cold, loud noises, or water boarding were ever used. "It's against FBI policy, first. And wouldn't have really benefited us with someone like Saddam," Piro says.

Why not?

"I think Saddam clearly had demonstrated over his legacy that he would not respond to threats, to any type of fear-based approach," Piro explains.

"So how do you crack a guy like that?" Pelley asks.

"Time," Piro says.

Months of time, during which Piro manipulated Saddam, creating a relationship based on dependency, trust and emotion.


Oh, and by the way: "He considered [Osama bin Laden] to be a fanatic. And as such was very wary of him. He told me, 'You can't really trust fanatics,'" Piro says."

via Laura Rozen.

You hear a lot about the administration's torture regime, but not a lot about the process of how we got to where we are.

Say hello to TPM alum and drinking buddy Spencer Ackerman at his new muckraking home, The Washington Independent. In his first big piece, Spencer looks at how the CIA ended up implementing a system where "U.S. interrogators are still mostly in the dark—in the dark not only about al-Qaeda, but about how to effectively elicit vital national-security information from the detainees in its custody."

Sen. Barack Obama (D-IL) said yesterday on ABC's "This Week with George Stephanopoulos" that he will return all campaign funds that are connected to indicted Chicago developer Antoin Rezko. Obama has already returned $85,000 in Rezko-related contributions, but news reports have suggested recently that he has not returned all Rezko-related money. (Washington Post)

The Bush administration’s federal mine safety regulators have violated federal law by allowing thousands of health and safety violations to go unpunished. In just the past six years, The Department of Labor’s Mine Safety and Health Administration failed to act upon approximately 4,000 violations. One of those violations was partially responsible for the 2005 death of a Kentucky miner. (Charleston Gazette)

On New Year’s Eve President Bush signed the OPEN Government Act, legislation that had passed in the House and Senate unanimously. Though the law was supposed to strengthen the Freedom of Information Act, Bush has now taken steps to undermine OPEN by gutting funding for the National Archives and thus, according to Congress Daily, “effectively eliminat[ing] the office.” (Think Progress)

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The White House surveillance bill squeeze stepped up to another level over the weekend. So the scene is set for an ol' fashioned cloture vote rumble this afternoon at 4:30.

To refresh your memory: the administration's far-reaching surveillance bill, which was passed last August in a similar White House squeeze play, expires February 1st.

To take the time pressure off and ensure that surveillance would be unaffected by the lapse, Senate Majority Leader has repeatedly proposed a 30-day extension to the Protect America Act. Republicans in the Senate have repeatedly blocked any effort to have a vote on it. They've also blocked attempts to hold votes on almost all of the offered amendments, leading to the situation today.

On Thursday, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) filed for cloture, forcing a vote which would end debate, preclude any votes on the amendments, and lead immediately to a vote on the underlying Senate bill -- the administration-supported Senate intelligence committee bill, which contains a provision granting retroactive immunity to the telecoms. The Republicans need 60 votes to make that happen.

Now things are at the point where even if the Senate did manage to pass some sort of bill before Thursday, the process of hashing out the differences with the House version (which doesn't contain retroactive immunity) would drag on past the deadline. Reid has said as much: "The president has to make a decision. He's either going to extend the law... or there will be no wiretapping."

And over the weekend, the White House issued a veto threat. The game was clear:

“The president would veto a 30-day extension,” a senior administration official said. “They’re just kicking the can down the road. They need the heat of the current law lapsing to get this done.”


Bush even added a tweak of soft-on-terrorism in his weekly radio address to bring home the message:

"If this law expires, it will become harder to figure out what our enemies are doing to infiltrate our country, harder for us to uncover terrorist plots and harder to prevent attacks on the American people."


For the record, everyone agrees that surveillance initiated under the Protect America Act will be unaffected for another year. But surveillance on new targets would fall under the prior FISA law, the one superseded by the Protect America Act.

So.... what's going to happen this afternoon? The Senate will hold its much anticipated cloture vote, and we'll see if the Republicans will be able to lure over enough Dems over to get to 60. Sens. Hillary Clinton (D-NY) and Barack Obama (D-IL) will be present to cast their "No" votes. If the vote fails, it seems likely that Reid will try for a vote on that 30-day extension. (For it's part, the House is set to hold a vote on a 30-day extension today.)

As for what happens at that point, I'll be the first to confess that I have no idea. We'll keep you updated.

On Thursday morning, Detroit’s Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick (D) and his chief of staff, Christine Beatty -- and all of Detroit, courtesy of the Detroit Free Press -- woke up to find the irrefutable evidence of the love affair they had both denied under oath:

Beatty asked the mayor, on Sept. 12, 2002, if she could "come and lay down in your room until you get back?"

The next morning Kilpatrick, referring to his bodyguards, wrote: "They were right outside the door. They had to have heard everything."

Beatty replied: "So we are officially busted!"

"Damn that," Kilpatrick responded. "Never busted. Busted is what you see!"


Worse than the humiliation and embarrassment at the very public disclosure of both their affair and the unraveled coverup, is, yes, the real possibility of getting "busted" on a perjury charge, a felony. If charged and convicted, Kilpatrick, a lawyer, could be disbarred, would be removed from office, and could even face up to 15 years of jail time. Beatty, a law student, would have to find a new career.

The other big loser in this tawdry affair is the city of Detroit.

The mayor has cost Detroit taxpayers more than $9 million to date, because he was sued as a public official. Many are calling for the resignation of “a mayor with so much potential squandered on the keyboard,” a “talented” and “charismatic ” politician - “so knowledgeable on policy, so lacking in discipline.”

It all started back in April 2003 when one of the mayor’s bodyguards, Harold Nelthrope, blew the whistle on two of the cops on the mayor’s security detail; they were fraudently padding their expenses, wrecking city cars and drinking and partying while on duty. Nelthrope also passed along rumors about a bash at the mayor's residence involving a stripper. Deputy Police Chief Gary Brown began to investigate. Two weeks later, he was out of a job.

Three weeks later, Brown and Nelthrope sued the mayor and the city, claiming they were fired in retaliation for investigating the mayor’s security team. Later that year, another bodyguard, Walt Harris, sued the city and the mayor, making the same charges as the other two. He also alleged that the mayor retaliated against him because he reported that the mayor was cheating on his wife with Beatty and several other women.

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From Charlie Savage at The Boston Globe:

President Bush's plan to forge a long-term agreement with the Iraqi government that could commit the US military to defending Iraq's security would be the first time such a sweeping mutual defense compact has been enacted without congressional approval, according to legal specialists.


Read the whole thing. This is bound to be the big inter-branch brawl of the summer.

Freedom's Watch, the billionaire-fueled and highly-connected conservative attack machine, has begun its promised push to recruit membership -- to become "a conservative answer to MoveOn." But they're doing it in a funny way.

In a mailing that the group has sent to an unknown number of people, a four-page fundraising pitch (which is addressed, "Dear Fellow Patriot") is packaged with a two-page "Citizens Census." The "CONFIDENTIAL CENSUS DOCUMENT," as it's described in the letter, is actually a list of questions about core conservative issues, such as "Should we give our troops everything they need to fight our enemies?" with "Yes," "No," or "Undecided" as the offered responses. The questions are under the heading "FREEDOM'S WATCH CITIZENS CENSUS QUESTIONS."



When I asked Freedom's Watch spokesman Jake Suski whether the mailing was misleading, he strongly disagreed. "It doesn't even have the qualities of an official document," he argued, adding that the survey itself has multiple references to Freedom's Watch (true), that the fundraising pitch is written on Freedom's Watch letterhead (also true), and that the envelope itself says "Freedom's Watch" on it (true, on the back - see above for the front). "There's just no confusion about it. I think it's all in your head."

Well, here's the letter and "census" and here's the envelope it came in. Decide for yourself. It certainly reminds me of another fundraising pitch with an official aura: the "voter audit" letter from the Republican National Committee we reported on last August.

Suski, who was until last summer John McCain's Western finance director, wouldn't disclose how many such letters the group sent out or to whom it had been targeted. He would only say that "the response has been tremendous."

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From The Hill:

The Department of Justice has subpoenaed six current and former House aides to testify in next month’s trial of Rep. William Jefferson (D-La.), who faces a wide array of public corruption and bribery charges, according to a knowledgeable source.

Congratulations to Rep. Jerry Lewis (R-CA) lawyers! They've surpassed $1 million in legal fees from the lawmaker.

Lewis, long-time TPMmers will remember, has been under federal investigation since the spring of 2006 for his ties to defense contractor and convicted criminal Brent Wilkes and lobbyist buddy Bill Lowery.

Since June of 2006, Lewis has paid just over $1 million in campaign funds to some heavy-hitters at the law firm Gibson, Dunn, and Crutcher, according to campaign disclosures. A $62,000 payment on December 12th last year put him over the top.

The Lewis probe has reportedly slowed in the last year, and his fees reflect that -- Lewis spent $900,000 in 2006 and only about $100,000 this year. Maybe with the Wilkes conviction, things will heat up again?

Boy, times are bad for Rudy's crew. Just as Giuliani is hunkering down for his electoral Alamo in Florida, Bernie Kerik got knocked down yesterday before even getting a chance to get his gloves on.

The judge disqualified his lawyer from the case because he'd been present when Kerik had given several false statements to his lawyers, which were then transmitted to the Bronx district attorney's office. This was a "severe" conflict of interest, the judge ruled.

So now Kerik has to get himself a new lawyer. The only good news for him is that, with Giuliani's candidacy annihilated, there's sure to be less media scrutiny when he does finally go to trial.

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