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An article forthcoming in the journal IEEE Security & Privacy says that the Bush administration's wiretapping program could be used as a weapon by terrorists if they are able to hack into or infiltrate the system. By concentrating so much information in so few locations, the administration's program, if breached, could give potential attackers the ability to exploit the U.S.'s intelligence capabilities against itself. "When you build a system to spy on yourself," the article states, "you entail an awesome risk." (ABC's The Blotter)

Taliban attacks in Afghanistan are surging by 20-33%, according to statistics from the multinational International Stabilization Force. General Carlos Branco, the spokesman for NATO in Afghanistan admitted that violence against international troops and the Afghan government is rising, but asserts that the use of suicide bombs indicates the desperation of the Taliban. (The Guardian Unlimited)

Last week was bleak for representative Tom Cole (R-OK), who serves as chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC). Five House Republicans announced that they will not seek re-election (bringing the total count in this cycle to 28) and Cole was forced to announce “irregularities in our financial audit process” that may include “fraud.” (The Hill)

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At the very least, if the Bush Administration expires and we are still at war only in Iraq and Afghanistan, we can count ourselves lucky.

The New York Times reports on the latest treasure unearthed by Wikileaks, a 2005 27-page document showing the U.S. military's Rules of Engagement in Iraq. Most worrying of all, the rules allowed for cross-border raids into Iran or Syria:

In a section on crossing international borders, the document said the permission of the American defense secretary was required before American forces could cross into or fly over Iranian or Syrian territory. Such actions, the document suggested, would probably also require the approval of President Bush.

But the document said that there were cases in which such approval was not required: when American forces were in hot pursuit of former members of Mr. Hussein’s government or terrorists....

It stated that the American commander engaged in the pursuit, however, should consult with top commanders in Baghdad, “time permitting.”

The Times notes that it's unknown whether this ever happened or whether the rules are any different now. Hold your breath.

But there are other interesting aspects to the document. Certainly the preoccupation with former members of Saddam Hussein's government, rather than foreign terrorists, was not reflected in the administration's rhetoric at the time.

And then there's this:

Apparently in a carryover from the intelligence failures of the Iraq invasion in early 2003, the document says the United States Central Command, which oversees operations in the Middle East, gave American commanders in Iraq the authority to attack mobile “W.M.D. labs”; such labs for making germ weapons were later determined not to exist.

As expected, the CIA announced the results of its probe of the CIA's inspector general John Helgerson, who has raised hackles in the agency for his investigations into counterterrorism policy and detainee interrogations. Among the fixes:

[CIA Director Michael] Hayden said Helgerson has appointed an ombudsman to represent the interests of CIA officers under IG investigation. He agreed to make a "greater effort" to include the views of those officers in his final reports, and to allow officers to review draft reports. He also agreed to help officers find attorneys with security clearances to represent them if they choose. Officers will be told when interviews are being recorded, and investigations will be conducted more swiftly.

Finally, Helgerson agreed to an internal watchdog of his own, a "quality-control manager" who will ensure that all exculpatory and mitigating information about the subjects of IG investigations is included in final reports.

Notes the AP, "The CIA has declined to specify why the IG review was undertaken. The results suggest CIA officers were concerned there was a presumption of guilt and they were not treated fairly by Helgerson's team of investigators."

We'll keep you updated as to whether the watchdog's watchdog will get a watchdog.

Continued fallout from the U.S. attorneys scandal. From The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel:

The state Senate on Thursday unanimously approved the payment of legal fees for Georgia Thompson, a state employee whose conviction for mishandling a contract was overturned by a federal appeals court....

Senators voted 32-0 to pay $228,793 for Thompson's legal fees; the bill now goes to the Assembly, where it is expected to pass. There was no debate on the bill, but Sen. Judy Robson (D-Beloit) said it was the "least we can do" for Thompson, who served time in a federal prison before the appeals judges ordered her released.

Of course, the appeals court's decision to immediately overturn the case was remarkable in itself. But here you have a state legislature working to redress the wrongs of a federal prosecutor. Has this ever happened before? It strikes me as a rather unique situation.

And remember that efforts by Congress to investigate the Justice Department's handling of the case -- in addition to other possible cases of selective prosecution -- have been firmly rebuffed (with the exception of the disclosure of one telling email).

From CQ:

A House Republican under Justice Department investigation because of ties to convicted lobbyist Jack Abramoff has garnered help with his legal bills from a handful of colleagues, including Minority Leader John A. Boehner .

Rep. John T. Doolittle , R-Calif., reported in a filing made available Thursday that his legal expense fund had received $5,000 from Boehner’s leadership PAC. The money was part of $36,500 kicked in by GOP colleagues to Doolittle’s legal defense between June 27, when he opened the fund, and year’s end.

Here's a statement just out from Sen. Russ Feingold (D-WI) on the deal:

“I am pleased that Republicans have finally backed down from their efforts to ram a deeply flawed FISA bill through the Senate without votes on amendments. We all agree that FISA needs to be updated so our government can go after the foreign communications of suspected terrorists. But we must not provide overly broad and unnecessary powers that infringe on the rights and privacy of law-abiding Americans, especially to an administration that has proven it cannot be trusted. Next week, we have an opportunity to fix this bill, but only if senators stand up to the administration’s attempted power grab and support my and other amendments to put in place checks and balances. If the final bill produced by the Senate doesn’t protect the privacy of law abiding Americans or if it includes immunity for telecom companies, I will strongly oppose it and will vote against cutting off debate on it.”

Some explanation about what he's referring to at the end there. After the Senate votes on all of the amendments, there will be a vote on whether to invoke cloture. That's part of the deal. 60 senators will have to support that for the bill to move to its final vote. What Feingold is saying is that he will vote against that final motion to invoke cloture if certain key amendments don't pass.

We know that Rep. Don Young (R-AK) is under federal investigation for his ties to the corrupt oil company Veco. But that's about all we know.

It's clear, however, that Young has a variety of heavy-hitting lawyers working overtime. Just in the last quarter of 2007, according to his disclosures, he dropped approximately $331,000 for lawyers at Akin Gump and $75,000 for lawyers at the Anchorage-based firm Tobin O'Connor. And then there's $20,000 for a Seattle based attorney named John Wolfe (The Anchorage Daily News points out that Wolfe has also represented Sen. Ted Stevens' (R-AK) son Ben in an ongoing probe into corruption in state politics.) That brings Young's campaign spending on the lawyers to approximately $872,000 in the last year. He's started up a legal defense fund, apparently to accommodate a number of donors who'd like to help out even more.

Is this all related to the same investigation? Certainly with Young, there are plenty of scandals to choose from.

Young, in classic Don Young style, isn't saying anything.

Andrew Berger contributed research to this post.

Yet another one:

A federal grand jury has issued a subpoena to a reporter of The New York Times, apparently to try to force him to reveal his confidential sources for a 2006 book on the Central Intelligence Agency, one of the reporter’s lawyers said Thursday....

Mr. Risen’s lawyer, David N. Kelley, who was the United States attorney in Manhattan early in the Bush administration, said in an interview that the subpoena sought the source of information for a specific chapter of the book “State of War.”

The chapter asserted that the C.I.A. had unsuccessfully tried, beginning in the Clinton administration, to infiltrate Iran’s nuclear program. None of the material in that chapter appeared in The New York Times....

Mr. Risen, who is based in Washington and specializes in intelligence issues, is the latest of several reporters to face subpoenas in leak investigations overseen by the Justice Department.

Reports from the Senate Ethics panel released yesterday (new laws require that the panel’s work is documented) reveals that members have been busy probing Senator Pete Domenici (R-NM) for his involvement in the US Attorney firings and Senator Larry Craig (R-ID) for his behavior in a public restroom. Three other Senators or Senate aides are under investigation but no details have been made public. (Washington Post’s “Capitol Briefing”)

While President Bush and other proponents of the U.S. "surge" in Iraq declare that the strategy is working, evidence suggests that security in Iraq has begun to decline in recent weeks. TPM alum Spencer Ackerman reports that suicide attacks have returned to Baghdad, Anbar, and Diyala provinces while in Baghdad there has been an increase in IED attacks. (Washington Independent)

In a Senate hearing yesterday, the Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asian Affairs Richard Boucher kept to President Bush’s talking points and challenged lawmakers that “nobody can tell me” that Afghanistan is “not going in a positive direction.” Boucher must have missed the three major reports (Jones-Pickering, Atlantic Council, and National Defense University) that pointed to the instability (27% percent increase in violence) and precipitous deterioration in that nation. (Think Progress)

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