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Faced with the inconvenient assessment that Iran doesn't have a nuclear weapons program, GOP Senators are running an old game plan: create a commission that will treat the truth and a lie as equal possibilities. However, Michael McConnell, the director of national intelligence, is unequivocally standing by the National Intelligence Estimate on Iran.

The Washington Post reports that GOP Senators John Ensign (R-NV) and Jeff Sessions (R-AL) want to create a commission on the NIE that will, inevitably, trash it. For some historical perspective on how frequently the right has gone after intelligence assessments that conflict with desired conservative policy preferences, read Ilan Goldenberg. His bottom line: "In all of these cases conservatives played with and disregarded intelligence to help make their cases for a particular policy. And in all of these cases the conservatives were wrong." But he might have added something else: in all of these cases the conservatives were successful, despite being, you know, wrong.

Meanwhile, others on the right see something more nefarious at work. Danielle Pletka of AEI smears the entire intelligence community to the Post without any evidence: "This NIE was presented with a clear intention to deceive..." Similarly, in The New Republic, Yossi Klein Halevi doesn't bother addressing the new intelligence that prompted the Iran volte-face, and simply says the U.S. has lost "the will to stop Tehran" from doing something that Tehran isn't doing.

The intelligence community isn't backing down in the face of the right-wing pressure. "We certainly stand by the product," says DNI spokeswoman Vanee Vines. "It represents the consensus of intelligence community. That was clear when we released it. … We stand by it as comprehensive and accurate." But don't expect the braying from the right about appeasement and betrayal to cease.

What about Hayden's boss, Director of National Intelligence Michael McConnell? McConnell's been DNI since February. When did he learn about the CIA destroying videotaped interrogations of al-Qaeda detainees? How many tapes did the CIA tell him it destroyed? Does he believe what he's been told? What action, if any, will he now take?

Sigh. That's for McConnell to know and you not to find out. "We're not commenting on that at all," says DNI spokeswoman Vanee Vines.

What did Congress know about the CIA's 2002 torture tapes and their 2005 destruction of same? Senate intelligence committee chairman Jay Rockefeller (D-WV):

While we were provided with very limited information about the existence of the tapes, we were not consulted on their usage nor the decision to destroy the tapes. And, we did not learn until much later, November 2006 -- 2 months after the full committee was briefed on the program -- that the tapes had in fact been destroyed in 2005.


Rep. Jane Harman (D-CA), then-ranking Democrat on the House intelligence committee, isn't clear about what or when she knew of either the tapes or their destruction. But she says she warned CIA against getting rid of the evidence.

Rep. Jane Harman of California, then the senior Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, was one of only four members of Congress in 2003 informed of the tapes' existence and the CIA's intention to ultimately destroy them.

"I told the CIA that destroying videotapes of interrogations was a bad idea and urged them in writing not to do it," Harman said. While key lawmakers were briefed on the CIA's intention to destroy the tapes, they were not notified two years later when the spy agency actually carried out the plan. Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va., said the committee only learned of the tapes' destruction in November 2006.


It seems as if the "four" congressional leaders Harman refers to as knowing about the tapes were the chairs and ranking members of the intelligence committees: Sen. Pat Roberts (R-KS), Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-WV), Rep. Porter Goss (R-FL), and Rep. Jane Harman (D-CA). Rep. Pete Hoekstra (R-MI) took Goss' spot as chairman of the House intelligence committee that year when Goss became CIA director. Hoekstra told the AP that he didn't know a thing about either the tapes or their destruction. I'm calling Harman to ask her for her letter to the CIA about the tapes, and will bring it to you if and when I have it.

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A new report from the Pentagon's inspector general describes a massive failure in accounting for military equipment and services provided to forces in Iraq. More than $1 billion for military equipment like tractor trailers, tank recovery vehicles, crates of machine guns and rocket propelled grenades is unaccounted for. (CBS News, New York Times)

Salon pushes beyond Bush’s obvious prevarications about the NIE and Iran’s nuclear threat and argues that “the real lie” is Bush’s claim that “his administration has made a serious offer to negotiate with the Islamic Republic, and that Iranian intransigence is the only thing preventing a diplomatic resolution. Negotiations over Iran's nuke program, which started in the fall of 2003, were initiated by Britain, France and Germany, not the U.S. “Contrary to Bush's statement at his press conference this week, the United States did not "facilitate" these negotiations.” (Salon)

The Nation reports that “bu$ine$$” for Blackwater has never been better. Despite the massacre of 17 Iraqis, Congressional investigations of tax fraud, and a federal lawsuit alleging war crimes, Blackwater, having launched a marketing campaign, still seems a favorite of the Bush administration. The company even managed to have its own paratroopers make an aerial landing – complete with Blackwater parachutes – in San Diego’s Qualcomm Stadium during a halftime show at the San Diego State/BYU football game. (The Nation)

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Usually, what nails you in Washington malfeasance is the cover-up, not the crime. With the revelation that the CIA in 2005 destroyed videotapes of interrogations of senior al-Qaeda detainees, it'll be both.

Start with the facts as they're currently understood. In 2002, the CIA videotaped interrogations of Abu Zubaydah, the chief of al-Qaeda's military committee, and an as-yet-unknown colleague. (My guess is that Detainee #2 is Ramzi bin al-Shibh, who, following his capture that September in Pakistan, was the second most important detainee then in custody.) During that time, the tapes remained a closely-held secret, despite requests for information on interrogations from the 9/11 Commission, a 2002 joint Congressional inquiry into 9/11, and Judge Leonie Brinkema, who presided over the Zacharias Moussaoui trial. In 2005, then operations chief Jose Rodriguez ordered the tapes destroyed, without disclosing their existence to anyone who didn't already know. This week, The New York Times prepared a story about the tapes. To get out in front of it, Director Michael Hayden released a statement about both the tapes and their destruction.

Hayden makes not a single plausible claim about the tapes and why they were destroyed. He said in an internal message to CIA employees that the release of the tapes -- whether to the judge or to the inquiries or to, ultimately, the press -- would have allowed al-Qaeda to identify CIA interrogators and then target them for retribution. The appropriate response to that is: LOL. The CIA has the capacity to move its operatives around the world, including to places where there aren't any al-Qaeda "assassins" -- like, say, northern Virginia. To say otherwise, as Hayden does, is to tacitly concede that CIA is too incompetent to protect its people.

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The New York Times has a big one this afternoon: in 2002, the CIA videotaped the interrogations of at least two Al Qaeda operatives -- interrogations that likely involved waterboarding and similar techniques. But no one who asked for videotapes of CIA interrogations -- including the 9/11 commission and a federal judge -- was told about it. The tapes were ultimately destroyed in 2005.

In a nutshell:

Daniel Marcus, a law professor at American University who served as general counsel for the Sept. 11 commission and was involved in the discussions about interviews with Al Qaeda leaders, said he had heard nothing about any tapes being destroyed.

If tapes were destroyed, he said, “it’s a big deal, it’s a very big deal,” because it could amount to obstruction of justice to withhold evidence being sought in criminal or fact-finding investigations.


CIA chief Mike Hayden announced the destruction of the tapes today in order to get ahead of the Times story, which was due to break tomorrow morning. "The tapes posed a serious security risk," he explains. However, he doesn't attempt to justify the decision to lie to investigators about their existence before they were destroyed.

As for why the tapes were destroyed:

A former intelligence official who was briefed on the issue said the videotaping was ordered as a way of assuring “quality control” at remote sites following reports of unauthorized interrogation techniques. He said the tapes, along with still photographs of interrogations, were destroyed after photographs of abuse of prisoners at Abu Ghraib became public in May 2004 and C.I.A. officers became concerned about a possible leak of the videos and photos.

Presidential veto, here we come.

The intelligence bill passed today includes, as anticipated, a measure (sponsored by Sens. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Chuck Hagel (R-NE), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), and Russ Feingold (D-WI)) that would effectively ban waterboarding. That's because it would limit CIA interrogators to using techniques approved by the Army Field Manual.

If President Bush signs the bill, says Sen. Feinstein in a statement, "all U.S. government interrogations – military and civilian – would be conducted under the same rules and regulations, and eight specific techniques, including waterboarding, would be prohibited."

But the White House has said that he will veto it. So then it becomes a question of whether Congress has the votes to override it.

Here's the measure's language:

“No individual in the custody or under the effective control of an element of the intelligence community or instrumentality thereof, regardless of nationality or physical location, shall be subject to any treatment or technique of interrogation not authorized by the United States Army Field Manual on Human Intelligence Collector Operations.”

This week was supposed to be the main event. In one corner, a State Department inspector general accused of incompetence, subterfuge, and conflicted interest, saying he didn't know his brother served on the advisory board of a huge State Department contractor. In the other, a former CIA Executive Director, saying he told his brother in October about joining that board. Krongard versus Krongard. Both under oath. Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA) as referee.

After a mid-November interview with Buzzy Krongard, Waxman announced that on the week of December 3, he'd hold a hearing to determine whether State Department IG Howard "Cookie" Krongard lied to the House oversight committee in his last testimony. Well, it's December 6. There hasn't been a hearing so far. There isn't one on the committee schedule. What gives?

Honestly, TPM readers, I have no idea. Waxman's people haven't answered my emails. I appear to be on a straight-to-voicemail arrangement with Krongard's spokeswoman. Even Buzzy seems to be freezing me out. I'm starting to get a complex!

It would be pretty surprising if Waxman backed off his path to pursuing a perjury investigation. Krongard has apparently figured he can weather the storm. What will happen? I'd like to tell you that we'll see, but I might be the last to know.

Yesterday we told you about Rudy Giuliani's business partner Hank Asher's well-timed gift to the wife of indicted Orange County Sheriff Mike Carona. One of the remarkable things about the story is how thoroughly it hits the high points of what we've come to expect from Giuliani muck.

Sure, it's got bribery allegations, as with Giuliani's chum Bernie Kerik. But it's also got the flagrant misuse of taxpayer money on "security" matters that we've come to expect from the Giuliani brand.

Setting aside the hundreds of thousands in gifts and bribes outlined in the indictment, Carona was notorious in California for traveling with "a team of detectives as bodyguards." When The Los Angeles Times asked him about "the extravagance" in 2004, sheriff officials replied, "without offering specifics," that "Carona has received death threats and is a potential target because he serves on a federal homeland security committee and has become a recognizable figure with appearances on national TV news programs." The Times noted that other California sheriffs didn't seem to need the same amount of attention.

An Orange County Register piece from earlier this year suggests that at least part of the inspiration for rolling with such a posse came from Giuliani himself:

According to grand jury testimony, [Carona's deputy sheriff George] Jaramillo ordered underlings to run his personal errands, had secretaries juggle calls from his wife and girlfriends, and said he needed an entourage because he was tired of being treated like "the gardener."

Carona got the same star treatment, using bodyguards and being chauffeured by deputies to events. After a visit to New York and a meeting with then-Mayor Rudy Giuliani, Jaramillo and Carona decided they wanted the same kind of deputy detail and ordered it done.


Carona, of course, has endorsed Giuliani. It's unclear whether the security detail was also dispatched to secure his longtime mistress.

Yesterday the State and Defense Departments announced the contours of a new "understanding" for oversight of State's security contractors in Iraq. The gist: State will have to inform military commanders of the doings of contractor-guarded convoys, and if there's obvious wrongdoing, the U.S. embassy and the military command will seek prosecution. (Of course, it's not clear what law would apply, but anyway.)

All this arose because of Blackwater's September shootings of Iraqi civilians in Nisour Square. Not surprisingly, the company -- which is being sued by the victims' families, and might even (but probably won't) face criminal charges stemming from an ongoing FBI probe -- is embracing the State-Defense pact:

Blackwater fully supports the memorandum of agreement signed today by the Department of State and the Department of Defense regarding private security companies operating in Iraq on behalf of the US Government. Blackwater has always supported the identification of contractor standards and clear rules of accountability. Increased coordination and constant review of procedures will provide even better value to the Government. Blackwater looks forward to complying with new rules as we continue to serve the United States Government.

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