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Prosecutors had asked for only five months imprisonment, coupled with five months house arrest for Steven Griles, the former #2 at the Interior Department who's pled guilty to lying to Senate investigators about his relationship with Jack Abramoff.

A federal judge, apparently unconvinced that Griles had learned anything from the whole affair, today sentenced him to twice that. From the AP:

The Interior Department's former No. 2 official was sentenced to 10 months in prison Tuesday for lying to senators in the Jack Abramoff lobbying scandal, the highest administration official sentenced in the probe....

"Even now you continue to minimize and try to excuse your conduct," [Judge Ellen] Huvelle told Griles.


Griles had asked for three months home confinement and community service in the form of pro bono lobbying.

We knew from the Valerie Plame leak that the White House isn't exactly diligent with classified information. And we learned from Dick Cheney's claim that he's a fourth branch of government that he didn't really care who knew. But check out what Rep. Henry Waxman found.

In a letter today to White House Counsel Fred Fielding, Waxman disclosed numerous instances of sloppiness with classified material by both the president and the vice president's retinues, as well as what White House security officers told Waxman is a "systematic breakdown" in responding to security breaches. Indeed, according to Waxman, over half of the staff of the White House Security Office -- which is charged with protecting secrecy guidelines alongside the Archives' Information Security Oversight Office -- have quit over the last year.

To give the most baroque examples, Waxman's investigation found White House officials leaving classified material "unattended in a hotel room" as well as plopped on their desks at work. Typically, the White House Security Office did nothing in response.

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We noted last week that a Washington, DC grand jury -- rather than one in Anchorage --is investigating Sen. Ted Stevens' (R-AK) shifty involvement with oil services company Veco Corp. Today the Anchorage Daily News offers more fodder for why federal investigators would want to set up shop so far from home.

The story is about the headache prosecutors are nursing in selecting a jury for the trial of former state Rep. Tom Andseron (R-AK). Anderson is charged with taking $24,000 in bribes from a company hoping to build a number of private prisons in Alaska. Though the case is not directly tied to the Veco scandal, Anderson was a Veco consultant while in office.

Prosecutors are hitting two problems with potential jurors that cut in opposite directions: their apparent low regard for local politicians and the inevitable ties within a small community. Here's what two rejected jury candidates had to say about Anderson:

"I've already made up my mind," Donald Burns of Soldotna told a U.S. District Court judge on Monday. Burns, wearing a T-shirt and a baseball cap, said he listens to talk radio, watches TV news and reads two newspapers. "I hope they hang him," he said.

...

When longtime Anchorage resident Hannah Davis heard about the charges against Anderson, her reaction was, "Oh no, not another one," she told the judge. Too often, people in power, from Anchorage to Washington, D.C., use their positions for personal gain, she said.


As for community ties, one potential juror said she had gone on a date with Anderson and said she found the accusations "kind of unbelievable."

How a potential jury would receive Stevens if he were ever on trial is hard to say. Stevens has been in office since 1968 and is an Alaska icon, bringing his state millions in federal dollars. His re-election campaign has already raked in $1 million and no viable competitor has stepped up to the plate. But some in the state have called him less popular and more vulnerable than in past elections. However a jury might cut for Stevens, it's clear that a prosecutor won't find 12 Alaskans who've never heard of him.

Former Alabama governor, Don Siegelman (D), goes to court today for the start of his sentencing hearing which is expected to drag on for days. The former lawmaker faces up to 30 years in prison, while his his co-defendant, health care executive Richard Scrushy, could get 25 years -- both are ostensibly life sentences. Siegelman was convicted of appointing Scrushy to a public board in exchange for a donation to a lottery campaign.

Siegelman maintains his innocence and says the prosecution stemmed from a politically-motivated vendetta by Republicans. A Republican lawyer, Dana Jill Simpson, attested to this possibility in a sworn affidavit implicating Karl Rove in pushing the Justice Department to bring a case against Siegelman. (Simpson's affidavit is available here.)

Siegelman and others have called the prosecution's insistence on a long prison sentence further evidence of ulterior motives. As a contrast, Siegelman points to the last time an Alabama governor -- Guy Hunt (R) -- was convicted on political corruption charges, in 1993. A key prosecutor in that case, Steve Feaga, did not push for jail time. Now, that same prosecutor has fought for the 30-year term for Siegelman. From an editorial in the Birmingham News :

"The government doesn't contend I ever put a penny in my pocket, and they're asking for a life sentence," Siegelman said. "For the Republican governor who actually stole $200,000, Mr. Feaga did not ask for a day in prison, not a day."


The Los Angeles Times pointed out today that a 30 year sentence is longer than the average term served in Alabama for murder.

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Well, that clears that up. After a long are-they-or-aren't-they period, BAE, the British defense giant accused of paying $2 billion in kickbacks to Prince Bandar of Saudi Arabia over 20 years, admitted today that the Justice Department is investigating the company.

For years, Tim Griffin, the former aide to Karl Rove who’s been at the center of the U.S. attorney controversy, has been dogged by allegations that he was a part of a 2004 scheme to block African-Americans in Florida from voting.

As Greg Palast first reported for the BBC, an August, 2004 email sent to a number of Republican National Committee operatives contained a spreadsheet of the names and addresses of more than 1,800 voters in Duval County, Florida, a mostly white county that includes the city of Jacksonville. Palast reported that the addresses were located in mostly black neighborhoods, and his story, followed by others posted this year on his website and the Brad Blog, alleged that the list was compiled in order to challenge African-American voters at the polls. We sought to test that conclusion through our own analysis of the data.

The result? Our comparative analysis of the spreadsheet with Duval County voter rolls shows that most names were of African-Americans. (For more on the analysis, see below.) Such a finding, voting rights experts told me, strengthened allegations that Griffin, working for the Republican National Committee, was involved in an effort to target African-American voters. “It is difficult to explain other than an effort to target Democrats and by extension, minority voters,” Toby Moore, a former political geographer with the Justice Department, said.

Michael McDonald, an Associate Professor at George Mason University and an expert on elections statistics, said that the chance that the list is randomly so different from the population is less than 1 in 10,000. It is illegal to target voters based on their race under the Voting Rights Act. Griffin resigned earlier this month as the U.S. attorney for Little Rock after a six-month stint.

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Dana Perino, the occasionally flustered White House spokeswoman, has at least been consistent in her line that the executive order governing classification procedures that's gotten Dick Cheney into trouble lately also doesn't apply to President Bush. Today The Los Angeles Times' Josh Meyer points out why Perino's been saying that: the president's office itself rebuffed the National Archives' Information Security Oversight Office. Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA) found that in 2005, ISOO investigators came to the West Wing to inspect senior Bush aides' handling of classified information, only to be turned away by White House security officers. At the risk of a cheap shot, Saddam Hussein gave about as much access to UNMOVIC weapons inspectors in 2002 than Bush aides gave to the ISOO.

Now, here's the rub. If President Bush and Vice President Cheney clearly fall outside the scope of the executive order, as Perino said yesterday, why does ISOO, the agency directed under the order to ensure complaince, insist on inspecting them? The order, known as Executive Order 13292, gives the ISOO the authority "to conduct on-site reviews of each agency's program established under this order." Neither the president nor the vice president run any agency. But here's how EO 13292 defines "agency":

"Agency" means any "Executive agency," as defined in 5 U.S.C. 105; any "Military department" as defined in 5 U.S.C. 102; and any other entity within the executive branch that comes into the possession of classified information.


That's President Bush's language: he amended the executive order on March 25, 2003. (Basically, he gave the vice president power to automatically declassify information; it became an issue in the Valerie Plame leak case.) He could have easily cleared up any confusion about ISOO's ability to investigate his own office with a few uses of the word "exempt," but he didn't -- and now he's insisting that the order contains an implicit exemption.

It's an improvisatory kind of legal reasoning, it seems -- and it's no wonder Perino (who's apologizing all the time these days for her lack of a "legal mind") is having trouble keeping up.

David Lopez, former chief of staff to Rep. John Doolittle (R-CA), has given several hundreds of documents to federal investigators looking into his one-time employer. (Associated Press)

What do you do when Cheney claims not to be part of the executive? Democrats are toying with the idea of blocking the budget of the Vice President, since Cheney’s budget is currently lodged in the executive-branch spending bill. (The Hill)

The House Ethics Committee sent a stern note reminding lawmakers of their responsibility to give the committee 30-day notice to approve any private travel requests. The new rule, which took effect earlier this year, seems to have been ignored by many thus far. (Roll Call)

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Wouldn't you know it. Where there's a corruption investigation, there's also the Solomonic wisdom of Dick Cheney. And so it went with the William Jefferson affair, according to part three of Bart Gellman and Jo Becker's Cheney series. Had Cheney not changed his mind on the FBI's power to seize Jefferson's files, the top tier of Justice Department and FBI officials would have quit.

In May 2006, the FBI executed a warrant on Jefferson's House office, seizing numerous documents relevant to its bribery investigation. House Republicans -- and, let's not forget, now-Speaker Nancy Pelosi -- demanded the FBI relinquish what they'd taken from Jefferson, fearing the precedent the raid would set for other members of Congress and elevating the dispute to a separation of powers issue.

According to Gellman and Becker, Cheney sided with Congress, one of the few times that he's done so since joining the executive ... er, since becoming vice president. And, as the series has demonstrated, Cheney more often than not gets his way with the administration. This time, however, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, his deputy Paul McNulty, and FBI Director Robert Mueller all threatened to resign if forced to return Jefferson's files.

Here's what happened next:

White House Chief of Staff Joshua B. Bolten called a meeting on May 25, 2006, to resolve the political and legal crisis. The president's lawyers and congressional liaison were in the room, and so was Cheney. Once again, it was the vice president who came up with a solution, according to a participant. Cheney's plan met his goal of keeping the files from federal investigators. The files would be placed under seal for 45 days. Within hours of the meeting, Bush made Cheney's recommendation official.


The irresistible question: has Cheney inserted himself in the investigation of any other high-profile corruption scandals?

Apropos of the Washington Post's exploration of Dick Cheney's role in the development of interrogations policy, TPMmuckraker has obtained a document from the 2002 trial of John Walker Lindh -- the American captured in Mazar-e-Sharif in 2001 fighting for the Taliban -- in which Donald Rumsfeld's general counsel, William J. Haynes II, is said to have advised the commander of U.S. forces in Mazar to "take the gloves off" when interrogating him.

The Los Angeles Times's Richard Serrano, in June 2004, first described the document, a statement of fact by Lindh prosecutor Paul McNulty (yes, that Paul McNulty) entered into the court record, about the circumstances behind Lindh's interrogation. But to our knowledge, this is the first time the document has become publicly available.

In the weeks after 9/11, the Bush administration feverishly debated what was legal and appropriate treatment for interrogations of al-Qaeda detainees. The Post reports today that the effort began with allowing the CIA access to interrogation techniques not permitted under the Geneva Conventions, but that Cheney and Rumsfeld wanted military interrogators to have the same expanded authority, a position shared by Haynes. According to the document, months before President Bush issued a February 2002 order calling for detainees to be treated humanely "subject to military necessity," Haynes instructed military interrogators to "take the gloves off" on an American citizen. From McNulty's discovery filing:

(An individual identified as U.S. Army #6)'s understanding was that he could not collect (intelligence from Lindh) that could be used in a criminal court. After the first hour of interrogation, he gave the admiral in charge of Mazar-e-Sharif a summary of what the interrogators collected up to that point. The admiral told him that the Secretary of Defense's counsel had authorized him to "take the gloves off" and ask whatever he wanted.

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