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Pentagon's IG: Soldiers Under-Equipped An audit by the Defense Department's Inspector General found that the U.S. military is not adequately equipping troops in Iraq and Afghanistan, "especially for nontraditional duties such as training Iraqi security forces and handling detainees." Soldiers have gone without enough "guns, ammunition, and other necessary supplies. . . and have had to cancel or postpone some assignments while waiting for the proper gear." The audit comes at an inopportune time for the President Bush's administration, which is seeking to rally waning support for a 21,500 troop increase in Iraq. (BusinessWeek.com)

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If that don't beat all.

Facing federal indictment last August, then-Rep. Bob Ney (R-OH) shut down his re-election campaign. (He confessed his guilt a month later.) He fired all of his staffers -- but one: his better half, Elizabeth.

That's right -- from August to Dec. 31, 2006, Elizabeth has been the campaign's sole paid employee, bringing in about $1,700 a month, according to the Columbus Dispatch.

Who's to say she hasn't earned it?

Benchmarks! Get your benchmarks right here!

According to a letter sent yesterday by Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice, the Iraqi government has something of a problem meeting benchmarks. You can read the letter here.

The letter was a response to repeated requests from Sen. Carl Levin (D-MI) to disclose the details of an agreement that had reportedly been made between the Bush administration and the Iraqi government last fall. Bush had made a number of public references to the agreeement, but the full details of the agreement remained unknown.

And it's no wonder. It's quite a little list of unfulfilled promises (you can read the complete list here). From the AP:

Iraq has passed target dates to make laws establishing provincial elections, regulating distribution of the country's oil wealth and reversing measures that have excluded many Sunnis from jobs and government positions because of Baath party membership, according to the list Rice provided.

The Iraq government had also agreed to approve a law governing political amnesty and the charged question of sectarian militias by Dec. 31 and to finish a review of the constitution, seen as unfair to minority Sunnis, by Wednesday.


"Although the Iraqi parliament and Cabinet have done intermittent work on some elements of the list, including the symbolic oil law, it appeared that none of the targets have been fully met," the AP reports.

Meanwhile, some Senate Republicans (Sens. John McCain (R-AZ) and Lindsay Graham (R-SC) and well, Joe Lieberman (I-CT)) are busy pushing a resolution to counter the nonbinding resolutions against the president's troop increase -- by proposing more benchmarks for the Iraqi government.

A couple weeks ago, Sen. Jim Webb (D-VA) asked Secretary Condoleeza Rice if the administration thought President Bush had the power to take military action against Iran without permission from Congress.

She deferred an answer, saying, "I'm really loathe to get into questions of the president's authorities without a rather more clear understanding of what we are actually talking about. So let me answer you, in fact, in writing. I think that would be the best thing to do."

Well, it's been two weeks, and Sen. Webb is still waiting. So he's asked again, in a letter sent to Rice yesterday. To help speed a response, he even suggested the range of answers she might provide: "This is, basically, a 'yes' or 'no' question regarding an urgent matter affecting our nation’s foreign policy."

And to ensure that the administration got the message that Webb remained interested, he also asked the question of Director of National Intelligence John Negroponte during this morning's hearing.

The full text of the letter is below.

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C'mon, everybody: Let's get ready to rumble!

We've just confirmed that the former Bush-appointed leader of the U.S. rebuilding effort in Iraq will face his longtime critic before a panel of the Democratic-led Congress to answer questions about his leadership.

L. Paul Bremer, onetime head of the former Coalition Provisional Authority, responded positively to an invitation extended ten days ago to testify along with his chief critic, Iraq audit and investigation chief Stuart Bowen, before Rep. Henry Waxman's (D-CA) Government Reform Committee.

"He's confirmed," a Waxman spokesman told me this afternoon, referring to Bremer, who stepped down in June 2004. President Bush awarded him the Presidential Medal of Freedom six months later, despite a long series of scathing reports by Bowen about mismanagement, waste, fraud and abuse among Bremer's staff.

It will be the first time Bremer and Bowen will testify together before Congress, according to Bowen spokeswoman Christine Belisle. Get your popcorn ready.

Cnet News reports:

The FBI appears to have adopted an invasive Internet surveillance technique that collects far more data on innocent Americans than previously has been disclosed.

Instead of recording only what a particular suspect is doing, agents conducting investigations appear to be assembling the activities of thousands of Internet users at a time into massive databases, according to current and former officials. That database can subsequently be queried for names, e-mail addresses or keywords. . . .

"What they're doing is even worse than Carnivore," said Kevin Bankston, a staff attorney at the Electronic Frontier Foundation. . . "What they're doing is intercepting everyone and then choosing their targets."

. . . [Bankston said] the FBI is "collecting and apparently storing indefinitely the communications of thousands--if not hundreds of thousands--of innocent Americans in violation of the Wiretap Act and the 4th Amendment to the Constitution."

This ought to be good. Senate Judicary Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-VT) and Ranking Member Arlen Specter (R-PA) have written Attorney General Alberto Gonzales to ask what power they think Congress has to restrict the waging of war.

The request comes as Sen. Russ Feinfold (D-WI) holds a hearing today called "Exercising Congress's Constitutional Power to End a War." A number of Democrats, like Feingold, have urged that the Democrats use the power of the purse to restrict Bush's troop increase in Iraq.



"What constitutional authority do you recognize resides with the Congress with respect to war?" the letter asks. "How do you believe Congress can exercise its authorities? What limits to you believe exist on those authorities? We would appreciate your prompt reply and legal analysis."

A couple of weeks ago, President Bush, in response to a question of whether he had "the authority to put the [21,000 extra] troops in [Iraq] no matter what the Congress wants to do," answered, "In this situation, I do, yeah. Now, I fully understand they could try to stop me from doing it. But I made my decision, and we're going forward."

We'll see if the administration sticks to that line.

We've posted Leahy's full statement on this issue below.

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Following reports and complaints of fishy land deals, the Feds have been investigating Rep. Gary Miller (R-CA), making him the 20th member of the 109th Congress to fall under federal scrutiny.

Miller, a real estate developer by trade, came to the attention of the FBI when a Washington, D.C.-based watchdog group complained last summer that the congressman hadn't paid taxes on two land deals he was involved in, The San Gabriel Valley Tribune reports.

An August article in the Los Angeles Times gave juicy details of the problem.

Although we're just learning of the investigation, it appears the FBI has been asking around about Miller since late last year, which means we can count him as one of the many scandalized lawmakers from the Schemin' 109th. You can see our ongoing attempts at scandal scorekeeping here and here.

A December LA Times investigation gave even more great details about Miller, including how he pushed his staff to win him favors like sweet tickets to a Rolling Stones concert, or help his son register for college classes.

For budding Miller Muck fans, we also recommend these fine articles from The Hill newspaper.

That long awaitied National Intelligence Estimate on Iraq is finally coming Monday, according to outgoing Director of National Intelligence John Negroponte.

He made the remark during this morning's hearing before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

The NIE, requested last July by Democrats, has been a long time coming. The situation came to a head a couple of weeks ago when an administration official reportedly explained in a closed door session of the Senate Judiciary Committee that intelligence officials were just too busy getting the plans together for President Bush's escalation of troops in Iraq to finish up the NIE.

Outraged, Democrats demanded that Negroponte finish up the estimate, which, they argued, should have been completed before Bush's announcement of a new strategy in Iraq, and not after.

So now the NIE is finally on its way. What will it say? The public -- and Congress -- will just have to wait until next week. Negroponte refused to characterize the findings of the estimate in any way.

A full transcript of Negroponte's remarks below the fold....

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Surge Could Worsen Equipment Deficit "Boosting U.S. troop levels in Iraq by 21,500 would create major logistical hurdles for the Army and Marine Corps, which are short thousands of vehicles, armor kits and other equipment needed to supply the extra forces, U.S. officials said." (The Washington Post)

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