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For a contractor, what's the best kind of congressman? The dumb and powerful variety.

The San Diego Union-Tribune on yesterday's proceedings in Brent Wilkes' trial for bribing Duke Cunningham:

Randal Kerley, a former Wilkes employee in the early days of ADCS, testified Wednesday morning that Wilkes was pleased when Cunningham was appointed to the appropriations committee.

“He thought it would be beneficial to us,” Kerley said about Wilkes.

When he asked why, Kerley said Wilkes responded, “He's not the brightest congressman up there. We can work with him.”

Robert Fromm, former Defense Department official and employee of Michael Wade's infamous contracting company MZM, has pleaded guilty to one count of violating a lifetime employment ban. Fromm has expressed his willingness to talk with officials about ongoing investigations. He is scheduled for sentencing in January. (Charlottesville Daily Progress)

Earning reports for Washington lobbying firms were very strong in the first half of 2007. According to CQ.com, a half-dozen midsize firms “at least double[d] their average six-month take during the 109th Congress.” Jim Turner, a former Democratic representative from Texas (top Democrat on Homeland Security Committee) had to sit out last season because of revolving door rules, but this year he is credited with tripling; the income of Arnold & Porter. (CQ)

The Justice Department has spent $214 million gathering DNA samples from convicted criminals and updating their DNA testing labs. And yet, over the same time period, the Department hasn't spent a dime of the $8 million allocated by Congress for using DNA evidence to potentially exonerate convicts. (USA TODAY)

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Blackwater and the State Department say one thing -- namely, that Blackwater guards were under attack by Iraqi insurgents at Nisour Square on September 16. The Iraqi government and the U.S. military say another: Blackwater didn't come under fire on that fateful day, and instead used deadly force against a misperceived threat. So as a joint U.S.-Iraqi investigation gets underway, maybe it shouldn't come as a surprise that the Iraqis and the U.S. military feel shunted aside by a hard-charging State Department and its FBI allies.

The New York Times reports that the joint inquiry, with the predominant U.S. component coming from the military, hasn't had access to initial State Department reports (at least one of which was written by Blackwater), nor has it had access to a separate investigation into the incident that State asked the FBI to lead. Furthermore, the military has neither been allowed to interview the four Blackwater guards at Nisour Square, nor been allowed to inspect the vehicle that they drove. That last point is crucial: examining the vehicle would easily determine whether any ballistic damage to it resulted from the kinds of weapons Iraqis typically fire or the sort that Blackwater is issued, which probably aren't the same. (There was another Blackwater convoy on the opposite end of the square.)

There's been a fair amount of friction over the past year between the Iraqi government and the U.S. military. But when it comes to the Blackwater investigation, they appear united in frustration.

“We haven’t received any information from the Americans about their own two investigations,” [a] senior Iraqi investigator said. “F.B.I. investigators have asked us to help them and share our information, as they have started a third investigation.”

[A] senior American military officer said the State Department had also refused to provide details of its investigation. “We have asked questions,” the official said. “They have not responded back on those.” Both the Iraqi investigator and the American military officer spoke on condition of anonymity because neither was authorized to discuss the investigations publicly.

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In a conference call with reporters this afternoon, Kenneth Wainstein, assistant attorney general for national security, raised "serious concerns" about numerous provisions contained within the new FISA bill, which the House judiciary and intelligence committees approved today.

But let me focus on the question I brought up this morning: Although the new bill authorizes surveillance of foreign-to-foreign communications, how does the intelligence community know ahead of time whether a surveillance target abroad calls into the United States?

After a FISA Court ruling in the spring that foreign-to-foreign communications passing through U.S. switches or email servers were subject to FISA, both Democrats and Republicans agreed the law needed to be fixed. The Protect America Act signed into law in August did just that. Surveillance targeted at a person reasonably believed to be overseas and in possession of foreign intelligence information would be outside the purview of the FISA Court.

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It's official: the confirmation hearings for Michael Mukasey to replace Alberto Gonzales as attorney general will begin next Wednesday, October 17. Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-VT) set the date today.

Leahy laid out the questions he'll have for Mukasey in a letter last week, in which he also indicated that Mukasey's confirmation will be considered separate from the administration's refusal so far to turn over documents concerning its warrantless surveillance program. When Mukasey's name was first announced by the president, Leahy said that his focus was on "securing the relevant information we need so we can proceed to schedule fair and thorough hearings." Now those hearings will apparently go forward without that information. Or as Leahy put it last week to Mukasey, "they have left you to answer the unanswered questions." We'll see how that goes.

You never can be too careful, particularly when you're being investigated for lying to Congress. From Newsweek:

No sooner did Alberto Gonzales resign as attorney general last month than he retained a high-powered Washington criminal-defense lawyer to represent him in continuing inquiries by Congress and the Justice Department.

Gonzales’s choice of counsel, George Terwilliger—a partner at White & Case—is ironic if not surprising. A former deputy attorney general under the first President Bush, who later helped oversee GOP lawyers in the epic Florida recount battle of 2000, Terwilliger had been a White House finalist to replace Gonzales—only to be aced out at the last minute by retired federal judge Michael Mukasey.

The top concern for Gonzales, and now Terwilliger, is the expanding investigation by Glenn Fine, the Justice Department’s fiercely independent inspector general, according to three legal sources familiar with the matter who declined to speak publicly about ongoing investigations.


Fine is not only investigating whether Gonzales made false statements to Congress (see the top six here), but also whether Gonzales might have improperly coached his aide Monica Goodling on her recollection of the U.S. attorney firings. That's in addition, of course, to Fine's sprawling investigation of the politicization of the Department under Gonzales' leadership. But apparently Gonzales is most worried that his statements to Congress are the most likely to lead to a criminal investigation.

Dana Jill Simpson wasn't just worried about Rove's involvement in Gov. Don Siegelman's (D-AL) case. She also testified that she heard about a behind-the-scenes arrangement to ensure which judge would get the case -- a judge sure to "hang" Siegelman.

Simpson said that Gov. Bob Riley's (R) son, Rob Riley, told her in a 2005 conversation -- one where Riley also said that Rove was pushing to have the Justice Department investigate Siegelman -- that Judge Mark Fuller would get the case because Fuller, an active Republican, had a beef with Siegelman over an audit.

We've posted the portion of the interview where Simpson discusses Fuller here.

Q And did he talk to you about Mark Fuller's politics or political work?

[Simpson] He did.

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In an interview she gave under oath to House investigators, Republican lawyer Dana Jill Simpson expanded on her previous statement about Karl Rove's role in the prosecution of Gov. Don Siegelman (D-AL), implicating Rove in using the Justice Deparment to stymie Siegelman's campaigns in 2002 and again in 2005.

In the interview, first obtained by Time and released today by the committee, Simpson explains the context in which she knew what Alabama Republican operative William Canary meant on a campaign conference call in 2002 when he said "Karl" had gotten the Justice Department on Siegelman. Simpson told House investigators that the son of Gov. Bob Riley (R), Rob Riley, had told her about the conversations between Rove and Canary. From the transcript:

But I knew from conversations that I had had with Rob that Bill Canary was very connected to Karl Rove. Additionally, there was some talk -- and that's not in my affidavit -- about Karl had -- about Washington; that Karl had it taken care of in Washington.


Simpson also told investigators that three years later, during Bob Riley's 2005 campaign, Rob Riley told her that Rove had intervened again, this time going directly to the Public Integrity Section of the Department of Justice. The intervention came after the US Attorney for the Northern District of Alabama "messed up" a case against Siegelman to keep him from running, Simpson told investigators. According to the interview transcript, Simpson said Rove made sure all the bases were covered to properly prosecute Siegelman:

Q: Okay. And did Rob give you the name of the person at -- I'm just going to call it Public Integrity -- that he thought he understood Karl Rove had spoken to?

[Simpson]: No, he said it was the head guy there and he said that that guy had agreed to allocate whatever resources, so evidently the guy had the power to allocate resources, you know.

Q: To the Siegelman prosecution?

[Simpson] Yes. And that he'd allocate all resources necessary.

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At the mark-up of today's RESTORE bill, House Judiciary Committee chairman John Conyers (D-MI) defended the surveillance measure, which he's co-sponsoring, against criticism from both left and right:

To those who would claim that this bill is weak on terrorism, I would say that protecting the civil rights and liberties of Americans does not show our weakness, but our strength. What the terrorists fear most is our constitution and our values, and that is what this bill protects.

To those who say that the bill is too weak on civil liberties, I say that if you trust an independent court and have faith in congressional oversight, those liberties will not be jeopardized. That is the premise our democracy was founded on, and that is exactly what this bill does.

Admiral McConnell isn't the only administration figure lukewarm on the Democrats' RESTORE bill. President Bush just issued his first statement on the bill -- sort of.



Unlike McConnell, though, Bush didn't actually mention anything about RESTORE. Instead, he repeatedly praised the Protect America Act, August's FISA revision that RESTORE somewhat scales back. The PAA "strengthened our ability to collect intelligence on terrorists overseas" and "closed a dangerous gap in our intelligence," Bush said. "Keeping this authority is essential to keeping America safe." While he didn't actually criticize RESTORE, the strong implication is that the bill is too restrictive for him, even though its provisions for authorizing surveillance on foreign targets are remarkably similar to those within the PAA.

Could, maybe, politics have something to do with the tepid response the bill is getting from the administration? Here's how a GOP aide outlined the party's strategy to the Baltimore Sun's Siobhan Gorman:

The GOP strategy is to "run out the clock," he said, adding that Republican Senate leaders and the White House are "100 percent on board" with that plan.

Republicans, the aide said, "don't mind having this fight." He added, "this is Democrat-on-Democrat violence. The [American Civil Liberties Union] hates it. Most of the members hate it, but they also realize that if they don't do it, they can be blamed in the future" for a terrorist attack.

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