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Former CIA Official Pleads Not Guilty "A former top CIA official pleaded not guilty Monday to new charges that he pushed a proposed government contract worth at least $100 million for his best friend in return for lavish vacations, private jet flights and a lucrative job offer. The indictment, returned last week, replaced charges brought in February against Kyle "Dusty" Foggo, who resigned from the spy agency a year ago, and defense contractor Brent Wilkes. Foggo and Wilkes now face 30 wide-ranging counts of fraud, conspiracy and money laundering. Each faces more than 20 years in prison if convicted, prosecutors said." (Associated Press)

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So Paul McNulty is on his way out, but as The Washington Post points out, his successor's confirmation is likely to be a flash point in the battle between the White House and Congress:

McNulty's pending departure may add to the tumult at the upper reaches of the Justice Department, where only Gonzales and a handful of others involved in the prosecutor dismissals remain. Sen. Patrick J. Leahy (Vt.) and other top Democrats have indicated that they will not confirm any senior Justice nominees until they receive e-mails they have demanded from the White House and are allowed to conduct interviews about the firings.

Since McNulty has signalled that he'll remain in place until the administration nominates a successor, he could be there for a long while.

Oversight, the Bush administration way.

The White House's Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board has been an open joke ever since it was launched as a result of a recommendation from the 9/11 Commission's 2004 report. The panel was supposed to keep a sharp eye on the government's possible infringement on citizens' civil liberties. But it turns out that it's a bigger joke than people even realized.

Yesterday, one of the board's five handpicked members, Lanny Davis, resigned. Davis, a former Clinton White House official, left over "administration attempts to control the panel’s agenda and edit its public statements."

Now, we already knew that the board had virtually no power or independence. Here's how Justin described it last November:

The board can't demand documents; it can't force bureaucrats who actually implement the program -- and who might be aware of malfeasance -- to speak with them under oath. Instead, its sole and complete authority is to take the administration at its word.

But apparently even this powerless watchdog was too much of a threat to the White House. According to The Washington Post, the White House "made more than 200 revisions" to the board's annual report to Congress this April, some of them deletions of entire passages.

Like, for instance:

Davis charged that the White House sought to remove an extensive discussion of recent findings by the Justice Department’s inspector general of FBI abuses in the uses of so-called “national security letters” to obtain personal data on U.S. citizens without a court order. He also charged that the White House counsel’s office wanted to strike language stating that the panel planned to investigate complaints from civil liberties groups that the Justice Department had improperly used a “material witness statute” to lock up terror suspects for lengthy periods of time without charging them with any crimes.

And the reason for striking the passage about the "material witness statute"?

Chairman Carol E. Dinkins told board members March 29 that the White House counsel's office had asked to delete the passage, fearing the revelation might inflame the ongoing political controversy over the administration's dismissal of nine U.S. attorneys.

OK, so the White House deleted two passages. The first was a discussion of an already completed investigation, the results of which had already been made public. Presumably the White House didn't want to reopen old wounds. The second was spiked because it was inconvenient from a PR perspective. You get the picture.

But it gets even better. Here's the White House's unapologetic response when asked why it had been tying the hands of its internal watchdog:

White House spokeswoman Dana Perino called the editing "standard operating procedure," saying it was appropriate because the board remains legally under the supervision of the Executive Office of the President.

"When you have a formal document going to Congress from any part of the Executive Office of the President, it stands to reason that it must be formally reviewed before it is released," Perino said Monday evening.

I think what Perino's describing is more accurately described as "undersight."

Although Deputy Attorney General Paul McNulty cites "the financial realities of college-age children and two decades of public service" in his resignation letter as the reasons behind his "long overdue transition," it's apparent to everyone why he's leaving now, and why he's been rumored to be on his way out since late March.

From the AP:

...his ultimate decision to step down, [two senior Department of Justice] aides said, was hastened by anger at being linked to the prosecutors' purge that Congress is investigating to determine if eight U.S. attorneys were fired for political reasons. The aides spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to talk publicly about McNulty's decision.

McNulty also irked his boss, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, by testifying in February that at least one of the fired prosecutors was ordered to make way for a protege of Karl Rove, President Bush's chief political adviser. Gonzales, who has resisted lawmakers' calls to resign, maintains the firings were proper, and rooted in the prosecutors' lackluster performances.

Here's a statement just put out by the Department of Justice:

The Department of Justice will be losing a dynamic and thoughtful leader with the departure of Deputy Attorney General Paul McNulty. Paul announced today that he would leave the Department later this summer after more than eight years of service.

In his position as Deputy Attorney General, for which he was confirmed in March 2006 and served in an acting capacity since November 2005, Paul has been an effective manager of day-to-day operations. He has also been the principal driver of the Department’s policies and efforts to prevent corporate fraud and stop those who seek to defraud the taxpayers through fraudulent procurement practices. In addition, he has made significant contributions to establishing the rule of law in Iraq. Before serving as Deputy, Paul was U.S. Attorney in the Eastern District of Virginia, where he successfully prosecuted some of our Nation's highest profile cases in the War on Terror. From 1990-1993, he served in the Department as the director of the Office of Policy and Communications under Attorney General William P. Barr.

Paul’s long career in public service includes his work for the U.S. Congress and the Commonwealth of Virginia, and there can be no doubt that the Nation has benefited from his selfless dedication to good government.

Paul is an outstanding public servant and a fine attorney who has been valued here at the Department, by me and so many others, as both a colleague and a friend. He will be missed. On behalf of the Department, I wish him well in his future endeavors.

The AP is reporting that Deputy Attorney General Paul McNulty will resign according to "two Justice Department officials." We'll have more when it becomes available.

Kyle “Dusty” Foggo and Brent Wilkes head to federal court today where they will likely plead not guilty to new conspiracy and money laundering charges.

Indictments against the pair came Friday that expand the charges filed against them in February.

In addition to the old charges, in the new indictment, Foggo, former executive director of the CIA, is accused of slipping his lifelong friend, Wilkes, a $132 million federal contract to “provide commercial cover for CIA air operations.”

You can see the portion of Foggo’s indictment describing the scam here.

The indictment says Wilkes was patently unqualified to handle the task, seeing that he had no prior air-support experience.

How, then, did Wilkes get such a contract?

According to the indictment, Foggo had been funneling Wilkes classified government documents, despite Wilkes’ lack of security authorization, that seemed to prepare him for the pitch.

In exchange for Foggo’s cooperation, Wilkes took his pal on vacation to exotic locations like Hawaii and Scotland, offered Foggo rides in a private jet and treated him to fancy dinners at such restaurants as the Capital Grille (which recently won Consumer Reports’ award for the best hamburger in America). Judging by the $344.78 bill rang up by Foggo, he probably ordered something else.

Was U.S. Attorney for Nevada Daniel Bogden fired because he didn't prioritize voter fraud prosecutions? That's the latest theory at least.

Bogden's firing has elicited a number of strained rationales from the Justice Department, but we've heard precious little from Bogden himself.

For his part, Bogden says he doesn't know why he was fired, but since we're engaging in a guessing game, he ought to get a shot too.

There have been a number of "theories" for his dismissal, he wrote (pdf) in answers given to Congress. And "one of the noteworthy articles of interest pertaining to my situation," he wrote, "was an article that recently appeared in the Las Vegas Review Journal...."

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Concerning The Philadelphia Inquirer's story about a "voter alert!" going out to New Jersey voters in a local election, the following statement was just released by Michael Drewniak, Public Affairs Officer of the U.S. Attorney's office in New Jersey:

A story published in Sunday's Philadelphia Inquirer which said the U.S. Attorney's Office flooded Camden with taped phone messages warning against buying votes in that city's recent election was false. Neither the U.S. Attorney's Office or the Voting Rights Section of the Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice had any role in the phone-message blitz.

As U.S. Attorney Christopher J. Christie noted, the U.S. Attorney's Office would never engage in such a practice, which clearly could have been used as a voter-suppression tactic. The U.S. Attorney's Office was not contacted to authenticate the matter or comment for the story, which implied the office sanctioned or was the source of the recorded phone-message blitz.

The Inquirer's story contained a transcript of the call, which cleverly gave the impression of coming from the U.S. attorney's office, while not actually saying that it was:

"Voters alert!" said the taped message. "Please note that it is a federal crime to be paid for a vote. I repeat, it is a crime. If you or your neighbor have been offered payment, please report it immediately to the U.S. Attorney's Office at 856-757-5026."

So now the question is: who paid for the robo calling? And where else have such robo calls been used?

On her last day in the Civil Rights Division's voting rights section, an African-American 33-year veteran of the Justice Department wanted to send her colleagues a message: "I leave with fond memories of the Voting Section I once knew," she wrote, "and I am gladly escaping the 'Plantation' it has become. For my colleagues still under the 'whip', hold on - 'The Times They are A Changing.'"

The woman, who retired in late December of last year, was not alone in seeing racial discrimination in the Civil Rights Division and the voting rights section in particular. The section, which is charged with protecting the voting rights of minorities, has seen a dramatic drain in African-American staff over the past few years. And a number of those who have remained have alleged discrimination -- according to a knowledgable source, at least two African-American employees have filed Equal Employment Opportunity complaints against their supervisors, claiming they've routinely been passed over for promotions given to white staff.

Carl Goldman, executive director of AFSCME's Council 26, the union that represents non-attorney staff in the Justice Department's Civil Rights Division, told me that he frequently hears similar complaints:

“When I ask our members in the Civil Rights Division what’s their biggest problem, their answer is discrimination.... They tell me stories about minority employees being continually passed over for jobs that are given to white employees. They talk about disrespect from managers. They talk about explicitly racist comments that are made by attorneys, the same attorneys that have been brought in by the Republican political appointees that run [the Justice Department].

"While there are serious problems throughout the Civil Rights Division," Goldman said, "the worst offender is the voting section.”

Over the past two years, there's been a continual drain of African-American attorneys from the section. Six African-American attorneys have left; there are currently only two out of a total of approximately thirty-five, estimates Joe Rich, the former chief of the voting section.

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