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Despite the Pittsburgh TV station KDKA citing "thousands" of wounded soldiers being asked to return their recruitment bonuses, it's unclear how many actually were, according to Army spokesman Paul Boyce.

Boyce says he has personally been in touch with the station's reporters as part of the Army's efforts to get to the bottom of the bonus-recoupment story, and he's been able to determine that 300 soldiers were asked to send back part or all of their battlefield pay -- not their bonuses. So far, the Army attributes the mistake to an insufficient number of finance clerks at some hospitals where wounded soldiers were admitted in 2004 and 2005, resulting in paperwork mix-ups. In 99 of those cases, the remittance was waived "on the spot" after the Army caught the error. For the remaining 201, some measure of congressional assistance was required, Boyce said, but for all cases that didn't involve a soldier involved in obvious wrongdoing (a more precise number was unavailable), soldiers kept their money. In response, the Army beefed up their finance personnel at its hospitals, Boyce said.

It remains unclear how many wounded soldiers actually received notices from the Army demanding they return their recruitment bonuses -- or who don't receive installments of those bonuses -- after injuries prevented them from finishing their service commitments. Boyce says the Army is "presently looking into the circumstances" of how many soldiers were asked to send back their bonuses.

After learning from the media that a wounded Iraq veteran, Private First Class Jordan Fox of Pennsylvania, was asked to return his enlistment bonus when an IED prematurely ended his soldiering career, the Army has emphasized that its policy is not to recoup those bonuses. But it doesn't know how the snafu occurred. And that raises concerns that other wounded soldiers might lose their benefits through a different bureaucratic mix-up.

Apropos of Paul's good question on Wednesday about recruitment bonuses -- are they paid up front, allowing them to be partially withheld if soldiers are unable to complete their tours? -- we have an answer. Bonuses are paid incrementally, for the most part, except for military jobs facing a "critical shortfall" of personnel.

That means infantrymen are probably going to get their bonuses on the installment plan, though Army spokesman Paul Boyce -- who has the unfortunate assignment of fielding reporters' calls on the Jordan Fox story post-Thanksgiving -- says that wouldn't "necessarily" be the case. "It depends on the situation for the individual soldier," he explains.

So what percentage of recruitment bonuses are paid up front? Boyce doesn't know, and says that there isn't a system in place for determining that percentage "at this time."

Very well. So couldn't the Army conceivably not pay the remaining installments of a recruitment bonus to a soldier unable to complete his or her tour, as opposed to the current policy of not seeking recoupment?

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Seattle Post-Intelligencer columnist Joe Connelly offers a Don Young (R-AK) quiz for readers (what better way to celebrate Thanksgiving?). A sample:

7) A man renowned for his temper, Young has during 35 years in Congress:

a) Waved an oosik, the penis bone of a walrus, at the first woman head of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service at a hearing.

b) Loudly argued, during a hearing on trapping and animal cruelty, that leg-hold traps are neither painful nor dangerous -- and put his hand into a trap.

c) Reacted to the effort by a Republican colleague to cut one of his pet projects by yelling across the House floor: "There's always another day when those who fight will be killed, too, and I am very good at that."

d) All of the above.

Boy, does Sen. David Vitter (R-LA) have something to be thankful for:

A federal judge spared Sen. David Vitter an embarrassing appearance on the witness stand in a prostitution case when she abruptly canceled a hearing scheduled for next week.

The Louisiana Republican was under subpoena to testify about his ties to a Washington escort service. Deborah Palfrey, the woman accused of running a prostitution ring, had sought to question Vitter about whether he paid for sex.

But U.S. District Judge Gladys Kessler canceled the hearing Wednesday, saying it served no purpose in the criminal case. It was Kessler who originally set the hearing but, after seeing Palfrey's witness list, the judge said she was convinced Palfrey was just trying to game the judicial system....

The Nov. 28 hearing was merely a tangent to Palfrey's prosecution, but Vitter's testimony would have drawn a crowd. With Vitter on the stand, attorney Montgomery Blair Sibley said he would ask, "As a client, did you engage in illegal sex acts?"

It's a novel strategy, asking someone to say they paid for sex to help bolster a prostitution case. But Palfrey says she provided a fantasy service, not a sexual one, and anyone who sold sex was a "rogue escort" who violated her employment contract.


Oh, good. No more embarrassment. Like those embarrassing details offered up by New Orleans prostitute Wendy Yow Ellis in Hustler, such as the fact that he insisted that prostitutes not "wear any perfume, body lotions, not even take a shower," because "he did not want any scent on him whatsoever"; that he took his used condoms with him afterwards; or that after he found out that Ellis had the same first name as his wife, he stopped visiting her, although he'd still go to watch Ellis dance at a French Quarter strip club occasionally. Phew!

Saudi Arabia and Libya are both considered U.S. allies in the war on terror. Nevertheless, these allies contributed 60 percent of the foreign fighters who have come to Iraq to kill American troops. Though U.S. officials have focused on Iranian support for the insurgency in Iraq, only 11 Iranians have been detained by the U.S. (New York Times)

Saudi Arabia has had “more than 100 of about 130 citizens return home from Guantanamo, including dozens a military review panel found were security threats.” Yemen, on the other hand, has managed to repatriate only 13 of 110 citizens. Check out the Boston Globe’s report on the story of Ali Muhammed Nasir Mohammed, who In May 2006 was told he would heading home from Guantanamo on the next plane to Saudi Arabia. But when Mohammed explained that he was from Yemen, the plane left without him and he remained in his cell for another18 months. (Boston Globe)

The military tribunal system that President Bush established at Guantanamo has produced more suicides than trials. 330 detainees have been held since 2002 without even being charged with a crime. Only one case has been completed and that was because of a plea bargain. (Boston Globe)

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It's not just foreign-to-domestic calls involving suspected terrorists. Nor library, business and medical records of American citizens in (mostly) terrorism-related cases. The list of circumstances under which law enforcement can jettison probable cause as a standard for obtaining information is expanding to include... carrying a cellphone.

Federal officials are routinely asking courts to order cellphone companies to furnish real-time tracking data so they can pinpoint the whereabouts of drug traffickers, fugitives and other criminal suspects, according to judges and industry lawyers.

In some cases, judges have granted the requests without requiring the government to demonstrate that there is probable cause to believe that a crime is taking place or that the inquiry will yield evidence of a crime. Privacy advocates fear such a practice may expose average Americans to a new level of government scrutiny of their daily lives.


Basically, as carriers increasingly offer subscribers the ability to stay informed of where their associates are at all times, law enforcement gets an investigative tool. In one recent case, a DEA agent sought a drug-trafficking suspect's Nextel tracking information from a judge simply by asserting that the suspect was trafficking drugs, thereby turning probable cause on its head. The agent didn't get away with it in this case, but in several other recent cases, courts issued warrants based on a determination that the location information provides "specific and articulable facts" relevant to an ongoing criminal investigation.

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Federal investigators are bearing down on Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Alphonso Jackson for setting up his buddies with contracts and then telling Congress that he didn't "touch contracts."

One contract in particular that prosecutors are scrutinizing involves Jackson's friend, Atlanta lawyer Michael Hollis, who was paid approximately $1 million for managing the Virgin Islands Housing Authority, the National Journal reported last week, adding: "Before landing at the authority, some sources said, Hollis had no experience in running a public housing agency." When asked about the contract, Hollis told National Journal that "he had negotiated his contract with Orlando Cabrera, a senior HUD official, and 'people on his procurement staff.'" A grand jury has issued a subpoena for documents relating to Hollis' contract.

Well, perhaps it's a coincidence, but Cabrera, the Assistant Secretary for Public and Indian Housing, announced that he would resign about a week before that National Journal piece came out. The resignation would be effective January 4th.

Why is he resigning? Cabrera told The Miami Herald, "I've had a wonderful experience these last few years, and I just want to take a few months to spend time with my wife and kids.... I know it sounds like the standard Potomac line, but it's not." He has "no firm career plans," the paper reports. The paper didn't ask him about the investigation, but you gotta wonder.

Ed. Note: Thanks to TPM Reader BK for the tip.

Rudy Giuliani has nothing to hide about his business dealings. Or, rather, he wants everyone to know that if the press finds what he's hiding, everyone will agree that everything's been "totally legal, totally ethical."

Every time reporters press Giuliani on his work with Giuliani Partners, his booming consultancy (Guiliani took home $4.1 million last year and his stake is worth anywhere from $5 million to $25 million), he's got the same answer: I'm not telling, but you should ask the firm. Then the reporter diligently calls over to Giuliani Partners to get the brush-off from its spokeswoman. That's what happened to The Wall Street Journal when the paper had questions about the firm's contract with Qatar. The Chicago Tribune got the same treatment when it asked about the firm's work for a developer's casino resort in Singapore.

When the AP asked him in an interview earlier this month if he'd disclose his client list, he responded that the business was "totally legal, totally ethical," "very ethical and law-abiding" and that there's "nothing for me to explain about it. We've acted honorably, decently." It was unfair to even ask, he said, employing the deft logic that since no one has found anything wrong, people shouldn't even ask the question:

"What's the standard? Giuliani Partners and Bracewell Giuliani are firms. Nobody has ever accused them of doing anything wrong. So all of the sudden, you are going to start jumping to conclusions about them when there are absolutely no suggestion they have done anything wrong?"


But those nasty journalists just keep at it. And though Giuliani won't discuss his clients, he says reporters have done a fine job in doing his disclosure for him. From the Tribune:

Questioned during a campaign appearance Tuesday in Chicago, Giuliani said that, "all of Giuliani Partners' clients, maybe with one or two exceptions, I'm not even sure that's right, are public. ... At least the ones that I was familiar with."

Confidentiality agreements prohibit disclosure of an unspecified number of clients, Giuliani said, "but somehow I think you -- you meaning the press in general -- have been successful in discovering. I'd have to check if it's every client. But just about every single client of Giuliani Partners. You'll have to check with them."

A spokeswoman for Giuliani Partners said that "a number of client relationships ... must remain confidential, as per the specific request of those clients."

She did not respond to questions about whether Giuliani was asking those clients to waive privacy in light of his presidential bid.


So.... just one or two more. The work of helping Rudy Giuliani prove how totally ethical, totally honest, honorable, decent, and law-abiding he is continues!

Yesterday, we noted a story about Iraq veterans who were being asked to return part of their enlistment bonuses because their injuries prevented them from completing their tours. The story focused on one vet in particular, Jordan Fox from Pittsburgh.

Well, the story kicked up something of a firestorm, so Brigadier General Michael Tucker, deputy commanding general of Walter Reed (he was tapped after the scandal broke), showed up on Fox News early this morning.

Reacting to Fox's case, he said, "We're not sure what happened but we're gonna fix it." Here's the clip:



The problem goes far beyond just that one soldier, though. No numbers are available, but the story yesterday quoted estimates by veterans groups that this sort of thing happened to "thousands" of others.

Tucker said that army policy "is that soldiers who are wounded in combat or have line of duty investigation injuries... we will not go after a recoupment of any bonuses they receive." Recouping bonuses, he said, "doesn't pass the common sense test."

But notice that phrasing. While that policy, if implemented, would prevent injured soldiers from having to pay back bonuses they'd already received, they might still not receive their full enlistment bonus. That's because the Army could still withhold parts of the bonus on the basis that the soldiers didn't complete their full tour due to the injury.

Rep. Jason Altmire (D-PA), who introduced a bill last month that would require the Pentagon to pay bonuses to wounded vets in full within 30 days after discharge for combat-related wounds, said he was "heartened" by Tucker's announcement this morning that the Army won't seek repayment of bonuses. He added:

“However, I am disappointed that the policy does not go further by stating that wounded soldiers will also receive the remaining balance of future bonus payments. It is preposterous for our government to have a policy that says that a soldier who has sustained serious injuries in the field of battle has not fulfilled his or her service obligation."


Pentagon rules, Altmire says, prevent enlistees from receiving their full enlistment bonus unless they fulfill their entire military obligation.

The spectacle of defense attorneys struggling to defend their clients against secret evidence has become a familiar one during the Bush Administration. But it's a rare occasion when even the prosecutors are cut out of the loop.

That's what has been happening in the case of Ali al-Timimi, a U.S. citizen who was convicted back in 2005 on terrorism charges. His lawyers are arguing that he was the subject of the administration's warrantless wiretapping program, and that his constitutional rights were violated. It's been a messy appeals process, and yesterday, the judge who presided over the case threw up her hands:

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit sent the case back to [U.S. District Judge Leonie M. Brinkema] last year after Timimi's attorneys raised the wiretapping argument. That led to a flurry of secret litigation. Yesterday, at a rare open hearing in the case, Brinkema said it was "ludicrous" that even prosecutors had not been allowed to see a series of filings that the intelligence community submitted to the judge.

"I am no longer willing to work under the circumstances where both the prosecuting team and defense counsel are not getting any kind of access to these materials," Brinkema said, according to a transcript of the hearing. "Frankly, if I can't get some flexibility on the government's part, then I'm going to be inclined to grant a motion for a new trial."

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