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The AP reads the tea leaves:

The House ethics committee met in closed session Friday, indicating the panel could be close to finishing its report on ex-Rep. Mark Foley's improper advances toward former male pages.

Oh, you sweet 109th Congress. We hate to see you go!

That's a minority opinion, of course. Some three-quarters of Americans think you've done a horrible job. Some even say, with all your (admitted) boozing, (alleged) whoring and (convicted) extortion, you're the worst Congress ever. And frankly, if we didn't know you so well, we'd probably agree with them.

You did only manage to stumble in to work 218 days over the past two years. And your inbox certainly piled up: there's all that intelligence you never questioned, a sprawling disaster of a war you didn't oversee, and of course the largest, most complex government budget in the history of the world, which you failed to rein in -- this year, you didn't even complete it.

And some of you simply lacked the credibility to do your jobs. Like the intelligence chairman who hunted for WMDs in Iraq even after the most ardent WMD-believers in the administration had given up the ghost. Or the most senior lawmaker for environmental issues who insists global warming proponents are brainwashers.

But the haters don't remember how much you've given. A whopping 19 members offered yourselves up for federal investigation! And what goodies you showered us with along the way: The fake charities, the cash in the freezer, the IM chats, the bribe menu, the FBI raids (oh, the raids!). And the hooker rumors, the sudden trips to rehab, the junkets to forced-abortion sweatshop islands, the "prosecutors have assured me I am not a target of any investigations"-s. When is a fundraiser not a fundraiser? You pondered this kind of question. You used your wives to take money you couldn't. And we'll treasure forever your many, many, many, many, many resignations!

Readers, you've shared this wild ride with the Schemin' 109th -- what are you going to miss? Send us an email and let us know.

It's the last day of the 109th Congress, which means that if the GOP-controlled House is going to release its ethics report on the Foley scandal, they have to do it today. So keep an eye out.

Signs are tiny, but promising: senior aides whispered to Roll Call earlier this week that the report "could" be publicly released this week. And ethics committee members murmured to the AP that they don't want to deal with this next year.

Still, no one's quite sure whether the committee will be delivering their long anticipated report.

The committee could, as the final act of the most inept board of overseers of the famously inept 109th Congress, simply pass the chore on to the new, Democrat-led ethics committee in January. That would undoubtedly delay the process even further, since the committee will be shifting membership along with the new Congress.

Here's a David v. Goliath story for you.

A reporter representing himself has convinced a federal court to push the Bush adminsitration to release sensitive documents, according to the non-profit advocacy group, Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press (RCFP).

New York Sun reporter Josh Gerstein filed Freedom of Information Act requests back in March with a number of federal agencies, asking for information on how the administration was going after the leakers who shared with reporters information on the NSA wiretapping program and other sensitive operations. Needless to say, the bureaucracy has dragged its feet. So Gerstein gathered his papers and headed to court. And in this first round, anyway, he's won.

Gerstein is a guy we've had our eye on for some time. Readers may recall that Gerstein scooped the majors with the story that according to Scooter Libby, President Bush himself approved Libby's pre-war intelligence leaks to the New York Times. He got that "exclusive" by reading publicly-available documents that other reporters overlooked.

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Ex-Detainees Seek to Sue U.S. Officials "In a federal courtroom today, nine former prisoners at U.S. military prisons in Iraq and Afghanistan will seek through an unusual lawsuit to hold outgoing Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld and top military commanders personally responsible for the torture they say they endured.

"Rumsfeld's lawyers will argue that he cannot be held legally responsible because anything he may have done -- including authorizing harsh interrogations at the Abu Ghraib and Bagram detention facilities -- was within the scope of his job as defense secretary to combat terrorists and prevent future attacks." (WaPo)

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Democrat Christine Jennings will challenge last month's election results in the House of Representatives. What will Democrats do about it?

Jennings spokeswoman Kathy Vermazen told me today that there's no doubt that she'll be lodging a contest with the House -- it's only a matter of time. Most likely, it'll happen close to the December 20th filing deadline. So when the new Congress starts up in the new year, they'll find this thorny issue on the doorstep.

While it's crystal clear what Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean thinks about it, the woman who'll be in charge isn't showing her hand. Nancy Pelosi's office has been responding to comment requests by saying that she's "monitoring" the situation.

With majorities in both houses of Congress, Democrats will control two of the most delicate but vital instruments of national security oversight: the House and Senate intelligence committees.

In Republican hands these past few years, the panels became known more for what they didn't do than for what they did: for not learning about secret government spying projects, not inquiring about interrogation abuses, and for slow-walking investigations into intelligence failures.

But the two Democrats who will take charge of the panels next year say that's going to change.

Player: Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-WV) Position: Chair, Senate Select Committee on Intelligence (SSCI)

Tall, quiet and genteel, Rockefeller has in the past fielded criticism that he may be too lighweight on national security issues and use a too-light touch with the opposition. Indeed, he has typically eschewed bomb-throwing and confrontation in favor of more discreet efforts -- like writing a secret letter to the vice president. But that may be changing: Rockefeller has declared that his intelligence committee will pursue a "cleanup agenda," to make up for the messes left behind by the White House and his Republican predecessor, Sen. Pat Roberts (KS).

Rockefeller has billboarded his concerns about the Bush administration's "too aggressive" pursuit of secrecy, and has vowed stricter oversight of and inquiry into the NSA's domestic spying program and allegations of detainee torture.

It's the White House's habit of stonewalling, regardless of the issue, which really raises Rockefeller's hackles. "it's like they will only tell you what they want you to know," he told NPR's Steve Inskeep recently. "And I'm sorry, but this administration has carried that to extremes that I have never been familiar with before in intelligence or any other subject.

"We have to have oversight so that we can call them up short when they're doing something which we think is wrong. And right now we think some things they're doing may be wrong."

Player: Rep. Silvestre Reyes (D-TX) Position: House Permanent Subcommittee on Intelligence (HPSCI)

A third-stringer, Reyes comes to the House intel chairmanship with experience and ambition. House Speaker-elect Nancy Pelosi (CA) reached past two more senior candidates to pick Reyes to head the committee. He's got some chops: A former border patrol officer and Vietnam vet, Reyes has been a member of HPSCI as well as the chairman of the strategic forces subcommittee of the Armed Services Committee, which oversees nuclear weaponry and military satellite programs.

Reyes has vowed to make current intelligence on Iraq a top priority. In an interview with CQ's Tim Starks, the congressman said he'd focus on "understanding the role of intelligence and the role of intelligence agencies" in scaling down the U.S. military presence in that country. (In a separate interview with Newsweek, however, Reyes said "we have to consider the need for additional troops to be in Iraq.")

Reyes said he would also look into the NSA program and the treatment of detainees in the war on terror. The incoming House chairman added that he wanted to focus also on "emerging threats," which he believed were coming from places as far-flung as Latin America, the Balkans and Russia, as well as Iran and North Korea.

The Bush administration wants to consider relaxing restrictions of how much lead polluters can spew into the air. Why? Because existing environmental policies have lowered the level of lead in the air enough already, according to a draft report (pdf) by the Environmental Protection Agency. Why overdo it?

"Given the significantly changed circumstances since lead was listed in 1976," such restrictions on the deadly substance may no longer be needed, the EPA reasons. (A number of corporate interests, including battery manufacturers, have been lobbying the EPA hard to relax its lead emissions rules, as the AP has noted.)

Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA), the perennial bulldog, fired off a letter to the EPA's head yesterday, marveling that he would revoke the national standard for lead and urging him to "renounce this dangerous policy immediately." We've posted a copy of Waxman's letter here.

For the last couple months a great little story has been bubbling on a back burner, threatening to burst into a classic D.C. potboiler: the feds busted a long-time prostitution service operating in the Washington, D.C. area, with the suggestion of ties to lawmakers.

Indeed, it was the madam herself who told a reporter from the Smoking Gun Web site that the Feds must be going after her as part of a larger investigation into "some Duke Cunningham-type bigwig client that got caught up in something[.]"

Our ears perked up. Has our long-lost Duke-connected hooker arrived? Alas, no hard evidence emerged. The madam, Deborah Palfrey, said she never kept records of clients and commanded her employees to destroy records within hours of a rendezvous. And Palfrey hasn't offer up any names from memory.



But now, juicy tidbits from a new 19-page court filing make the story even more tantalizing, with excerpts from the madam's in-house newsletter and more. (We've got the whole filing for your enjoyment, right here.)

We're only lacking one thing: the name of a congressman who used the service.

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The FBI is investigating leaks to the press confirming various inquiries into federal lawmakers, the bureau's chief told Congress yesterday.

In particular, FBI Director Robert S. Mueller III said he was incensed that details of the investigation into departing Rep. Curt Weldon (R-PA) became public. Reports AP's Lara Jakes Jordan:

Mueller described himself as "exceptionally disappointed, and that is being charitable, in terms of my response upon hearing about the leak."

On Oct. 13, McClatchy Newspapers reported that the FBI was looking into whether Weldon illegally steered $1 million in contracts to his daughter's lobbying firm. Agents followed up with the raid three days later, in part out of fear that evidence would be destroyed after the investigation was exposed.

Officials also confirmed federal investigations of several other House lawmakers that month, including former Rep. Mark Foley, R-Fla., and retiring Rep. Jim Kolbe, R-Ariz. All three men have maintained their innocence.

Senators scolded Mueller about the leaks. The committee chairman, Sen. Arlen Specter, R-Pa., said the disclosures were "just disastrous" for suspects who have not been charged, much less proven guilty.

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