TPM News

From the AP:

Congress is unlikely to approve a bill giving President Bush's warrantless wiretapping program legal status and new restrictions before the November midterm elections, dealing a significant blow to one of the White House's top wartime priorities.

House and Senate versions of the legislation differ too much to bridge the gap by week's end, when Congress recesses until after the Nov. 7 elections, according to two GOP leadership aides who demanded anonymity because the decision had not yet been announced.

Today, President Bush finally signed the Coburn-Obama database bill into law. A handful of large blogs from across the political spectrum, aided by hundreds of readers, banded together to push for the bill's passage, which will create a searchable website of federal grants, loans and contracts.

But when the bill arrived on the President's desk, he saw fit to invite bloggers who are reliably conservative.

Somehow our invitation got lost in the mail. I think that means only one side of that inspriring blog union got to meet the President. Unless Wonkette... no.

It was an oversight, no doubt.

As reported here earlier, here are Rep. Jane Harman's (D-CA) comments this morning about this second secret Iraq report, from CQ Transcriptions:

"I have also learned that there is a [National Intelligence Estimate] on Iraq -- specifically on Iraq -- that has been left in draft form at the National Intelligence Council. That is because some of our leaders don't want us to see it until after the election. It should be clear five years after 9/11 that we need accurate and actionable intelligence -- actionable in real time -- and we need our leaders to read that intelligence and cite it accurately. Sadly, we're doing better on the first piece; we're not doing better on the second piece."

Rep. John Conyers (D-MI) is introducing a measure that would force a House vote on whether or not to require the Bush administration to release controversial secret reports by the intelligence community on Iraq and terrorism.

The measure would call for the release of both the secret April 2006 report, known as a National Intelligence Estimate, that is said to conclude the Iraq war has increased the danger of terrorism, as well as a separate classified report on the state of Iraq first mentioned by Rep. Jane Harman (D-CA) in comments this morning.

Conyers' measure, a "resolution of inquiry," would require a full vote of the House within 14 legislative days of its introduction. While the resolution cannot be waylaid, the House leadership determines when during those two weeks it is raised. So a vote seems unlikely before the end of the week, when Congress will go into recess until after the November elections. The resolution has no guarantee of passage, however it forces all members to take a public position on the issue. (More details on resolutions of inquiry here.)

"The President needs to declassify and release both reports immediately," Conyers said in a statement e-mailed to TPMmuckraker.com. "The American people deserve to know the whole truth."

CNN reports:

An angry President Bush Tuesday said he would declassify an intelligence document that reportedly finds that the Iraq war increased the terrorist threat to the United States, saying the American people should come to their own conclusions.

The president said the media accounts of the report "create confusion in the minds" of Americans and suggested that the report had been leaked for political purposes.

There's a second damning Iraq report floating around the intelligence community.

At least, that's according to Rep. Jane Harman (CA), the top Democrat on the House intelligence committee. At an event this morning, Harman disclosed the existence of a classified intelligence community report that gives a grim assessment of the situation in Iraq, and called for it to be shared with the American public -- before the November elections.

The report has not been shared with Congress, although sources say a draft version may have circulated earlier this summer. It is a separate report from the one revealed by major news outlets Sunday, which is said to conclude that the war in Iraq has made the U.S. less secure from terrorist threats.

"This morning at the National Press Club, Jane Harman did say that there is an [National Intelligence Estimate] on Iraq," her spokesman, Ari Goldberg, confirmed. Golberg said he had not read the report, but believes it may be grim. Sources at the event say the document is not officially an NIE, although it was prepared by the National Intelligence Council, an community-wide intelligence body whose primary function is to prepare NIEs.

Dr. Lawrence Korb, a former senior Defense Department official now with the liberal-progressive Center for American Progress, hasn't seen the report but has discussed it with those who have. "It's a very bleak picture of what's going on in Iraq," he said.

Harman called for the White House to share a classified version of the report with Congress -- and to release a declassified version of the document to the American public, prior to the November elections.

Democratic sources on the Hill confirmed that the report has been a topic of discussion, particularly because of concerns that its release was being "intentionally slowed" by the administration. Attendees at the National Press Club event where Harman spoke -- a rollout for a new Democratic defense/intelligence policy group called the National Security Network -- characterized Harman saying the reported was "languishing" under wraps.

In late July, Democratic lawmakers requested the intelligence community to write a National Intelligence Estimate on Iraq, noting that such a report had not been done in over two years. The Democratic sources say this NIE was prepared separate from that effort. The NIE Harman is asking for "sounds a hell of a lot more complete" than the report being worked on at Congress' request, said one.

Congressional Quarterly reports (sub. req.):

[N]ow that the Republicans have worked out a deal on detainees, Democrats are not planning any organized effort to filibuster the deal in the Senate, even though they may not agree with some of the specifics in the legislation.

With just a few days left before the election recess, Democratic aides say they are not going to give Republicans an opportunity to paint them into a corner.

“We’re going to do what we can to limit the amount of daylight between us and them on national security issues in order to neutralize this as a political issue,” a senior Democratic aide said.


. . . Because it's worked so many times before?

The state of play is chaotic on both the legislation legalizing the NSA warrantless wiretapping, as well as that which would legalize programs to detain, interrogate and prosecute terror suspects, also known as the torture "compromise."

The Senate has a tentative vote scheduled on a standalone "compromise" bill today, although the same language is in a bill which is combined with the language of the White House NSA bill.

To make matters more complicated, Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-TN) offered the "compromise" language as an amendment to an anti-immigration measure, that would build a giant fence along the U.S.-Mexican border, CQ reports. No word on what happened to that effort.

Sen. Arlen Specter (R-PA) has said he would offer an amendment to the detainee bill that would allow suspects the right to appeal their detention, but said he wouldn't hold up the bill to do so.

We've long observed how Rep. Katherine Harris (R-FL) has succeeded in setting fire to her own political ambitions. But speculation is growing that she could cause casualties beyond her own Senate dreams.

Harris has trailed by as many as 30 percentage points behind incumbent Sen. Bill Nelson (D). Although we note with admiration that she has recently trimmed his lead to a mere 18 points now, no one outside the Harris campaign expects the gap to disappear -- or switch to Harris' favor.

Now the New York Times reports that Harris may claim casualties beyond herself. The House seat she gave up to run for Senate, once a sure thing for Republicans, is now in danger of falling into Democratic hands.

Read More →

Sens. Dick Durbin (D-IL) and Chuck Schumer (D-NY) this morning will ask for a briefing on the April 2006 Iraq National Intelligence Estimate from Director of National Intelligence John Negroponte.

The "estimate," a document representing the official opinion of the entire U.S. intelligence apparatus, reportedly concludes that the invasion and occupation of Iraq has made the United States less secure by increasing the danger of terrorist attacks.

A press release on the announcement says they will also "discuss statements made by Vice President Cheney and other Administration officials that appear to be misleading given the revelation in the April NIE as described by press accounts."

Press release after the jump.

Read More →

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