TPM News

The New York Times and others weigh in with the obvious: Karl Rove's departure doesn't change a thing with regard to the Democrats' investigations of him. They'll keep pursuing him, and the White House will keep stonewalling with the same sweeping claims of executive privilege. The only thing that changes is that Rove has got to get himself a lawyer.

As for Rove, he says that he's the Democrats' Moby Dick. Given how well read he is, I'm sure he knows how that novel ends (not well for Captain Ahab). The Democrats, to be sure, would prefer another metaphor.

He's been called the Boy Genius, the Architect and Turd Blossom. Yesterday, he even called himself Moby Dick escaping the Captain Ahabs of Congressional oversight (take that, Patrick Leahy). But Karl Rove, the President's longtime political strategist, is leaving the White House on August 31st. The Boston Globe is dreaming that Rove's exit will mark the dawn of Bush's new consensus, moderate platform. The Politico just sees the man whose dream of a permanent conservative majority has destroyed the Republican party. And Dana Perino sees the loss of the man who invented Ice Cream Fridays. So what will Rove do after the White House (he doesn't have a college degree, which doesn't bode well for finding a job these days)? Rove says teaching. Members of Congress have assured us that they are still after him for just about everything under the sun. And Bush wants him to write a book. Recommendations for the title?

Is warrantless wiretapping unconstitutional? Who cares! That's because the Justice Department has no plans of releasing information about whose information they gathered, even when they did so illegally or in violation of someone's 4th Amendment rights. However, because no one can prove they were the victim of illegal eavesdropping without the government disclosing that they were, no individual will be able to bring a lawsuit that could then challenge the nature of the program's intelligence gathering, says the DoJ. (USA TODAY)

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What's happening in Room 641A of 611 Folsom Street in San Francisco remains one of the most closely-held secrets in the U.S. government. According to a former AT&T employee who assisted two technicians cleared to work in the telecommunications complex on Folsom Street, 641A served as a vacuum cleaner for phone calls and e-mails of terrorism suspects, routing them to the National Security Agency.

The claims made by the ex-employee, Mark Klein, are the basis for a class-action lawsuit against AT&T and affiliated telecoms for illegally harvesting information from U.S. citizens. Tomorrow, reports The Washington Post, judges from the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals will hear arguments as to whether the class action should go forward -- or whether the government is right that 641A is a state secret, and can't be litigated without compromising national security. The answer probably won't be determinative -- both sides have vowed to appeal up to the Supreme Court -- but if the case is shut down, a public window on the Bush administration's warrantless surveillance activities, recently blessed by a Congressional overhaul of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, will slam shut.

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Perhaps a little wiser after seven months in the majority, Democrats have strategized to prevent the White House from utilizing some of its sneakier powers while Congress is in recess.

There'll be no recess appointments this time around, Roll Call reports (sub. req.), meaning the White House won't be taking advantage of Congress' vacation to install any contested nominees. That's due to a deal between Bush and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV).

Last recess, the White House made a number of controversial recess appointments, including Swift Boat backer Sam Fox as ambassador to Belgium. In order to prevent that sort of thing from happening again, Reid had plotted to keep the Senate in "pro forma" session during the recess -- whereby the Senate floor personnel show up every three days to make it an official session. But now Reid and Bush have made a deal, according to Roll Call. Bush won't make any recess appointments and Reid has promised to move some of his nominees when Senate gets back in session.

Roll Call also reports that there's a similar game being played over the ethics and lobbying reform bill that Congress passed last month.

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In 2004, a Syrian-Canadian named Maher Arar became an international symbol of war-on-terror excesses. U.S. officials, Arar told the press, detained him at Kennedy Airport in 2002 on suspicion of involvement in terrorism and whisked him to Syria for interrogation, where he was tortured for ten months before the Syrians released him. (Even they doubted that Arar was in league with al-Qaeda after his interrogation.) Allegations that Canadian authorities were involved in torture prompted an official inquiry, which last fall exonerated Arar of any link to terrorism.

That report also confirmed -- while excluding key details for diplomatic reasons -- that Arar's arrest was part of an awful feedback loop in which information extracted by torture from Syrian prisons implicating Arar reached both the American and Canadian security services, which then worked feverishly to detain him and send him to Syria for his own round of torture. The truth of his involvement with terrorism was simply taken for granted.

On Friday, the so-called Arar Commission declassified those telling details (pdf) from the original report -- information that gets specific about the CIA's desire to get Arar to Syria. Rendition here appears less as a vital intelligence tool than a method of getting around the need to justify detaining someone in countries with constitutional protections for the accused. According to one now-released portion:

In October 2002, (Canadian Security Intelligence Service) officials knew that the United States might have sent Mr. Arar to a country where he could be questioned in a "firm manner." In a report to his superiors dated October 11, 2002, the CSIS security liaison officer (SLO) in Washington spoke of a trend they had noticed lately that when the CIA or FBI cannot legally hold a terrorist suspect, or wish a target questioned in a firm manner, they have them rendered to countries willing to fullfull that role. He said Mr. Arar was a case in point.

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The Iraqi government of Nouri al-Maliki takes support where it can get it. Over 160,000 U.S. troops guarantee its existence. It's cultivating an ever-closer bond with its fellow Shiites in Iran. But Italian criminals have to rank as rather unexpected allies.

The Iraqi government, a very shady Iraqi company and a group of Italian arms smugglers found a potent business opportunity in Iraq's black market for weapons, according to Italian investigators cited by the Associated Press. And that's a thriving trade. Just last week, a Government Accountability Office report found that the U.S. military's training command in Iraq couldn't account for 190,000 pistols and AK-47s sent to the Iraqi army and police in 2004 and 2005. Those guns, in all likelihood, made their way from the Iraqi security forces to the thriving black market in weaponry, where they're sure to be joined by many more: Iraqi soldiers are set to receive 100,000 M-16s and M-4s from the U.S., making their old AK-47s a new source of quick cash.

Enter the Interior Ministry, by far the most powerful bureaucracy in Iraq, and one that exists as an instrument of Shiite power.

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Despite a boisterous crowd oinking and yelling outside his annual pig roast fundraiser last week, Rep. Don Young (R-AK) is holding a public event this afternoon in Anchorage. The same anti-Young crowd is expected to attend.

The state's only congressman will serve up baked salmon to anyone interested in stopping by, a move that made one local political strategist cringe, according to an AP story.

The cringing is pretty reasonable, seeing that John Farleigh, the Alaska native who organized the last Young protest, is rounding up the troops for another assembly at the salmon bake. Farleigh left me a message last night saying he has already spoken with local media and has high hopes that the added pre-protest publicity will work in his favor.

If you're planning to snap photos at the event this afternoon, please send some our way!

Karl Rove on whether he's running away (sub. req.) from Democratic oversight:

What about those who say he's leaving to avoid Congressional scrutiny? "I know they'll say that," he says, "But I'm not going to stay or leave based on whether it pleases the mob." He also knows he'll continue to be a target, even from afar, since belief in his influence over every Administration decision has become, well, faith-based.

"I'm a myth. There's the Mark of Rove," he says, with a bemused air. "I read about some of the things I'm supposed to have done, and I have to try not to laugh." He says the real target is Mr. Bush, whom many Democrats have never accepted as a legitimate president and "never will."

So there you go. However much the U.S. attorney firings, the political briefings to senior agency officials, and other dirty deeds that have been pegged as Rovian (an adjective that will live on) might seem like his handiwork, it's just the phantom Mark of Rove. One wonders if the Mark will continue to haunt the Bush Administration after he leaves.

After he gets to work on his book on the Bush presidency, Rove says that he'd like to teach. Will college freshmen be clamoring to get into Dividing The Electorate 101? Any ideas on what that course might be called?

Note: A portion from The Wall Street Journal piece that I'll note without comment:

It is his long and personal relationship with Mr. Bush that has made Mr. Rove arguably the most influential White House aide of modern times. The president calls him to chat about politics on Sunday mornings, and they have a contest to see who can read the most books. (Mr. Rove is winning.)

Here's a guide for future intelligence chiefs who want to take a shortcut around the law. Start out with a genuine problem. Propose a genuine solution, but build into it a bit more leeway for intelligence collection. Negotiate slowly and deliberately. Then use the threat of a terrorist attack at the end of the congressional session to ram through an evisceration of the problematic law, carving out from it all meaningful protections for American citizens. Watch a stunned opposition acquiesce.

Both the Washington Post and the New York Times present that general outline to explain how the Bush administration gutted the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act earlier this month. As reported earlier, the FISA Court ruled in March -- the Post provides the date -- that foreign-to-foreign communications, previously unprotected under FISA, required warrants for surveillance as they passed through U.S. communication switches. Admiral Michael McConnell, the director of national intelligence, saw the National Security Agency "losing capability," in the words of one intelligence official, due to a surveillance backlog generated by the Court ruling.

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An Italian probe into arms trafficking has uncovered a $40 million black market arms deal between Iraqi and Italian partners to send hundreds of automatic weapons to Iraq. The Associated Press has also discovered that these deals have also involved Iraqi government officials, who most likely circumvented U.S. approval to acquire weapons. Via War and Piece. (AP)

Gonzales visited Iraq this week, and commented optimistically on the progress made by the nascent government in developing a fair and balanced legal system. Then again, thanks to Gonzales' work over here, the bar for good legal governance is pretty low. (Associated Press)

Punishments handed out to three high-ranking officers in the Pat Tillman case are relatively mild, say critics, with no mention of the event being put on their official records. (Associated Press)

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