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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.

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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.

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In Alaska, FBI Gets More Evidence Against Senator and Son "FBI agents returned last week to the legislative office of Senate President Ben Stevens and seized more evidence, including a copy of a sworn statement that implicated Stevens in an alleged payment scheme involving fisheries legislation brought by his father, U.S. Sen. Ted Stevens.

"Word of the second search, and what was taken by the FBI, came from Ben Stevens himself, who disclosed the information in a letter to the Daily News dated Sept. 22. In his letter, Stevens denied a request by the newspaper for a copy of any FBI search warrants which may have been served on him or his office, and the government's receipts for items seized. But Stevens provided what he said was a "complete listing of what was obtained from my legislative offices" on Aug. 31 and Sept. 18." (Anchorage Daily News)

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What's the best way to avoid bad news? Don't read it.

"I haven't read it," Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-TN) said yesterday when asked his opinion of the once-secret April 2006 National Intelligence Estimate. News accounts say the document concluded the Iraq war had made the United States less safe, not more secure.

His excuse -- the document was classified -- is a little shaky. Frist is a member of the "Gang of Eight," a group of top lawmakers who are briefed into the darkest secrets of American intelligence. What's more, a draft copy of the NIE is alleged to have floated through certain congressional offices several months ago.

He's not the only one with a selective aversion to the written word. Remember Attorney General Alberto Gonzales' recent misstatements on Maher Arar?

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The Senate Judiciary Committee today held a hearing on whether detainees in U.S. custody should have the right to challenge the grounds of their imprisonment -- also known as "habeas" rights.

One witness in particular, a not-so-young lawyer named Tom Sullivan, made the most of his minutes before the distinguished lawmakers, sharply questioning Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX), who has been a staunch advocate of stripping those rights from suspected terrorists.

A partner in the white-shoe law firm of Jenner & Block, Sullivan has helped represent 10 Saudis held at Guantanamo Bay. Three have been released; seven are still confined to the military prison. He aimed his opening remarks squarely at Cornyn -- rarely does one see testimony so directly confront a lawmaker:

Senator Cornyn, I'd like to address a few remarks you made.

You said these are enemies of the United States captured on the battlefield. None of the 10 we represent were captured on the battlefield or are enemies of the United States.

You said no one suggested that the enemy combatants were entitled to the habeas corpus. The Supreme Court of the United States in the Rasul case two years ago held specifically that they were entitled to habeas corpus, to challenge the reason for their detention.

You said they have an administrative review following a trial on the merits. None of them got a trial on the merits. . . .


More after the jump.

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A Texas congressman is denying charges he slandered a foreign sex slave at the behest of Jack Abramoff. But documents obtained by TPMmuckraker contradict the Republican's claims.

In November of 1997, Rep. Ralph Hall (R-TX) publicly questioned the credibility of a teenage girl's claims that she'd been the victim of the sex trade in the Northern Mariana Islands. The statement, which Rep. Hall entered into the Congressional Record, was prepared by Jack Abramoff, the lobbyist for the islands.

"[S]he wanted to do nude dancing," Hall's statement said of the fifteen-year-old girl. She had earlier told federal investigators that she'd been forced to work for a local nightclub in a nightly live sex show. You can read the entirety of Hall's statement here.

Press accounts at the time detailed how the girl had been taken from her parents in the Phillippines, and forced to perform sex acts on stage and before video cameras at a Northern Marianas sex club. A 1998 Department of Labor report confirmed those reports.

Hall's challenger in Texas' 4th District, history professor Glenn Melancon, has made the episode a campaign issue. "When investigators discovered child prostitution and forced abortions on the Mariana Islands, Congressman Ralph Hall was paid for covering it up and publicly attacking one of the raped children," read postcards his campaign distributed to voters.

Hall has called the charge an "outright lie." His office did not respond to our request for comment on this story. But records show that Abramoff's staff contacted Hall's office fifteen times in the two months leading up to his statement in the Congressional Record.

Hall has also denied being paid for making the statement, but oddly enough has revealed that "[Tom] DeLay gave him money 10 years ago," according the to the district's local paper, The Herald Banner.

DeLay was Abramoff's closest ally in Congress with regard to the Marianas. But Federal Election Commission records do not show contributions to Hall from DeLay or his PAC during that period. The former Majority Leader was known for routing donations through third parties to hide their origin. Hall was a Democrat at the time he says he took DeLay's money -- he switched parties in 2004.

Hall visited the Marianas islands on an Abramoff-sponsored junket in 1997, according to emails. The CNMI government later reimbursed Abramoff. In this photograph from the Marianas Variety, Hall is shown during that trip:

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It's over. A judge has just ruled that Green Senate candidate Carl Romanelli is off the ballot in the Pennsylvania Senate race.

That strikes a deadly blow to Pennsylvania Republicans' gambit to draw votes away from Democrat Bob Casey by fielding a Green candidate. As we reported earlier, all of Romanelli's support was from conservative donors, and Sen. Rick Santorum's (R-PA) volunteers worked hard gathering signatures to get Romanelli on the ballot. The Santorum campaign has admitted steering help toward the Romanelli campaign.

After Romanelli gathered almost 100,000 signatures to qualify, Democrats challenged the signatures' validity. A court fight followed, and now a judge has found that the Greens are short almost 9,000 valid signatures from the 67,000 required by law.

Update: The Greens have one last hope -- but it seems a long shot. The state supreme court has yet to rule on Romanelli's bid to change the threshold of signatures required by the law. If Romanelli won that motion, then he would only need about 16,000 signatures. But for now, Romanelli's off the ballot and would have to appeal to get back on.

Senators at Odds Over What Torture Compromise Would Allow "A Republican senator who played a leading role in drafting new rules for U.S. interrogations of terrorism suspects said yesterday that he believes a compromise bill embraced by party leaders and the White House will bar some of the most extreme techniques said to have been used by the CIA.

"Sen. John McCain (Ariz.) named three measures that he said would no longer be allowed under a provision barring techniques that cause serious mental or physical suffering by U.S. detainees: extreme sleep deprivation, forced hypothermia and 'waterboarding,' which simulates drowning. He also said other 'extreme measures' would be banned. . . .

"Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.), who wants to shepherd the detainee bill to congressional passage this week. . . declined to give a specific reading of it yesterday. Asked repeatedly on ABC's 'This Week' what the legislation would allow, Frist said, 'I'm not going to comment on individual techniques,' and he condemned doing so." (WPost)

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