TPM News

As we've been reporting, Phase II of the Senate intel committee's report on pre-war intelligence on Iraq has been released, and all day lawmakers have been issuing statements of shock and incredulity.

Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR), a member of the authoring Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, called today for a review of whether then Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld's testimony to Congress was true, given the information in the report.

Specifically cited are quotes from Rumsfeld's testimony to the House Armed Services Committee on September 18 and 19, 2002:

They now have massive tunneling systems... They've got all kinds of thing that have happened in the period when the inspectors have been out. So the problem is greater today. And the regime that exists today in the U.N. is one that has far fewer teeth than the one you are describing.
   -- Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, Testimony before the House Armed Services Committiee, September 18, 2002

Even the most intrusive inspection regime would have difficulty getting at all of [Saddam Hussein's] weapons of mass destruction. Many of his WMD capabilities are mobile; they can be hidden from inspectors no matter how intrusive. He has vast underground networks and facilities and sophisticated denial and deception techniques    -- Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, Testimony before the House Armed Services Committiee, September 18, 2002

[W]e simply do not know where all or even a large portion of Iraq's WMD facilities are. We do know where a fraction of them are. . .[O]f the facilities we do know, not all are vulnerable to attack from the air. A good many are underground and deeply buried. . .    -- Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, Testimony before the House Armed Services Committiee, September 19, 2002.

On page 50 the report states it's conclusion after investigating these statements from Rumsfeld:

The Secretary of Defense's statement that the Iraqi government operated underground WMD facilities that were not vulnerable to conventional airstrikes because they were underground and deeply buried was not substantiated by available intelligence information. [Emphasis ours.]

Wyden had a thing or two to say about Rumfeld's "not substantiated" testimony:

This is stunning: the Secretary of Defense, testifying before Congress about whether or not ground forces would be strategically necessary in a war against Iraq, said that the Executive Branch "knew" something that it did not know.

The intelligence available at the time made this clear, and two months later a report prepared specifically for Secretary Rumsfeld directly contradicted what he told the Committee. As far as I know, neither Rumsfeld nor anyone else from his office made any attempt to contact the Committee and correct the public record, and the result was that Congress and the American people were misled on a question of the utmost importance. I do not think that this is a matter that Congress can afford to ignore and I hope that the Armed Services Committee will take a serious look at Secretary Rumsfeld's statements.

We'll be bringing you more from Phase II, but please, keep your comments and observations coming.

We posted yesterday on Rep. Dana Rohrabacher's curious reduction of torture to frat-boy-like panty raids, in a House subcommittee hearing on the FBI's role in interrogations of detainees at Guantanamo Bay.

Transcript excerpts are great, but video clips are better. . .

The long wait is over. Phase II, the Senate intel committee's report on pre-war intelligence on Iraq, is out.

There are two parts to the report, and you can read them here (warning: big .pdfs):

"Report on Whether Public Statements Regarding Iraq by U.S. Government officials Were Substantiated by Intelligence Information"

"Report on Intelligence Activities Relating to Iraq Conducted by the Policy Counterterrorism Evaluation Group and the Office of Special Plans Within the Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Policy"

There's a lot there, and as we read through it these next few hours (days), we'd welcome any insights from readers who are doing the same. You can flag sections you think are particularly interesting or relevant in the comments section below.

At a congressional hearing on the many illegal immigration detention centers around the U.S., Julie Myers, assistant secretary of the Dept. of Homeland Security's Immigration and Customs Enforcement bureau, said the agency will do a better job of reporting detainee deaths. The hearing was in response to Washington Post's series on the detention centers. (Washington Post)

Alleged planner of the 9/11 attacks Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, as well as four other co-conspirators, will face arraignment today at Guantanamo Bay. Mohammed is the most high-profile figure to appear before the controversial war-crimes tribunal at Gitmo. As has been the norm with similar cases at Gitmo, Mohammed's lawyers are claiming the trial was rushed in front of a judge for political reasons. (Associated Press)

A federal jury found Illinois political fundraiser, real estate kingpin and Barack Obama-supporter Antonin "Tony" Rezko guilty on 16 of 24 counts of corruption, mostly related to his dealings while an adviser to Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich (D). (Associated Press)

Read More →

As the Bush years wind to a close, and administration officials slink back to jobs in the private sector, the road ahead of Daniel Gonzalez, the chief of staff for Kevin J. Martin, chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, seems bleak.

From the New York Times:

Hoping to pursue a career in an entirely different field from telecommunications, Mr. Gonzalez invested in a small energy company three years ago and then joined the company's board in 2006. The company, law enforcement officials say, turns out to have been a fraudulent venture that took more than $54 million from investors.

In what looks to be a Ponzi scheme, Gonzalez personally guaranteed bank loans to the company of over $10 million, even though his personal worth was only in the hundreds of thousands, the banks allege. Gonzales disputes that allegation.

The energy company, MCube Petroleum, was founded by Robert Miracle, who appears to have a more checkered past than he presented to investors. Gonzalez's involvement with the company, began when he was introduced to Miracle by a childhood friend.

Mr. Miracle, who was born in 1960, represented himself as a seasoned businessman. In a company overview, he said he had more than 20 years of experience at Toyota and NASA and served as an adviser to Frank G. Wells, the former president of Disney.

But an affidavit by a criminal investigator for the Internal Revenue Service said that Mr. Miracle had never worked for Mr. Wells, and that in 1994, Mr. Miracle had been convicted of felony theft in Oregon for stealing textbooks from a community college. The affidavit said that, rather than working at Disney, Mr. Miracle might have been involved in reselling textbooks from universities.

Through his lawyer, Miracle denies any wrongdoing:
Mr. Miracle's lawyer, Greg Hollon, denied that his client had committed fraud. "We are confident that when the whole story is heard, and all of the facts of this matter properly understood, he will be vindicated," Mr. Hollon said. He added he could not discuss the details of the case because of the pending criminal investigation.
While it seems possible that Gonzalez was the victim of a con by Miracle, the question of why he would ever personally guarantee $10 million in company loans remains unknown.

Friends and colleagues are puzzled about why he took such a large risk. Asked why his client would guarantee a promissory note of $10 million when his net worth was so much smaller, Mr. Willey said, "I cannot give an answer."

It's been a tough year already for the National Republican Congressional Committee, which is charged with getting Republicans elected to the House: embezzlement by its treasurer, crushing losses in usually reliable GOP districts, an inability to find quality candidates. It's so bad House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-OH) had to put NRCC Chairman Tom Cole (R-OK) on a very short leash.

Apparently not short enough.

Coles's NRCC will be honoring Springboro, Ohio, City Councilman Michael W. Hemmert later this month with a "Republican Congressional Medal of Distinction," an award he will accept in a two-day celebration culminating in a dinner with President George W. Bush, despite two sets of drug charges (cocaine and marijuana) for which he's currently receiving treatment in lieu of conviction.

From Dayton Daily News:

On May 27, Hemmert, 53, of Springboro, was granted treatment in lieu of conviction on two sets of charges of possession of cocaine and marijuana and a single count of possession of drug paraphernalia during a hearing in Warren County Common Pleas Court . . .

. . . He resigned his council seat Feb. 14 after the Greater Warren County Drug Task Force seized cocaine, marijuana and two cars during the first of two searches of his home. Hemmert was arrested after a second search on March 13 netted more cocaine and marijuana, and a special prosecutor was appointed. Warren County Prosecutor Rachel Hutzel acknowledged Hemmert had helped her raise campaign funds.

If cocaine use doesn't stop the GOP, some silly little thing like probation isn't going to stop Hemmert from receiving his award:

Provided Hemmert notifies his probation officer before leaving, "he shouldn't have any problem traveling," Scott McVey, administrator of the Warren County Common Pleas Court, said on Tuesday, June 3.

It should be pointed out that these NRCC "awards" are usually part of a fund-raising scheme: give us some money and we'll give you an award. It's not clear whether that's the case with Hemmert's award, but it isn't his first dinner with President Bush:

"I will be attending my second President's Dinner on Wed., June 18, 2008. This is considered the 'Event in Washington, DC' each year," Hemmert said in an e-mail press release. . .

. . .Medal recipients also tour the Capitol and take a cruise on the Potomac River "aboard the luxury ship Odyssey III," according to the itinerary. Two years ago, Hemmert said he got within 15 feet of President Bush.

As witty TPM Reader TC pointed out, maybe this "trip" will give Hemmert more than just a "contact high" with the President.

Justice Department Inspector General Glenn Fine was on Capitol Hill this morning to testify to the House Subcommittee on International Relations, Human Rights and Oversight, about his report on the FBI's role in detainee interrogations, released two weeks ago.

While some saw the hearing as a long-awaited chance for a serious examination of the torture techniques at Guantanamo Bay, Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA), the ranking Republican on the subcommittee, took an almost frat-boy glee in the torture details. In a statement of just 13 minutes, Rohrabacher managed to use the phrase "panties on [someone's] head" eight times.

But perhaps more significantly, he managed to work it into a comical (if this wasn't so serious) jab at Inspector General Fine:

ROHRABACHER: Let me -- I don't know what's -- I have never interrogated someone, either a criminal, which the FBI has to deal with, with the criminals, domestically, nor have I interrogated someone who's a foreign enemy, unless, of course, we include the people who have sat on this side...

FINE: I'll tell you what -- I was going to add that one.


ROHRABACHER: I won't ask you to wear anything on your head.


So I don't know what is -- what is effective and what's not. I do see here things that seem to be fraternity boy pranks and hazing pranks that I do not -- they might be unacceptable, but they certainly don't fit into the category of torture, which is the word that's been bandied around here.

More hazing after the jump.

Read More →

House Intelligence Chairman Silvestre Reyes (D-TX) may have agreed to a compromise on a deal to rewrite the nation's electronic surveillance laws.

A report in Congress Daily says Reyes is "fine" with the Republican-brokered deal that would "leave it up to the secret FISA court to grant retroactive legal immunity" to telecoms that helped the Bush administration's warrantless conduct surveillance on U.S. citizens.

But an aide for Reyes appeared to backpedal, saying Reyes still supported a proposal being pushed by House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD) to shift the decision-making about immunity from the secret FISA courts to traditional federal courts.

As TPM just reported, the Senate intelligence committee is releasing the much delayed Phase II report, which details and analyzes the pre-war intelligence on Iraq. We've prepped you for this before, but we think it's for real this time.

The New Orleans Times-Picayune reports that a sister of Rep. William Jefferson is facing imminent indictment:

U.S. Attorney Jim Letten is expected to announce this afternoon that 4th District Assessor Betty Jefferson, an elder sister of U.S. Rep. William Jefferson, has been indicted on fraud-related charges by a federal grand jury. At least one other sibling, the previously indicted Mose Jefferson, is also expected to face additional charges, sources close to the case said.

Letten has scheduled a news conference for 2 p.m. He declined to comment. Sources close to the investigation say the charges are the culmination of a probe into charities run by members of the Jefferson family and their allies. In a rare move, the FBI announced it was investigating the nonprofits after a 2006 Times-Picayune story revealed apparent self-dealing at them.

Jefferson is still fighting his own federal corruption charges.