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I'd like to share some speculation about the domestic surveillance efforts we've heard about, in bits and pieces, over the last couple of years. Here's the thing: I've pulled a bunch of old articles on various aspects of these programs, and they seem to fit together.

In short, looking at stories over the last year or so by the New York Times, the Washington Post, and the latest entry from USA Today (plus a bit of my own research), I get the following picture:

After the 9/11 attacks, the federal government assembled a cross-departmental effort to comb the United States for possible terrorist activity. Using massive databases and largely untested analytical techniques, the NSA generated thousands of false "leads" which were passed to the FBI. There, agents issued thousands of secret warrants for personal information, and spent thousands of man-hours chasing the results -- which were negligible. And you and I paid for it.

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Drudge is reporting "Police sealed off the U.S. Capitol Friday after reports of gunfire in a House office building across the street..."

From the Hill, Reader RM writes "shots fired in Rayburn," a building in the Capitol complex which contains offices for House members and committees.

Update: WPost says, "Shots reported fired at the Rayburn House office building, employees ordered to shelter in place, according to television news reports."

Update: CNN says shots are unconfirmed, police are investigating "sounds of gunfire" in Rayburn garage.

Update: Congressional Quarterly says the House has left for the long weekend, and has only two hearings scheduled, both in Rayburn. One is a subcommittee markup of a 2007 appropriations bill; the other, an intelligence committee hearing entitled, "The Media's Role and Responsibilities in Leaks of Classified Information."

Update: CNN reports more than one "gunshot" was heard, and they were reported by a single staffer.

Later Update: Capitol Police will be holding a presser at noon.

I checked in with colleagues who are covering the day-to-day of the David Safavian trial, and they largely concurred that day two was uneventful. "They read emails all day," one told me, referring to the notes between Jack Abramoff and Safavian that prosecutors released to the media many days ago.

I stopped by the courthouse this morning for the opening of the day's events; the courtroom gallery was mostly empty -- maybe half a dozen reporters, and a few more observers.

The hard-core crew seem to have their fingers crossed that the testimony of Neil Volz, the former Ney staffer and Abramoff colleague who's cooperating with prosecutors, will provide some fireworks. He may take the stand later this morning, I'm told, although smart money seems to be on him being called after lunch.

Now, here's a development that could make the David Safavian trial more interesting. Safavian's lawyer Barbara van Gelder has filed a motion seeking to confer immunity on three witnesses she wants to put on the stand. All three, she says, are under investigation by the Justice Department and have told her that they'll exercise their Fifth Amendment privilege if called.

So who are these mysterious three? The key to this case is the 2002 Scotland golf junket hosted by Jack Abramoff. Ralph Reed and Rep. Bob Ney (R-OH) were also along for the ride, so either could be called. Van Gelder hasn't even ruled out calling Abramoff. That would be fun.

Other Ney staffers came on the trip too: Neil Volz (already a witness for the prosecution), Paul Vinovich, and Will Heaton. Vinovich and Heaton have both been subpoenaed by prosecutors, and Vinovich has signaled that he'll invoke the Fifth. So it seems pretty certain that van Gelder wants to hear from Vinovich.

But no matter who is called, there's no doubt what we'll be hearing about: golf.

As we noted in yesterday's Daily Muck, Roll Call has reported that the FBI wants to interview top House members in their probe of who leaked classified information on the NSA's domestic surveillance program to the New York Times.

Who? In particular, Roll Call notes, "those being targeted for interviews include GOP and Democratic leaders, as well as the chairmen and ranking member of the Intelligence committee."

That means Intel committee chair Rep. Pete Hoekstra (R-MI), the panel's ranking member, Rep. Jane Harman (D-CA), and presumeably House Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-IL) and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA). Other "leaders" could include House Majority Leader John Boehner (R-OH), House Majority Whip Roy Blunt (R-MO), and House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-MD).

The recent string of explosions on Capitol Hill have been nothing short of mesmerizing. The FBI raids a Democratic congressional office; the Republicans explode. Democratic factions explode at the party leadership. Democrats and Republicans explode at the Justice Department. ABC News drops a bombshell on House Speaker Dennis Hastert; Hastert explodes at ABC. The Justice Department explodes at ABC. The Justice Department explodes at Hastert.

The House has always been a volatile place, compared to the genteel Senate. But it's becoming apparent that these explosions aren't the usual sort -- measured eruptions calculated to generate maximum political leverage, i.e. outrage at the House cafeteria for serving "French" fries.

Instead, they look like a pot, once quietly simmering, suddenly boiling over. The House, it seems, is officially out of control. What caused this?

First, the stage was set: Republicans were already in their own chaos after having lost a charismatic leader (Tom DeLay) and the political chains which once tied them more or less uniformly to the White House. Add to that successive scandals, which have pushed poll numbers for some of their "safe" seats into the red zone -- or is it the blue zone? -- leading many in the party to worry they will lose control of the House.

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ABC: Hastert Probe Could "Wash Out" and "Be Nothing" ABC's Brian Ross went on the air last night to give further caveats to his story yesterday that House Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-IL) is "in the mix" of the Justice Department investigation of the Abramoff scandal.

"I think our story is accurate. We've gone back to our sources, and they believe what we reported was accurate as they knew it," the Washington Post quotes him as saying. "There may be a semantics issue here as to what constitutes being under investigation."

The story "could wash out and be nothing," Ross conceded. But "questions are being raised about the speaker of the House -- that's worthy of a lead story."

Dennis Hastert doesn't think so, of course, and has sent a threatening letter from his lawyer to the network. The Justice Department has also denied the story. Ross and ABC, meanwhile, reported that Hastert calls "a coincidence" the fact that Jack Abramoff hosted a fundraiser for the speaker one week before Hastert signed an unusual letter on behalf of the lobbyist's tribal clients. (WPost)

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From tonight's Hardball with Chris Matthews, as transcribed by Raw Story -- reporter David Shuster confirms Murray Waas' latest scoop:

[S]ources close to [Karl Rove] are now confirming a story first reported in the National Journal that Rove, who was a source for columnist Bob Novak, later had a separate conversation with Novak after the investigation began.

Former federal prosecutors are convinced Fitzgerald has explored whether Rove and Novak coordinated their testimony.

But today, a spokesman for Karl Rove said quote, "Karl Rove has never urged anyone, directly or indirectly, to withhold information from the special Counsel or to testify falsely. Circulating such speculation now is nothing short of irresponsible."

. . . Robert Novak was unavailable for comment.

AP reports:

If a prosecutor calls him as a witness, Vice President Dick Cheney probably can't avoid testifying in his former chief of staff's perjury trial, legal experts said Thursday. . . .

But former federal prosecutor Ty Cobb said Fitzgerald's revelation about using Cheney as a witness seems like an act of desperation. "You don't play that card unless you think you are in danger of being shut down," Cobb said. . . .

Fitzgerald's filing, Cobb said, was a signal to U.S. District Judge Reggie B. Walton, who has expressed concern about the amount of classified information the prosecutor may try to keep Libby from using in his defense.

"Now Fitzgerald's pitch is, 'This goes all the way up in the White House. Judge, don't shut me down,'" Cobb said.

The Washingtonenne politico-sex-blog scandal happened so long ago, we're surprised it hasn't been turned into a VH1 special yet. (Maybe it has -- we don't watch VH1 all that much anymore.)

But it's been resurrected, most recently in the pages of Legal Times, of all places. Why? One of her sex partners says he was inaccurately portrayed. So he's suing.

A quick refresher: in 2004, a twentysomething Hill staffer had been keeping a "secret" online diary of her sexual exploits with various Hill figures. Someone emailed the URL to Wonkette, who wrote about it ad nauseum. Washingtonienne was unmasked as Jessica Cutler, a staffer for Sen. Mike DeWine (R-OH). She lost her job, found a book deal. Then, except for occasional stories about how she gets sexually entangled with her lawyers, she disappeared.

But one of the men Cutler wrote about, Robert Steinbuch, wants justice. And he's willing to have even more details of his private life entered into the public record in order to get it.

Steinbuch, a senior DeWine adviser (or, as Cutler described him, "this crazy hair-pulling, ass-smacking dude who wants to use handcuffs on me") is suing Cutler, not for violating his privacy, but to correct what he says are falsehoods in what she blogged.

As the paper reports:

It's hard to know why anyone would care to set the record straight about whether he is able to ejaculate with or without a condom or whether he likes to spank or be spanked. But [Steinbuch's lawyer, Jonathan] Rosen says that's exactly what Steinbuch intends to do.


“There are graphic and intimate details which are not true,” Steinbuch told Legal Times. “Those are facts that are going to be litigated.”

Now that's a trial I wouldn't mind sitting through.

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