David Kurtz

David Kurtz is Managing Editor and Washington Bureau Chief of Talking Points Memo where he oversees the news operations of TPM and its sister sites.

Articles by David

In the "been there, done that" category comes news today about the faulty intelligence the U.S. has been providing to the IAEA about Iran's nuclear program. From the LA Times:

Although international concern is growing about Iran's nuclear program and its regional ambitions, diplomats here say most U.S. intelligence shared with the U.N. nuclear watchdog agency has proved inaccurate and none has led to significant discoveries inside Iran.

The officials said the CIA and other Western spy services had provided sensitive information to the Vienna-based International Atomic Energy Agency at least since 2002, when Iran's long-secret nuclear program was exposed. But none of the tips about supposed secret weapons sites provided clear evidence that the Islamic Republic was developing illicit weapons.

"Since 2002, pretty much all the intelligence that's come to us has proved to be wrong," a senior diplomat at the IAEA said. Another official here described the agency's intelligence stream as "very cold now" because "so little panned out."

Hey, Rocky, watch me pull a rabbit out of my hat!

We're learning more about Sue Ellen Wooldridge, formerly the Justice Department's top environmental official whose boyfriend, former Interior Department official and lobbyist Steven Griles, is caught up in the Jack Abramoff scandal. In an otherwise soft-pedaled story, her hometown Sacramento Bee quotes Wooldridge as claiming that "when I was growing up I used to castrate sheep with my teeth." Oh, my. I didn't realize that was how it was done.

This morning's headlines are about a suicide bomber killing more than 30 people near a college in Baghdad. But you can't get a sense of the mind-numbing insanity of the situation until you read this post written by one of the Iraqis on McClatchy Newspaper's staff in Baghdad, presumably before today's bombing, who fears constantly for his daughter, a college student, who like her classmates is a sitting duck during midterm exams.

BBC: "Iran has successfully fired its first rocket into space, Iranian state television has announced."


Three Arab states in the Persian Gulf would be willing to allow the Israel Air force to enter their airspace in order to reach Iran in case of an attack on its nuclear facilities, the Kuwaiti newspaper Al-Siyasa reported on Sunday.

According to the report, a diplomat from one of the gulf states visiting Washington on Saturday said the three states, Qatar, Oman and the United Arab Emirates, have told the United States that they would not object to Israel using their airspace, despite their fear of an Iranian response.

Al-Siyasa further reported that NATO leaders are urging Turkey to open its airspace for an Attack on Iran as well and to also open its airports and borders in case of a ground attack.

It doesn't appear to be online yet,* but Seymour Hersh has a piece in the latest New Yorker on Pentagon contingency planning for a military strike against Iran. From Reuters:

Despite the Bush administration's insistence it has no plans to go to war with Iran, a Pentagon panel has been created to plan a bombing attack that could be implemented within 24 hours of getting the go-ahead from President George W. Bush, The New Yorker magazine reported in its latest issue.

The special planning group was established within the office of the Joint Chiefs of Staff in recent months, according to an unidentified former U.S. intelligence official cited in the article by investigative reporter Seymour Hersh in the March 4 issue.

The panel initially focused on destroying Iran's nuclear facilities and on regime change but has more recently been directed to identify targets in Iran that may be involved in supplying or aiding militants in Iraq, according to an Air Force adviser and a Pentagon consultant, who were not identified.

The consultant and a former senior intelligence official both said that U.S. military and special-operations teams had crossed the border from Iraq into Iran in pursuit of Iranian operatives, according to the article.

In response to the report, Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman said: "The United States is not planning to go to war with Iran. To suggest anything to the contrary is simply wrong, misleading and mischievous.

In addition, Hersh reports that Israel has provided the U.S. with intelligence, the validity of which is still being debated, that Iran has developed an intercontinental missile capable of delivering several small warheads that could reach Europe, according to Reuters.

Update: Meanwhile, The Sunday Times reports:

SOME of America’s most senior military commanders are prepared to resign if the White House orders a military strike against Iran, according to highly placed defence and intelligence sources.

Tension in the Gulf region has raised fears that an attack on Iran is becoming increasingly likely before President George Bush leaves office. The Sunday Times has learnt that up to five generals and admirals are willing to resign rather than approve what they consider would be a reckless attack.

“There are four or five generals and admirals we know of who would resign if Bush ordered an attack on Iran,” a source with close ties to British intelligence said. “There is simply no stomach for it in the Pentagon, and a lot of people question whether such an attack would be effective or even possible.”

*Late Update: Hersh's piece is now posted.

Peter Carlson has a little fun with a 139-count, 267-page indictment in a Pennsylvania public corruption case:

Normally, The Washington Post does not cover the legal woes of Pennsylvania state senators, but this indictment is simply too good to pass up. It's a deliciously entertaining document that should be read by every political-science student in America. It's a bizarre account of the adventures of a millionaire pol whose over-the-top greed makes recently convicted ex-congressmen Duke Cunningham and Bob Ney seem like penny-ante pikers. If this indictment is accurate, Vincent J. Fumo is a man driven by a compulsion to get somebody else to pay for everything his heart desires, including the aforementioned tiki torches, gourmet paint, vacuum cleaners and bobblehead dolls.

Unfortunately, the Post doesn't link to the must-read indictment.

Update: You can read the indictment here. (Thanks to TPM Reader TC for the link).

A couple of pieces out today examine K Street's role in a post-Abramoff Democratic Congress. More here and here.

Sixteen million Americans live in "severe poverty," defined as individuals making less than $5,080 annually and families of four making less than $9,903. Yeah, 16,000,000.