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

From The Independent:

The American company appointed to advise the US government on the economic reconstruction of Iraq has paid hundreds of thousands of dollars into Republican Party coffers and has admitted that its own finances are in chaos because of accounting errors and bad management.

. . .

BearingPoint [formerly KPMG] is being paid $240m for its work in Iraq, winning an initial contract from the US Agency for International Development (USAid) within weeks of the fall of Saddam Hussein in 2003. It was charged with supporting the then Coalition Provisional Authority to introduce policies "which are designed to create a competitive private sector". Its role is to examine laws, regulations and institutions that regulate trade, commerce and investment, and to advise ministries and the central bank.

Last week The Independent on Sunday revealed that a BearingPoint employee, based in the US embassy in Baghdad, had been tasked with advising the Iraqi Ministry of Oil on drawing up a new hydrocarbon law. The legislation, which is due to be presented to Iraq's parliament within days, will give Western oil companies a large slice of profits from the country's oil fields in exchange for investing in new oil infrastructure.

Sounds like another investigation for Henry Waxman.

You know it's bad--very, very bad--when Trent Lott gets bashful:

Last Tuesday afternoon, a day before President George W. Bush went on TV to explain his decision to send more troops to Iraq, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell called his Republican colleagues together for a private talk. Several GOP senators had already come out against the plan. McConnell, Bush's closest Senate supporter on Iraq, hoped to keep others from defecting. He urged his colleagues to stand together at least until Bush had the chance to speak to the country.

After the meeting, the senators went outside the room to display their unity to waiting reporters. McConnell said he thought more troops were just the thing to "give us a chance to succeed." He then stepped aside so the other senators could second his sentiments. No one came forward. McConnell's eye fell on Trent Lott. "Trent?" McConnell said, motioning him toward the microphone. "I don't think I have anything to add," said Lott.

Thanks to TPM Reader JW for the catch.

I have not been satisfied with Democratic efforts to link our adventure in Iraq to the deteriorating situation in Afghanistan and to setbacks in our overall counterterrorism strategy. Perhaps this somber assessment will help focus Democrats:

Henry Crumpton, the outgoing State Department terror coordinator . . . [and] ex-CIA operative . . . told NEWSWEEK that a worldwide surge in Islamic radicalism has worsened recently, increasing the number of potential terrorists and setting back U.S. efforts in the terror war. "Certainly, we haven't made any progress," said Crumpton. "In fact, we've lost ground." He cites Iraq as a factor; the war has fueled resentment against the United States.

For Democrats opposed to the Iraq war who still fear a backlash for not being tough enough, advocating for more resources for the wars in Afghanistan and against global terrorism has the dual benefit of showing a stiff spine and pursuing the right policy.

From an advance copy of an anti-war speech to be given by John Edwards today in Harlem: "If you’re in Congress and you know this war is going in the wrong direction, it is no longer enough to study your options and keep your own counsel."

Condi Rice channeling Donald Rumsfeld:

Aboard her plane, Rice also told reporters that the United States would not abandon Iraq even if Bush's latest plan fails.

"We're not pulling the plug on Iraq," she said. "I think we'll worry about making Plan A work for now. And obviously, if it doesn't, then you know, we're not going to say, oh my goodness, that didn't work, there's nothing that can be done."

Oh my goodness.

In the latest development involving those immigration raids at meat packing plants last month, a federal judge in Denver has gotten his hands on the Colorado case and apparently doesn't like what he sees:

A federal judge ordered immigration officials Friday to provide the names and whereabouts of at least 260 immigrant workers arrested during a raid at Greeley's Swift & Co. meatpacking plant.

U.S. District Judge John L. Kane also warned lawyers representing U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement that he is scrutinizing how they handled the detainees.

. . .

In response to allegations that ICE agents denied detainees their due-process rights and coerced them to sign voluntary deportation orders after the Dec. 12 sweep, Kane ordered ICE to hold bond hearings within 48 hours for any jailed Swift workers who had not yet had such a hearing.

Kane also ordered ICE not to deport Swift detainees who had signed papers agreeing to leave the country and giving up legal rights, and to withdraw those orders if the detainees want.

The Pentagon is disavowing the comments made by Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense Charles Stimson, saying they don't represent the views of the Department of Defense or the thinking of its leadership.

I've been digging a little deeper into the incendiary comments made in a radio interview this week by Charles Stimson, deputy assistant secretary of defense for detainee affairs, who suggested that corporations should consider boycotting law firms representing the detainees at Guantanamo. Some of those law firms are among the nation's largest and most respected firms.

In an earlier post I noted the odd convergence of events. On Thursday, Stimson called out defense attorneys during an interview on Federal News radio. On Friday, an unnamed senior administration official showed up in a WSJ op-ed piece written by Robert Pollock essentially saying the same thing about a boycott that Stimson had said the day before. And all of this was apparently prompted, if that's the right word, by a FOIA request from conservative talk radio host Monica Crowley for the names of all the lawyers and law firms representing detainees.

In response, I heard from TPM Reader WS, who works for a St. Louis television station and says he was invited by the Department of Defense to fly down to Gitmo last month for a tour of the detainee facilities. In a phone interview, WS told me that Stimson, Pollock and representatives of Federal News radio were all with him on the trip to Gitmo. Also in attendance were a Department of Defense lawyer and a Marine Corps press flack. While Crowley has visited Gitmo recently, according to her website, she was not on this particular trip, according to WS.

The group flew to Gitmo from Washington, D.C., on December 20, aboard a government-owned Gulfstream jet, according to WS. The tour lasted 6-7 hours, he said, and the group returned the same day. No cameras or other recording equipment was allowed. Stimson served essentially as a tour guide for the media representatives, on a trip intended to emphasize that the detainees are well-treated and well-cared for. Stimson told WS that he was trying to schedule at least one similar media tour to Gitmo each month.

WS says they were shown detainees, coming within 20 feet of detainees who were in a fenced exercise area, and that they appeared to be in good condition. Stimson claimed that the detainees received better treatment than if they were treated as prisoners of war in accordance with the Geneva Conventions, and that the new prison facilities at Gitmo were modeled after prisons in Michigan and Indiana, according to WS. Stimson touted the presence of an office of the International Red Cross on-site, WS says.

Stimson also complained that detainees were taking advantage of visits by their lawyers to convey information about their treatment at Gitmo with the intention of making Gitmo look bad, but WS said Stimson made no other mention of detainee lawyers and did not make any mention of a boycott.

Incidentally, WS has no idea why he in particular was invited on the trip, but he couldn't resist the chance to go to Cuba. He has no plans to air an account of his trip.

Nothing like a little coordination between the Pentagon and the right wing noise machine.

The suggestion by Charles D. Stimson, the deputy assistant secretary of defense for detainee affairs, that corporations should consider boycotting law firms who are doing pro bono work representing detainees at Gitmo, came after he received a FOIA request from conservative radio host and former Nixon groupie Monica Crowley seeking a list of all the lawyers and law firms representing detainees.

Later, during a radio interview (not with Crowley), Stimson--who was a federal prosecutor in Washington, D.C., specializing in felony domestic violence and child abuse cases before going to the Pentagon to oversee the detainee program--read from the list produced to Crowley and indicated that he expected the names of the lawyers and law firms to be a big story in coming days:

“I think the news story that you’re really going to start seeing in the next couple of weeks is this: As a result of a FOIA request through a major news organization, somebody asked, ‘Who are the lawyers around this country representing detainees down there?’ and you know what, it’s shocking.”

For her part, Crowley made a recent trip to Guantanamo and on her radio show is marking the fifth anniversary of the detainee facility there: "We're there, we're fair, and we're not going anywhere!"

As the New York Times noted, the fifth anniversary of the Gitmo prison was also the peg for a Robert Pollock op-ed in Friday's Wall Street Journal which cited the list and attributed this quote to an unnamed “senior U.S. official": “Corporate C.E.O.’s seeing this should ask firms to choose between lucrative retainers and representing terrorists.”

A series of completely unconnected random events, I'm sure.