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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

Osama bin Laden dead? I don't want to make too big a deal of this--yet. But according to a regional French newspaper that obtained a classified French secret service report, the Saudis are convinced bin Laden died of typhoid in August in Pakistan.

The newspaper printed what it said was a copy of the report dated September 21 and said it was shown to President Jacques Chirac, Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin and France's interior and defense ministers on the same day.

"According to a usually reliable source, the Saudi services are now convinced that Osama bin Laden is dead," the document said.

"The information gathered by the Saudis indicates that the head of al Qaeda was a victim while he was in Pakistan on August 23, 2006, of a very serious case of typhoid which led to a partial paralysis of his internal organs."

The report, which was stamped with a "confidential defense" label and the initials of the French secret service, said Saudi Arabia first heard the information on September 4 and that it was waiting for more details before making an official announcement.

A senior official in Pakistan said no foreign government had shared information with Pakistan that would back up the report of bin Laden's death.


Now, reports of bin Laden's death have been exaggerated before. What makes this report particularly interesting is that the French Defense Ministry has essentially confirmed the existence of the secret service report, saying publicly that while it cannot confirm that bin Laden is dead, it will launch an inquiry into the leak of the secret document and seek criminal charges against the leaker.

Late update: U.S. government unable to confirm bin Laden death report.

Later update: Not dead yet, according to CNN source.

Al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden has a water-borne illness, a Saudi intelligence source told CNN on Saturday, knocking down a report in a French newspaper that the man who has been hunted by the United States for the past five years is dead.

The Saudi intelligence source told CNN's Nic Robertson that there have been credible reports for the past several weeks that bin Laden is ill, but there has been no word of his death.

If you were to pick the single greatest hypocrisy of the Bush Presidency, wouldn't it have to be this: that the man who ostentatiously claims Jesus as his favorite philosopher (he of "do unto others as ye would have them do unto you" fame) would say, in all seriousness, "Common Article III says that there will be no outrages upon human dignity. It's very vague. "What does that mean, 'outrages upon human dignity'?"

That's my entry. Yours?

"I'm saying that nobody knows what humiliating treatment is. What does it mean?" --National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley

An October surprise? From Time:

The first message was routine enough: A "Prepare to Deploy" order sent through naval communications channels to a submarine, an Aegis-class cruiser, two minesweepers and two mine hunters. The orders didn't actually command the ships out of port; they just said to be ready to move by Oct. 1. But inside the Navy those messages generated more buzz than usual last week when a second request, from the Chief of Naval Operations (CNO), asked for fresh eyes on long-standing U.S. plans to blockade two Iranian oil ports on the Persian Gulf. The CNO had asked for a rundown on how a blockade of those strategic targets might work. When he didn't like the analysis he received, he ordered his troops to work the lash up once again.

What's going on? The two orders offered tantalizing clues. There are only a few places in the world where minesweepers top the list of U.S. naval requirements. And every sailor, petroleum engineer and hedge-fund manager knows the name of the most important: the Strait of Hormuz, the 20-mile-wide bottleneck in the Persian Gulf through which roughly 40% of the world's oil needs to pass each day. Coupled with the CNO's request for a blockade review, a deployment of minesweepers to the west coast of Iran would seem to suggest that a much discussed—but until now largely theoretical—prospect has become real: that the U.S. may be preparing for war with Iran.

Exporting democracy to Iraq: 13,000 people in U.S. custody inhabiting the netherworld between criminal defendant and POW.

Robert Novak, on never having watched Jon Stewart: “I don’t see any reason for it. It’s a comedian, self-righteous comedian taking on airs of grandeur and I really don’t need that.”

So, Jon Stewart is Bob Novak--except funny?

The Australian ran a piece yesterday using the Dusty Foggo-Brent Wilkes story as the peg for a look at the broader mess within the U.S. intelligence community:

Revelations via The New York Times and The Washington Post in the past 12 months have included reports that the CIA was operating secret prisons offshore to detain high-level terrorists and that Bush was authorising surveillance through wiretaps on US citizens without a court warrant, as laws demand. Bush has confirmed the existence of both programs.

The disclosures have helped frame the debate in the US on the war on terror this year and promoted an increasing disquiet among Americans about the direction of their country. The intelligence leaks play into the fears of many an American that there's a sneaky federal Government up to no good behind the scenes and always looking for a way to control their lives, a kind of conspiracy that appears embedded in the cultural DNA of the place.

And it means that rather than a unified front against terrorism, the US has become as polarised as ever about where it's headed.


It's a good read, and has an interesting perspective that perhaps comes with being more detached than domestic American media.

It became clear sometime in early 2006--I can't recall pinpointing exactly when--that President Bush's call to "stay the course" in Iraq meant he and the GOP would dance with who they brought through the 2006 elections. It is the only way they can retain Congress.

But it has also been increasingly clear that the decision has already been made--has been made for some time--to change course after the elections. James Baker's group is designed and intended to be the cover for declaring victory and getting out of Iraq. If for no other reason, the pressure from within the GOP to fix this mess before the 2008 election will be enormous. So my question is, how many American troops will have died between the time the decision was made to get out of Iraq and the time we actually do get out of Iraq? How many American lives will it cost to give the GOP a chance to retain control of Congress?

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