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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

If you're into reading the tea leaves to determine if the rumors of OBL's death are true, this UPI report will give you plenty to play with, including the significance of the paper chosen to receive the leak.

Important bit of context on the detainee legislation and the associated debate in Congress, from the Boston Globe:

As lawmakers prepare to debate the CIA's special interrogation program for terrorism suspects, fewer than 10 percent of the members of Congress have been told which interrogation techniques have been used in the past, and none of them know which ones would be permissible under proposed changes to the War Crimes Act.


But that doesn't stop the esteemed gentleman from Alabama: "I don't know what the CIA has been doing, nor should I know," said Senator Jeff Sessions, an Alabama Republican.

The piece points out that the Army Field Manual spells out in detail which interrogation techniques are acceptable and which are prohibited, which undermines the Administration's contention that the details of its interrogation techniques should remain classified.

It sort of fits that the same folks who let the Administration keep them constantly in the dark don't see anything wrong with keeping alleged terrorists in the dark about the evidence against them.

Wild Bill lets loose on Fox News and lets Chris Wallace have it.

CLINTON: You set this meeting up because you were going to get a lot of criticism from your viewers because Rupert Murdoch is going to get a lot of criticism from your viewers for supporting my work on climate change. And you came here under false pretenses and said that you’d spend half the time talking about…

WALLACE: [laughs]

CLINTON: You said you’d spend half the time talking about what we did out there to raise $7 billion dollars plus over three days from 215 different commitments. And you don’t care.


It's about time. But does this mean I have to watch Fox News Sunday?

Update: Just to be clear, the meat of the exchange and the catalyst for the sparring comes when Wallace mouths the spin of "The Path to 9/11," asserting that Clinton did not do enough to get al Qaeda.

Late update: Earlier, Fox was teasing the interview on its website with the headline, "Clinton Gets Crazed." They have now changed it to "Strong Reaction."

The reports on the possible death of Osama bin Laden are not surprisingly very contradictory at this point. Time is now reporting that, according to a Saudi source, bin Laden is ill and may have already died:

The source, speaking on condition of anonymity, says that Saudi officials have received multiple credible reports over the last several weeks that Bin Laden has been suffering from a water-borne illness. The source believes that there is a "high probability" that Bin Laden has already died from the disease, but stressed that Saudi officials have thus far received no concrete evidence of Bin Laden's death.

"This is not a rumor," says the source. "He is very ill. He got a water-related sickness and it could be terminal. There are a lot of serious facts about things that have actually happened. There is a lot to it. But we don't have any concrete information to say that he is dead."


Given the number of times his death has been reported, there's no point in speculating on which reports are accurate. We'll just have to let this one play out. I will say that typhoid is not exactly my idea of a deserved death for the man.

The NRCC has spent more than $1 million trying to hold on to Indiana's 8th District, a seat currently held by Rep. John Hostettler (R-IN). How tough is the race against Democrat Brad Ellsworth? Put it this way, Hostettler keeps a binder of opposition research in his office labeled with the name of Ellsworth's 19-year-old daughter.

TPM, across all its platforms, is making a concerted effort to track the various shadow groups involved in congressional campaigns nationwide. The 527 groups, which played such a huge role in the 2004 presidential campaign, are back with a vengeance.

While technically the 527s that take soft money are prohibited from coordinating their activities with candidates and parties, you can't fully understand the strategies and tactics of the national campaigns being waged by either party without understanding where the 527s fit into the mix.

The prohibition on coordination is one of those fine legal distinctions that makes the campaign finance laws such a mess.

Take for instance "Softer Voices," a 527 group supporting Sen. Rick Santorum (R-PA) in his re-election campaign against Bob Casey. Until this past week, the contact person and custodian of records for Softer Voices--the person who signed their IRS filings--was Cleta Mitchell, a partner at the DC firm of Foley & Lardner LLP and . . . wait for it . . . legal counsel to the National Republican Senatorial Committee.

All of Softer Voices's contributions so far in 2006 came this past week, with $650,000 raised from just two contributors. The group turned around and spent more than $750,000, all of it on the Pennsylvania U.S. Senate race, according to the group's FEC filing. In between the recipt of the contributions and the ad buy, the group filed an amended IRS report in which Cleta Mitchell is no longer listed as contact person for the group.

You may recall the controversy that erupted in the 2004 elections when it was learned that GOP power lawyer Ben Ginsberg was representing both the Bush-Cheney '04 campaign and Swift Boat Veterans for Truth. Ginsberg resigned from the Bush campaign, but his firm, Patton Boggs, still represents the Swift Boaters, collecting more than $275,000 in fees from the group since June 2005. Meanwhile, according to his bio, Ginsberg represents the RNC, NRSC, NRCC and the Republican Governors Association.

As I said, these are very fine legal distinctions.

Bob J. Perry is no longer the sole financial backer of the Economic Freedom Fund, the 527 group that reunites the Swift Boat crowd and is making a splash this year with hard-hitting ads and pernicious robo-calls in key congressional races.

It appears another GOP financial heavyweight is getting in on the fun. Carl H. Lindner, part owner of the Cincinnati Reds and No. 133 on the Forbes 400 list of richest Americans, has ponied up $50,000 to EFF. More precisely, EFF has recorded a $50,000 donation from the same address as Lindner uses in other FEC reports. For whatever reason, the FEC website is not showing the names of EFF's most recent contributors, just their addresses.

A mere $50,000 is a small fraction of the $5 million Perry has contributed to the group, but it suggests other big-money Republican donors may be climbing aboard Swift Boat 2.0. Lindner's contributions to President Bush's 2004 re-election campaign qualified him as a "Ranger."

EFF's most recent filings show it spending another $120,000 against John Barrow (D-GA); $105,000 against Alan Mollohan (D-WV); and $75,000 against Jim Marshall (D-GA). This is in addition to several hundred thouand dollars already spent by EFF collectively in those districts.

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

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