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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

What else don't we know about?

In a sharply worded letter to President Bush in May, an important Congressional ally charged that the administration might have violated the law by failing to inform Congress of some secret intelligence programs and risked losing Republican support on national security matters.

The letter from Representative Peter Hoekstra of Michigan, the Republican chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, did not specify the intelligence activities that he believed had been hidden from Congress.

But Mr. Hoekstra, who was briefed on and supported the National Security Agency's domestic surveillance program and the Treasury Department's tracking of international banking transactions, clearly was referring to programs that have not been publicly revealed.


The emphasis is mine. Question: does Hoekstra really want to oversee what the Administration is doing or is he distancing himself from the nastiness that will eventually come out?

How many rounds will John McCain and Grover Norquist go before one scores a knockout?

"The idea that our friend John McCain yelling at me would hurt me misses McCain's position" among conservatives, Norquist said. "John McCain thinks he can't be president if I'm standing here saying he's got a problem with taxes."

Mark Salter, McCain's longtime aide, replied: "Obviously, Grover is not well. It would be cruel of us to respond in kind."


The Washington Post has a roundup of Norquist's Abramoff problem.

You could devote an entire blog to Katherine Harris (someone already has) so we try to ration the Katherine Harris posts. But each day brings a new Harris temptation and, as much as you try to stay off the sauce, sometimes you fall off the wagon.

The latest installment in the soap opera that is the Harris campaign finds Harris, burned by her connection to defense contractor MZM, trying to shift the focus by claiming that her opponent, Sen. Bill Nelson, accepted illegal campaign contributions several years ago.

The problem is Harris' former campaign manager was named as a co-conspirator in that case. Oops.

The Orlando Sentinel's Jim Stratton has the details.

Over at TPMmuckraker, Paul Kiel has a rundown on the latest documents from the Secret Service showing Jack Abramoff's White House visits.

The Secret Service has been less than forthcoming about Abramoff's White House contacts, despite a lawsuit seeking to enforce FOIA.

The first batch of records released showed just two Abramoff visits. The latest batch identifies six other times when Abramoff was scheduled to be at the White House.

Jack, we hardly knew ya.

Speaking of the Geneva Conventions, the Red Cross has consistently held to its position that it should have access to those captured by the United States and held at undisclosed locations around the world.

In light of the Hamdan decision, has the Red Cross again approached U.S. officials about gaining such access? What has been the U.S. response? I haven't seen any reporting on this issue. If any TPM readers have, send me the link and I'll post a follow up.

Style note to editors/producers:

Describing those held at Guantanamo as "detainees" or "enemy combatants" is not accurate.

The Supreme Court's Hamdan decision declared them to be prisoners of war, entitled to the protections of the Geneva Conventions, until such time as a properly constituted tribunal concludes otherwise. The thrust of the Court's decision was that the military commissions set up by the Administration did not include the basic procedural safeguards necessary to qualify as a properly constituted tribunal.

As a matter of law now, the United States is holding prisoners of war at Guantanamo Bay. That's a fact, which is obscured when journalists continue to use language first put forth by the Administration specifically to avoid the strictures of the Geneva Conventions.

Update: Nothing like giving style instructions, and being incorrect. A number of readers have correctly pointed out that the Supreme Court in Hamdan did not reach the issue of whether Hamdan was a prisoner of war. So I overstated the case when I wrote that the Supreme Court had declared his POW status. Rather, the District Court had made that determination, and the judgment of the District Court was affirmed by the Supreme Court, but on different grounds. It simply did not decide the POW issue one way or the other. I think it's fair to say that the District Court's opinion that Hamdan is a prisoner of war remains good law, but that decision does not have the imprimatur of the Supreme Court, as my post stated. My apologies for the error and thanks to the readers who caught it.

More on the latest New York terror case, from the WP:

There were conflicting assessments among U.S. counterterrorism officials about the significance of the plot.

Two U.S. counterterrorism officials, speaking on the condition that their names and agencies not be identified because the FBI is the government's lead agency, discounted the ability of the conspirators to carry out an attack.

One said the plot was "not as far along" as described and was "more aspirational in nature." The other described the threat as "jihadi bravado," adding "somebody talks about tunnels, it lights people up," but that there was little activity to back up the talk. . . . Like the plot announced yesterday, the Miami group's plans were described by investigators as "aspirational."


The Miami group had a leg up on this newest bunch; its members were actually in the country.

They always say everything is bigger in Texas, but this is too much even for the Lone Star State.

Reckoning that two U.S. senators and 32 congressmen were insufficient representation in Washington (not to mention that fella in the White House), Texas created an independent state agency to advance the state's interest in Washington, the only state with such an arrangement.

But that wasn't enough, not for Texas.

Even though the Office of State-Federal Relations has its own staff and an office in Washington, it decided to hire outside lobbyists to represent the agency, signing Drew Maloney, Tom Delay's former chief of staff, and Todd Boulanger, a former member of Team Abramoff, to contracts together worth more $1 million. Some of that money made it back into GOP campaign coffers, but that's a whole other story.

The next step would be for Maloney and Boulanger to hire their own lobbyists--because, really, with things like they are in Washington these days, how can the good people of Texas compete for federal dollars without their elected representatives' agency's lobbyists' lobbyists?

Showing some of the common sense Texas prides itself on, a state advisory commission has now recommended that the Office of State-Federal Relations be abolished. Republicans in the Texas Legislature oppose the idea.

Well, turns out the Holland Tunnel wasn't the target after all, according to the NYT. But what does that matter?

Representative Peter T. King, the chairman of the House Committee on Homeland Security, said today that even though the Holland Tunnel was not the target this time, the tunnel has been a target of terrorists before, including a plot against the Hudson River tunnels and other New York landmarks uncovered after the World Trade Center bombing in 1993.


By that logic, we'd better keep a close eye on, say, Pearl Harbor.

Think it's time to compare the number of announced terrorism cases in pre-election 2004, post-election 2005, and, now, pre-election 2006?

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