Josh Marshall

Josh Marshall is editor and publisher of TalkingPointsMemo.com.

Articles by Josh

It seems the president's defenders have fallen back on what has always been their argument of last resort -- cherry-picked quotes from Clinton administration officials arranged to give the misleading impression that the Clintonites said and thought the same thing about Iraqi weapons of mass destruction as the Bushies did.

Not true.

But even arguing on this ground understates the full measure of administration mendacity in the lead up to the war since it ignores half the story. WMD was only half the administration equation for war. The other half was Iraq's alleged ties to Islamist terrorist groups like al Qaida and including al Qaida. On top of that, of course, was the big enchilada, the Cheney favorite, those frequent and intentionally ambiguous suggestions that Saddam Hussein played a role in the 9/11 attacks.

The administration has always been able to fall back upon the fact that as much as they hyped and exaggerated the evidence of Iraqi WMD, the folks in the intelligence community made plenty of mistakes on their own.

But the claims about Iraqi ties to al Qaida were always USDA-approved Grade-A crap.

That's where the most blatant political pressure on analysts happened. And that's where Doug Feith's operation at the Pentagon and its pipeline to Vice President Cheney's Office played their most nefarious role "stovepiping" nonsense about a grand Osama-Saddam axis.

Yet, that story has not gotten much of any scrutiny or investigation.

Whether it was lies or just reckless disregard for the truth. They should be held accountable.

A weird and very disturbing story.

The Hill reports that Emilia DiSanto, chief investigator for Finance Committee Chairman, Sen. Chuck Grassley, was accosted outside her home last Wednesday evening and beaten repeatedly with a baseball bat. The article says she was later "treated for significant upper-body injuries [and] nine staples were needed to close her head wound."

Investigators seem to believe that the attack was related to her work on the hill.

On Tom DeLay's latest lawyering to get off the conspiracy charges on a technicality or preserve his right to trial by a jury of fellow conservatives (noted here), TPM Reader CM chimes in as follows ...

Ronnie Earle should simply ask the judge, "If Travis County is too liberal for DeLay to get a fair trial, then why is it that 2 of 3 U.S. Representatives representing Travis County are Republicans? Why are both state school board members representing Travis County Republicans? If you lump in State Senators and State Reps, too, you get a total of 7 Republicans and 6 Democrats." I'd say it looks more than fair to Republicans.

Hoist him on his own petard, perhaps...

Good point.

Paying the piper?

Tom DeLay's lawyers are now arguing that for their client to get a fair trial there needs to be a change of venue, particularly somewhere other than "liberal" Travis County, home of the state capital and in the jurisdiction of DA Ronnie Earle.

Given all the other malarkey DeLay is floating about the criminal justice system being rigged against conservatives, I guess we shouldn't be surprised.

But look at the specific issue they seem to be pushing.

This from the AP ...

Defense attorneys argue that DeLay has been vilified in liberal Travis County, which was split into three different congressional districts as a result of a redistricting map DeLay engineered.

The structure of the sentence is a tad ambiguous. But I think they're saying that DeLay can't get a fair trial in that county because the residents of the county are so upset with him for disenfranchising them with his corrupt redistricting plan.

Imagine that.

More slow-lane investigations?

This from the Wall Street Journal ...

As Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister Ahmad Chalabi arrives this week in Washington for talks, there is little sign of progress in a federal investigation of allegations that he once leaked U.S. intelligence secrets to Iran.

More than 17 months after then-National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice publicly promised a full criminal inquiry, the Federal Bureau of Investigation hasn't interviewed Mr. Chalabi himself or many current and former U.S. government officials thought likely to have information related to the matter, according to lawyers for several of these individuals and others close to the case. The investigation of Mr. Chalabi, who had been a confidant of senior Defense Department officials before the war in Iraq, remains in the hands of the FBI, with little active interest from local federal prosecutors or the Justice Department, these people said. There also has been no grand-jury involvement in the case.

It's been suggested that the accusations that Chalabi leaked US secrets to the Iranians were no more than a bureaucratic power-play against him by his opponents in the US government. The fact that he and his supporters have used this excuse to explain various other bad acts of which he was certainly guilty does not inspire a lot of confidence. But on this issue of his ties with Iran I don't know much more than what I read in the papers. So anything is possible.

But even that wouldn't seem a good reason to have yet another phantom FBI investigation in which no attempt has been made to speak to principals in the case.

Here's a snippet from an Isikoff and Hosenball Newsweek update on the Niger-Uranium story and the FBI's curiously unthorough investigation.

The FBI ended a two-and-a-half-year probe into the Niger uranium documents without resolving a key mystery: who forged papers used to bolster President Bush's case for war in Iraq? The bureau announced that the documents, purportedly showing attempts by Saddam Hussein's government to purchase yellowcake uranium, were concocted for financial gain rather than to influence U.S. foreign policy ... But a senior bureau official, requesting anonymity because of the matter's sensitivity, told NEWSWEEK the FBI never interviewed Rocco Martino, the Italian businessman who provided the documents to SISMI. Because there was no apparent violation of U.S. law, the bureau couldn't compel him to talk—even though he twice visited the United States last year to be interviewed by CBS's "60 Minutes."

Is that really how it is? Please.

As those of you who are following my on-going series of installments on this story know, I spent time with Martino during both of those visits to the US. And this line about not being able to compel him to testify is a crock.

I don't know what the Bureau's authority would have been in such a case. But whether they had any power to compel Martino to talk is irrelevant because they didn't even try to contact him while he was here.

When Martino came to the US the first time last year, it was in early summer. His identity was then still a secret. At least it hadn't yet been published anywhere. So there's no way to know whether the FBI investigators would have known that this sixty-something Italian man flying into New York was a central player in the forgeries drama.

The second time he came, however, was in early August. And by that time his name had been splashed across papers in several European countries, as well as in the Financial Times, which of course you can find on newsstands in most large US cities.

He flew to New York under his own name. And no FBI, law enforcement or intelligence officials made any attempt to contact him during the several days he remained in the US.

There have now been a number of press reports about the alleged FBI investigation into the forgeries story. The Bureau has stated publicly that they have closed the investigation and that they did so after determining that there were no political motives behind the hoax, only a desire to make money. They made that determination without figuring out who forged them or even talking to the guy at the center of the story. And the reasons they're giving for not talking to him are, frankly, bogus.

None of that adds up.

Something's wrong.

We're starting another one of our collaborative timeline projects -- this one about the Niger uranium canard saga. We follow the story from the first reports in from Italian intelligence in October 2001 through the Joe Wilson imbroglio up to the arraignment of I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby just last week.

Like our Katrina Timeline from September, the Niger Uranium timeline we've posted today is really just a rough draft, a skeleton outline with the basic details and events.

Now we need you.

Take a look at the timeline. If you find errors, let us know. If you see things we've left out, let us know that too. Whatever ways you can find to help us make the timeline more complete, accurate and thorough, drop us a line.

As always, we're looking for definable, factual information -- not opinions or events that can't be pinned down in time and location with some detail. Whereever possible, we want specific dates and citations to legitimate publications, reports or websites. Instructions for emailing are at the top of the timeline page.

Indictments in the Rep. Randy "Duke" Cunningham case "coming soon"? So says the hometown paper.