Josh Marshall

Josh Marshall is editor and publisher of TalkingPointsMemo.com.

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It turns out the use of the word 'raid' for the search on Duke Cunningham's Rancho Santa Fe home was well-chosen. According to a piece just out in the North County Times, the feds who showed up at the house broke the locks on the front door to gain entry.

Now, as you might expect, Duke's lawyers are crying foul, charging the investigators with grand-standing and "an appalling abuse of government power." And I must confess that I was a bit surprised at the rapidity and the no-nonsense style of these raids today at what something like a half dozen locations across the country. (If I'm not mistaken, investigators conducted simultaneous raids/searches at MZM HQ (DC), Mitch Wade's home (DC), Duke Cunningham's home (SD), the Duke Stir (DC) and perhaps other locations.) I think those of us not intimately familiar with law enforcement tactics are often surprised when we see people in power given the same treatment ordinary targets of criminal investigations are given everyday.

That said, this is a United States Congressman. And to the extent there's any politicization at DOJ or the Pentagon, I really doubt it's anti-Duke. So what's up exactly?

Along those lines I noticed this snippet at the end of the piece in the North County Times ...

Back in Washington, Keith Ashdown of the budget watchdog group Taxpayers for Common Sense said he was surprised at the government's actions.

"There must be some reason why they had to move this quickly," said Ashdown, the group's vice president of policy and communications. "Remember, this is a U.S. congressman."

It doesn't speak directly to the question. But there's also this passage in the report out in tomorrow's WaPo ...

The search warrants were executed at the company's headquarters two weeks to the day after an MZM official who worked closely with Wade shredded a large stack of documents on the third floor of MZM's Washington headquarters, two sources with knowledge of the incident said independently yesterday. They said the official destroyed the documents on June 17 in a waist-high machine during Wade's final hours in the office, an act that one source described as "weird" because of the timing.

Wade and his attorneys agreed the previous evening that he would surrender control of the company to other senior MZM officials, and they also agreed that he could pack up his office papers at a set time on June 17, one of the sources said. But Wade angered the firm's new managers by arriving earlier than agreed, according to this source. Both sources said he was in the building when the shredding occurred. The nature of the destroyed documents could not be learned, and the executive who did the shredding did not reply to phone calls and e-mails seeking his comment. The shredding was halted when it became apparent to the new company managers, the sources said. Another senior MZM official affixed a note to the door in mid-morning that day, ordering employees of the company not to enter the room where the machine was located, they added. Wade was eventually permitted to take other documents from the building in boxes, under the supervision of company attorneys, the sources said.

Now, one other snippet that may or may not be related. Down in the depths of the A section in tomorrow's Post (A18) is a piece by the irreplaceable Walter Pincus. As Pincus explains, John Negroponte, the new intel czar is going to take a look at changes made at the Army's National Ground Intelligence Center, the site of that titanic screw-up over the aluminum tubes. And down at the end of the piece Pincus discusses MZM's role as contractor at the NGIC ...

On Oct. 18, 2002, MZM got the first of what would grow to be a series of orders for NGIC work. This initial one was for a seven-week, $194,000 study analyzing a computer program concept called "FIRES," according to material provided by the Pentagon. FIRES was a program first suggested by an NGIC employee who believed that if U.S. operatives around the world collected blueprints of important buildings worldwide, an important intelligence database could be developed.

At the time, the NGIC's senior civilian employee and executive director was William S. Rich Jr. Rich had been the top civilian official at the NGIC since its inception in 1994. In September 2003, Rich retired from the NGIC and thereafter went to work as senior executive vice president for strategic intelligence for MZM, according to former NGIC colleagues and Pentagon documents. Rich has not returned telephone calls, and MZM has refused to comment on its NGIC work.

Other NGIC employees have been hired by MZM. The former sergeant major at the NGIC, George A. Peeterse, is an MZM vice president. Contacted by telephone at home last week, Peeterse declined to discuss MZM or the NGIC. "We have been told to refer all questions to MZM headquarters in Washington," he said.

More on this tomorrow.

With so much DOJ heat coming down on Duke Cunningham you'd almost think he was a Democrat.

Late word has it that twenty federal agents raided Duke's place in Rancho Santa Fe this afternoon. Just so you can keep track, that's the place he bought with Mitch Wade's cash, not the place he sold Wade. And that comes on the heels of the raids earlier in the day at MZM headquarters and down at the Yacht Club on the Duke Stir.

One other point to note: In each of these raids, on hand have been personnel from the Defense Criminal Investigative Service.

As you'd expect from the title, those are the DOD's cops, specifically, the investigative arm of the Pentagon Inspector General's office. They're not there because some backbencher like Duke got paid too much for his house. Almost certainly, they're there because of military contracting fraud, or the suspicion thereof.

And tell me this isn't related to the Pentagon decision earlier this week to halt all new work for MZM, Inc. Just a new interpretation of some obscure contracting, right?

There's an OpEd today in the Post about torture, the US military and the medical profession. It's by Burton Lee, presidential physician to the first President Bush. I really recommend it highly.

This is a passage from a piece Ed Kilgore did today at TPMCafe ...

This appointment represents the giant balloon payment at the end of the mortgage the GOP signed with the Cultural Right at least 25 years ago. Social conservatives have agreed over and over again to missed payments, refinancings, and in their view, generous terms, but the balance is finally due, and if Bush doesn't pay up, they'll foreclose their entire alliance with the Republican Party.

Sure, they care about other issues, from gay marriage to taxes to Iraq, but abortion is the issue that makes most Cultural Right activists get up in the morning and stuff envelopes and staff phone banks for the GOP. And for decades now, Republicans have told them they can't do anything much about it until they can change the Supreme Court. With a pro-choice Justice stepping down, the subject can no longer be avoided. And thanks to the Souter precedent (and indeed, the O'Connor and Kennedy precedents), there's no way Bush can finesse an appointment that's anything less than a guaranteed vote to overturn Roe.

This is no great day for Dems. <$NoAd$>And I'm not sure Bush really cares. But this is a tricky day for the institutional Republican party too. Not the wingruts -- happy days are here again for them, or whatever the culturally-appropriate metaphor might be. But for the folks who run for election in big expanses of the country, not a good day.

Like Ed says, the bill's come due.

TPM Reader mail ...

Atrios is correct that Casey was a 5-4 decision. But what he apparently isn't aware of is that one of the dissenters (Byron White), was subsequently replaced by a pro-Roe/Casey justice. Even without O'Connor, there are still five justices on the court who are on the record as favoring at least some kind of constitutional right to termination a pregnancy. Those five are Ginsberg, Breyer, Stevens, Souter and Kennedy. Sure, Kennedy's vote can't be counted on in the more extreme cases, like partial birth abortion. But unless he flip flops (which seems increasingly unlikely after his decision on sodomy), he's still going to strike down anything that resembles a ban on abortion.

Passed on without comment.

(ed.note: Just to be clear, I post this as a correction to my earlier post below.)

Feds bust MZM headquarters and Duke Stir.

Duke better make his pleadings now while O'Connor's still on the Court and there's a few criminal rights left ...

From Roll Call: "A federal task force that includes officials from the U.S. Attorney’s offices in both Washington, D.C, and San Diego, the FBI, Internal Revenue Service and Defense Criminal Investigative Service conducted the searches, according to Debbie Weierman, a spokeswoman for the FBI’s Washington office."

(ed.note: Roll Call's got the original story. If you don't have a subscription, see the link above.)

Late Update: Yet more from the North County Times.

Matt Yglesias and Atrios are right on this one. The end of Roe v. Wade is likely to be the most immediate and conspicuous result of today's resignation. But don't forget the effect in the workplace and the economy at large. The decision on who to appoint is in the hands of those who would turn the US economy back to what it was in the latter part of the 19th century, a world in which state and federal legislative action to insure the common good was hamstrung by court decisions that left everything in the hands of the marketplace.

Pre-New Deal, pre-Progressive Era.

It's the Court in the hands of activist radicals.

That, of course, leaves aside how deep in the hock these folks are to James Dobson and other radical right clerics.

Spongebob, head for the border now, buddy.

Hilarious, even for the pitiful standards of Fox News. Apparently C. Boyden Grey, one of the most pivotal players in the court wars of the last two decades (basically the quarterback on the right), is Fox's Supreme Court Analyst. I guess Ralph Neas should be the CNN analyst, right?

So there we are. A semi-surprise: O'Connor retires rather than Rehnquist, though considering the fragile state of the Chief Justice's health, it now appears overwhelmingly likely that President Bush will get at least two Supreme Court nominations, possibly more.

So game on.

We're looking into setting up a limited duration Court battle group blog over at TPMCafe. More soon.

In a mass email sent out today, RNC chieftan Ken Mehlman calls out to the faithful: phone Congress and demand phase-out this year!

"Since his State of the Union speech in February," says the Mehlman, "President Bush has shown remarkable leadership by traveling the country, talking to Americans about the challenges facing Social Security and the need for personal accounts to be a part of that solution. Simply put, personal accounts will help secure Social Security for future generations and allow younger Americans to grow a nest egg they own and can pass on to whomever they want."

As I said below, we're updating our lists and we need your assistance.