P8kice8zq6szrqrmqxag

Josh Marshall

Josh Marshall is editor and publisher of TalkingPointsMemo.com.

Articles by Josh

Just a quick note for TV news producers, newspaper editors or even just Hill staffer types trying to make their bosses look good. If you want to get out ahead of the Ashcroft fingerprinting story, read this article in last month's Washington Monthly and ask the obvious questions. You'll be glad you did.

Yesterday we took Former FBI Deputy Director Weldon Kennedy to task for his demonstrably false claim that there turned out to be nothing of value in the possession of Zacarias Moussaoui even after the FBI got a post-9/11 warrant to search his possessions. Well, here's the lede of tomorrow's article on the same in the Washington Post...

Amid the latest revelations about FBI and CIA lapses prior to the Sept. 11 attacks, congressional investigators say it is now clear that the evidence that lay unexamined in Zacarias Moussaoui's possession was even more valuable than previously believed.
Tim, how meaty does this one have to be before it's a Whopper?

I'm willing to grant the state some expanded policing and surveillance powers as the price for protecting the nation against the threat of terrorism. What's distressing is when the state asks for expanded powers which seem to offer little real payoff or assistance in combatting terrorism. It's even more disappointing when we shy away from this or that reform because it offends some prized interest group or because -- and here's the biggie -- making the change would require the investment of real political capital and standing down entrenched bureaucracies.

This is where the war on terrorism really is being won or lost today. And I'm afraid it's the latter.

This administration is really hardcore in the mountains of Afghanistan. It talks a great game on Iraq. But when it comes to busting some heads or getting a little bloody in the trench warfare of the DC bureaucracy George W. Bush is turning out to be a mix of George McGovern and Alan Alda.

I'm telling ya, you talk to the people who follow this stuff and they're clear that these guys are just doing nothing.

Let's look at today's announcement from John Ashcroft in which the AG outlines a new plan to require ...

"visa holders temporarily entering the United States from [Syria, Iraq, Iran, Libya and Sudan] to be fingerprinted and photographed and to provide contacts in the United States and in their home countries. After 30 days, the visa holders would have to report to the Immigration and Naturalization Service about their activities, and again after each year in the United States and when leaving. Violators would be barred from re-entering the United States."
That's the description from the Washington Post.

But wait. The very next sentence reads: "A similar arrangement already exists for all of the five countries except for Syria."

Excuse me?

I thought this was something new. We're cracking down on the Syrians?

There's also going to be a slightly less draconian system which will cover a larger group of countries.

But why exactly are we doing this when we're stymied even putting in place a simple database to keep track of where kids on student visas are hanging out?

Oh right, I forgot. The Immigration lobby and the Foreign Student Advisors' lobby are against it.

If you're a conservative and you're gratified that the administration seems unfettered by political correctness in toughening up the nation's defenses, don't be so gratified. Most of this stuff is window-dressing or simply beside the point. Most of the important stuff simply isn't getting done. Taking on the ACLU and John Conyers is child's play. But going head to head with the barons at the FBI, the CIA and Main Justice is just something this administration doesn't have the stomach for.

Earth to Dems: If you want your issue, this is it.

Top three questions Larry King almost got around to asking Dan Rather last night ...

1. "Dan, what was it like to travel to the Moon on Apollo 51? It changes your life, right?"

2. "Have you seen Liza? She looks twenty-years younger, right? Those two are really in love."

3. "Jacques Cousteau. You interviewed him many times. If Jacques could have had an operation to become a fish, would he have done it?"

I'm told we're about to hear of yet another red-letter intell screw-up. The details I have are sketchy. But my understanding is that this one has to do with money transfers which happened in the summer or fall of 2000. There was a former roommate of arch-terrorist Mohammed Atta who was barred from entry into the US because he was considered a terrorist threat. While he was on our terror list he began wiring large sums of cash from the United Arab Emirates to Atta, Atta's roommate in Florida and apparently also Zacarias Moussaoui.

In other words, while known-terrorist X was being kept out of the country, he was wiring money to as-yet-unknown terrorists in the country. Apparently at least one of these transfers was reported by a bank to the appropriate people at the US Treasury at the time. But the lead appears to have died there.

Let me be clear: this is scuttlebutt, informed scuttlebutt, but scuttlebutt nonetheless. I think this is permissible in the weblog format. But I want to be sure there's truth in advertising. Some of the particulars I have here may be slightly off. But I believe this will be next story coming down the pike.

So that's the ticket!

Apparently Bill Delaney, who if memory serves is CNN's Boston Bureau Chief, is putting together a segment on how Harvard and other universities are now "factoring in gayness as an enhancement to a college application." The idea, it seems, is that coming out in high school shows independence, guts and character -- which I have no doubt is true. Still, it makes you think of some interesting lists of extra-curriculars.

Anyway, here's the run-down from an internal CNN memo ...

Forget winning the science fair or being an all-state pole vaulter or, well, getting straight A's - not being straight's now worth a lot too, when it comes to looking good to the college of your choice. Harvard and other universities around the country now are factoring in gayness as an enhancement to a college application...thinking having confronted one's sexual orientation at a young age shows independence - and builds character and leadership potential -

The more I read up on the Intelligence Community and Homeland Security the more at least one point becomes abundantly and undeniably clear: the President should fire Tom Ridge and abolish his job.

The point is not that Tom Ridge is a bad guy or even that he has failed at his job. The point is that he has no job and to the extent that one can infer what his job might be he has been given no resources or powers or support to succeed at it.

Having him there -- as well as his largely bogus Office of Homeland Security -- is simply an impediment to any real and thorough reorganization and coordination of the country's homeland security apparatus.

In the war on terrorism, there's no room for comic relief.

If Tim Noah isn't working on this whopper for his Whopper of Week column I'll have to have a serious talk with him.

Yesterday on CNN's Crossfire, former FBI Deputy Director Weldon Kennedy was the designated defender of the FBI. Even in the current climate of rampant Monday-morning quarterbacking, Kennedy seemed, to my lights, painfully unwilling to admit that the Bureau had really made any mistakes.

But check this out. In reference to FBIHQ's refusal to okay a warrant request to search Zacarias Moussaoui's computer and other belongings, Kennedy said (and repeated on other CNN shows) ...

For example, even in the Moussaoui case, there's lot of uproar over the fact that the -- there was a failure to obtain a warrant to search his computer. Well, the facts now are that warrant was ultimately obtained. The computer was searched and guess what? There was nothing significant on there pertaining to 9/11.
Really?

Look at this apparently-uncontradicted snippet from last week's Newsweek ...

People close to Rowley and her Minnesota colleagues say they were devastated after the attacks, convinced that they could have done more to stop the plot if only Washington had listened. (Moussaoui's computer, searched after September 11, revealed information about crop-dusting and large jets, and his belongings included the phone number of lead hijacker Mohamed Atta's roommate.) Rowley herself wanted to interrogate Moussaoui. "She was in favor of a hostile interview," an FBI agent says. "A little shoving, a little chair slamming." But her supervisors said Moussaoui, who had invoked his right to a lawyer, was off-limits.
Is this the same as saying up is down or denying that the sky is blue? No, not exactly. And it's not like Mohamed Atta's roommate's phone number would necessarily have busted the whole plot open. And perhaps he's trying to hang this on finding the number in Moussaoui's 'belongings' and not his laptop. But given the extreme tendentiousness of the comment and the near felonious $%#-covering embodied in it, I think this counts as a Whopper of pretty sizeable proportions.

Preview of week's Washington Post 9/11 probe headlines ...

Monday: CIA Failed To Share Intelligence On Hijacker: Data Could Have Been Used to Deny Visa, Washington Post

TUESDAY: CIA Gave FBI Warning On Hijacker: Agency Told That Almihdhar Attended Malaysia Meeting, Washington Post

WEDNESDAY: CIA Gave Warning, Later Said Just Kidding: FBI Sources Say CIA Not Clear, Washington Post

THURSDAY: Tenet Denies Head-Fake Report: Heated Inter-Agency Rivalry Boils to Surface, Washington Post

FRIDAY: CIA Warning Delivered in Invisible Ink: Ingredients for Reading Potion Not Shared with FBI, Washington Post

SATURDAY: Warning Memo Found at FBI Headquarters: Shelby Says Tests for Invisible Ink Negative, Washington Post

SUNDAY: CIA Borrowed, Did Not Return 'Phoenix Memo': New Twist In Lingering Mystery, Washington Post

TPMLivewire