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Josh Marshall

Josh Marshall is editor and publisher of TalkingPointsMemo.com.

Articles by Josh

Time: "The number three official at the Central Intelligence Agency, who announced this week he is stepping down as his boss Director Porter Goss leaves later this month, cleared defense contractor Brent Wilkes in for at least one visit to CIA headquarters in Langley, Va., within the last 12 months, sources tell TIME.The visit occurred before Wilkes was cited -- though not charged -- in ex-congressman Randy "Duke" Cunningham's November guilty plea as an unindicted co-conspirator who provided over $600,000 of the $2.4 million in bribes that Cunningham admitted accepting from defense contractors ... A former CIA official said it was highly unusual to help a friend get access to headquarters."

I'm eager for more detail on precise dates. Duke didn't get charged -- and Wilkes cited -- until November of last year. But the scandal popped in early June 2005 -- about 11 months ago.

Wilkes name first surfaced in scandal in mid-July. He was clearly tied to Duke's scams in early August. And his offices were raided by the Feds on August 16th.

So this new Time piece really leaves me wanting to know whether Foggo was waiving Wilkes into the CIA complex after the Feds were raiding his office back in California.

Okay, I think we got one wrong here. The sentence the feds are requesting for phone-jammer James Tobin is well below the statutory maximum for the offense. But the prosecutors are apparently asking for a longer sentence than the federal sentencing guidelines would dictate.

I haven't been able to confirm this myself yet. But a number of TPM Lawyer Readers have chimed in to this effect. And their unanimity suggests to me that they're correct.

We'll get up more details on this on Muckraker. But I didn't want to let this error stand. Here's the government sentencing memorandum itself for those of you who'd like to peruse.

Over at Muckraker we've done a few pieces today on just whether Duke Cunningham really ever cooperated with federal investigators or did much more than admitting to what they already knew. This leaves the distinct possibility that the only one of the principals in the case -- Duke, the four co-conspirators -- to have cooperated with investigators in any material way is Mitchell Wade, whom various published reports say began cooperating early and extensively.

I'm pretty certain from my reporting that they've gotten nothing from Wilkes or Tommy Kontogiannis, the other two co-conspirators.

So if the feds never got Duke to cough up his accomplices, what went wrong?

The other question is what to make of these statements from the west coast head of the Defense Criminal Investigative Service, claiming that Cunningham isn't cooperating and hinting that the scandal is far more extensive than people realize. We've had a hard time figuring out just what he means by that. But my hunch is that there's some conflict between the DOD and DOJ investigators about how far to take this. More on this soon.

There's a pretty high bar on news that makes former Undersecretary of Defense Doug Feith look like an even bigger jackass.

But this may meet the standard. According to this Periscope report in Newsweek, just after 9/11, as administration officials were debating where to launch the war on terror, Feith came up with an idea that showed he was really thinking outside the box.

The first attacks, he apparently wrote, should come in South America. Such attacks would have the advantage of being "a surprise to the terrorists."

Feith and his advisors "argued that an attack on terrorists in South America -- for example, a remote region on the border of Paraguay, Argentina and Brazil where intelligence reports said Iranian-backed Hizbullah had a presence -- would have ripple effects on other terrorist operations."

I don't usually find much common ground with Feith. But I think he's right that such an attack would have come as quite a surprise to the terrorists. But why stop there? They probably would have been even more dumbfounded if we'd blown up one of our ships in our initial round of retaliation, or perhaps bombed Portugal.

All jokes aside, consider that this fool was a key architect of our policies in fighting terrorism.

Hmmm. The president is now saying that the new NSA phone call cull program "strictly target[s] Al Qaeda and their known affiliates." Yet USAToday says it pulls in the calls of tens of millions of Americans.

If al Qaida has really grown that large on the president's watch, isn't he doing something wrong?

Late Update: TPM Reader MC expands on the point: "Well Josh, we have captured 17,658 of Zarqawi's top lieutenants, so I think we can extrapolate several million members. They must be that new third party we keep hearing about."

Reed Hundt, former FCC Chair: "No one should imagine that what NSA has done, if reports are accurate, is normal behavior or standard procedure in the interaction between a private communications network and the government. In an authoritarian country without a bill of rights and with state ownership of the communications network, such eavesdropping by people and computers is assumed to exist. But in the United States it is assumed not to occur, except under very carefully defined circumstances that, according to reports, were not present as NSA allegedly arm-twisted telephone companies into compliance. That is a topic that can't be avoided in the general's hearing, if he gets that far."

Perish the thought. Feds open an investigation of Rep. Jerry Lewis (R-CA) ...

Federal prosecutors have begun an investigation into Rep. Jerry Lewis, the Californian who chairs the powerful House Appropriations Committee, government officials and others said, signaling the spread of a San Diego corruption probe.

The U.S. attorney's office in Los Angeles has issued subpoenas in an investigation into the relationship between Lewis (R-Redlands) and a Washington lobbyist linked to disgraced former Rep. Randy "Duke" Cunningham (R-Rancho Santa Fe), three people familiar with the investigation said.

The investigation is part of an expanding federal probe stemming from Cunningham's conviction for accepting $2.4 million in bribes and favors from defense contractors, according to the three sources.


What will we tell the children? And what about the appropriators?

Way back when, Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA) justified getting tons of free dinners at Jack Abramoff's restaurant Signatures by claiming that, heck, he took Jack out a lot too. So it all came out in the wash, you might say.

Now Kyle "Dusty" Foggo seems to be trying that same line out to explain all the largesse he got from Brent Wilkes.

Does Dusty have to credit Dana for first using the excuse? You know, sort of like reporters. This bogus excuse, first used by Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, is the one I'll use to explain this apparent bribes and/or illegal gratuities.

Last night I mentioned that I was leafing through my Duke Cunningham file. One of the things that prompted that was a few questions I had about Rep. Jerry Lewis (R-CA), a fellow who had a decent number of ties to Cunningham briber Brent Wilkes and a lot of ties to the guy who I figure was basically Wilkes' mentor, former Rep. Bill Lowery (R-CA).

Jerry Kammer at the San Diego Union-Tribune did some great reporting on the Lowery-Lewis nexus almost six months ago. And ever since then I've thought that Lewis was likely far more tied up in this mess than we've known.

But look at this passage from Monday's piece in the LA Times. Briefly, the context is that Brent Wilkes was giving Cunningham marching orders to get the Pentagon to pay him for some more of his substandard products. Afterwards, Duke was rewarded with a generous cash bribe ...

In July 1999, co-conspirator No. 1 [i.e., Brent Wilkes] faxed Cunningham "talking points" on how to bully a Pentagon manager into releasing more government funds. These documents were included in Cunningham's sentencing hearing.

The memo instructed the lawmaker to demand that the Defense Department official shift money from another program to cover funds designated for ADCS. "We need $10 m[illion] more immediately," Cunningham was to tell the official.

If the official didn't cooperate, Cunningham was to say his next calls would be to two high-ranking Pentagon officials. The script called for Cunningham to add: "This is very important and if you cannot resolve this others will be calling also" — two names in this passage are blacked out in the memo. Despite Cunningham's threats, the Pentagon manager was unmoved, according to grand jury testimony.

A week later, Cunningham and Lewis called a Washington news conference to announce that they had slashed $2 billion in funding for the F-22 Raptor fighter jet, one of the Pentagon's prized programs, citing cost overruns. Both congressmen had been key supporters of the project, and their comments shocked Pentagon officials.

Within days, the same Pentagon manager who had been resistant to Cunningham's appeals sent the congressman a list of other programs where money could be "reallocated" to Wilkes' firm, according to court documents. "The Defense Department spends $1 billion a day, so the [Wilkes] contract was like a rounding error. It just wasn't worth putting our big programs at risk," a senior Pentagon official said on condition he not be identified.

On Friday, Lewis said "there was no connection whatsoever" between his position on the F-22 program and Cunningham's effort to pressure the Pentagon on Wilkes' behalf. "If I knew about it, I would have stopped it," Lewis said.

The Pentagon agreed to send $5 million more to Wilkes' firm, according to court documents. The F-22 funds were later restored. In subsequent years, Cunningham and Lewis supported full funding for the warplane.

In May 2000, a month after his firm received the $5 million, Wilkes wrote two checks to Cunningham for a total of $100,000. These payments were used as evidence in the bribery case.


So Cunningham was bought and he actually accepted detailed instructions from Wilkes on how to shake free 'his' money. And there's Lewis, going as far as to kill a major weapons program, to get Brent Wilkes his $6 million.

Now, maybe I'm just cynical. But you've got two members of Congress doing your bidding for you, pretty much on command. With one you've got a textbook corrupt arrangement. He does your bidding. You give him cash. With the other guy, it's just for good government? He just temporarily lost faith in the F-22?

Look back through the record: you see Jerry Lewis doing a lot of bidding for Brent Wilkes and Bill Lowery. See example after example and at a certain point you just add two and two and it occurs to you that it might equal four.

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