Josh Marshall

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Articles by Josh

I've had a few people write in to say I've jumped the gun or been irresponsibly critical of the DC cops in assuming that the human leg bone found yesterday near the Chandra crime scene actually belonged to Chandra Levy. Admittedly, not as many have written in saying that as have written in to say that the new TPM face shot makes the author look a) "too confrontational", b) "menacing" or c) "like a serial killer." But that's for another post.

As to the bone, let me rattle off just the first three utterly devastating rejoinders to this criticism.

First, I made clear that the bone has not yet been DNA-confirmed as Chandra's. But for the moment I'm happy to go with the DC Medical Examiner, who believes it is Chandra's.

Second, even if we assume that the human tibia found yesterday is not Chandra's, can't we still agree that it probably would have made sense for the cops to retrieve all other readily available human tibias in the immediate vicinity just to see if they might belong to Chandra?

Third, if there are really more than a few unretrieved and unidentified human tibias in that section of Rock Creek Park which don't belong to Chandra Levy, can't we just agree that this might point to another possible shortcoming of the DC police?

Un-&%$^#@* believable. Despite giving them a hard time now and then I've always resisted the idea that the DC cops were really fundamentally incompetent, that the seeming inscrutability of Chandra Levy's disappearance and murder might simply be the result of ridiculously inept police work.

Now I've changed my mind.

As you no doubt know, Levy's remains were found recently in an isolated section of DC's Rock Creek park.

But a couple days ago a fellow Chandra-phile and I were watching Greta Van Susteren's show when she and a couple guests -- a renowned forensic pathologist and a retired DC cop -- did a walkaround through the area where Levy's remains were found. What they found a bit disconcerting was that there was a lot of stuff there that the police hadn't bothered to pick up -- a shoe, an empty condom wrapper, some rope, and some other stuff.

Almost certainly this stuff had nothing to do with Chandra's death. But it certainly could have. And certainly tons of people are going to go to the spot over the coming days and weeks to see the area and if this was evidence it'll be gone or compromised before long. The point is, you pick up everything and go through it to see if it might have any relevance to the case. (I know they're overflowing with hot leads and all but ...)

Anyway, it seemed like they'd done a pretty shoddy search.

Well, today the two Levy family investigators -- former DC cops -- went to scene to see what they could find. And what did they find? A sock? Panties? Some hair that might have been Chandra's?

No. Try her shin.

They found what appears to be her left tibia. (The bone hasn't been DNA tested yet. But on the basis of size and wear the DC Medical Examiner told the Washington Post that his "working hypotheses is that it comes from Chandra.")

The bone was apparently some 25 yards from where Levy's skull recovered. But this isn't like a toe or something. It's like a foot long.

It simply beggars belief.

Though obviously not a great supporter of the president, what President Bush seems poised to announce tonight sounds like a promising move in the right direction. It's only part of the solution. But it's a very important part.

But let's step back and consider an obvious but all-too-important point.

Would this be happening without the political heat being generated because of the embarrassing intelligence failure revelations? Of course not.

And how willingly did the administration leap forward to get these investigations underway? Enough said on that count.

The point is clear. Do politicians try to reap political gain through aggressive investigations? Of course, they do. Get used to it.

But they also help the nation. In Smithian fashion, impure motives nonetheless create a public good. Especially when a recalcitrant administration puts secrecy -- which is too often the hand-maiden of &$@-covering -- above all else.

One other quick point in passing: Tom Ridge really, really, really shouldn't get this job. It's important. And even worth fighting over. He's damaged goods and has no relevant experience for the task. No special perks for being the president's friend.

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.