When Margaret Warner asked John Brennan about the leak witch hunt today, he said, in part,
First of all, there are investigations underway, so we have to be mindful of that and respectful of that investigative process.
Secondly, the President has made it very clear that any leak of classified national security information is something that should be rigorously pursued.
Let’s see. Dodging the question by invoking an ongoing investigation.
Reassurance that–quote–“the President has made it very clear” that he takes this stuff seriously.
Brennan must not have seen this movie when it was first released. Because this strategy ultimately didn’t work out that well.
Lamar Smtih has come up with a list of 7 national security personnel he wants to question in his own leak investigation. (h/t Kevin Gosztola)
House Judiciary Committee Chairman Lamar Smith, R-Texas, told President Obama Thursday he’d like to interview seven current and former administration officials who may know something about a spate of national security leaks.
The administration officials include National Security Advisor Thomas Donilon, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, former White House Chief of Staff Bill Daley, Assistant to the President for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism John Brennan, Deputy National Security Advisor Denis McDonough, Director for Counterterrorism Audrey Tomason and National Security Advisor to the Vice President Antony Blinken.
Of course the effort is sure to be futile–if Smith’s goal is to figure out who leaked to the media (though it’ll serve its purpose of creating a political shitstorm just fine)–for two reasons.
First, only Clapper serves in a role that Congress has an unquestioned authority to subpoena (and even there, I can see the Intelligence Committees getting snippy about their turf–it’s their job to provide impotent oversight over intelligence, not the Judiciary Committees).
As for members of the National Security Council (Tom Donilon, John Brennan, Denis McDonough, Audrey Tomason, and Antony Blinken) and figures, like Bill Daley, who aren’t congressionally approved? That’s a bit dicier. (Which is part of the reason it’s so dangerous to have our drone targeting done in NSC where it eludes easy congressional oversight.)
A pity Republicans made such a stink over the HJC subpoenaing Karl Rove and David Addington and backed Bush’s efforts to prevent Condi Rice from testifying, huh?
The other problem is that Smith’s list, by design, won’t reveal who leaked the stories he’s investigating. He says he wants to investigate 7 leaks.
Smith said the committee intends to focus on seven national security leaks to the media. They include information about the Iran-targeted Stuxnet and Flame virus attacks, the administration’s targeted killings of terrorism suspects and the raid which killed Usama bin Laden.
Smith wants to know how details about the operations of SEAL Team Six, which executed the bin Laden raid in Pakistan, wound up in the hands of film producers making a film for the president’s re-election. Also on the docket is the identity of the doctor who performed DNA tests which helped lead the U.S. to bin Laden’s hideout.
But his list doesn’t include everyone who is a likely or even certain leaker.
Take StuxNet and Flame. Not only has Smith forgotten about the programmers (alleged to be Israeli) who let StuxNet into the wild in the first place–once that happened, everything else was confirmation of things David Sanger and security researchers were able to come up with on their own–but he doesn’t ask to speak to the Israeli spooks demanding more credit for the virus.
Patrick Fitzgerald just finished his resignation press conference (the blockquotes are my notes).
In his own statements, he focused on comments to the people he works for, and those he works with. That was largely a tribute to the 300 people who work in the office, making it clear that the work he often gets thanked for publicly is done by those 300 people. He emphasized that those people would still be here working, doing good work.
I say that not just to make myself to feel less bad. Want citizens to appreciate what a treasure the people I work with are. The other part is that come June 30, that 300 plus team that is really hard working rolls on, and will keep rolling on. Fight against corruption, what we really need is public to keep coming forward.
Both in his opening statements and in later questions, Fitz seemed to want to encourage people to come forward to report corruption. He also talked about the problem of policing so aggressively that people being to fear the authorities.
We’d prefer to learn about corruption from people coming forward, not from a bug.
When you start to see people being afraid of us, when citizens fear being shaken down, that’s a bad thing.
Jumping ahead, an emphasis on the continuity of the office is largely how he answered my question about MF Global. I asked whether DOJ had yet decided whether this office or SDNY would have the lead in that case. He refused to comment, but said anyone working in this office would continue to do good work. (Note, he said “this office,” not DOJ generally.) (I asked Randall Samborn later whether the decision on who had the lead in the MF Global case had been made and he would not say either.)
Fitz largely explained his departure in terms of a natural time to leave.
Not an easy decision. Am I rushing out in 11th year of my term. People have terms for a reason. Won’t be here until I’m 65. Comes a time when me and my family have to figure out what we do next. For the office it’s important that there be change.
I think it’s healthy after a certain point that there be change at the top. Always a matter of when, not if, I think you sort of know when it’s time.
As for what next, I don’t know, and that’s sincere. I’m going to run as fast as I can for 30 days that I have left.
When asked about whether he felt bad about the people he had jailed, he described the empty feeling he got after his first jury verdict on Valentines Day in 1989. As part of that, he emphasized that imprisonment is always a waste, not just in the case of white collar cases.
Feb 14 1989, first jury verdict day. Defendant convicted of drug offense. Taken into custody that day.
We think about prison in white collar cases, but we often don’t think about it on the violent side.
He also, in response to a question about being “overzealous” suggested it’s an injustice to bust the low guy on the totem pole without going after the top of the pyramid.
Someone asked whether there were any cases Fitz regretted not having charged. I called out, “Karl Rove.” He answered the question generally, without acknowledging my question. Harumph.
Fitz was asked whether he thought he could be a Defense Attorney.
I respect what defense attorneys do, but I don’t know what I’ll do next. There are some things I’m not comfortable with.
In response to a question whether he’d be interested in public service–possibly the FBI Director job–he said he had not been approached about the FBI job, but that if he was offered a public service job, he would certainly consider it, though he would balance the needs of his family.
Public service is in my blood. If a phone rings down the future and ID says public service, I answer the phone. I would consider if I can make an impact?
Finally, I asked if he had any reflection on our counterterrorism efforts so many years after he first indicted al Qaeda (note, I fucked up my question and said it had been 14 years; it has been 24 since the 1998 indictments). He said that they’ve made great progress against core al Qaeda. While affiliates remain a threat, core al Qaeda has largely been wrapped up.
We’ve made incredible progress. Core Al Qaeda has largely been rolled up. Remarkable progress in core al Qaeda.
He also emphasized the continuing, under-appreciated effort of FBI agents still chasing down leads.
Still dangerous threat out there we shouldn’t under-estimate. Remarkable job. People don’t appreciate people overseas,squads of FBI agents.
I did much better at this whole press scrum thing than I usually do, but as proof I’m not an expert yet, I failed to follow-up on what he thought about efforts to force terrorism trials into Military Commissions.
Finally, the funniest detail from the press conference. Apparently, when he called Dick Durbin to tell him he was resigning yesterday, the phone wasn’t working. He claims he may have missed most of the conversation.
When I spoke to Durbin yesterday phone was malfunctioning ,I missed a lot of call, may have had conversation in which I have no idea what he said.
There’s more in my Twitter stream. Plus, a plethora of questions about whether or not, as a Mets fan, he really could be baseball commissioner.
Glad I made it to the presser to at least ask a few serious questions. And make sure Karl Rove got mentioned as the single biggest person (Jon Corzine potentially aside) whom he didn’t prosecute.
WSJ has an article reporting on the purportedly Chinese-launched GMail hacks that targeted top White House officials.
The article is interesting not because it claims the Chinese want to hack top officials. Who do you think they’d be most interested in hacking?
Rather, the article is interesting for some of the implications bandied about in the article. For example, Darrell Issa and CREW’s Melanie Sloan suggest the only reason the Chinese would hack the GMail accounts of White House officials is if those people were improperly conducting official business on GMail.
“If all White House officials were following rules prohibiting the use of personal email for official business, there would simply be no sensitive information to find,” said Rep. Darrell Issa, Republican chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, and a frequent thorn in the Obama administration’s side. “Unfortunately, we know that not everyone at the White House follows those rules and that creates an unnecessary risk.”
Melanie Sloan, executive director of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, a watchdog group, said the hacking “suggests China believes government officials are using their personal accounts for official business, because I doubt they were looking for their weekend plans or a babysitter’s schedule. Presumably, the Chinese wouldn’t have done this if they weren’t getting something.”
More plausible is the suggestion that the Chinese were phishing for information they could then use to compromise other accounts.
Stewart Baker, a former homeland security official in the Bush administration, said he suspects the ultimate goal of the hacking may have been to use the email accounts as a stepping stone to penetrate the officials’ home computers.
“If you can compromise that machine, you may well be able to access the communications they are having with the office,” said Mr. Baker.
I’m most interested in all the assumptions here, that a bunch of Chinese hackers know precisely how the White House email system works. If that’s true, why haven’t we asked the Chinese to turn over the emails OVP deleted from the first days of the Plame leak investigation? And why haven’t we asked the Chinese to turn over all those emails hidden on the RNC’s server? Maybe they can also help us find all of John Yoo’s torture emails?
Given how common it is, these days, for top officials to just delete their most inconvenient emails, I’m thinking American citizens ought to invite Chinese hackers to help us reclaim all the official records our overlords try to destroy.
I’m not surprised that Karl Rove has weighed in on the foreclosure fraud scandal with an erroneous op-ed in the WSJ. I’m just a bit baffled why he did so now.
The overall gist of the op-ed is that a $20 billion settlement of the robosigning scandal would represent “a money grab in search of a crime.”
It is fundamentally unfair, even devious, to fleece banks out of billions, ignore victims of “robo-signing” who were wrongly evicted, and then hand out cash to cronies. The $20 billion bank stick-up is a transparent attempt to pay some voters a thinly disguised election year bribe, while pretending the money didn’t come from millions of middle-class families with a checking account, loan or credit card at an affected bank.
Of course the entire argument ignores the meaning of the word “settlement,” which suggests an agreement between multiple parties, including the banks who presumably would reject such a settlement if they didn’t believe it would provide them some kind of benefit (such as preventing them from going bankrupt due to all the shitty loans they securitized).
And while I can see why Rove wants to pitch this story as a contest between deadbeat homeowners (most of whom, of course, are middle class) versus the middle class, I’m not sure how families doing consumer business with banks would pick up the tab here. Is Rove suggesting banks would rewrite existing loan terms to make up for the settlement costs? Violate the consumer card bill of rights to screw card holders to make up the costs? Steal checking account funds to pay what is a paltry fine?
And what about all the investors, for whom principle modifications would be better than the foreclosures they’re getting on shitty loans right now? Doesn’t Karl Rove care about the helpless investors?
This seems to be a favor Rove is doing for the Office of Currency Control and the big banks to try to push back at CFPB and some attorneys general. Indeed, there’s this bizarre claim which I suspect lays groundwork for a future CFPB attack.
The federal government could spend its share of the loot on a long list of programs, including, as one government official familiar with the proposed settlement said, a “borrower’s transitional and educational fund.” Just what does paying someone’s junior college tuition or funding a sabbatical from work—simply because his mortgage is underwater—have to do with repairing the damage of “robo-signing?” Nothing.
How better to discredit teaching consumers how the banks are screwing them than to suggest the consumers would be getting a vacation from work?
But again, why now? Shouldn’t Rove and the banks be a lot more worried about AG Eric Schneiderman’s investigation of securitization? Shouldn’t they be more worried about individual register of deeds demonstrating that most titles in this country are now corrupted? Shouldn’t they worry about suits around the country that may reveal what we all know–that the banks would be lucky to get off with a $20 billion settlement?
So I’m not surprised that Karl Rove is weighing in with one of his patented false screeds. But he seems to have missed the larger picture on this one.
When Michael Mukasey announced in 2008 no one would be charged for politicizing DOJ, I had this to say.
Understand: Mukasey has turned into a terrible shill for the Administration. But it has been clear for over a year that the Administration would escape criminal charges for having committed massive violations of the Hatch Act. But that has more to do with the Hatch Act than with Michael Mukasey. Even a Democratic AG would have a hard time charging this stuff, given the stated penalties for civil Hatch Act violations.
The Hatch Act gives citizens no real recourse for the politicization of our government. And the loyal Bushies know this. After all, by all appearances, they’re still committing Hatch Act violations.
And when Karl Rove resigned in 2007, I noted that it would make the ongoing Office of Special Counsel investigation into Hatch Act violations meaningless. And for good measure, here’s where I predicted that investigation would last into the next decade.
Welcome to the next decade, when we finally get the report telling us what we knew back in 2007 when this investigation started, that Rove politicized the government.
Note that footnote 3 of the report says what these reports almost always say (the one exception was Lurita Doan), that since everyone who violated the Hatch Act has moved on now, they cannot be punished for doing so.
Because all of the officials who were involved in Hatch Act violations described in this report are no longer employed by the federal government, OSC cannot bring disciplinary actions against these employees.
As I said last decade, no one will be held accountable for the abuses described in the report. So forgive me for being underwhelmed by the release of the report that does no more than catalog what we already knew.
Remember the entire point of Karl Rove’s plot to fire a bunch of US Attorneys and replace them with partisan hacks? It was to advance the political career of the new USAs.
Perhaps his most prominent success on that measure is Chris Christie. Though Christie abandons his state even in the face of blizzards–and then blames the resulting chaos on New Jersey’s cities–he is still (implausibly) mentioned as a potential 2012 presidential candidate.
But the true measure of Rove’s success at politicizing the DOJ comes in the form of Tim Griffin.
Griffin, you’ll recall, has a history of leading the GOP’s vote caging operations in 2000 and 2004. Seemingly to reward Griffin for doing such important dirty work–and also to boost the career of such a loyal hack–Rove pushed hardest to make sure that Griffin got the US Attorney position he wanted in his native Arkansas. And though he only stayed on the job until it became clear the Republicans were trying to “gum [his appointment] to death”–to basically run out the clock on any confirmation–he was actually only US Attorney for a matter of months.
No matter, between that and solid GOP backing, Griffin won election to Arkansas’ 2nd Congressional District.
And now, TPMM reports, Griffin has been placed by Republicans on the House Judiciary Committee, the committee that spent months investigating the politicization of justice for which Griffin was the most obvious symbol.
Well, we had the equally corrupt Hans Von Spakovsky at the FEC (not to mention as head of DOJ’s Civil Rights Division), so I guess we’ll survive Tim Griffin’s “oversight” of the Judiciary Department. But if you were in any doubt about Republican’s goals to continue to politicize justice in this country, Griffin’s selection for HJC should answer that question.
The DOJ has just announced significant arrests in the long simmering Alabama Bingo case. This is huge news that will shake Alabama politics to the bone like nothing has since the Governor Don Siegelman persecution. From the official DOJ Press Release:
Eleven individuals, including four current Alabama state legislators, three lobbyists, two business owners and one of their employees, and an employee of the Alabama legislature have been charged for their roles in a conspiracy to offer to and to bribe legislators for their votes and influence on proposed legislation, announced Assistant Attorney General Lanny A. Breuer of the Criminal Division and Assistant Director Kevin Perkins of the FBI’s Criminal Investigative Division.
The defendants are charged in an indictment returned by a grand jury on Oct. 1, 2010, in Montgomery, Ala., which was unsealed today. Various defendants are charged with a variety of criminal offenses, including conspiracy, federal program bribery, extortion, money laundering, honest services mail and wire fraud, obstruction of justice and making a false statement. They will make initial appearances today in U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Alabama before U.S. Magistrate Judge Terry F. Moorer.
“Today, charges were unsealed against 11 legislators, businessmen, lobbyists and associates who, together, are alleged to have formed a corrupt network whose aim was to buy and sell votes in the Alabama legislature in order to directly benefit the business interests of two defendants, Milton McGregor and Ronald Gilley,” said Assistant Attorney General Lanny A. Breuer of the Criminal Division. “The people of Alabama, like all our citizens, deserve to have representatives who act in the public’s interest, not for their own personal financial gain. Vote-buying, like the kind alleged in this indictment, corrodes the public’s faith in our democratic institutions and cannot go unpunished.”
So, this is pretty interesting timing for this big prosecutorial move, no? It sure is. From today’s report from the excellent Roger Shuler at Legal Schnauzer, who practices in the area and has covered this case from the outset:
The U.S. Justice Department is spinning today’s actions as a legitimate probe focused on corruption connected to gambling legislation. But our sources have been saying for weeks that it is designed to affect the November elections. Polls show Republican Robert Bentley already leading Democrat Ron Sparks in the race for governor, and the arrests could help the GOP take over one or both houses of the Alabama Legislature, a long-stated goal of outgoing governor Bob Riley.
Means and Ross are Democrats, Pruett is a Republican, and Smith is an Independent. That appears to be a relatively bipartisan target list. But there is little doubt that Canary and her prosecutors went after Democrats and others who oppose Gov. Riley and his efforts to shut down gaming in Alabama.
So far, there is no word of an indictment on Sparks. But what does all of this say about the Obama administration? It already had a dreadful record on justice issues. And yet it backs a process where neither Gov. Riley nor any of his conservative backers who opposed gambling were apparently even investigated. We’ve seen no sign of a probe into the $13 million in Mississippi gaming money that reportedly was spent to help get Riley elected in 2002. Canary seems to have focused only on pro-gambling individuals, who tend to be Democrats or Riley critics.
What is this “investigation” all about? It looks like a thinly veiled effort to pay back Riley’s Mississippi gaming supporters–who reportedly laundered money through Jack Abramoff, Michael Scanlon, and Ralph Reed–by shutting down competition in Alabama.
Yes, very interesting timing indeed. It was not enough that DOJ, Canary and Morris used the specter of investigation to influence an earlier legislative vote on the bingo issue (see here and here), there is now Continue reading
Remember that Vanity Fair tell all in which Erik Prince offered new details about Blackwater ops? Though Michael Hayden has suggested Prince made up some of the details, it seemed to be a form of graymail targeted at those who approved Blackwater ops now under criminal investigation. Apparently, there’s a long form version.
Erik Prince, chairman of the private security firm once known as Blackwater, is writing a memoir that says Democratic officials in two administrations approved of his most sensitive and controversial operations, sources close to the company, now known as XE Services, said. [snip] But two sources, speaking independently, said that Prince will name Democratic officials in both the Clinton and Obama administrations who allegedly approved of clandestine intelligence operations carried out by Blackwater on behalf of the CIA and other government agencies. “He’s going to drop the names of people who, before, were saying, ‘Yeah, go kill Osama Bin Laden’ and stuff like that, but went sideways on him when the investigations began,” said one of the sources, who spoke only on condition of anonymity in order to maintain relations with the company.
Now, I’m all in favor of Erik Prince, safe in his haven in UAE, telling the details of what he’s been doing in our name. I’d sure like to know about them. But Prince is nuts to think that anything he’ll reveal by the election will affect the success or failures of the Democrats.
“They think this will destroy the Democratic Party in the elections,” he said of Prince and his friends.
Even supposing Prince provides proof that people in the Obama Administration signed off on assassination … the response to Obama’s targeting of an American citizen for assassination has been a giant, collective yawn. And if Prince were to reveal that Clinton asked Blackwater to assassinate Osama bin Laden before 9/11? Wouldn’t that suggest, first of all, that Blackwater failed to accomplish the task? And wouldn’t it suggest, secondly, that Clinton was more of a bad ass about bin Laden than the Bushies up until the time when it was too late? Furthermore, we know that the Obama Administration continues to employ Blackwater.
Sure, learning that Obama employed Blackwater for tasks that should be limited to government employees would piss someone like me off. But the rest of the country would go back to watching Koran burnings and football.
The Spy Talk article on Prince’s memoir offers one more curious detail: that Parsons is the leading bidder to buy the company formerly known as Blackwater. Parsons is notable because it was almost certainly the most corrupt, incompetent construction contractor wasting reconstruction dollars in Iraq. Not only that, but it had ties every bit as close as Halliburton did to top members of the Administration.
I’d like to connect that news with another of yesterday’s big stories, the news that the Police Academy Parsons built in Iraq has shit raining from the ceiling.
The Baghdad Police College, hailed as crucial to U.S. efforts to prepare Iraqis to take control of the country’s security, was so poorly constructed that feces and urine rained from the ceilings in student barracks. Floors heaved inches off the ground and cracked apart. Water dripped so profusely in one room that it was dubbed “the rain forest.”
They’re related, you see, because Parsons also had extraordinary access to Karl Rove. When Parsons signed this contract in 2004, its lobbyist was a woman named Karen Johnson. And in addition to being the business partner of Dick Cheney’s hunting buddy, Katharine Armstrong, Karen Johnson is known to be close to Karl Rove. So close, in fact, that it is rumored they’re lovers. At one point, Karen Johnson was not entirely forthcoming about her ties to the White House. When she first filled out her lobbying disclosure forms for 2004, the year in which she helped Parsons get a contract to build a shit shower instead of a police academy, Johnson forgot that she had been, um, lobbying the White House.
If Parsons were to take over the company formerly known as Blackwater, it would single source all the worst in contracting: cowboys with guns immune from the law, contractors who do shitty (literally) work for inflated amounts of taxpayer dollars, and influence peddling. What a perfect next chapter for Blackwater!
Update: Jeremy Scahill suggests there are Democrats worried about this. I guess this may be more about embarrassing those Democrats–like those currently or formerly on the intelligence committees, presumably–who signed off on Blackwater activities.
Okay, this is one for the ages.
Karl Rove is out today with what is presumably an excerpt from his book, revealing his biggest mistake. He doesn’t verbalize what that mistake is, really. Rather, he bitches about a list of Democrats.
But the initial complaint appears to be that on July 15, 2003, Ted Kennedy accused George Bush of lying to get us into the Iraq war.
Seven years ago today, in a speech on the Iraq war, Sen. Ted Kennedy fired the first shot in an all-out assault on President George W. Bush’s integrity. “All the evidence points to the conclusion,” Kennedy said, that the Bush administration “put a spin on the intelligence and a spin on the truth.” Later that day Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle told reporters Mr. Bush needed “to be forthcoming” about the absence of weapons of mass destruction (WMD).
Thus began a shameful episode in our political life whose poisonous fruits are still with us.
At the time, we in the Bush White House discussed responding but decided not to relitigate the past. That was wrong and my mistake: I should have insisted to the president that this was a dagger aimed at his administration’s heart. What Democrats started seven years ago left us less united as a nation to confront foreign challenges and overcome America’s enemies.
July 15, 2003 was, of course, the day after Bob Novak–acting on a leak involving Richard Armitage, Scooter Libby, and Karl Rove himself–outed Valerie Plame. Before Ted Kennedy said the first mean thing about Bush, Rove had already leaked to at least Novak and Matt Cooper, and OVP was leaking even more wildly (and it should be said, leaking classified information to the WSJ, where Rove’s piece appears, to make their case).
But now Karl Rove says “the Bush White House discussed responding but decided not to relitigate the past”?!?!?
Aside from the fact that Rove’s op-ed operates on the erroneous foundation that the Administration shared all the intelligence they juiced up with Congress (they didn’t), the entire op-ed is based on an absolutely delusional sense of timing.
And a convenient silence about what the White House had already done, in concert, before Ted Kennedy correctly accused the President of lying us into war.