Random Friday Afternoon Links

I’ve had a frazzled few days (dealing with stuff like dodgy cars) and I’m about to bury myself deep in the weeds. So I thought I’d throw up a few links to keep you all occupied so as to ensure there’s still something left in the likker cabinet for when I come out of the weeds later today.

Silicon inside the anthrax

First, if you didn’t already see JimWhite’s link to his diary on yet more evidence that the FBI didn’t solve the Amerithrax case, here’s another link. Jim discusses recent developments in the enduring questions regarding whether there was silicon in the anthrax or not, and does so in terms that non-scientists can understand.

The telecoms and the government making googly eyes again

Then there’s this article about a bill that Jay Rockefeller and Olympia Snowe have introduced to make it easier for the government and owners of critical infrastructure to collaborate.

If passed, the legislation would enhance collaboration between US intelligence agencies and the private sector. First, it would require the White House to designate certain technology systems as critical if their disruption threatened strategic national interests. If intelligence officials received information about a forthcoming attack targeting a specific company or critical part of the US infrastructure, a top-level private sector official with security clearance would be provided with “enough” information to defend or mitigate the attack, a congressional aide said.

The threat to critical infrastructure has become a flashpoint in the broadening debate about overall cybersecurity issues. More than 85 per cent of infrastructure that is deemed to be critical is owned or operated by the private sector.

I’m mildly sympathetic to the need to make sure the private sector cooperates in cybersecurity efforts. But I would feel a lot better about the issue if the same “critical infrastructure” companies–the telecoms–hadn’t collaborated with the Bush Administration to illegally spy on Americans. And heck, as cooperation with the Feds becomes a bigger and bigger cash cow for these companies, shouldn’t we just take them over and get better service for a reasonable price?

GAO begs to disagree

Then there are two posts on Obama’s threat to veto the intelligence authorization bill if it allows GAO to conduct investigations of the intelligence community. POGO has a good summary pointing out that this really shouldn’t be that big of a deal. And Steven Aftergood has a post with a link to and discussion of the letter the head of GAO, Gene Dodaro, sent to Intelligence Committee leadership informing him that claims made in the veto threat are inaccurate.

OMB warned that the President’s senior advisors would recommend that the President veto the bill if it included any of several provisions, including the sections concerning GAO. I write to clarify what I view as several misstatements of law and fact within OMB’s letter as it relates to GAO.

OMB’s letter posits that the passage of the GAO provisions would result in sweeping changes to the current statutory framework and provide GAO with authority it currently lacks to conduct reviews of intelligence activities. GAO strongly disagrees. GAO has well-established statutory authority to evaluate agency programs and investigate matters related to the receipt, disbursement, and use of public money under 31 U.S.C. §§ 712 and 717 and to access agency records under 31 U.S.C. § 716. These statutes and others provide GAO with the required authority to perform audits and evaluations of IC activities. Within GAO’s authority, specific safeguards exist to reflect the particularly sensitive nature of certain intelligence activities and programs.l The proposed legislative provisions in essence reaffirm GAO’s existing authority in order to address the lack of cooperation GAO has received from certain elements of the IC in carrying out work at the specific request of the intelligence committees, and other committees of jurisdiction as defined by the rules of the Senate and House.

GAO acknowledges and does not seek to displace the special relationship between the congressional intelligence committees and the IC. However, GAO does not agree with the Administration’s view, originating in a 1988 opinion of the Department of Justice’s Office of Legal Counsel, that the creation of the congressional intelligence oversight structure (codified at 50 U.S.C. § 413) implicitly exempted reviews of intelligence activities from the scope of GAO’s existing audit authority.2 Neither the language of section 413 nor its legislative history provides support for this position. Moreover, the executive branch has expansively applied the 1988 opinion as precluding GAO reviews of matters that extend well beyond traditional intelligence activities. This has resulted in GAO frequently being unable to obtain the access or cooperation necessary to provide useful information to the Congress on matters involving the IC.

GAO is basically saying the Obama Administration is taking an expansive read of an old OLC opinion that–GAO claims–ignores the relevant law to try to prevent competent oversight of the intelligence community.

Not much to say about the War now…

Finally, there’s this, from Mark Hosenball. Not surprisingly, the UK’s Iraq War Inquiry wants to ask Bush Administration leaders why they brought us into an optional war in Iraq. Also not surprisingly, those Bushies have no intention of cooperating.

British government sources tell Declassified that investigators for Britain’s official Iraq War inquiry panel—which has been conducting a lengthy probe into the origins and conduct of the war—want to make a fact-finding trip to the United States. One sensitive item on the agenda: trying to get interviews with former Bush administration officials.

But the sources, who asked for anonymity when discussing private information, said there are already indications that Bush administration “principals”—senior policymaking officials including George W. Bush and Dick Cheney—have indicated that they have no intention of talking to the British investigators.


Bush and Cheney are not the only ones who are expected to turn down the Brits’ invitation. The U.K. source acknowledged that other top-tier Bush administration officials—including Condoleezza Rice and Donald Rumsfeld—are unlikely to speak with the U.K. inquiry, which has no power to compel their cooperation. The Washington Post reported that Stephen Hadley, Bush’s former national-security adviser, has been among those “voicing a strong disinclination to participate.” If the higher ups won’t talk, the panel hopes at least to secure interviews with lower-level U.S. officials who had a hand in planning and carrying out the invasion.

Golly! What ever might Dick and Bush and Condi and Rummy and Hadley have to hide?

14 replies
  1. readerOfTeaLeaves says:

    And heck, as cooperation with the Feds becomes a bigger and bigger cash cow for these companies, shouldn’t we just take them over and get better service for a reasonable price?

    We should.
    Expect major pushback from Wall Street and global capitalists everywhere.

    But this makes so much sense you’d think more electeds would see the obvious. It’s about money, accountability, and simplicity, and quality of coordination.

  2. readerOfTeaLeaves says:

    The threat to critical infrastructure has become a flashpoint in the broadening debate about overall cybersecurity issues.More than 85 per cent of infrastructure that is deemed to be critical is owned or operated by the private sector.

    So expect pushback on that ‘government ownership’ argument by bogus ‘non profits’ or ‘think tanks’ or ‘astroturf groups’ privately funded by offshore accounts, assorted Russian oiligarchs, drug lords, pension funds in other nations, and the odd Mafia money laundering outfit.

    God forbid that we avoid having our ‘essential infrastructure’ controlled financially by US interests.

    I await the GOP Free Marketeers to start squealing on schedule about how this idea of not allowing unknown interests to control our infrastructure would interfere with ‘free markets’. In my dreams, when they start squealing, people all over the US start chuckling and chortling at their outworn, bogus claims.

    Good on Sen Jay Rocksolidfeller.

  3. Citizen92 says:

    My how times change! Condi wants nothing to do with the British? That’s shocking, considering the Brits spent $9,500 on a surprise birthday party for her at the British Embassy back in 2004, which Bush and others attended. (Sorry for the link, having trouble finding the archived story),


    LONDON (AFP) – Britain spent more than 9,500 dollars on a 50th birthday party for US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice in 2004, the Foreign Office said Tuesday.

    The party, hosted by the British ambassador to the United States David Manning at his official residence in Washington, saw Rice presented with a dress as a gift.

    US President George W. Bush and his wife, Laura, were among guests at the surprise party.

    In a written reply to a Labour Party question in the House of Commons, Foreign Office junior minister Kim Howells, said: “There were 111 guests and the cost was 9,512.05 dollars (4,682.73 pounds)”.

    The reply came after an article in the September 6 issue of the centre-left political weekly New Statesman magazine criticised the party as a “ludicrously lavish extravaganza”.

    The whole evening was photographed by Reflections Photography (reflectionsorders.com) of DC. You may recall that Reflections was the company who had the incriminating photo of Bush meeting Abramoff, but decided to destroy it. Reflections has since put the Condi pictures behind a firewall.

    But man, how lapdogish of the UK. Did President Bush call Blair and ask for use of both the Embassy as well as the ratepayers pounds for the evening?

    • emptywheel says:

      Can you check your link there? I can’t get it to work. I was trying to find the date of the party. And was Katharine Armstrong there, by chance?

        • Citizen92 says:

          The party was on 11/13/2004.


          Sometimes you can see Reflections’ old photos via google searching. I did browse the Condi birthday set when it was viewable to the public some years ago. Unfortunately no copies were made. At the time, for the life of me, I could not figure out why a sitting Sec State would choose to have a birthday celebration at a foreign embassy. But then again, I didn’t know it was Bush’s surprise.

          Try this link: LINK. (I had the formatting wrong above).

          (I don’t know if Katherine Armstrong was there).

    • earlofhuntingdon says:

      The British embassy (and the French) are regarded as top spots to party. The British at home may be boring to many, but when traveling or living abroad, they are reputed to have quite a time.

      • Citizen92 says:

        No doubt. The British have a lovely 1910’s Luytens-designed pile attached to their miserable 1950’s embassy. And the French Ambassador’s residence is also top notch.

        I just don’t recall a private party like that ever being thrown there. At least not since the Reagan days.

        (The German ambassador’s residence is just tacky, not sure about the new Swiss one)

        • earlofhuntingdon says:

          Oh, the Swiss one is nice: understated, naturally. I do like Luytens’ work, but I was thinking of the reputation of the parties, not the elegance of the architecture that holds them. The idea that what happens at such parties stays at such parties would seem as laughable in predatory Washington as it does in almost as predatory Las Vegas.

    • rosalind says:

      heh. i just became acquainted with Reflections Photography yesterday while doing research for a Seminal diary on Karl Rove’s book tour/Republican fundraising extravaganza i’m thinking about writing. Unfortunately the hundreds of photos up at the site don’t have names attached to them, but they’re still interesting viewing for those interested in who kkkarl’s hanging with on his cross country promotional trek.

      karl pics

      • Citizen92 says:

        It’s a sordid history, Reflections.

        If you browse through their old stuff (mostly walled off by password) you’ll see Ralph Reed’s Century Strategies party circa 2003, all sorts of Bush-Cheney ’04 events, reunions of the Nixon Policy Planning staff, etc, etc.

        A fine chronicle of the Bush years, and their clients. Unfortunately so many of them are now behind password protection.

        But I’m not surprised to see Karl Rove as one of Reflections’ patrons. As I mentioned prior, Reflections was the photography company that deep-sixed a photograph of Bush and Jack Abramoff. Now it might seem pedestrian, but at the time the White House was going out of their collective gourd to deny they ever knew Jack.

        Josh Marshall chronicled the episode back in January 2006:

        Earlier this month, we were alerted to the existence of a series Abramoff photos at the website of Reflections Photography, a studio that does photo shoots for many Republican political events and sells copies to the individuals who attended the events and other members of the public through an online photo database. Reflections was an official photographer for Bush-Cheney 2004 campaign events and for the 2005 inauguration.

        One of those photos was of Abramoff and Ralph Reed at a party for the launch of Reed’s Century Strategies DC office in 2003. We contacted Reflections Photography and purchased the rights to publish that photograph and did so on January 11th.

        Things weren’t so simple with the late 2003 photograph of Jack Abramoff and President Bush.

        When we went to the page for the photograph of President Bush and Abramoff, the page in question had disappeared from the site.

        This was back on January 11th. From what we could tell, the photograph had been removed from the site roughly a week earlier.

        Now, we contacted Abramoff’s spokesman Andrew Blum. And he declined to comment. We contacted the White House press office but they wouldn’t return our calls. Since we can’t get the photo in question directly from Reflections or get any of the relevant parties to speak with us, there was really no way for us to proceed.

        But early this afternoon, I decided to take one more go at Reflections. I talked to company president Joanne Amos. We went back and forth over various questions about whether photographs at the site were available to the public and why some had been removed. When she, at length, asked me who it was in the picture with the president. I told her we believed it was Jack Abramoff.

        Amos very straightforwardly told me that the photographs had been removed and that they had been removed because they showed Abramoff and the president in the same picture. The photos were, she told me, “not relevant.”

        When I asked her who had instructed her to remove the photos, she told me she was the president of the company. She did it. It was “her business decision” to remove the photographs. She told me she had done so within the last month.

        Business decision indeed, Ms. Amos. Business decision to keep Karl Rove’s business.

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