Is Dick Playing Games with Pakistan’s Election?

McClatchy is off to a running start in the new year–reporting that Benazir Bhutto was about to hand over to Arlen Specter and Patrick Kennedy evidence of an ISI plan to steal this next month’s election in Pakistan.

The day she was assassinated last Thursday, Benazir Bhutto had planned to reveal new evidence alleging the involvement of Pakistan’s intelligence agencies in rigging the country’s upcoming elections, an aide said Monday.

Bhutto had been due to meet U.S. Sen. Arlen Specter, R-Pa., and Rep. Patrick Kennedy, D-R.I., to hand over a report charging that the military Inter-Services Intelligence agency was planning to fix the polls in the favor of President Pervez Musharraf.

Safraz Khan Lashari, a member of the Pakistan People’s Party election monitoring unit, said the report was "very sensitive" and that the party wanted to initially share it with trusted American politicians rather than the Bush administration, which is seen here as strongly backing Musharraf. [my emphasis]

Given Bhutto’s apparent worries about handing over evidence to the Bush Administration, I couldn’t help but think of this story.

Current and past U.S. officials tell me that Pakistan policy is essentially being run from Cheney’s office. The vice president, they say, is close to Musharraf and refuses to brook any U.S. criticism of him. This all fits; in recent months, I’m told, Pakistani opposition politicians visiting Washington have been ushered in to meet Cheney’s aides, rather than taken to the State Department. Read more

Dick versus Scottish Haggis: The Grudge Match

Arlen "Scottish Haggis" Specter took the opportunity yesterday to enter a letter exchange he had with Dick Cheney into the Congressional Record. Here’s that exchange (see below the letters for my analysis; h/t for Selise to alerting me the transcripts were up):



Washington, DC, June 7, 2006.
Hon. Richard B. Cheney,
The Vice President,
Washington, DC.

Dear Mr. Vice President: I am taking this unusual step in writing to you to establish a public record. It is neither pleasant nor easy to raise these issues with the Administration of my own party, but I do so because of their importance,

No one has been more supportive of a strong national defense and tough action against terrorism than I. However, the Administration’s continuing position on the NSA electronic surveillance program rejects the historical constitutional practice of judicial approval of warrants before wiretapping and denigrates the constitutional authority and responsibility of the Congress and specifically the Judiciary Committee to conduct oversight on constitutional issues.

On March 16, 2006, I introduced legislation to authorize the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court to rule on the constitutionality of the Administration’s electronic surveillance program. Expert witnesses, including four former judges of the FISA Court, supported the legislation as an effective way to preserve the secrecy of the program and protect civil rights. The FISA Court has an unblemished record for keeping secrets and it has the obvious expertise to rule on the issue. The FISA Court judges and other experts concluded that the legislation satisfied the case-in-controversy requirement and was not a prohibited advisory opinion. Notwithstanding my repeated efforts to get the Administration’s position on this legislation, I have been unable to get any response, including a “no”. Read more

Oversight or Politics?

Michael Mukasey has engaged in a remarkable bit of sophistry with his refusal to clue Congress in on the joint DOJ/CIA IG investigation into the destruction of the torture tapes. He explains his decision as an attempt to avoid "any perception that our law enforcement decisions are subject to political influence."

As to your remaining questions, the Department has a long-standing policy of declining to provide non-public information about pending matters. This policy is based in part on our interest in avoiding any perception that our law enforcement decisions are subject to political influence. Accordingly, I will not at this time provide further information in response to your letter, but appreciate the Committee’s interests in this matter. At my confirmation hearing, I testified that I would act independently, resist political pressure and ensure that politics plays no role in cases brought by the Department of Justice. Consistent with that testimony, the facts will be followed wherever they lead in this inquiry, and the relevant law applied.

Of course, the "political influence" Mukasey was asked to address during his nomination hearings was the kind exerted when a Senator or a Congresswoman called the Attorney General privately to demand that a USA either accelerate the prosecution of a political figure or be fired. In this matter, Mukasey has been asked to respond to what is an almost unparalleled degree of bipartisan support for an open inquiry into a matter that just stinks, already, of a cover-up. Leahy and Specter (and Reyes and Hoekstra and Durbin and Biden and more) called for a procedure that had oversight built in.

And Mukasey said no. Read more

Scottish Haggis’ Latest “Compromise”

Since the Senate Judiciary voted out a FISA Amendment that didn’t include telecom immunity, Arlen "Scottish Haggis" Specter and some Democratic Senators have been working on a compromise. And voila! your wishy-washy compromise (Specter’s statement; the bill):

The legislation substitutes the U.S. in place of any electronic communication service company which provided communications in connection with an intelligence activity that was authorized by the President between September 11, 2001, and January 17, 2007, and designed to detect or prevent a terrorist attack against the U.S.

Though to be fair to Scottish Haggis, there’s one bit I’m quite fond of:

In order for substitution to apply, the electronic communications service provider must have received a written request from the Attorney General or the head of an element of the intelligence community indicating that the activity was authorized by the President and determined to be lawful. If the provider assisted the Government beyond what was requested in writing, this legislation will leave the provider on the hook for any surplus assistance.

In other words, if AT&T wiretapped me before 9/11, or if it wiretapped me based on the say so of Alberto Gonzales during the period following the March 10 hospital confrontation, then I still get to sue AT&T.

But here’s the killer: Read more