Yesterday, WSJ caused a stink by reporting that the Obama Administration was pissed because Israel had shared intelligence it gathered about the Iran negotiations and shared it with Congress.
Soon after the U.S. and other major powers entered negotiations last year to curtail Iran’s nuclear program, senior White House officials learned Israel was spying on the closed-door talks.
The spying operation was part of a broader campaign by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government to penetrate the negotiations and then help build a case against the emerging terms of the deal, current and former U.S. officials said. In addition to eavesdropping, Israel acquired information from confidential U.S. briefings, informants and diplomatic contacts in Europe, the officials said.
The espionage didn’t upset the White House as much as Israel’s sharing of inside information with U.S. lawmakers and others to drain support from a high-stakes deal intended to limit Iran’s nuclear program, current and former officials said.
“It is one thing for the U.S. and Israel to spy on each other. It is another thing for Israel to steal U.S. secrets and play them back to U.S. legislators to undermine U.S. diplomacy,” said a senior U.S. official briefed on the matter.
The story is not new. Earlier in the month, there were complaints in the conservative press the US had cut intelligence sharing with Israel because of its cherry picking of intelligence. And Bibi himself got caught trying to withhold an intelligence briefing from Senators on a codel.
Obviously, I’m not the least bit sympathetic to Bibi’s disinformation campaign.
But the Administration has brought this on itself. As I noted last year, the Committees have had to go begging for the intelligence they need to do their job (in this case, to craft an AUMF to fight ISIL).
As I noted in my Salon piece last week, former Associate Counsel to the White House Andy Wright noted, and today Jack Goldsmith and Marty Lederman note, Tom Udall suggested before Congress funds overt training of Syrian opposition groups, maybe they should learn details about how the covert funding of Syrian opposition groups worked out.
Everybody’s well aware there’s been a covert operation, operating in the region to train forces, moderate forces, to go into Syria and to be out there, that we’ve been doing this the last two years. And probably the most true measure of the effectiveness of moderate forces would be, what has been the effectiveness over that last two years of this covert operation, of training 2,000 to 3,000 of these moderates? Are they a growing force? Have they gained ground? How effective are they? What can you tell us about this effort that’s gone on, and has it been a part of the success that you see that you’re presenting this new plan on?
Kerry, who had been sitting right next to Hagel when the Defense Secretary confirmed this covert op a year ago, said he couldn’t provide any details.
I know it’s been written about, in the public domain that there is, quote, a covert operation. But I can’t confirm, deny, whatever.
(At the end of the hearing he suggested he has been pushing to share more information, and that he might be able to arrange for the Chair and Ranking Member to be briefed.)
Shortly thereafter, SFRC Bob Menendez confirmed that his committee was being asked to legislate about a war with no details about the covert op that had laid the groundwork for — and created the urgency behind — that war.
To the core question that you raise, this is a problem that both the Administration, as well as the Senate leadership must be willing to deal with. Because when it comes to questions of being briefed on covert operations this committee does not have access to that information. Yet it is charged with a responsibility of determining whether or not the people of the United States should — through their Representatives — support an Authorization for the Use of Military Force. It is unfathomable to me to understand how this committee is going to get to those conclusions without understanding all of the elements of military engagement both overtly and covertly. … I’ll call it, for lack of a better term, a procedural hurdle we’re going to have to overcome if we want the information to make an informed judgment and get members on board.
That’s only going to increase the thirst for intelligence wherever members of Congress can get it (though interestingly, Bob Corker, currently the Senate Foreign Relations Chair, says he hasn’t been getting Bibi’s special briefings).
Information may be power, and the Obama Administration may like hoarding that power. But the vacuum that it leaves can itself exert a lot of power.
Update: I hadn’t seen this Yahoo interview with Bob Corker. But he complains that he’s not getting intelligence. Instead, they bring Senators to a SCIF so we citizens can’t hear the questions.
Yahoo News: A bombshell Wall Street Journal story says the Israelis penetrated the Iranian talks and shared the information with Congress. Are you in a position to confirm any of that? And if the Israelis did what the Journal says they did, did they act appropriately?
Bob Corker: I have never found them actually to be sharing anything different than was in public sources. As I met with Netanyahu the last time, he said, ”You know, all this is Google-able — Yahoo-able!” For what it’s worth, I get more information about what’s happening from foreign ministers than I do from anyone. Not from Israel — foreign ministers that are part of the negotiating teams.
The White House is upset that foreign governments may be giving information to senators because they’re not? Every time they meet with us and give us information down in the classified SCIF (Sensitive Compartmented Information Facility) — they really do that so that none of you can hear questions that are asked — I never learn anything that I haven’t read about on Yahoo or New York Times or some other place.
Everyone who has commented on the draft Menendez-Corker resolution to strike Syria has focused on this language:
The President is authorized, subject to subsection (b), to use the Armed Forces of the United States as he determines to be necessary and appropriate in a limited and tailored manner against legitimate military targets in Syria, [my emphasis]
The pursuit of a somewhat pregnant war continues!
And while the resolution makes pains to limit our involvement geographically (though John Kerry implied today if Syria’s allies get involved than we’d be able to go after them), it also allows boots on the ground for non-combat functions.
The authority granted in section 2 does not authorize the use of the United States Armed Forces on the ground in Syria for the purpose of combat operations.
And I’m rather interested in this language, which SFRC added from the White House version.
Whereas the President has authority under the Constitution to use force in order to defend the national security interests of the United States:
I’m sure that won’t be abused at all.
Update: Nada Bakos notes that the government will be asked to vet their plans for Syria. But not until halfway through the initial authorization.
Not later than 30 days after the date of the enactment of this resolution, the President shall consult with Congress and submit to the Committee on Foreign Relations of the Senate and the Committee on Foreign Affairs of the House of Representatives an integrated United States Government strategy for achieving a negotiated political settlement to the conflict in Syria, including a comprehensive review of current and planned U.S. diplomatic, political, economic, and military policy towards Syria, including: (1) the provision of all forms of assistance to the Syrian Supreme Military Council and other Syrian entities opposed to the government of Bashar Al-Assad that have been properly and fully vetted and share common values and interests with the United States; (2) the provision of all forms of assistance to the Syrian political opposition, including the Syrian Opposition Coalition; (3) efforts to isolate extremist and terrorist groups in Syria to prevent their influence on the future transitional and permanent Syrian governments; (4) coordination with allies and partners; and (5) efforts to limit support from the Government of Iran and others for the Syrian regime.
Yesterday, the Senate Armed Services Committee announced a hearing to revisit the 2001 Authorization to Use Military Force. In addition to a bunch of DOD figures (but not the recently departed Jeh Johnson, the DOD-connected person who said the most interesting things about the AUMF), it’ll have (I’ve linked their most salient comments on the AUMF):
Rosa Brooks, Professor of Law, Georgetown University Law Center
Geoffrey Corn, Professor of Law, South Texas College of Law
Jack Goldsmith, Professor of Law, Harvard Law School
Kenneth Roth, Executive Director, Human Rights Watch
Charles Stimson, Manager, National Security Law Program, The Heritage Foundation
Curiously, John Bellinger who (as far as I understand) started the discussion of a new AUMF is not slated to testify. Also note that the Deputy Director of Special Operations for Counterterrorism will testify, but no one from CIA is scheduled to; while JSOC can operate under the President’s inherent authority, it likely prefers the legal cover of an AUMF (and therefore may be one of the entities pushing for an AUMF that matches reality on the ground).
Politico reports that this hearing is more than speculative: Levin and no-longer-SASC-Ranking-Member-but-he-might-as-well-be John McCain are planning to rewrite the AUMF, with help from Bob Corker, Dick Durbin, and Lindsey “all detainees must be military” Graham.
And if the inclusion of Graham in that group doesn’t scare you, remember that this crowd is substantively the same one that enshrined military detention in 2012’s NDAA. While that effort might be regarded as “reasonable” Carl Levin and John McCain’s attempt to present something more reasonable than House Armed Services Committee Buck McKeon was pushing for, and while the NDAA originally included exceptions for US citizens, in the event, the White House pushed Carl Levin to effectively rubber stamp its claims to unlimited authority, including detaining (or killing) US citizens.
And if that doesn’t have you worried enough about this effort, consider this quote, which mocks the contributions Rand Paul or Ted Cruz might make to this debate.
“Can you imagine what Paul or Cruz would do with this?” said one top Democratic aide. “It could be a disaster. And it would be worse in the House.”
As a threshold matter, a top aide who can’t distinguish between Paul’s more heartfelt libertarianism from Cruz’ authoritarianism pretending to be libertarianism is a concern. But to call the influence of both as “a disaster” is troubling.
Ultimately, though, what is likely to happen with this debate is that all players will be unwilling to discuss openly what we’ve actually been doing in the name of war against al Qaeda, up to and including waging war in the “homeland.” That’s one thing the 2001 AUMF was written to exclude. And I can almost guarantee you, it’s an authority the President — and the top Democratic aides who mock Rand Paul — will want to preserve.
Reuters reports this morning that Japan’s lower house of parliament has passed a law authorizing creation of a new nuclear regulatory agency. The second paragraph of the story stands out to me:
The 2011 Fukushima disaster cast a harsh spotlight on the cozy ties between regulators, politicians and utilities – known as Japan’s “nuclear village” – that experts say were a major factor in the failure to avert the crisis triggered when a huge earthquake and tsunami devastated the plant, causing meltdowns.
The underlying cause of the “nuclear village” where regulators are captured by the industry they regulate and the politicians also are owned by the same system applies equally as well to the situation that enabled the meltdown of global financial markets in 2008. There is far less recognition of the village aspect of Wall Street’s lack of regulation in the financial crisis, and where there have been moves ostensibly toward regulation or even prosecution of crimes, they have been a sham:
On March 9 — 45 days after the speech and 30 days after the announcement — we met with Schneiderman in New York City and asked him for an update. He had just returned from Washington, where he had been personally looking for office space. As of that date, he had no office, no phones, no staff and no executive director. None of the 55 staff members promised by Holder had materialized. On April 2, we bumped into Schneiderman on a train leaving Washington for New York and learned that the situation was the same.
Tuesday, calls to the Justice Department’s switchboard requesting to be connected with the working group produced the answer, “I really don’t know where to send you.” After being transferred to the attorney general’s office and asking for a phone number for the working group, the answer was, “I’m not aware of one.”
The promises of the President have led to little or no concrete action.
In fact, the new Residential Mortgage-Backed Securities Working Group was the sixth such entity formed since the start of the financial crisis in 2009. The grand total of staff working for all of the previous five groups was one, according to a surprised Schneiderman. In Washington, where staffs grow like cherry blossoms, this is a remarkable occurrence.
We are led to conclude that Donovan was right. The settlement and working group — taken together — were a coup: a public relations coup for the White House and the banks. The media hailed the resolution for a few days and then turned their attention to other topics and controversies.
But for 12 million American homeowners, collectively $700 billion under water, this was just another in a long series of sham transactions.
Perhaps in homage to the Schneiderman and other sham units, the Reuters article on Japan’s new agency does show a bit of caution regarding the new agency:
The legislation, however, swiftly came under fire for appearing to weaken the government’s commitment to decommissioning reactors after 40 years in operation, even as it drafts an energy program to reduce nuclear power’s role.
Under a deal ending months of bickering by ruling and opposition parties, the new regulatory commission could revise a rule limiting the life of reactors to 40 years in principle.
“Does this reflect the sentiment of the citizens, who are seeking an exit from nuclear power?” queried an editorial in the Tokyo Shimbun daily. “Won’t it instead make what was supposed to be a rare exception par for the course?”
And as for the coziness between politicians in the US and the financial industry, we need look no further than Wednesday’s appearance by Jamie Dimon before the Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee. One of Marcy’s tweets during the hearing says all we need to know about that “hearing”:
BOB CORKER WIPE THAT SPOOGE FROM YOUR CHIN RIGHT NOW!
Japan’s response to its meltdown has been to shut down all nuclear plants while the framework for how they will operate if they are allowed to restart is debated. Imagine how much better off the world would be if JP Morgan Chase and Goldman Sachs had been shut down while a proper regulatory framework for them was developed.
The catfood commission (aka Obama’s deficit commission) is dead.
Well, it must be, right?
After all, that great figure of Beltway-corporatism-posing-as-moderation, Bob Corker, has decreed that we shall pass no legislation during a post election lame duck session.
Corker called on House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (Calif.) and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (Nev.), the Democratic leaders in their respective chambers, to make a similar pledge.
“I think for Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi to say the same thing — that they’re not going to try to use the lame-duck session as a place to do things that otherwise would not pass,” he said. “That type of thinking, that concern about … cap-and-trade and other types of policies just feeds into this whole unpredictability issue, the issue of what’s going to happen in Washington. We need to move away from that uncertainty.”
And that’s precisely when the Obama Administration plans to implement the catfood commission’s cuts on social security.
White House officials are working closely with the president’s new fiscal commission in the hope that the bipartisan commissions final report will provide Republican cover for the deal. The commission, due to report by December 1, needs fourteen out of its eighteen members to make an official recommendation. One hope of the deficit hawks is that a super-majority report could steamroll a lame duck session of Congress to act quickly, pending a more Republican Congress in January.
If someone like Corker won’t play along with the plan to cut social security, then it’s unlikely to get the mix of Republicans and deficit hawk Democrats they’ll need to pass the Commission recommendations.
So long as Corker keeps his word, then, about opposition to moving big legislation during the lame duck session, then social security should be safe.
Wow. Even I am surprised at Bob Corker’s rank hypocrisy this time. After begging and begging and begging that America’s auto manufacturers be forced into bankruptcy last year–a process, after all, that allows companies to renegotiate all their contracts to make them more competitive–Bob Corker is now pushing to force those same manufacturers to not only honor the existing contracts they’ve got with dealers, but hold off on terminating them for 180 days.
Chrysler and General Motors Corp would have to fully reimburse terminated dealerships and give them 180 days to wind down their operations under a proposal introduced on Thursday in the U.S. Senate.
"We filed this amendment to apply pressure on the automakers to keep their word to rejected dealerships and fully reimburse them for their inventories of vehicles and parts," said Tennessee Republican Bob Corker.
"We hope Chrysler and GM will take these appropriate actions and make this amendment unnecessary Corker said in a statement after introducing the measure.
Corker’s amendment would not permit judges in both automaker bankruptcies to approve government-funded debtor financing unless his terms are met.
Aside from the fact that this is probably mere posturing, at least in the case of Chrysler (because by the time this passed, it’d be too late, because the judge is going to finish this up next week), consider what this means. After having made sure that tens of thousands of working men and women will be out on the street overnight (not to mention the big number of supplier workers who will lose their jobs, too), after having made sure that the health care of hundreds of thousands of retirees is at risk, Bob Corker now wants his small businessmen friends to go through this process without losing out at all.
As I’ve said: what’s happening with dealers is tragic–for many of them, generations of life work is being ended almost overnight. But that’s no more or less tragic than the thousands of middle class workers losing their livelihood (and for many of them, that livelihood is a multi-generational thing, too). And Bob Corker was personally responsible for making sure there wasn’t a more viable way to do this back in December.
Bob Corker attacked the US automakers for months, arguing they had a failed business model. But as soon as bankruptcy looked likely, Corker suddenly remembered many of his constituents–the GM workers at Tennessee’s Spring Hill plant–work for one of those "failed" automakers. Since then, he’s been pitching the relative merits of Spring Hill. He has gone so far as to suggest that if anything were to happen to Spring Hill, it could only be because of politics.
With sweeping new power the White House will be deciding which plants will survive and which won’t, so in essence, this administration has decided they know better than our courts and our free market process how to deal with these companies.
It’s been a long time since Washington has seen the kind of kowtowing that’s about to occur among members of Congress trying to curry favor with the administration to keep plants in their states open, and it will be interesting to see if the administration makes these decisions based on a red state and blue state strategy or based on efficiency and capable, skilled workers at each plant. If they use the latter, our GM plant in Spring Hill, Tennessee should do very well.
It’s a nice narrative for Corker, one that absolves him of any responsibility for talking the company into bankruptcy. Yet there’s a detail Corker doesn’t want you to know.
It’s that the Spring Hill facilities have already been mortgaged away as collateral to secure credit.
Note that GM has approximately $29 Billion in debt; $7 Billion of which is secured by Saturn assets (including Spring Hill, TN plant). The government’s $13.4 Billion loan to GM is also considered secured debt, with a vast amount of assets up as collateral. [my emphasis]
In other words, politics will have nothing to do with the decision on whether or not to close Spring Hill (not that any of you would believe a word Corker says, anyway). That decision will be left entirely up to whatever buyer comes along and buys it, because it will be the first thing liquidated in bankruptcy.
I guess Corker should have thought of that before he joined the plantation caucus, huh?
Bob Corker was one of the people in Congress who refused to include auto dealer concessions to GM and Chrysler in restructuring negotiations last year. As such, he–and his cowardice–bears significant responsibility for neglecting one third of the concessions that needed to be made from automaker stakeholders; the Obama Administration has, for the first time, addressed dealer concessions in today’s announcement.
In addition, Corker’s purportedly brilliant bailout compromise last year (which amounted to "bust the UAW") included none of the bankruptcy-like legal authority to cramdown bond-holder debt. Partly as a result (and partly because of a sweetheart deal Corker’s buddies at Cerberus got), GM had no leverage to convince bond-holders to take the haircut they need to on its debt.
Nevertheless, Corker wasted no time in bitching about Obama’s announcement today.
“Firing Rick Wagoner is a sideshow to distract us from the fact that the administration has no progress to announce today,” said Corker, a Republican. “The administration is hoping the media and the public will stay focused on Wagoner and fail to notice that negotiations have not progressed since December.”
“The administration is pursuing much of what we pushed for in December, but the delay of several months has increased the severity and sent billions of taxpayer dollars down the drain,” Corker said. “Now any investment is likely unrecoverable.”
Corker, you see, is hoping everyone will stay focused on his showboating, and not notice that Corker left several key elements off the table last year out of political expediency. Corker’s also hoping you ignore that Bush basically used Corker’s plan when he pushed through the Christmas Eve bailout–so if this plan has failed, it is Corker’s plan that failed.
I guess Corker, who just a few weeks ago, was attacking draconian laws directed at just one class of people…
People out around this country, that have a right to be outraged, should also understand that if we do draconian things through laws, where we pass laws just to target a very few people, that they could be the very next person.
…is sad that he wasn’t able to pass a draconian law that targeted a very few union workers. I guess Bob Corker is just impatient for someone to bust the UAW.
Though not impatient enough to recognize that the Administration’s criticism of GM’s focus on SUV’s and crossovers may jeopardize the new Traverse assembly in his state.
With the White House taking a harder line with automakers and insisting on more aggressive restructuring plans, Corker also predicted that members of Congress will begin “kowtowing … to curry favor with the administration” to keep auto plants in their states open. Continue reading
Unfriendly. Just as he deserves:
U.S. Sen. Bob Corker, Republican of Tennessee and nemesis of Detroit automakers and UAW workers in congressional hearings, came to the Detroit auto show for an up-close look Tuesday at the industry he’s reluctant to rescue.
And he got a taste of the kind of confrontational grilling that he laid on auto company chief executives and UAW President Ron Gettelfinger in Washington.
"I realize that I’m not popular here," said the trim, 5-foot-7 Corker, a tiny figure buffeted in a sea of microphones, cameras and jostling journalists as he walked the floor of the North American International Auto Show at Cobo Center.
"But I’m proud of the effort I put forth," Corker said of his attempt to forge a Senate deal for auto industry rescue loans that foundered when Gettelfinger balked at Corker’s demands for immediate wage reductions and other contract changes. After the Senate rejected a bailout deal, President George W. Bush approved $17.4 billion in bridge loans to keep General Motors Corp. and Chrysler LLC afloat.
Corker, not unlike the Detroit CEOs after the hearings in Congress, admitted Tuesday that he felt a bit misunderstood. "I don’t know how people perceive me," he said.
(Note, this is currently the Free Press’ most popular story, so I’m not the only one taking some pleasure in Corker’s discomfort.)
That said, I actually think this was a stunt dreamt up by Mike Cox, our current AG and wannabe 2010 replacement for Jennifer Granholm. Cox wrote a fairly timid op-ed for the WaPo the other day, inviting Senators to come visit the auto show (I say timid because Cox exhibited nowhere near the understanding of the industry–or the cooperation with the UAW–that Thad McCotter did in his excellent speech in the House in November).
And then, voila! There you had Bob Corker and Mike Cox, two reprehensible Republicans, sucking it up to the press today, pretending they might have the key to saving the auto industry. In a touch of theater, they even met at the
Cerberus Chrysler booth, an appropriate place for them to discuss how to bail out their buddies in the private equity firm.
Kudos to Corker to actually showing. You think maybe he can take Mike Cox with him when he leaves?
Cerberus appears to be seeking to capitalize on the woes of the auto industry to do two things: first help its Republican buddies break the UAW, and after doing so, pawn off its unwanted "investment" in Chrysler onto the same union. I’m not sure I understand all the steps in this process, yet, but here are three data points.
Cerberus Protects Client Retirees But Not Chrysler Retirees
Let’s start with Cerberus’ statement on Friday in response to the bridge loan announcement. It celebrates the bridge loan as an opportunity to wring concessions from two stakeholders: bond-holders and union labor.
In addition to this, Cerberus believes that concessions by all relevant constituencies will be required to facilitate a full restructuring and recapitalization of Chrysler. In order to achieve that goal Cerberus has advised the Treasury that it would contribute its equity in Chrysler automotive to labor and creditors as currency to facilitate the accommodations necessary to affect the restructuring. Unless Chrysler’s labor costs can achieve parity with the foreign transplants, and without the restructuring of Chrysler’s debt, Chrysler cannot be restored to long-term health and the government loan will be unlikely to be fully repaid.
As seems to be true of all Republicans talking about concessions from stake-holders, Cerberus fails to mention any concessions from dealers, a critical requirement for any successful restructuring.
But what I like best about Cerberus’ statement (as in, like not at all) is the way it excuses its unwillingness to put any Cerberus money into Chrysler by appealing to America’s retirees.
Cerberus’ investors are comprised of pension and retirement plans (including funds invested for teachers, organized labor and municipal employees), charitable and educational endowments, fund-of-funds, and individual family savings. Cerberus is, therefore, entrusted with the life savings of many retirees, teachers, municipal workers and ordinary citizens.
As I’ve suggested, one of the two ways the UAW can meet
Bob Corker’s Cerberus’ demands is to agree to allow Chrysler to renege on its promises to Chrysler retirees.
In short, Cerberus is pleading that it may require UAW retirees to give up their pensions because it must protect the pensions of other retirees. For some reason, Cerberus must have thought that logically inconsistent argument would nevertheless be more persuasive than admitting it might demand UAW retirees to give up a piece of their retirement so as to protect the current earnings of John Snow and Dan Quayle.