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Pelosi Appoints Dusty Foggo and Jose Rodriguez’ Buddy to Ethics Committee

Porter Goss’ tenure as Director of the CIA is noted for two things above all–and neither has to do with the collection and analysis of intelligence.

First, there’s his buddy, Dusty Foggo, whom Goss appointed to be Executive Director of the CIA. In that role, Foggo is alleged to have exploited the weaknesses of the earmark system–not to mention Duke Cunningham’s weakness for whores–to steer millions of dollars in contracts to the company of his childhood friend, Brent Wilkes. In addition, Foggo pulled strings to get his girlfriend hired at CIA.

Then, there’s Jose Rodriguez, whom Goss appointed to be director of the CIA’s Clandestine Services after Goss ousted Stephen Kappes because he wasn’t a political hack. Rodriguez is best known for ordering the torture tapes depicting Abu Zubaydah’s and al-Nashiri’s interrogation destroyed–in spite of the many court orders and outstanding requests from the 9/11 Commission and Congress for such evidence. Goss says he wasn’t involved, but Rodriguez faced no discipline for having the tapes destroyed–even in spite of the fact that then DNI John Negroponte warned Goss to make sure the tapes weren’t destroyed. Rodriguez also spiked the internal CIA investigation into why the folks who rendered Abu Omar out of Italy were so damned incompetent–leaving a cell phone trail right up to the CIA’s doors, not to mention thousands of dollars in hotel bills because spooks must have luxury, don’t you know.

In short, Porter Goss is known to be an incredible hack who oversaw great ethical (and legal) abuses that, at least so long as Goss was in charge, escaped all consequences.

Precisely the kind of guy you’d want in charge of Congress’ Ethics Review Board, right? Oh wait, I mean, precisely the kind of guy Nancy Pelosi would want in charge of Congress’ Ethics Review Board (h/t John Forde). You and I, of course, would think it an utterly ludicrous idea to put a guy like Goss, with huge ethical stains on his record, in charge of Congress’ ethics. But I guess the Speaker of the House doesn’t agree.

But What about Congressional Oversight?

In addition to showing how the Iran hawks have evaded oversight over their Special Forces war plan against Iran, Sy Hersh seems intent on generating pressure on Democrats to withhold funding now being used to start a covert war with Iran.

Hersh notes that the Gang of Eight has been briefed on the CIA–but not the Special Forces, assassination of high value targets–part of the plan.

Although some legislators were troubled by aspects of the Finding, and “there was a significant amount of high-level discussion” about it, according to the source familiar with it, the funding for the escalation was approved. In other words, some members of the Democratic leadership—Congress has been under Democratic control since the 2006 elections—were willing, in secret, to go along with the Administration in expanding covert activities directed at Iran, while the Party’s presumptive candidate for President, Barack Obama, has said that he favors direct talks and diplomacy.

I love how Hersh feels the need to remind Democrats they are in the majority.

Then, after recalling all the opposition to Administration plans from within the military, Hersh returns to Democrats’ failure to prevent policies they oppose.

The Democratic leadership’s agreement to commit hundreds of millions of dollars for more secret operations in Iran was remarkable, given the general concerns of officials like Gates, Fallon, and many others. “The oversight process has not kept pace—it’s been coöpted” by the Administration, the person familiar with the contents of the Finding said. “The process is broken, and this is dangerous stuff we’re authorizing.”

Now, the problems with oversight seem to focus on two things. First, the Democrats once again got punked by Administration lies when, three years ago, David Obey backed off an attempt to withhold funding for such operations.

On March 15, 2005, David Obey, then the ranking Democrat on the Republican-led House Appropriations Committee, announced that he was putting aside an amendment that he had intended to offer that day, and that would have cut off all funding for national-intelligence programs unless the President agreed to keep Congress fully informed about clandestine military activities undertaken in the war on terror. Read more

My Version of Pelosi’s Statement on Exclusivity

TPMM wrote up a summary of a response Speaker Pelosi gave to a question I asked at a blogger conference call today that has caused a stir. While I don’t disagree with McJoan’s take–if the Speaker had really said immunity was the issue, it would reflect a short-sighted view of FISA (though I’d say the same about other topics, such as segregation; after all, once the government can legally use information that has been improperly collected, that’s toothpaste out of a tube, too)–I’d like to give my version of the conversation, because I don’t think that’s what Pelosi said or meant.

The call was originally supposed to be focused on contempt. So after the Speaker finished telling about the Paul Wellstone Mental Health and Addiction Equity bill, someone (Mike Stark, I think) asked for reassurances that the Democrats would continue to pursue contempt after we win the White House and larger margins in both houses next year. Pelosi spoke at length about how important this contempt fight is because of the separation of powers issue–and stated that this is a better case than when GAO tried to get Cheney’s records on his Energy Task Force. Finally, in response to a follow-up, Pelosi stated that Democrats would continue to pursue the contempt issue after November.

Then, I piped in. I basically asked the idea laid out in this post.

Email providers argue that immunity will contribute to uncertainty. They speak of receiving "vague promises," they demand "clear rules" and "bright lines."

Given that complaints about uncertainty and unclear demands have led these email providers to strongly oppose retroactive immunity, it suggests the requests the email providers got were really murky–murky enough that the requests caused the email providers a good deal of trouble.

If the government was making such murky requests, don’t you think Congress ought to know what those requests were in more detail?

That is, since email providers just made a very strong statement against immunity, shouldn’t we be asking them why they’re opposed to it?

Pelosi, having just spoken at length about about separation of powers, then said that immunity wasn’t the only issue, exclusivity was important as well.

Note, I’m not sure I can dispute Paul Kiel’s description, though I don’t remember Pelosi emphasizing exclusivity in the way his post suggests at all. I certainly didn’t hear her say immunity is the issue, but then I was listening for my answer. Read more

Mukasey Wasn’t Bluffing

Well, at least he complied with my request that he make his decision quickly. I’m sure you’re not surprised that he said no?

Pelosi:

By ordering the U.S. Attorney to take no action in response to congressional subpoenas, the Bush Administration is continuing to politicize law enforcement, which undermines public confidence in our criminal justice system.

Anticipating this response from the Administration, the House has already provided authority for the Judiciary Committee to file a civil enforcement action in federal district court and the House shall do so promptly. The American people demand that we uphold the law. As public officials, we take an oath to uphold the Constitution and protect our system of checks and balances and our civil lawsuit seeks to do just that.

Conyers:

Our investigation into the firing of United States Attorneys revealed an Administration and a Justice Department that seemed to put politics first, and today’s decision to shelve the contempt process, in violation of a federal statute, shows that the White House will go to any lengths to keep its role in the US Attorney firings hidden. In the face of such extraordinary actions, we have no choice but to proceed with a lawsuit to enforce the Committee’s subpoenas.

Pelosi to Mukasey: Tag. You’re It.

The Speaker writes letters to the Attorney General.

In accordance with 2 U.S.C. § 194 and the attached House Resolution 979 (adopted on February 14, 2008), I have today sent a certification to the United States Attorney for the District of Columbia, Jeffrey Taylor, advising him of the failure of former White House Counsel, Harriet Miers, to appear, testify and produce documents in compliance with a duly issued subpoena of a subcommittee of the House Judiciary Committee and of the failure of Joshua Bolten, White House Chief of Staff and custodian of White House documents, to produce documents in his custody as required by a duly issued subpoena of the House Judiciary Committee.

Under section 194, Mr. Taylor is now required "to bring the matter before the grand jury for its action." The appropriate grand jury action is a criminal charge for violation of 2 U.S.C. § 192, which provides: "Every person who having been summoned as a witness by the authority of either House of Congress to give testimony or to produce papers . . . willfully makes default . . . shall be deemed guilty of a misdemeanor" and shall be subject to a fine and "imprisonment in a common jail for not less than one month nor more than twelve months."

According to the testimony of your predecessor, former Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, and your recent testimony before the House Judiciary Committee, the Justice Department intends to prevent Mr. Taylor from complying with the statute and enforcing the contempt citations against Ms. Miers and Mr. Bolten. You claimed that "enforcement by way of contempt of a congressional subpoena is not permitted when the President directs a direct adviser of his… not to appear or when he directs any member of the executive not to produce documents." Hearing on Oversight of the Dep’t of Justice Before the H. Comm. on the Judiciary, 110th Cong. 87-88 (Feb. 7, 2008). You purported to base your view on a "long line of authority," but cited no court decision that supports this proposition.

There is no authority by which persons may wholly ignore a subpoena and fail to appear as directed because a President unilaterally instructs them to do so. Even if a subpoenaed witness intends to assert a privilege in response to questions, the witness is not at liberty to disregard the subpoena and fail to appear at the required time and place. Read more

FISA and the Warrantless Wiretap Briefings

As we await certain doom because the NSA has to rely on FISA to authorize any new warrantless wiretaps (though it can continue all the programs currently in place), I wanted to correct what appears to be a common mistake about the earlier warrantless wiretap program. I’ve seen a lot of people claim that all of Congress knew of the program, that the Gang of Eight got regular briefings about it, that Congress wants the telecoms to get immunity because leaders in Congress want immunity.

The reality–at least according to the published record of those briefed on Bush’s warrantless wiretap program–is much more narrow. And as this fight moves into the House, it’d pay to have a clear understanding of who got briefed and how they claimed to have responded.

The Gang of Eight was not briefed regularly on the program

Kit Bond likes to claim that the Gang of Eight–the majority and minority leaders of both houses of Congress and the majority and minority leaders of both intelligence committees–were briefed on the program. That’s a lie. In general, the Administration briefed the intelligence committee heads, but not the Majority and Minority leaders. The first time the entire Gang of Eight was briefed on the program was when, on March 10, 2004, the Administration tried to get them to authorize continuing the program even though Jim Comey said it was illegal. At the time, the following were members of the Gang of Eight:

  • Denny Hastert
  • Bill Frist
  • Tom Daschle
  • Nancy Pelosi
  • Porter Goss
  • Jane Harman
  • Pat Roberts
  • Jello Jay Rockefeller

After Harry Reid became Minority Leader of the Senate in 2005, he received a briefing on February 3, 2005–by himself, as did Crazy Pete Hoekstra when he became HPSCI Chair in September 2004. There was not any other briefing where the entire Gang of Eight got the same briefing. Though after Risen and Lichtblau exposed the program, Jello Jay received a briefing with the Republican half of the Gang of Eight, and then Reid, Pelosi, and Harman received a briefing (which Roberts also attended).

As Arlen “Scottish Haggis” Specter has pointed out, the Administration was in violation of the National Security Act when, with the exception of March 10, 2004, it limited its briefings to just the intelligence committee heads.

Read more

Dick’s Big Stick and the Democratic Alpha Male

Well, darnit. I got forwarded the Lizza column and assumed it was recent. It’s not. So Lizza should not remember the Cheney comment, because it happened after Lizza’s column. I apologize to Lizza, but not that the manly men Dingell and Murtha were, in fact, in Congress already when Lizza wrote the column. 

Ryan Lizza must have forgotten that Dick Cheney insinuated Nancy Pelosi had emasculated John Murtha and John Dingell.

Cheney, in an interview with Politico, said Murtha (Pa.) and Dingell (Mich.), two of the most powerful House Democrats, "march to the tune of Nancy Pelosi," adding that "they are not carrying the big sticks I would have expected."

That’s because Lizza has discovered, as if it were new, the Democratic Alpha Male.

The members of this new faction, which helped the Democrats expand into majority status, stand out not for their ideology or racial background but for their carefully cultivated masculinity.

"As much as the policy positions is the background and character of these Democrats," says John Lapp, the former executive director of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee who helped recruit this new breed of candidate. "So we went to C.I.A. agents, F.B.I. agents, N.F.L. quarterbacks, sheriffs, Iraq war vets. These are red-blooded Americans who are tough."

Mr. Lapp even coined a term to describe these manly — and they are all men — pols: "the Macho Dems."

The return of Democratic manliness was no accident; it was a carefully planned strategy. But now that the Macho Dems are walking the halls of Congress, it remains to be seen whether they will create as many problems for Democrats as they solved. After all, these new Democrats have heterodox political views that could complicate Democratic caucus politics, and their success may raise uncomfortable questions for those Democrats who don’t pass the new macho test.

Call me crazy, but to suggest that John Murtha isn’t a manly man is as much a slight to his long-term service in the Marines as when Mean Jean called Murtha a coward. And one of the biggest reasons why I have John Dingell representing me in the House, rather than Lynn Rivers, is because Dingell is a hunter’s hunter–a better shot than Dick Cheney, I’d wager.

Somehow, these two manly men have survived–even flourished–in the House for a combined eighty-five years. Yet Lizza would have you believe the Democratic Alpha Male is a recent fad.

Mark Foley Falls into Pelosi’s Lap

Not literally, of course. She’s not his type. But the Blotter is reporting that Florida investigators have asked the Speaker’s help in accessing Foley’s Congressional computer, which they had been prevented from subpoenaing because of the William Jefferson ruling extending Speech and Debate to Congressional materials.

Florida law enforcement officials investigating former Republican Rep. Mark Foley, whose e-mails and instant messages to teenage former congressional pages shocked the country, are hoping Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi will grant them access to Foley’s House computers.

"We are respectfully requesting access to any and all computer equipment that the U.S. Government possesses that former Representative Foley utilized during his time in office," Florida Department of Law Enforcement Commissioner Gerald Bailey wrote to the speaker last month.

What makes this request particularly interesting is that Republicans have been trying to drum up a page scandal (yup, you guessed it, a consensual blow job) to blame Pelosi for. Thus, while Congress in general seems to want to use the Jefferson precedent to expand their own prerogatives, the new page scandal offers Pelosi cover for turning over Foley’s computer files.

The early indication, at least, is that Pelosi would very much like to do that–turn over materials to the Florida investigative team.

Spokesman Brendan Daly also said the office wants to cooperate with Florida investigators and will consult with House lawyers.

If she were smart, she’d craft an approach that would make it difficult for all Congressmen to use the Jefferson precedent to hide their legal improprieties. But it’s so much easier to get people in DC to take action to punish sex than bribery.

Is Pelosi Planning on Picking Bush’s Pocket?

Remember Bush’s surly claimed pocket veto on military pay raises, just in time for New Years? We pretty much dismissed its claim to legality when it happened (See especially PhoenixWoman’s link, which has gotten far too little attention for its apparent precedent on precisely the issues in question). But now I’m increasingly intrigued by the political possibilities, particularly with the news that Speaker Pelosi is calling bullshit on Bush’s claim to have used a pocket veto specifically to reject the bill.

The White House on Monday said it was pocket-vetoing the measure, but a spokesman for House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said the president cannot use such a measure when Congress is in session. The distinction over whether the president can pocket-veto the bill is important because such a move would prevent Congress from voting on an override.

Congress vigorously rejects any claim that the president has the authority to pocket-veto this legislation, and will treat any bill returned to the Congress as open to an override vote,” said Nadeam Elshami, a spokesman for Pelosi. He said the Speaker is keeping all legislative options on the table. [my emphasis]

As soon as Bush announced he planned to veto the bill, I grew enticed by what some of those "legislative options" might be–and Nancy’s cry of "bullshit" makes me even more enticed.

As I see it, if Congress insists that Bush could not have pocket vetoed the bill, then the first thing it should do is aim for an override. As the Hill points out, Democrats are likely to lose the huge majorities who supported the bill last month. But if they can credibly show that they might be able to override Bush’s veto, things would get interesting.

See, I believe that Bush has now placed Democrats in the position he has tried to place himself in with his threat to veto all the appropriations bills. That is, if Bush vetos the appropriations bills, then that’ll put the Democrats in a position where they need to negotiate quickly, or risk shutting down the government (Kagro X laid this all out in a couple of posts last September, but I can’t seem to find them right away).

The position Democrats are in now is similar: They can do a whip count, and if they’ve proven they have the votes, then can threaten to simply override the veto and negotiate from there.

Or, more tantalizingly, they can re-open the whole Defense Appropriations bill. All of it. Read more

Seeing a Catfight Where There Is None

Spencer Ackerman has a more complete version of Nancy Pelosi’s statement about when she was briefed on torture techniques.

On one occasion, in the fall of 2002, I was briefed on interrogation techniques the Administration was considering using in the future. The Administration advised that legal counsel for the both the CIA and the Department of Justice had concluded that the techniques were legal.

I had no further briefings on the techniques. Several months later, my successor as Ranking Member of the House Intelligence Committee, Jane Harman, was briefed more extensively and advised the techniques had in fact been employed. It was my understanding at that time that Congresswoman Harman filed a letter in early 2003 to the CIA to protest the use of such techniques, a protest with which I concurred.

And then he makes what I consider a gross misreading of the statement.

One: Pelosi isn’t saying that she knew how detainees were interrogated. She’s saying she was told that all techniques used in those interrogations were considered legal. So did she know what those techniques were, and what they entailed? We’ll find out, or get stonewalled trying.

Two: Never mind the brief mention of Jane Harman’s protest. Pelosi just threw Harman under the bus. It’s no secret that the two Californians don’t get along. But she didn’t need to put the blame on her committee successor in her statement on this controversy.

Let’s take the key clauses from Nancy’s statement. I’ve bolded them up there in the statement so it’s crystal clear that they’re direct quotes, written in plain language.

  1. I [Nancy Pelosi] was briefed on interrogation techniques
  2. Jane Harman, was briefed more extensively and advised the techniques had in fact been employed
  3. Harman filed a letter in early 2003 to the CIA to protest the use of such techniques, a protest with which I concurred

Read more