Friday, October 21, 2005

(Late) Morning copy 10.21.2005

Rafik Hariri

Today's New York Times:

Published: October 21, 2005

UNITED NATIONS, Oct. 20 - The United Nations investigation into the murder of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri of Lebanon is focusing on the powerful brother-in-law of President Bashar al-Assad of Syria as the main suspect, a diplomat with intimate knowledge of the inquiry said Thursday.

This is a big story and could become a very big story.

The Times of London:

The report will have profound ramifications for the region. It leaves President al-Assad isolated and might force his Lebanese ally President Lahoud out of office.

Britain, America and France are already preparing follow-up action, to be debated in the UN Security Council next week, that will demand those responsible be placed in custody to stand trial.

Sadoun al-Janabi

File this one under: Building democracy in Iraq.

A lawyer representing one of Saddam's co-defendants was brutally executed yesterday. Times of London:

Sadoun al-Janabi, the legal counsel for Awad Hamed al-Bandar, was leaving his office in the Shaab district in eastern Baghdad at around 8pm yesterday when he was taken by around 20 armed men.

Police today reported that Mr al-Janabi's body had been found dumped near to Fardous Mosque, in the northern Ur district, about an hour later. He had bullet wounds to his head and chest.

Patrick Fitzgerald's case

David Johnston in the New York Times ledes:

WASHINGTON, Oct. 20 - As he weighs whether to bring criminal charges in the C.I.A. leak case, Patrick J. Fitzgerald, the special counsel, is focusing on whether Karl Rove, the senior White House adviser, and I. Lewis Libby Jr., chief of staff for Vice President Dick Cheney, sought to conceal their actions and mislead prosecutors, lawyers involved in the case said Thursday.


Mr. Rove and Mr. Libby have been advised that they may be in serious legal jeopardy, the lawyers said, but only this week has Mr. Fitzgerald begun to narrow the possible charges. The prosecutor has said he will not make up his mind about any charges until next week, government officials say.

Peter Wallsten and Tom Hamburger in the Los Angeles Times have the following to offer:

Libby's anger over Wilson's 2003 charges has been known. But new interviews and documents obtained by The Times provide a more detailed view of the depth and duration of Libby's interest in Wilson. They also show that the vice president's office closely monitored news coverage.

Jim VandeHei and Peter Baker in the Washington Post:

But it remains unclear whether Bush agrees that changes are needed and the uncertainty has unsettled his team.

"People are very demoralized and unhappy," a former administration official said. "The leak investigation is [part of it], but things were not happy before this took preeminence. It's just been a rough year. A lot has gotten done, but nothing is easy."

Harriet Miers

The White House is preparing the nominee for tough hearings, New York Times.

Charles Babington's news analysis on Miers strikes a similar note to VandeHei and Baker's piece:

Most glaring of all, say activists in both parties, the White House failed to foresee the outcry from conservative activists who are leading the opposition while liberals mostly stand on the sidelines in amazement.

"I'm sort of astonished by it," said George Washington University law professor Jonathan Turley, who has followed the nominations closely. "It's like a completely different team at the White House is handling it."

Charles Krauthammer's Op-Ed posits what the mistake really was:

The president's mistake was thinking he could sneak a reliable conservative past the liberal litmus tests (on abortion, above all) by nominating a candidate at once exceptionally obscure and exceptionally well known to him.

The problem is that this strategy blew up in his face. Her obscurity is the result of her lack of constitutional history, which, in turn, robs her of the minimum qualifications for service on the Supreme Court.

Marty Bahamonde

Los Angeles Times.

Michael Brown may have committed perjury, let's book him.

Bahamonde contested former FEMA director Michael D. Brown's late-September testimony to a House committee, including Brown's account of the number of FEMA staffers sent to the city before the storm — "I was the only one," Bahamonde said.

A message that should ring in your ears all day.

In an Aug. 31 e-mail that Bahamonde sent a co-worker, his frustration with Brown burst through.

Bahamonde had just learned, as he huddled in New Orleans' Superdome with evacuees, that Brown's press secretary was fretting about blocking out time for the director to eat dinner at one of Baton Rouge's busy restaurants that night.

"OH MY GOD!!!!!!!" Bahamonde messaged the co-worker. "I just ate an MRE" — military rations — "and crapped in the hallway of the Superdome along with 30,000 other close friends so I understand her concern about busy restaurants."

Yes, Iraq has something to do with it too. New York Times:

WASHINGTON, Oct 20 - Army National Guard units have run into problems responding to domestic disasters like Hurricane Katrina because much of their equipment is in Iraq, according to a report released Thursday by the Government Accountability Office and Guard officials.


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