Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Morning copy 10.19.2005

The CIA Leak, WHIG, Flame-out, Miller, etc. investigation

Let us travel back to the summer of 2003, when the Iraqi insurgency was but a sparkle in Paul Bremer's eye.

Bob Novak wrote his infamous column, which can/should be (re-)read at Here are two excerpts (out of sequence) from that column that stand out in my mind:

... Two senior administration officials told me Wilson's wife suggested sending him to Niger to investigate the Italian report. ...

... Even after a belated admission of error last Monday, finger-pointing between Bush administration agencies continued. Messages between Washington and the presidential entourage traveling in Africa hashed over the mission to Niger. ...

Two senior administration officials

From the New York Times timeline:

JULY 7, 2003

Ari Fleischer, White House spokesman, addresses the Op-Ed article, saying, "there is zero, nada, nothing new here." He goes on to say that Mr. Cheney's office didn't request the mission to Niger, nor had they been informed of it. Mr. Fleischer also acknowledges that the uranium reference was incorrect.

JULY 7, 2003

The president, Mr. Powell and Mr. Fleischer depart for Africa. The State Department memorandum on the Wilson matter is faxed in-flight to Mr. Powell.

JULY 7, 2003

Phone logs belonging to Mr. Fleischer indicate that he received a call from Robert D. Novak, the syndicated columnist.

Administration agencies

Note the sourcing as "intelligence" officials in today's NY Daily News:

"There were a number of occasions when White House officials or Vice President [Cheney's] staffers, or others, wanted to push the envelope on things," an ex-intelligence official said. "The agency would say, 'We just don't have the intelligence to substantiate that.'" When Wilson was sent by his wife to Africa to research the claims, he showed the documents claiming Saddam tried to buy the uranium were forgeries.

"People in the Iraq group then got very frustrated. It was a side show," said a source familiar with WHIG.

Besides Rove and Libby, the group included senior White House aides Karen Hughes, Mary Matalin, James Wilkinson, Nicholas Calio, Condoleezza Rice and Stephen Hadley. WHIG also was doing more than just public relations, said a second former intel officer.

"They were funneling information to [New York Times reporter] Judy Miller. Judy was a charter member," the source said.

What kind and quality of information?

Today from the AP:

WASHINGTON (AP) — Vice President Dick Cheney's chief of staff apparently gave New York Times reporter Judith Miller inaccurate information about where Valerie Plame worked in the CIA, a mistake that could be important to the criminal investigation. ...

The incorrect information about where Plame worked in the CIA could be a significant lead for investigators. Accurate information presumably can come from any number of sources, while inaccurate information might more easily be traceable to a single document or a particular meeting, suggested Lance Cole, former Democratic counsel to the Senate Whitewater Committee and now a law professor at Pennsylvania State University's Dickinson School of Law.

The charter member's notes

Before we take Judy "Flame out" Miller's notebook too seriously (I'd be more interested in her under-oath testimony) we should note that she likes to play games with information. Perhaps this trick was shared with her fellow Aspen aficianado Libby. Greg Mitchell in Editor and Publisher on October 15:

Revealing her working methods, perhaps too clearly, she writes that at this meeting, Libby wanted to modify their prior understanding that she would attribute information from him to an unnamed "senior administration official." Now, in talking about Wilson, he requested that he be identified only as a "former Hill staffer." This was obviously to deflect attention from the Cheney office's effort to hurt Wilson. But Miller admits, "I agreed to the new ground rules because I knew that Mr. Libby had once worked on Capitol Hill."

More tea leaves

The New York Times ledes with something of note, but I have also heard "experts" say that a report from Fitzgerald, sans indictments, would not be appropriate:

WASHINGTON, Oct. 18 - The special counsel in the C.I.A. leak case has told associates he has no plans to issue a final report about the results of the investigation, heightening the expectation that he intends to bring indictments, lawyers in the case and law enforcement officials said yesterday.

Inside the White House

Today's NY Daily News (Thomas DeFrank) also has this to offer:

WASHINGTON - An angry President Bush rebuked chief political guru Karl Rove two years ago for his role in the Valerie Plame affair, sources told the Daily News.

"He made his displeasure known to Karl," a presidential counselor told The News. "He made his life miserable about this."


Asked if he believed indictments were forthcoming, a key Bush official said he did not know, then added: "I'm very concerned it could go very, very badly."

"Karl is fighting for his life," the official added, "but anything he did was done to help George W. Bush. The President knows that and appreciates that."

Pro-life (Yes), pro-Griswold (Maybe?) Miers

In 1989, Miers vowed to actively support an anti-abortion movement, Washington Post.

The Washington Post's Supreme Court blog provides us Dianne Feinstein's reaction:

“Today, I received a copy of the April 11, 1989, questionnaire submitted by Texans United For Life to Harriet Miers during her campaign for the Dallas City Council and her responses to these questions.

The answers clearly reflect that Harriet Miers is opposed to Roe v. Wade. This raises very serious concerns about her ability to fairly apply the law without bias in this regard. It will be my intention to question her very carefully about these issues.”

David Frum makes a great point about this pro-Miers, pro-life movement:

It seems that the pro-Miers forces really are bent on burning down the village in order to save it.

White House and pro-Miers bloggers are trumpeting the revelation that Harriet Miers as a candidate for municipal office in Dallas checked the box on a questionnaire declaring herself in favor of a Human Life Amendment to the US Constitution.

This news is supposed to reassure conservatives. But think for a minute about the wound the pro-Miers forces have just inflicted on conservatism.

John Roberts at his hearing refused to answer questions about his personal views on abortion. He argued - as other Republican judicial nominees have argued before him - that he should be judged on his legal philosophy, not his private religious and moral convictions.

Of course, when no one has a clue what someone's judicial philosophy is, we all are forced to grasp at straws.

Let us state something as fact: Miers is pro-life. That has been told to a conference call of pro-life preachers on the right wing of the Republican party. At the same time, Miers has given Senator Arlen Specter conflicting information, enough to confuse a very bright Senate judiciary chairman.

The effort to put John Roberts on the highest bench in the land was based on his stellar accomplishments. The effort for Miers is based on smokescreen.

Robert Bork on

There is, to say the least, a heavy presumption that Ms. Miers, though undoubtedly possessed of many sterling qualities, is not qualified to be on the Supreme Court. It is not just that she has no known experience with constitutional law and no known opinions on judicial philosophy. It is worse than that. As president of the Texas Bar Association, she wrote columns for the association's journal. David Brooks of the New York Times examined those columns. He reports, with supporting examples, that the quality of her thought and writing demonstrates absolutely no "ability to write clearly and argue incisively."

Stuart Taylor in the National Journal repeats a point made again and again, but it is necessary to repeat because it is of grave importance to the integrity of the Supreme Court's nomination process:

But the biggest problem with the personally admirable Miers is not her apparent lack of off-the-page intellectual brilliance. It is the absence of evidence that she has anything like the great judgment of a George Washington, a John Marshall Harlan, a Lewis Powell, or a Sandra Day O'Connor. Or anything like the writing ability of a Louis Brandeis or a Robert Jackson.

We cannot let an ill-equipped, or even a potentially ill-equipped, nominee get confirmed to this court. I have seen bloggers argue that Miers lack of skill in writing or potential lack of judicial acumen is irrelevant, as other justices will hammer out opinions. That argument is horrid.

If Miers were to find herself on the wrong side of an 8-1 opinion, she would have to write the minority opinion. More, it would be odd for her not to write several opinions in each term. If you think that these opinions are not vital to constitutional law, you are a nitwit. We cannot risk a less-than-stellar author writing opinions on constitutional law. We cannot even allow a potentially less-than-stellar judicial mind on the bench. It is too great of a risk.

George W. Bush, withdraw this nomination now.

Ronald Brownstein in the Los Angeles Times offers troubling analysis for the Bush administration. It takes him less than 40 words to invoke Iraq.

Across a range of issues, said veteran GOP pollster Tony Fabrizio, Bush and Republican congressional leaders "are going to have a very tough time moving forward" in a way that pleases conservatives and moderates.

In the near term, Bush and GOP congressional leaders seem focused on quelling the uprising among conservatives. "The common theme is, 'We have to get back to the base,' " said one prominent lobbyist who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was involved in strategy discussions with Capitol Hill Republicans and the White House.

The Hill on Senators Graham and Brownback:

Sens. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and Sam Brownback (R-Kan.) are calling for the White House to turn over internal documents related to Supreme Court nominee Harriet Miers’s service as White House counsel, breaking with Republican colleagues who say the boundaries of executive privilege must not be pushed.

The Hill on Senator Lott:

Sen. Trent Lott (R-Miss.) suggested yesterday that he may end up supporting Supreme Court nominee Harriet Miers, even as a prominent Democrat echoed Republican concerns about a lack of information on President Bush’s pick to replace Justice Sandra Day O’Connor.


Al Jazeera on Saddam's trial.

The Iraqi audit of heavy "Yes" votes may take three days, New York Times.

Nixon's defense chief calls for a clear exit strategy from Iraq, Boston Globe.

The Financial Times on Iraqi reconstruction:

A dramatic increase in security spending in Iraq and a shift in reconstruction priorities have created a "reconstruction gap" that will leave many projects planned by the US "on the drawing board", a US government watchdog warned yesterday.

More stateside news

These stories all deserve more emphasis than I can provide.

Harold Meyerson on the cuts Congress will make to pay for Katrina relief:

A revolt of House conservatives has persuaded that body's Republican leadership to offset the increased federal spending going to rebuild the Hurricane Katrina-devastated Gulf Coast by reductions in Medicaid, food stamps and other programs for the indigent. If things go according to plan, this week the House will begin to cut $50 billion from those efforts.

The emerging Republican response to Katrina, apparently, is to comfort the drenched poor and afflict the dry.

An important story on New Orleans in the Washington Post:

But in New Orleans, where affluent whites live high and working-class blacks live low, the privileges of neighborhood quickly asserted themselves. For many, race and class predicted patterns of escape, dictating whether flight would be a nervous drive out of town or a caged week of torment and humiliation.

These days, as planners and politicians look ahead, many realize that the future of this city, which before the storm was more than two-thirds black and nearly one-third poor, swings on two simple questions:

Are residents coming home? If so, which ones?

It now appears that long-standing neighborhood differences in income and opportunity -- along with resentment over the ghastly exodus -- are shaping the stalled repopulation of this mostly empty city.

The New York Times editorial page rightly shames Georgia:

Critics of Georgia's new voter-identification law, which forces many citizens to pay $20 or more for the documentation necessary to vote, have called it a modern-day poll tax, intended to keep blacks and poor people from voting. A federal judge supported these claims yesterday and blocked the law from taking effect. Instead of continuing to defend the statute in court, Georgia should remove this throwback to the days of Jim Crow from its lawbooks.


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