Thursday, June 22, 2006

still on the hook

in light of karl rove's apparent public relations victory this month, for the sake of all the depressives on the "karl rove indictment watch", it's very important to clarify one important truth. in fact it is the only truth we know for certain. everything else is simply speculation, spin and rumor.

karl rove is not off the hook. if karl rove were off the hook, the man dangling rove at the end of his line, special prosecutor patrick fitzgerald, would have said so himself. to this day he has not.

despite all the noise of the past month, only one rove-related development concerning the plame cia leak investigation actually occurred in that time: the june 13 announcement, by karl rove's attorney robert luskin, that fitzgerald "formally notified" him that "absent any unexpected developments, he does not anticipate seeking any criminal charges against rove".

that's it.

luskin did not announce "my client will not be charged" or "my client is in the clear" or "my client is no longer being investigated". he announced that his client does not anticipate any criminal charges. big difference. especially when you're a lawyer.

regarding that announcement, there was no public statement from the prosecutor's office. no confirmation. no denial. nada. zero. zilch.

so luskin's statement to this day dangles without corroboration from the only person who could definitively confirm it.

as rove's attorney, luskin is of course in business to present his client in the best light possible. if fitzgerald had let rove "off the hook", luskin would have unequivocably said so. and probably with greater fanfare, if that were possible. but in fact, to this date, luskin has not offered any documentary evidence or any transcript of any communication from fitzgerald that his client is "off the hook".

so all this talk of karl rove being "off the hook" and "in the clear" is still wholly premature, until fitzgerald himself says so. the rest is just spin.

as i had earlier posted in "still waiting", what we're all waiting for is an announcement from patrick fitzgerald himself. his is the only statement worth anything. and as i had posted in "the waiting game", it was an uncorroborated statement by rove's attorney, that "they expect that a decision will come sometime in the next two weeks", that originally set the waiting game in motion.

so what, if anything, may have happened to precipitate this latest spin from the rove team? clearly fitzgerald wants something from rove. fitzgerald already has libby. it appears fitzgerald has rove, otherwise, he'd have nothing to pressure him with, and more importantly, he'd simply let rove off the hook. so, in a pattern already established with his prosecutions in chicago, fitzgerald's looking up the food chain for much bigger fish.

that of course would be rove's boss, george bush, and/or libby's boss, dick cheney.

i think fitzgerald got what he wanted from rove. especially after turdblossom's five trips to the grand jury.

but fitzgerald will not cut him loose until rove's testimony pans out, which might not be determined until the end of the libby trial sometime in 2007.

so rove's still on that hook.

and he'll wriggle there, like the worm that he is, until fitzgerald himself says so.

Monday, June 19, 2006


yes, i know — politicians lie, fib, equivocate, prevaricate, fabricate, dissemble, misinform and mislead like fish breathe water — not exactly breaking news.

but senate intelligence committee chair arlen specter seems to have told us a desperate ass-saving whopper that needs to be called out.

you'll recall my post "the not ready for prime time players", which highlights specter's cowardly proposal to grant amnesty to administration officials who may have broken federal law by engaging in the widespread warrantless wiretapping of american citizens. if blanket amnesty for the bush administration weren't craven enough, specter's proposal, if granted, would also make that amnesty retroactive to 1978, the year congress enacted the fisa statute, which created the fisa court, the only judicial body charged with reviewing federal warrant applications on matters of national security.

which means that every illegal espionage act for the past thirty years would be summarily disregarded with only a signature. so much for the party of accountability.

you'll also recall in the update to that post, that news of specter's call for amnesty seems to have been the result of a gross misreading of the proposed legislation by the washington post. it seemed that specter's bill wasn't quite as servile and loathsome as we've come to expect from the rubberstamping politburo we used to call congress. specter's immediate, vociferous and unequivocal prime-time denials seemed so genuine — or was it our desperate wish to believe that congress would not so eagerly castrate itself for a president whose approval ratings rival nixon's that made us so gullible?

glenn greenwald: i have now obtained (with the help of the aclu) a copy of specter's marked-up proposed legislation, which makes quite clear that specter simply was not telling the truth when he denied proposing amnesty to the administration. the bill in question was one which specter substituted last week in the judiciary committee for the prior legislation he proposed back in march (the reason the new version was not available online was because — according to the aclu — he introduced it only in the committee, but not yet on the senate floor).

in sum, specter's legislation amends the provision of fisa which provides for criminal penalties, and then, astonishingly, makes those revisions retroactive all the way back to 1978 (when fisa was enacted). the effect and almost certainly the intent of those revisions is to immunize the president and anyone acting under his authority from criminal liability for violating fisa — just as the post and the aclu correctly reported, and just as specter falsely denied.

... currently, section 109(a) of fisa provides that "a person is guilty of an offense if he intentionally - (1) engages in electronic surveillance under color of law except as authorized by statute ..." that means that anyone who eavesdropping on americans without complying with the warrant requirements of the statute (fisa) is committing a felony. to amend this provision to include the phrase "or under the constitutional authority of the executive" after "authorized by statute," makes it legal to eavesdrop not only in compliance with fisa (i.e., by obtaining a warrant), but also under the "constitutional authority" of the president to engage in warrantless eavesdropping even if that warrantless eavesdropping is prohibited by fisa (which it is).

... section 801 of specter's proposed bill specifically provides that "nothing in this act shall be construed to limit the constitutional authority of the president to gather foreign intelligence information or monitor the activities or communications of any person reasonably believed to be associated with a foreign enemy of the united states." that language tracks precisely the language used to define the parameters of the warrantless eavesdropping program, and it makes crystal clear that its intent is to declare legal the nsa program. and that provision is one of the provisions that has retroactive application back to 1978, which means the specter bill goes back in time — 28 years — and transforms fisa from a statute which has always regulated the president's eavesdropping power into one which places no limits on that eavesdropping power of any kind.

... what is extremely noteworthy — and worth emphasizing — is that arlen specter amended his legislation to include the most extremist provision imaginable (retroactive amnesty for criminal behavior), all in order to please the president's allies on the judiciary committee (led by sen. kyl) — who, as always, are marching to the dictates of the white house, which obviously is willing to accept new fisa legislation only if it provides them with immunity from criminal prosecution for their lawbreaking.

but even more notable still is the fact that after engaging in this behavior, specter went on national television and dishonestly denied that he was doing that.... specter was so embarrassed by his amnesty provision once the post revealed it that he simply denied that his legislation contained it even though it so plainly does.

specter's dishonesty aside, these shenanigans reveal what the white house is really after. their senatorial minions are going to support nsa legislation only if it contains full amnesty for the lawbreakers in the administration. the white house will then "reluctantly" agree to a newly revised fisa, and will have full immunity from criminal prosecution. specter will be the primary sponsor of this, and the media will drool over his "maverick" status and suggest that it's unreasonable to argue that specter is acting as the obedient white house shill that he always, in the end, becomes. if even the independent, rule-of-law-loving specter advocates amensty, then doesn't that show that it's reasonable?

the white house insists that it has clear legal authority for warrantless eavesdropping, so why are retroactive amendments to fisa's criminal provisions necessary at all? and if we stand by and allow the republicans in congress to legislatively exonerate the president and his aides from breaking the law, it is hard to imagine what we won't stand by and tolerate. if the president can break the law and then use his party's control over the congress to grant him legislative immunity from the consequences of his criminal behavior, no hyperbole is required to say that the rule of law exists only as an illusion.

Monday, June 12, 2006

the joke is on us

from the daily papers juan cole brings us a taste of mideast humor. who knew the iranians were so damn funny?

[an official inside president mahmoud ahmadinejad's circle] joked that there was not [sic] need for the us to invade iran. he said that the us had invaded afghanistan and established an islamic republic there. then it had done the same thing in iraq. since iran has had an islamic republic for 27 years, he said, there really isn't a point in a us invasion.

Saturday, June 10, 2006

the not ready for prime time players

it's saturday night, so let's tune into the not-ready-for-prime-time players. but it's not the cast of nbc's saturday night live we'll be watching, though this season's replacements from washington d.c. — that tragicomic capital of calumny and calamity — should prove as entertaining as the originals, if nothing else. we should by now be used to nothing else.

as i forewarned in my post "elegy", the constitutional crisis facing the country can only be resolved by congress' resumption of its responsibilities to both its constituents and itself as a concrete bulwark against any encroachment on its powers and duties by either of the other two branches of government — in these circumstances, the encroachments of the bush administration against the nation's time-tested system of checks and balances.

as glenn greenwald argues with his characteristic clarity — and frustration — in his post "a new low — the senate seeks to 'pardon' the president for past lawbreaking", from which i excerpt liberally, the 109th congress, especially as represented by senate intelligence committee chair arlen specter, is not quite ready for prime time:

observing and commenting on the behavior of arlen specter is one of the most unpleasant obligations a person can have, but for anyone following the nsa eavesdropping scandal specifically, and the bush administration's abuses of executive power generally, it is a necessary evil. the principal reason that the bush administration has been able to impose its radical theories of lawbreaking on the country is because congress, with an unseemly eagerness, has permitted itself to be humiliated over and over by an administration which does not hide its contempt for the notion that congress has any role to play in limiting and checking the executive branch. and few people have more vividly illustrated that institutional debasement than arlen specter, who, along with pat roberts, has done more than anyone else to ensure that congress completely relinquishes its constitutional powers to the president.

congressional abdication is so uniquely damaging because the founders assumed that congress would naturally and instinctively resist encroachments by the executive, and the resulting institutional tension — the inevitable struggle for power between the branches — is what would preserve governmental balance and prevent true abuses of power. but for the last five years, congress has done the opposite of what the founders envisioned. they have meekly submitted to the almost total elimination of their role in our government and have quietly accepted consolidation of their powers in the president.

if the congress is unmoved by their constitutional responsibilities, then at least basic human dignity ought to compel them to object to the administration's contempt for the laws they pass. after all, the laws which the administration claims it can ignore and has been breaking are their laws. the senate passed fisa by a vote of 95-1, and the mccain torture ban by a vote of 90-9, and it is those laws which the president is proclaiming he will simply ignore. and yet not only have they not objected, they have endorsed and even celebrated the president's claimed power to ignore the laws passed by congress. and that failure, more than anything else, is what has brought us to the real constitutional crisis we face as a result of having a president who claims the power to operate outside of, and above, the law.

a bill proposed yesterday by arlen specter to resolve the nsa scandal — literally his fifth or sixth proposed bill on this subject in the last few months — would drag the congress to a new low of debasement. according to the washington post, specter has introduced a bill "that would give president bush the option of seeking a warrant from a special court for an electronic surveillance program such as the one being conducted by the national security agency." this proposal is the very opposite of everything specter has saying for the last several months:

specter's approach modifies his earlier position that the nsa eavesdropping program, which targets international telephone calls and e-mails in which one party is suspected of links to terrorists, must be subject to supervision by the secret court set up under the foreign intelligence surveillance act (fisa).
a law which makes it "an option" — rather than a requirement — for the government to obtain a warrant before eavesdropping is about as meaningless of a law as can be imagined.

but that complete change of heart by specter is not even nearly the most corrupt part of his proposed bill. for pure corruption and constitutional abdication, nothing could match this:

another part of the specter bill would grant blanket amnesty to anyone who authorized warrantless surveillance under presidential authority, a provision that seems to ensure that no one would be held criminally liable if the current program is found illegal under present law.
the idea that the president's allies in congress would enact legislation which expressly shields government officials, including the president, from criminal liability for past lawbreaking is so reprehensible that it is difficult to describe.

... what makes this proposed amnesty so particularly indefensible is that specter himself has spent the last two months loudly complaining about the fact that he — along with the rest of the country — has been denied any information about how this illegal, secret eavesdropping has been conducted. has that power been abused? has it been exercised for political, rather than national security, reasons? before one even considers shielding those responsible for this lawbreaking from liability, wouldn't one have to at least know the answer to those questions?

... specter receives substantial criticism because of the flamboyant way in which he engages in what can only be described as sado-masochistic rituals with the administration. he pretends to exercise independence only to get beaten into extreme submission, and then returns eagerly for more. it is as unpleasant to watch as it is damaging to our country. but specter's unique psychological dramas should not obscure the fact that it is the entire congress which has failed in its responsibilities to take a stand against this president's lawbreaking and abuses, and there is plenty of blame to go around in both parties. the reason the president has been allowed to exert precisely the type of unrestrained power which the founders sought, first and foremost, to avoid, is because the congress has allowed him to.


to glenn's further consternation, it looks like the post may have only imagined the heinous amnesty proposal in specter's bill:

before i wrote the post, i searched for the actual text of specter's bill in order to read it myself, but could not find it (specter's website is one of the worst sites for any senator, as it is usually a month or more behind). as a result, my post ... was based upon the post's reporting about specter's bill, rather than my own reading of it.

i have now had a chance to review the actual text of specter's bill and cannot find any basis for the post's claim that it contains an amensty [sic] provision for past violations of the law. ... there is simply nothing in it which supports the post's report.

glenn had good cause to be cautious — this wasn't the first time that the post bungled the reading of the ever-multiplying proposals spawning from the senate intelligence committee:

before i wrote the post on friday, i was very reluctant to post anything about specter's bill in reliance on the report of the washington post. that's because the post previously published a front-page article about another fisa-related bill, this one proposed by sen. michael dewine, which was completely inaccurate about what the bill actually provided — not with regard to minor details of the bill, but with regard to its fundamental provisions.

this is what happened. on march 17, the post published a front-page article by charles babington regarding the proposed legislation introduced by dewine (co-sponsored by sens. snowe, hagel, and graham), which was offered by those senators as the "compromise" solution when the republicans on the senate intelligence committee refused to hold hearings to investigate the nsa warrantless eavesdropping program. the post article falsely depicted this gop bill as vesting oversight power in the congress to stop warrantless eavesdropping, even though the bill provided nothing of the kind.

specifically, the post article claimed — erroneously — that the bill would allow the administration to engage in warrantless eavesdropping only if a newly formed senate intelligence subcommittee approves of the program's renewal every 45 days. in fact, the legislation provided nothing of the sort. it gave no power whatsoever to any senate committee to approve or disapprove of warrantless eavesdropping. contrary to the post's front-page claim, that legislation would have vested no power whatsoever in the congress (or the courts) to stop the warrantless eavesdropping. it merely required that the administration "brief" the subcommittee, but the subcommittee (along with everyone else) would be completely powerless under that bill to stop the administration from engaging in warrantless eavesdropping.

on that day, i first read the post article about this proposed legislation, but then found the legislation itself and read it. it was very clear that the post was simply wrong in what it told its readers on its front page about this significant legislation — wrong about the legislation's fundamentals.

Thursday, June 08, 2006

what if they had a war and nobody came?

it looks like recruitment woes are plaguing even plum keyboard commando deployments such as the catered and festooned tour-of-duty billed as "the battle for american values" — even with tough-as-nails front-line desk veteran bill o'reilly leading the charge:

the thomas more law center's "the battle for american values" cruise with bill o'reilly has been canceled.

an automated message at corporate travel service, inc. didn't try to hide the fact that there was little interest in spending eight nights on boat with fox news channel's top personality:

"hello and thank you for your interest in the thomas more law center cruise with bill o'reilly. unfortunately, the cruise did not have the participation that all parties anticipated. although the guest appearance by mr. o'reilly and the other speakers have been canceled, the ship will still sail ..."
corporate travel service told sweet jesus, i hate bill o'reilly, intl. that the goal was to get 800 people onboard for a caribbean fantasy week with o'reilly. even though the cruise was promoted heavily on the o'reilly factor television program, the radio factor, and o'reilly's web site, they sold only a fraction of the tickets available.

according to the thomas more law center, the response was surprisingly poor. the organization ultimately renegotiated with holland america cruise line in an attempt to pare down the expected guest list but maintain the event as scheduled. sales continued to trickle in and finally, after two more negotiations with holland america to reduce the group size, the event was finally scrapped.

sadly, "the battle for american values" will be hard for mr. o'reilly to win if he can't manage to launch a single ship.

(report courtesy of sweet jesus, i hate bill o'reilly, international)

Sunday, June 04, 2006

dead lines

uh-oh, looks like tom friedman's finally had enough:

... a national unity government can only be the product of iraq's leaders deciding whether they love their kids more than they hate each other. that is the most important question iraqis must answer. it can't be avoided any longer. that being the case, it is time for america to starting talking "deadlines." too many iraqi factions think they can just keep wrestling each other for small advantage while the country burns, but the u.s. army provides a floor of security that prevents total chaos. the iraqi parties need to know that we are not going to be played this way forever....

now you're talking, tom! nothing like a good old-fashioned deadline to whip some badly needed discipline and drive into the stubborn laggards! so — how does six months sound to you? perfect! i thought you'd agree.

on second thought, why wait when we can just send in presidential hopeful john mccain?

in a small, mirror-paneled room guarded by a secret service agent and packed with some of the city’s wealthiest and most influential political donors, mr. mccain got right to the point.

"one of the things i would do if i were president would be to sit the shiites and the sunnis down and say, 'stop the bullshit,'" said mr. mccain, according to shirley cloyes dioguardi, an invitee, and two other guests.

can we get this guy on a plane out there tonight?