Commentary Magazine


Topic: Senate Intelligence Committee

Way to Go, Senator Feinstein!

Dennis Blair “resigned” — that is to say, was shoved overboard, finally. As the Wall Street Journal report points out, the shoving is long overdue:

From the outset, Mr. Blair, 63 years old, a retired U.S. Navy admiral, proved to be an uneasy fit for the job. He made a series of decisions and statements that angered the White House—from a controversial appointment for the nation’s top intelligence analyst to recent statements that a new terrorist interrogation team should have questioned the alleged Christmas Day bomber.

Yes, that appointment was Chas Freeman, who “immediately drew fire from critics who said he was too close to the Saudi Arabian and Chinese governments. After that public-relations debacle, Mr. Blair maintained a much lower profile, speaking infrequently in public.” And that was some time ago, yet Obama continued to entrust our entire national-security apparatus to a man who wasn’t allowed to speak in public.

So what was the final straw? As Politico notes:

Word of Blair’s departure comes just two days after the release of a harshly-critical Senate report which identified 14 failures that preceded the Christmas Day incident in which Nigerian Omar Abdulmutallab allegedly attempted to bring down a U.S. airliner outside Detroit. The report put particular blame for the failure to head off the attack on a coordination unit that is part of Blair’s office, the National Counterterrorism Center.

Maybe it’s just a coincidence, but it’s nice to know that when clear-eyed lawmakers (e.g., the Senate Intelligence Committee, the GOP senators blocking the nomination of  Obama’s ambassador to Syria) act with resolve, the White House can be forced to retreat. (Let’s hope John Brennan – who comes up with loony ideas like engaging Hezbollah and now refers to the eternal capital of the Jewish state as “Al Quds, Jerusalem” – isn’t the replacement.)  But someone should ask the president: given the two near-miss terror attacks, do you regret not canning Blair earlier?

As for Feinstein, could she now do a report on the Justice Department? (At 36 percent, Eric Holder has the lowest approval of anyone in the administration, so maybe the White House would welcome an excuse to shove him overboard as well.) Then State? And while she’s at it, could she do an assessment of the phony UN sanctions?

Dennis Blair “resigned” — that is to say, was shoved overboard, finally. As the Wall Street Journal report points out, the shoving is long overdue:

From the outset, Mr. Blair, 63 years old, a retired U.S. Navy admiral, proved to be an uneasy fit for the job. He made a series of decisions and statements that angered the White House—from a controversial appointment for the nation’s top intelligence analyst to recent statements that a new terrorist interrogation team should have questioned the alleged Christmas Day bomber.

Yes, that appointment was Chas Freeman, who “immediately drew fire from critics who said he was too close to the Saudi Arabian and Chinese governments. After that public-relations debacle, Mr. Blair maintained a much lower profile, speaking infrequently in public.” And that was some time ago, yet Obama continued to entrust our entire national-security apparatus to a man who wasn’t allowed to speak in public.

So what was the final straw? As Politico notes:

Word of Blair’s departure comes just two days after the release of a harshly-critical Senate report which identified 14 failures that preceded the Christmas Day incident in which Nigerian Omar Abdulmutallab allegedly attempted to bring down a U.S. airliner outside Detroit. The report put particular blame for the failure to head off the attack on a coordination unit that is part of Blair’s office, the National Counterterrorism Center.

Maybe it’s just a coincidence, but it’s nice to know that when clear-eyed lawmakers (e.g., the Senate Intelligence Committee, the GOP senators blocking the nomination of  Obama’s ambassador to Syria) act with resolve, the White House can be forced to retreat. (Let’s hope John Brennan – who comes up with loony ideas like engaging Hezbollah and now refers to the eternal capital of the Jewish state as “Al Quds, Jerusalem” – isn’t the replacement.)  But someone should ask the president: given the two near-miss terror attacks, do you regret not canning Blair earlier?

As for Feinstein, could she now do a report on the Justice Department? (At 36 percent, Eric Holder has the lowest approval of anyone in the administration, so maybe the White House would welcome an excuse to shove him overboard as well.) Then State? And while she’s at it, could she do an assessment of the phony UN sanctions?

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The Senate Intelligence Committee: The System Sure Didn’t Work

The Senate Select Committee on Intelligence put out a 55-page report finding 14 significant intelligence failings in connection with the Christmas Day bombing plot. These included problems with the terrorist watch list (which also bedeviled officials in connection with the Times Square bombing scheme), failure to revoke Abdulmutallab’s visa, failure to collect and disseminate intelligence, and failure to analyze intelligence. (“Analysts across the Intelligence Community were primarily focused on threats to U.S. interests in Yemen posed by al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula [AQAP], rather than on potential AQAP threats to the U.S. Homeland.”) The chairman and ranking member were blunt in a statement:

“The attempted Christmas Day attack was marked by several intelligence failures,” Senator Feinstein said. “It’s vital that reforms be made quickly to prevent future attacks by al-Qaeda, its affiliates and other terrorist groups. The Christmas Day attempt and the recent attempted bombing in Times Square show that we are targets, and we must stay one step ahead of the terrorists.”

“Unfortunately, there is no longer any doubt that major intelligence failures allowed the Christmas Day bomber to almost turn our airplanes into deadly weapons once again,” said Senator Bond.  “We cannot depend on dumb luck, incompetent terrorists, and alert citizens to keep our families safe. It is critical we make changes to prevent these types of intelligence failures in the future.”

Obama, who supposedly oversees the most transparent administration in history, ordered no such review and report from the executive branch and, of course, fired no one after the incident. The Senate Committee should be commended for doing what the Obama team did not and for refusing to hide the administration’s incompetence. Let’s hope the committee keeps up the good work.

The Senate Select Committee on Intelligence put out a 55-page report finding 14 significant intelligence failings in connection with the Christmas Day bombing plot. These included problems with the terrorist watch list (which also bedeviled officials in connection with the Times Square bombing scheme), failure to revoke Abdulmutallab’s visa, failure to collect and disseminate intelligence, and failure to analyze intelligence. (“Analysts across the Intelligence Community were primarily focused on threats to U.S. interests in Yemen posed by al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula [AQAP], rather than on potential AQAP threats to the U.S. Homeland.”) The chairman and ranking member were blunt in a statement:

“The attempted Christmas Day attack was marked by several intelligence failures,” Senator Feinstein said. “It’s vital that reforms be made quickly to prevent future attacks by al-Qaeda, its affiliates and other terrorist groups. The Christmas Day attempt and the recent attempted bombing in Times Square show that we are targets, and we must stay one step ahead of the terrorists.”

“Unfortunately, there is no longer any doubt that major intelligence failures allowed the Christmas Day bomber to almost turn our airplanes into deadly weapons once again,” said Senator Bond.  “We cannot depend on dumb luck, incompetent terrorists, and alert citizens to keep our families safe. It is critical we make changes to prevent these types of intelligence failures in the future.”

Obama, who supposedly oversees the most transparent administration in history, ordered no such review and report from the executive branch and, of course, fired no one after the incident. The Senate Committee should be commended for doing what the Obama team did not and for refusing to hide the administration’s incompetence. Let’s hope the committee keeps up the good work.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

Shahzad wasn’t the only crazed real-estate victim, you know. A sample: “The sack of Rome, in A.D. 476, was ordered by a barbarian named Odoacer, who had squandered the inheritance left him by his grandfather Attila on a Helvetian buy-leaseback garrison conversion deal brokered by a cabal of shady Brigantes. And the assassination of Julius Caesar was almost certainly triggered by Brutus’s getting scammed on a Transalpine Gaul timeshare deal by Marc Antony.” Read the whole hilarious piece.

Check out the best theoretical Newsweek cover lines: “The Jesus Twitter: How Social Networking Can Save Your Family (and your soul).”

The most succinct explanation of Democrats’ woes, from Charlie Cook: “The catch is they wanted to do the wrong things.”

What did we learn this week? “We’ve heard a lot about the enthusiasm gap between GOP and Dem voters. But turnout from all three primaries this week shows Dems really do have something to worry about — it’s hard to explain a dropoff in turnout virtually across the board, even amid competitive primaries. The DNC is about to spend $30M to get their voters to the polls; it’s no stretch to say the party’s entire hopes rest on that program’s success.”

It seems as though Democrats don’t like him that much either: Arlen Specter drops behind Joe Sestak in the latest Pennsylvania Senate primary poll.

The “most transparent administration in history“? — “The top GOP member of the Senate Intelligence Committee blasted Attorney General Eric Holder on Saturday for having allegedly refused to brief senators on last weekend’s attempted Times Square bombing. Sen. Kit Bond (R-Mo.), the ranking member of the intelligence panel, accused Holder of obstructing congressional inquiries into the attempted attack. ‘It seems Attorney General Holder is only interested in looking tough on terrorism on TV since he’s now told the intelligence community to skirt the national-security law and give only the details he wants and when to Congress,’ Bond said Saturday.”

As America recedes, Iran and Syria assert themselves in the Middle East: “President Michel Suleiman said Saturday that Lebanon ‘cannot and must not’ tell Hezbollah to disarm before reaching a deal on a defense strategy that would also address any future Israeli attacks. Israeli officials are concerned with Hezbollah’s recent armament. Head of the Military Intelligence’s (MI) research department Brig.-Gen. Yossi Baidatz said on Tuesday that ‘weapons are transferred to Hezbollah on a regular basis and this transfer is organized by the Syrian and Iranian regimes.’”

Tom Campbell sounds as though he’s using Charlie Crist’s playbook: “Former Republican Rep. Tom Campbell, taking criticism in the California Senate primary for his socially liberal positions, is making the case that his unorthodox issue profile makes him the strongest candidate to take on Democratic Sen. Barbara Boxer this fall. Campbell supports abortion rights and gay marriage, and argues that Boxer’s greatest asset against either of his two Republican opponents, former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina and state Assemblyman Chuck DeVore, would be the state’s decidedly un-conservative social views.” But it has never really worked for him in two failed Senate runs: “‘Tom Campbell has made this argument during both of his previous candidacies for the U.S. Senate and guess what the outcome was,’ Fiorina spokeswoman Julie Soderlund said. ‘He lost. And in 2000, he lost big.’”

Shahzad wasn’t the only crazed real-estate victim, you know. A sample: “The sack of Rome, in A.D. 476, was ordered by a barbarian named Odoacer, who had squandered the inheritance left him by his grandfather Attila on a Helvetian buy-leaseback garrison conversion deal brokered by a cabal of shady Brigantes. And the assassination of Julius Caesar was almost certainly triggered by Brutus’s getting scammed on a Transalpine Gaul timeshare deal by Marc Antony.” Read the whole hilarious piece.

Check out the best theoretical Newsweek cover lines: “The Jesus Twitter: How Social Networking Can Save Your Family (and your soul).”

The most succinct explanation of Democrats’ woes, from Charlie Cook: “The catch is they wanted to do the wrong things.”

What did we learn this week? “We’ve heard a lot about the enthusiasm gap between GOP and Dem voters. But turnout from all three primaries this week shows Dems really do have something to worry about — it’s hard to explain a dropoff in turnout virtually across the board, even amid competitive primaries. The DNC is about to spend $30M to get their voters to the polls; it’s no stretch to say the party’s entire hopes rest on that program’s success.”

It seems as though Democrats don’t like him that much either: Arlen Specter drops behind Joe Sestak in the latest Pennsylvania Senate primary poll.

The “most transparent administration in history“? — “The top GOP member of the Senate Intelligence Committee blasted Attorney General Eric Holder on Saturday for having allegedly refused to brief senators on last weekend’s attempted Times Square bombing. Sen. Kit Bond (R-Mo.), the ranking member of the intelligence panel, accused Holder of obstructing congressional inquiries into the attempted attack. ‘It seems Attorney General Holder is only interested in looking tough on terrorism on TV since he’s now told the intelligence community to skirt the national-security law and give only the details he wants and when to Congress,’ Bond said Saturday.”

As America recedes, Iran and Syria assert themselves in the Middle East: “President Michel Suleiman said Saturday that Lebanon ‘cannot and must not’ tell Hezbollah to disarm before reaching a deal on a defense strategy that would also address any future Israeli attacks. Israeli officials are concerned with Hezbollah’s recent armament. Head of the Military Intelligence’s (MI) research department Brig.-Gen. Yossi Baidatz said on Tuesday that ‘weapons are transferred to Hezbollah on a regular basis and this transfer is organized by the Syrian and Iranian regimes.’”

Tom Campbell sounds as though he’s using Charlie Crist’s playbook: “Former Republican Rep. Tom Campbell, taking criticism in the California Senate primary for his socially liberal positions, is making the case that his unorthodox issue profile makes him the strongest candidate to take on Democratic Sen. Barbara Boxer this fall. Campbell supports abortion rights and gay marriage, and argues that Boxer’s greatest asset against either of his two Republican opponents, former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina and state Assemblyman Chuck DeVore, would be the state’s decidedly un-conservative social views.” But it has never really worked for him in two failed Senate runs: “‘Tom Campbell has made this argument during both of his previous candidacies for the U.S. Senate and guess what the outcome was,’ Fiorina spokeswoman Julie Soderlund said. ‘He lost. And in 2000, he lost big.’”

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Blindness to the Real Syrian Problem

Cliff May wonders whether Dianne Feinstein is dumb or just pretending to be. Feinstein on the shipment of missiles to Hezbollah and the potential for war, pronounces: “There’s only one thing that’s going to solve it, and that’s a two-state solution.” Thunk. As May observes, is it really possible that the “chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee, believes that Hezbollah, Iran, and Syria would be satisfied with a two-state solution — assuming that one of those states is Israel”? Well, to be honest, that is not far removed from the claptrap we hear from the administration, which has reduced every issue to a pretext for “focusing” (haven’t we focused for decades?) on the non-existent peace process.

For a saner take on what is really at issue in Syria, read Lee Smith’s compelling piece on the SCUDs and what the administration is doing about that situation. The contrast to the prior administration is stark:

This past week was a bad one for those eager to reach out to Syria. It was reported that Damascus is believed to have transferred to Hezbollah Scud missiles that would be able to reach any part of Israel. “The threat that Syria might transfer more advanced weapons to Hezbollah has existed for a long time,” says Elliott Abrams, who oversaw Middle East affairs in the George W. Bush White House and is now a fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations. “With respect to Scuds, it has been understood the Israelis would interdict such a shipment. I do not recall the Bush Administration ever expressing disagreement with that view.”

The Obama Administration seems to feel differently. Initial reports explained that the White House convinced the Israelis not to attack the arms shipment and promised that Kerry would deliver a strong message to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad during his visit to Damascus early this month. U.S. officials confirmed Kerry did indeed convey the Americans’ displeasure even as more recent reports suggest that the Obama Administration now believes that the actual transfer may not have occurred.

As Smith notes, the great danger here is that Syria and its senior partner Iran will once again perceive American weakness if we don’t respond (with something more meaningful than a tongue-lashing for the Syrian minister) to this latest act of aggression. (“If we let Syria off the hook for its proven acts of terror against U.S. military and diplomatic personnel, as well as U.S. allies in Israel, Lebanon, and Iraq, we have all but announced that in the event of future attacks on the U.S. homeland we will never retaliate against the states without which so-called stateless terrorist organizations cannot exist. We will have effectively disabled any deterrence we have against our adversaries and made our cities vulnerable to anyone who can lie his way past the Transportation Security Administration.”) But we should not be reassured that it is John Kerry delivering the message to Damascus, Smith says. He — and his wife, we learn — have a soft spot for Bashar al-Assad.

So Feinstein is not alone in her silliness. Unfortunately, the president and those carrying out his foreign policy are equally confused.

Cliff May wonders whether Dianne Feinstein is dumb or just pretending to be. Feinstein on the shipment of missiles to Hezbollah and the potential for war, pronounces: “There’s only one thing that’s going to solve it, and that’s a two-state solution.” Thunk. As May observes, is it really possible that the “chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee, believes that Hezbollah, Iran, and Syria would be satisfied with a two-state solution — assuming that one of those states is Israel”? Well, to be honest, that is not far removed from the claptrap we hear from the administration, which has reduced every issue to a pretext for “focusing” (haven’t we focused for decades?) on the non-existent peace process.

For a saner take on what is really at issue in Syria, read Lee Smith’s compelling piece on the SCUDs and what the administration is doing about that situation. The contrast to the prior administration is stark:

This past week was a bad one for those eager to reach out to Syria. It was reported that Damascus is believed to have transferred to Hezbollah Scud missiles that would be able to reach any part of Israel. “The threat that Syria might transfer more advanced weapons to Hezbollah has existed for a long time,” says Elliott Abrams, who oversaw Middle East affairs in the George W. Bush White House and is now a fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations. “With respect to Scuds, it has been understood the Israelis would interdict such a shipment. I do not recall the Bush Administration ever expressing disagreement with that view.”

The Obama Administration seems to feel differently. Initial reports explained that the White House convinced the Israelis not to attack the arms shipment and promised that Kerry would deliver a strong message to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad during his visit to Damascus early this month. U.S. officials confirmed Kerry did indeed convey the Americans’ displeasure even as more recent reports suggest that the Obama Administration now believes that the actual transfer may not have occurred.

As Smith notes, the great danger here is that Syria and its senior partner Iran will once again perceive American weakness if we don’t respond (with something more meaningful than a tongue-lashing for the Syrian minister) to this latest act of aggression. (“If we let Syria off the hook for its proven acts of terror against U.S. military and diplomatic personnel, as well as U.S. allies in Israel, Lebanon, and Iraq, we have all but announced that in the event of future attacks on the U.S. homeland we will never retaliate against the states without which so-called stateless terrorist organizations cannot exist. We will have effectively disabled any deterrence we have against our adversaries and made our cities vulnerable to anyone who can lie his way past the Transportation Security Administration.”) But we should not be reassured that it is John Kerry delivering the message to Damascus, Smith says. He — and his wife, we learn — have a soft spot for Bashar al-Assad.

So Feinstein is not alone in her silliness. Unfortunately, the president and those carrying out his foreign policy are equally confused.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

The latest Rasmussen poll provides a warning for incumbent Democratic lawmakers: “Eighty-three percent (83%) of Americans say the size of the federal budget deficit is due more to the unwillingness of politicians to cut government spending than to the reluctance of taxpayers to pay more in taxes. A new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey shows that just nine percent (9%) of adults put more blame on the unwillingness of taxpayers to pay more in taxes.”

Sen. Ben Nelson may wind up as the only Democrat without a special deal on health care: “With the exception of Nebraska Democratic Sen. Ben Nelson’s ‘Cornhusker Kickback,’ which alienated independent voters and came to symbolize an out-of-touch Washington, none of the other narrow provisions that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid inserted into the bill appear to be in any kind of danger as Democrats try to figure out the way ahead.”  But then ObamaCare isn’t likely to go anywhere, and that will spare Nelson further embarrassment.

I suppose she’s nervous: “Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.) defended her role in the $300 million ‘Louisiana Purchase’ Thursday, saying she attached it to the healthcare bill at Gov. Bobby Jindal’s (R-La.) request and that it was not a condition of her support for the bill. Landrieu used a floor speech, press conference and private e-mails from Jindal to fire back against critics of the $300 million-plus in Medicaid funds that became known as the ‘Louisiana Purchase.’” I think when reporters repeat “Louisiana Purchase” three times in a short news account, Landrieu’s got an uphill battle.

From the Cook Political Report: “Charlie Cook agrees with House Editor David Wasserman’s assessment of a 25-35 seat pickup for the GOP in the House, but sets his personal line for the Senate at a 5-7 seat switch for Republicans. For the first time this cycle, he sees a mathematical, although still highly unlikely possibility, of a ten-seat gain and majority change in the Senate.”

Steven Calabresi: “I think the Tea Party movement is going to be and deserves to be a big factor in the 2010 midterm elections because it rejects both the socialism of the Obama Administration and the Big Government conservatism of many Republican officeholders between 2000 and 2008.”

Obama is down to 46 percent favorable/47 percent unfavorable in the latest Fox News/Opinion Dynamics poll. Voters have an equally favorable view of the Democratic and Republican parties (both 42 percent approval). More people have a favorable opinion of the Tea Party movement (35 percent) than of Nancy Pelosi (24 percent).

Nathan Diament of the Orthodox Union explains one reason why Orthodox Jews dislike Obama so: “In the context of the Orthodox where the majority in the community identify with the settlement movement in Israel, there’s a great deal of tension, let alone opposition, to the president’s efforts last year to push Israel to undertake a settlement freeze.” (h/t Ben Smith)

I don’t think the Obami are going to win this fight: “The ranking Republican on the Senate Intelligence Committee, Sen. Kit Bond, R-Mo., dismissed the White House’s call for him to apologize for alleging that the administration leaked information about Umar Farouk Abdulmutalab for political reasons. ‘After telling me to keep my mouth shut, the White House discloses sensitive information in an effort to defend a dangerous and unpopular decision to Mirandize Abdulmutallab and I’m supposed to apologize?’ Sen. Bond said in a paper statement today.

Oops. Fellas, always check the rap sheet: “On the same day Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn officially claimed the Democratic gubernatorial nomination, he found out that his newly-minted running mate has a rap sheet that includes alleged domestic battery and tax evasion. The revelation has shocked Democrats, leading to worries that his presence could taint the entire statewide ticket.”

The latest Rasmussen poll provides a warning for incumbent Democratic lawmakers: “Eighty-three percent (83%) of Americans say the size of the federal budget deficit is due more to the unwillingness of politicians to cut government spending than to the reluctance of taxpayers to pay more in taxes. A new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey shows that just nine percent (9%) of adults put more blame on the unwillingness of taxpayers to pay more in taxes.”

Sen. Ben Nelson may wind up as the only Democrat without a special deal on health care: “With the exception of Nebraska Democratic Sen. Ben Nelson’s ‘Cornhusker Kickback,’ which alienated independent voters and came to symbolize an out-of-touch Washington, none of the other narrow provisions that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid inserted into the bill appear to be in any kind of danger as Democrats try to figure out the way ahead.”  But then ObamaCare isn’t likely to go anywhere, and that will spare Nelson further embarrassment.

I suppose she’s nervous: “Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.) defended her role in the $300 million ‘Louisiana Purchase’ Thursday, saying she attached it to the healthcare bill at Gov. Bobby Jindal’s (R-La.) request and that it was not a condition of her support for the bill. Landrieu used a floor speech, press conference and private e-mails from Jindal to fire back against critics of the $300 million-plus in Medicaid funds that became known as the ‘Louisiana Purchase.’” I think when reporters repeat “Louisiana Purchase” three times in a short news account, Landrieu’s got an uphill battle.

From the Cook Political Report: “Charlie Cook agrees with House Editor David Wasserman’s assessment of a 25-35 seat pickup for the GOP in the House, but sets his personal line for the Senate at a 5-7 seat switch for Republicans. For the first time this cycle, he sees a mathematical, although still highly unlikely possibility, of a ten-seat gain and majority change in the Senate.”

Steven Calabresi: “I think the Tea Party movement is going to be and deserves to be a big factor in the 2010 midterm elections because it rejects both the socialism of the Obama Administration and the Big Government conservatism of many Republican officeholders between 2000 and 2008.”

Obama is down to 46 percent favorable/47 percent unfavorable in the latest Fox News/Opinion Dynamics poll. Voters have an equally favorable view of the Democratic and Republican parties (both 42 percent approval). More people have a favorable opinion of the Tea Party movement (35 percent) than of Nancy Pelosi (24 percent).

Nathan Diament of the Orthodox Union explains one reason why Orthodox Jews dislike Obama so: “In the context of the Orthodox where the majority in the community identify with the settlement movement in Israel, there’s a great deal of tension, let alone opposition, to the president’s efforts last year to push Israel to undertake a settlement freeze.” (h/t Ben Smith)

I don’t think the Obami are going to win this fight: “The ranking Republican on the Senate Intelligence Committee, Sen. Kit Bond, R-Mo., dismissed the White House’s call for him to apologize for alleging that the administration leaked information about Umar Farouk Abdulmutalab for political reasons. ‘After telling me to keep my mouth shut, the White House discloses sensitive information in an effort to defend a dangerous and unpopular decision to Mirandize Abdulmutallab and I’m supposed to apologize?’ Sen. Bond said in a paper statement today.

Oops. Fellas, always check the rap sheet: “On the same day Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn officially claimed the Democratic gubernatorial nomination, he found out that his newly-minted running mate has a rap sheet that includes alleged domestic battery and tax evasion. The revelation has shocked Democrats, leading to worries that his presence could taint the entire statewide ticket.”

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And This Isn’t a Tribute to Our Legal System

One of the sillier arguments that the Obami have made in favor of a KSM civilian trial is that it will impress others (whom exactly it will impress is less than clear) with the wonders of our judicial system. There are plenty of reasons why this is a perfectly awful argument. For starters, our judicial system is a system of constitutional law and statute — both of which permit military tribunals for trying enemy combatants. So if anything, the Obami insistence on a civilian trial conveys the wrong message — namely, that for the sake of  political posturing the administration can make up rules as they go along.

But there is another important reason to doubt the “wonders of the judicial system” argument. Bill Burck and Dana Perino make the case that the Obami are bollixing up the KSM trial by their understandable but highly prejudicial statements:

Attorney General Holder, the nation’s top law-enforcement officer, has said KSM is guilty and should die. Check. The president has said more or less the same. Check. The entire political leadership of New York has announced that they cannot support trying him in New York City because of the disruption to the city and the sheer danger of holding KSM in downtown Manhattan. Check. The chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee, California Democrat Dianne Feinstein, has disclosed that the threat environment is such that trying KSM in New York City is just too dangerous. Check. The president’s chief spokesperson has said that no matter where KSM is tried, he “is going to meet his maker.” Check. It’s difficult to imagine anyplace in the United States that would not be prejudiced by these types of statements.

So it seems that the our system of criminal justice isn’t well suited and wasn’t designed to try enemy combatants. Turning terrorists over to the courts both harms our national security and sullies the court system, which is properly reserved for ordinary criminals, for whom the presumption of innocence is fundamental and respected by elected officials. In short, civilian trials of terrorists is a terrible idea, unworkable, politically untenable, and harmful to the legal system the Obami pretend to tout.

One of the sillier arguments that the Obami have made in favor of a KSM civilian trial is that it will impress others (whom exactly it will impress is less than clear) with the wonders of our judicial system. There are plenty of reasons why this is a perfectly awful argument. For starters, our judicial system is a system of constitutional law and statute — both of which permit military tribunals for trying enemy combatants. So if anything, the Obami insistence on a civilian trial conveys the wrong message — namely, that for the sake of  political posturing the administration can make up rules as they go along.

But there is another important reason to doubt the “wonders of the judicial system” argument. Bill Burck and Dana Perino make the case that the Obami are bollixing up the KSM trial by their understandable but highly prejudicial statements:

Attorney General Holder, the nation’s top law-enforcement officer, has said KSM is guilty and should die. Check. The president has said more or less the same. Check. The entire political leadership of New York has announced that they cannot support trying him in New York City because of the disruption to the city and the sheer danger of holding KSM in downtown Manhattan. Check. The chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee, California Democrat Dianne Feinstein, has disclosed that the threat environment is such that trying KSM in New York City is just too dangerous. Check. The president’s chief spokesperson has said that no matter where KSM is tried, he “is going to meet his maker.” Check. It’s difficult to imagine anyplace in the United States that would not be prejudiced by these types of statements.

So it seems that the our system of criminal justice isn’t well suited and wasn’t designed to try enemy combatants. Turning terrorists over to the courts both harms our national security and sullies the court system, which is properly reserved for ordinary criminals, for whom the presumption of innocence is fundamental and respected by elected officials. In short, civilian trials of terrorists is a terrible idea, unworkable, politically untenable, and harmful to the legal system the Obami pretend to tout.

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Let’s Just Hire Der Spiegel

The always interesting Claudia Rosett has come up with this year’s best suggestion for President Bush: buy a subscription to Der Spiegel—and get rid of the bureaucracy that produces U.S. National Intelligence Estimates.

As CONTENTIONS readers know, the American intelligence community, in an NIE released last December, stated that it had “high confidence” that Iran shelved its nuclear weapons program in fall 2003. As Director of National Intelligence Michael McConnell testified at the Senate Intelligence Committee this month, weapons design is “the least significant” portion of a nuclear weapons program. The most important is obtaining fissile material. In Iran’s case that would be enriched uranium.

The NIE talked about that issue too. It said that Tehran would probably be able to produce enough uranium for a single bomb sometime “during the 2010-2015 time frame.” Yet not everyone agrees with this view. “New simulations carried out by European Union experts come to an alarming conclusion: Iran could have enough highly enriched uranium to build an atomic bomb by the end of this year,” reports Spiegel Online.

The end-2008 prediction is based on an assumption that Tehran’s technicians have figured out all they need to know about their centrifuges. That appears unlikely. Yet as the International Atomic Energy Agency reported in November, Iran has made substantial progress recently. Even if the European Union has overestimated Iran’s technical capabilities, it would seem that Tehran will be in a position to build a bomb before the end of this decade, not the middle of the next one. That conclusion fits in with Israel’s estimate of 2010.

In any event, the EU simulations inject some urgency into the efforts to disarm the mullahs. European Union nations are planning in May at the earliest to offer a package of economic incentives to Iran if it gives up enrichment. The United States for its part looks as if it will succeed in persuading a sufficient number of other members of the Security Council to pass a third set of sanctions. Yet nobody expects the new measures, if they are in fact adopted, will actually stop the Iranians. As President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said on Saturday about the Western efforts at the U.N., “They could spend 100 years passing resolutions but it wouldn’t change anything.

What is changing at this moment is Iran’s technical capability to enrich uranium. Yet, outside Israel and the offices of Der Spiegel, there seems to be an insufficient sense of urgency in stopping Tehran.

The always interesting Claudia Rosett has come up with this year’s best suggestion for President Bush: buy a subscription to Der Spiegel—and get rid of the bureaucracy that produces U.S. National Intelligence Estimates.

As CONTENTIONS readers know, the American intelligence community, in an NIE released last December, stated that it had “high confidence” that Iran shelved its nuclear weapons program in fall 2003. As Director of National Intelligence Michael McConnell testified at the Senate Intelligence Committee this month, weapons design is “the least significant” portion of a nuclear weapons program. The most important is obtaining fissile material. In Iran’s case that would be enriched uranium.

The NIE talked about that issue too. It said that Tehran would probably be able to produce enough uranium for a single bomb sometime “during the 2010-2015 time frame.” Yet not everyone agrees with this view. “New simulations carried out by European Union experts come to an alarming conclusion: Iran could have enough highly enriched uranium to build an atomic bomb by the end of this year,” reports Spiegel Online.

The end-2008 prediction is based on an assumption that Tehran’s technicians have figured out all they need to know about their centrifuges. That appears unlikely. Yet as the International Atomic Energy Agency reported in November, Iran has made substantial progress recently. Even if the European Union has overestimated Iran’s technical capabilities, it would seem that Tehran will be in a position to build a bomb before the end of this decade, not the middle of the next one. That conclusion fits in with Israel’s estimate of 2010.

In any event, the EU simulations inject some urgency into the efforts to disarm the mullahs. European Union nations are planning in May at the earliest to offer a package of economic incentives to Iran if it gives up enrichment. The United States for its part looks as if it will succeed in persuading a sufficient number of other members of the Security Council to pass a third set of sanctions. Yet nobody expects the new measures, if they are in fact adopted, will actually stop the Iranians. As President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said on Saturday about the Western efforts at the U.N., “They could spend 100 years passing resolutions but it wouldn’t change anything.

What is changing at this moment is Iran’s technical capability to enrich uranium. Yet, outside Israel and the offices of Der Spiegel, there seems to be an insufficient sense of urgency in stopping Tehran.

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Off With Libby’s Head?

When he is sentenced this coming Tuesday, Scooter Libby may be sent directly to jail. If so, this would be grossly unfair since he stands an excellent chance of having the verdict against him overturned on appeal. But it would also be the moment for President Bush to pardon him immediately.

Back in March, when he was convicted of perjury and obstruction of justice by a jury in federal court in Washington D.C., I explained why I thought the case “represents a terrible injustice.” The federal prosecutor, Patrick Fitzgerald, had insisted to both the public and the jury that the disclosure of the identity of the CIA operative Valerie Plame—which was the underlying action he had been appointed to investigate—was in fact a crime. But this was a point that had never been established or even formally alleged. Fitzgerald’s overreaching on this colored the jury’s thinking about the gravity of the issues at stake, suggested a motive for Libby to lie that did not reside in proved facts, and conflicted with the judge’s ruling that the case would not hinge on Plame’s status.

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When he is sentenced this coming Tuesday, Scooter Libby may be sent directly to jail. If so, this would be grossly unfair since he stands an excellent chance of having the verdict against him overturned on appeal. But it would also be the moment for President Bush to pardon him immediately.

Back in March, when he was convicted of perjury and obstruction of justice by a jury in federal court in Washington D.C., I explained why I thought the case “represents a terrible injustice.” The federal prosecutor, Patrick Fitzgerald, had insisted to both the public and the jury that the disclosure of the identity of the CIA operative Valerie Plame—which was the underlying action he had been appointed to investigate—was in fact a crime. But this was a point that had never been established or even formally alleged. Fitzgerald’s overreaching on this colored the jury’s thinking about the gravity of the issues at stake, suggested a motive for Libby to lie that did not reside in proved facts, and conflicted with the judge’s ruling that the case would not hinge on Plame’s status.

Now Fitzgerald has been back in court, arguing that when Libby is sentenced on Tuesday, the judge should throw the book at him precisely on the grounds that he committed the underlying crime-that-was-not-a-crime. Fitzgerald approvingly cites Judge David S. Tatel’s ruling in the Judith Miller case that “because the charges contemplated here relate to false denials of responsibility for Plame’s exposure, prosecuting perjury or false statements would be tantamount to punishing the leak.”

But this a vicious circle. Convicted on the basis of something that was never proved or even formally alleged, is Libby now to be punished on the same basis? With Fitzgerald continuing to overreach, the case for a presidential pardon is growing stronger by the day. If Libby is imprisoned, will Bush do the right thing?

Meanwhile, in closely related news, Senator Kit Bond of Missouri, the vice chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, wants Valerie Plame to be re-interviewed. Back in March, in a dispatch entitled Lying Liars and Their Lies, I asked whether Plame was under oath when she testified before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee and declared that she played no role in sending her husband, Ambassador Joseph Wilson, on a fact-finding trip to Niger. “I did not recommend him. I did not suggest him. There was no nepotism involved. I did not have the authority,” she said.

Plame was under oath, and Senator Bond has pointed out that she has put out three separate versions of the circumstances under which her husband was sent to Niger. According to USA Today‘s summary, they are:

*She told the CIA’s inspector general in 2003 or 2004 that she had suggested Wilson.

*Plame told Senate Intelligence Committee staffers in 2004 that she couldn’t remember whether she had suggested Wilson.

*She told the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee in March that an unidentified person in Vice President Cheney’s office asked a CIA colleague about the African uranium report in February 2002. A third officer, overhearing Plame and the colleague discussing this, suggested, “Well, why don’t we send Joe?” Plame told the committee.

Which of these is the real story? Is Plame telling three versions of the truth, or is she a lying liar, or even worse, a perjuring perjurer? Bond would like to find out.

But the Intelligence Committee is now under the control of the Democrats who have no interest in calling attention to the antics of the Plame-Wilson provocateurs. Stay tuned, in other words, for the cover-up of the cover-up.  

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Lying Liars and Their Lies

Was Valerie Plame under oath today when she testified before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee and declared that she played no role in sending her husband, Ambassador Joseph Wilson, on a fact-finding trip to Niger? “I did not recommend him. I did not suggest him. There was no nepotism involved. I did not have the authority,” she said.

Does this contradict an exhaustive Senate Intelligence Committee report on pre-war intelligence about Iraq, which looked closely at the genesis of the Wilson visit?

The report, issued in 2004, notes that some officials at the Counterproliferation Division (CPD) of the CIA “could not recall how the office decided to contact the former ambassador [Wilson].” But it states unequivocally that “interviews and documents provided to the committee indicate that his wife, a CPD employee, suggested his name for the trip.” In particular, the CPD reports-officer told the Senate committee “that the former ambassador’s wife ‘offered up his name.’”

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Was Valerie Plame under oath today when she testified before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee and declared that she played no role in sending her husband, Ambassador Joseph Wilson, on a fact-finding trip to Niger? “I did not recommend him. I did not suggest him. There was no nepotism involved. I did not have the authority,” she said.

Does this contradict an exhaustive Senate Intelligence Committee report on pre-war intelligence about Iraq, which looked closely at the genesis of the Wilson visit?

The report, issued in 2004, notes that some officials at the Counterproliferation Division (CPD) of the CIA “could not recall how the office decided to contact the former ambassador [Wilson].” But it states unequivocally that “interviews and documents provided to the committee indicate that his wife, a CPD employee, suggested his name for the trip.” In particular, the CPD reports-officer told the Senate committee “that the former ambassador’s wife ‘offered up his name.’”

What’s more, the Senate committee obtained a memorandum addressed to the deputy chief of the CPD from Plame herself, in which she wrote: “my husband has good relations with both the PM [prime minister] and the former Minister of Mines (not to mention lots of French contacts), both of whom could possibly shed light” on Iraqi uranium purchases. The Senate report goes on to say that Plame also approached her husband “on behalf of the CIA and told him ‘there’s this crazy report’ on a purported deal for Niger to sell uranium to Iraq.”

An additional sidelight: the Senate committee also notes that Wilson had previously traveled to Niger on a CIA mission in 1999. He had been selected for that trip “after his wife mentioned to her supervisors that her husband was planning a business trip to Niger in the near future.”

Did Plame lie to the House committee today, or does that question hinge on the meaning of the word “recommend,” or the meaning of the word “suggest,” or the meaning of the words “did not”?

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It’s a Lemann

The Scooter Libby case is very complicated. Nicholas Lemann, the dean of the Columbia University School of Journalism, has now offered a brief account of its origins in the New Yorker that makes it even more so.

Lemann explains that during the run-up to the second Gulf war, the White House, in the grip of an “obsession with finding hard evidence for what it already believes,” came up dry in its search for weapons of mass destruction in Iraq and thereafter “the search had to be conducted with a little more creativity.” Toward that end, writes Lemann,

the White House dispatched former Ambassador Joseph Wilson to Niger, in February of 2002, to find proof that the country had shipped yellowcake uranium to Iraq. Wilson not only came up empty-handed; he said so publicly, in a Times op-ed piece that he published five months later. The administration then went on another search for evidence—the kind that could be used to discredit Wilson—and began disseminating it, off the record, to a few trusted reporters.

The origins of Wilson’s trips to Niger were examined exhaustively in 2004 by the Senate Intelligence Committee in its report on the “U.S. Intelligence Community’s Prewar Intelligence Assessments on Iraq.” Although parts of the report remain classified, the unclassified sections are quite plain. They state that interviews and documents provided to the Committee by officials of the CIA’s Counterproliferation Division (CPD)

indicate that [Wilson’s] wife, a CPD employee, suggested his name for the trip. The CPD reports officer told Committee staff that the former ambassador’s wife “offered up his name” and a memorandum to the Deputy Chief of the CPD on February 12, 2002, from the former ambassador’s wife says, “my husband has good relations with both the PM [prime minister] and the former Minister of Mines (not to mention lots of French contacts), both of whom could possibly shed light on this sort of activity.” This was just one day before CPD sent a cable [DELETED] requesting concurrence with CPD’s idea to send the former ambassador to Niger. . .The former ambassador’s wife told Committee staff that when CPD decided it would like to send the former ambassador to Niger, she approached her husband on behalf of the CIA.”

The report goes on to make clear that the White House was completely in the dark about the CIA plan. At no point did it intervene to send Wilson anywhere or even have knowledge that a mission to Niger by the former ambassador was under way. Even Patrick Fitzgerald’s indictment of Libby confirms this, stating unequivocally that “the CIA decided on its own initiative to send Wilson to the country of Niger to investigate allegations involving Iraqi efforts to acquire uranium yellowcake.”

Lemann concludes that the “problem with the Bush administration is not that it is uninterested in hard facts” but resides rather in “the way in which the administration goes about marshalling those facts.”

But what exactly are the facts and with what kind of care, to turn things around, has Lemann himself marshaled them? It will be a most interesting twist if Lemann, or the New Yorker’s highly vaunted fact checkers, have information contradicting the Senate report and Fitzgerald’s indictment on this central point. My bet is that they do not. Rather, in striving to demonstrate that the Bush administration was in the grip of an “obsession” about weapons of mass destruction, they appear to be in the grip of an obsession of their own. Pursuing it evidently demands a bit of “creativity.”

To contribute to the considerable costs of defending Scooter Libby, send a check to:

Libby Legal Defense Trust
2100 M Street, NW Suite 170-362
Washington, DC 20037-1233 

To contribute to the even more considerable costs of running the Columbia University School of Journalism, send a check to:

The Columbia University School of Journalism
2950 Broadway
New York, NY 10027 

 

The Scooter Libby case is very complicated. Nicholas Lemann, the dean of the Columbia University School of Journalism, has now offered a brief account of its origins in the New Yorker that makes it even more so.

Lemann explains that during the run-up to the second Gulf war, the White House, in the grip of an “obsession with finding hard evidence for what it already believes,” came up dry in its search for weapons of mass destruction in Iraq and thereafter “the search had to be conducted with a little more creativity.” Toward that end, writes Lemann,

the White House dispatched former Ambassador Joseph Wilson to Niger, in February of 2002, to find proof that the country had shipped yellowcake uranium to Iraq. Wilson not only came up empty-handed; he said so publicly, in a Times op-ed piece that he published five months later. The administration then went on another search for evidence—the kind that could be used to discredit Wilson—and began disseminating it, off the record, to a few trusted reporters.

The origins of Wilson’s trips to Niger were examined exhaustively in 2004 by the Senate Intelligence Committee in its report on the “U.S. Intelligence Community’s Prewar Intelligence Assessments on Iraq.” Although parts of the report remain classified, the unclassified sections are quite plain. They state that interviews and documents provided to the Committee by officials of the CIA’s Counterproliferation Division (CPD)

indicate that [Wilson’s] wife, a CPD employee, suggested his name for the trip. The CPD reports officer told Committee staff that the former ambassador’s wife “offered up his name” and a memorandum to the Deputy Chief of the CPD on February 12, 2002, from the former ambassador’s wife says, “my husband has good relations with both the PM [prime minister] and the former Minister of Mines (not to mention lots of French contacts), both of whom could possibly shed light on this sort of activity.” This was just one day before CPD sent a cable [DELETED] requesting concurrence with CPD’s idea to send the former ambassador to Niger. . .The former ambassador’s wife told Committee staff that when CPD decided it would like to send the former ambassador to Niger, she approached her husband on behalf of the CIA.”

The report goes on to make clear that the White House was completely in the dark about the CIA plan. At no point did it intervene to send Wilson anywhere or even have knowledge that a mission to Niger by the former ambassador was under way. Even Patrick Fitzgerald’s indictment of Libby confirms this, stating unequivocally that “the CIA decided on its own initiative to send Wilson to the country of Niger to investigate allegations involving Iraqi efforts to acquire uranium yellowcake.”

Lemann concludes that the “problem with the Bush administration is not that it is uninterested in hard facts” but resides rather in “the way in which the administration goes about marshalling those facts.”

But what exactly are the facts and with what kind of care, to turn things around, has Lemann himself marshaled them? It will be a most interesting twist if Lemann, or the New Yorker’s highly vaunted fact checkers, have information contradicting the Senate report and Fitzgerald’s indictment on this central point. My bet is that they do not. Rather, in striving to demonstrate that the Bush administration was in the grip of an “obsession” about weapons of mass destruction, they appear to be in the grip of an obsession of their own. Pursuing it evidently demands a bit of “creativity.”

To contribute to the considerable costs of defending Scooter Libby, send a check to:

Libby Legal Defense Trust
2100 M Street, NW Suite 170-362
Washington, DC 20037-1233 

To contribute to the even more considerable costs of running the Columbia University School of Journalism, send a check to:

The Columbia University School of Journalism
2950 Broadway
New York, NY 10027 

 

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