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No Agreement on IC Reforms
Despite high hopes, Congress is going home without passing an intelligence reform bill. It was blocked by Duncan Hunter (R-California) and James Sensenbrenner (R-Wisconsin), who wanted accelerated deportation provisions. [AP]
Reuters: (Recasts with deal dead, new throughout)
John Bolton's name seems to be popping up all over the place. He's leading the hardliners against Iran: "John Bolton, under-secretary of state for arms control, has been pushing for a tougher line and is said to believe that Iran should have been referred to the UN Security Council a year ago." Some unsolicited advice to the American diplomatic corp: get the agreement, then use the verification and inspection procedures to test your intelligence. I understand that this tactic didn't work so well in Iraq, but that was in large part due to the kneejerk conserative rejection of verification and inspection procedures. Regardless, cynically leaking dubious intelligence is not the way to go.
The first test may come in her selection of a deputy. Mr. Cheney's wing is pressing for someone like John R. Bolton, an acolyte of the vice president who runs the State Department's proliferation office. A very different choice would be someone like Arnold Kanter, a former State Department official who now works with Brent Scowcroft, who was the first President Bush's national security adviser. Mr. Scowcroft was Ms. Rice's mentor until the two differed over the Iraq invasion. Choosing Mr. Kanter to run the daily operations of the State Department could signal a shift toward something more like the first President Bush's approach to the world.Look, there is no evidence that Rice has ever had an independent thought about the Middle East. She has never parted from the administration line. She might be a great person, but those who think she's suddenly going to depart from OVP orthodoxy are delusional.
Daschle Farewell Speech
The GOP didn't bother to show up to hear Daschle's final call for bipartisanship. Daschle is a painfully decent man.
"Refusal Clause" in Omnibus Spending Bill
House and Senate negotiators have tucked a potentially far-reaching anti-abortion provision into a $388 billion must-pass spending bill, complicating plans for Congress to wrap up its business and adjourn for the year...The measure, which has long been supported by the Catholic Church (see also the Protection of Conscience Project and the "Abortion Non-Discrimination Act"), distorts protection for individual conscience into protection for corporate pharmacies, hospitals, insurers, and health care providers [Coopting Conscience - PDF]. The NYT reporting on the issue is quite poor, as there is a clear rhetorical struggle underway, with advocates of the clause calling it "conscience protection" and opponents a "refusal clause" - but the NYT refers to it as the former.
Here is the egregious state of the nation, according to Congresswoman Lois Capps (D-California):
Under current law, an individual who has a religious or moral objection to providing a service can refuse to offer it, but the law recognizes certain differences between an individual and an institution. Institutions do not have the same rights, nor should they. Health care facilities exist to provide services. It should be extremely rare when such a facility can deny anyone access to care. Even so, there are only minimal obligations on hospitals and other facilities. Under title X, they only have to tell someone what their choices are and where they can go to receive these services. And under Medicaid, hospitals and clinics will only be obligated to provide an abortion in cases of rape, incest or when the life of the mother is in danger.Update, 11/20/04, 4:28 AM EST: The Washington Post has more details on the provision, as well as on the anti-environment riders. The Water Resources Development Act was kept out of the final legislation, as was the effort to eliminate a pending regulation requiring nation of origin labeling for meat. The disposition of the other riders was unknown when the Post went to press - the AP reports that the bill wasn't finalized until after midnight.
Al Kamen reminds us of our history:
There's a kind of deja vu all over again with the move of national security adviser Condoleezza Rice over to the State Department. If memory serves, then-Secretary of State William P. Rogers, undercut regularly by President Richard M. Nixon's foreign policy adviser, Henry A. Kissinger, left after Nixon's reelection in 1972. He was replaced by Kissinger.Scowcroft was a mentor for Condeleeza Rice. But it appears times have really changed - his consulting group recently hired James Pavitt, the former CIA official accused of undermining the administration.
Richard Lawless & Taiwan
n April 2001, President George W. Bush offered to sell Taiwan four Kidd-class guided missile destroyers, eight diesel-powered submarines (even though the United States has not built a conventional submarine since 1959), and 12 P-3C Orion anti-submarine aircraft. (See ACT, May 2001.) Since then, the administration also has prodded Taiwan to acquire Patriot Advanced Capability-3 missile interceptors to protect itself against China’s ever-growing number of short-range ballistic missiles aimed across the 160-kilometer-wide strait. The Pentagon estimated this summer that 500 Chinese missiles sit opposite Taiwan.BBC 10/27/04:
For starters, there is no guarantee that after the US presidential election, Washington will honour the existing arms package on offer.
Muslim Scholars Association
46 groups, mostly Sunni, are boycotting the Iraq election, in large part because of Fallujah - the Muslim Scholars Association, the largest Sunni religious group, included. Sunnis will not be electorally legitimating leadership anytime soon. The US has, of course, cracked down on the Muslim Scholars, raiding mosques and arresting clerics.
Iraq War Costing $6 Billion Per Month
Via Salon - UPI is reporting that the Iraq war is costing $6 billion a month, rather than the $4 billion estimate that's been used for over a year (note that UPI confuses millions with billions in the text of its report).
The Christian Science Monitor has the most recent details on the plans to increase troop levels in the run-up to the Iraqi elections. The plan is still to keep as many as 20,000-30,000 troops currently deployed in Iraq after school to create an overlap window. The need for more troops is clearer than ever, as Iraqi security forces have been infiltrated and intimidated to the point that they are as much a risk to American forces as a help. Whenever you read or hear about Americans working with Iraqi forces, it is almost invariably the case that the Iraqis are Kurdish peshmerga.
Paul Waldman at The Gadflyer posts recent Gallup poll results on American beliefs about evolution. They are, of course, depressing, as 45% of Americans appear to believe that humans have existed for fewer than 10,000 years. But by far the most encouraging result is for Catholics: 46% of Catholics believe in evolution, a higher percentage than Democrats (coming in at a paltry 38%). Evolution is a wedge issue - we can use it to divide Republicans from their base, knock Catholics off the fence, and shore up our support among the educated (a statistic I would have liked Gallup to produce: the voter turnout of creationists v. the voter turnout of people that believe in science).
James L. Pavitt
Bill Geertz, in the Washington Times piece cited below, speculates:
Opposition to the internal reorganization appears to be led by James L. Pavitt, the top clandestine service officer who recently left the agency.The Washington Post ran a story on Pavitt two weeks ago. Pavitt is upset at administration efforts to blame the CIA for administration failures. On October 27, he claimed the CIA's use of extraordinary renditions was approved by the National Security Council and Congressional overseers. He was one of the four former deputy directors of operations that approached Goss to offer advice on finessing a reform agenda.
Within the past month, four former deputy directors of operations have tried to offer CIA Director Porter J. Goss advice about changing the clandestine service without setting off a rebellion, but Goss has declined to speak to any of them, said former CIA officials aware of the communications.He has accepted, like Richard Clarke, responsibility for the intelligence failures that led to 9/11:
James L. Pavitt, who retired in August as the C.I.A.'s deputy director of operations, also said he had not seen the report and had not been asked to respond to it. Mr. Pavitt said in an e-mail message: "We failed to stop the 11 September attacks. It surely was not for lack of effort, lack of focus or lack of courage.''Pavitt appears to be a mixed bag, but I doubt he is masterminding the CIA's angry response to Goss.
More on Corruption of the CIA
As Goss turns his attention to the Directorate of Intelligence, everyone needs to keep in mind Senator Levin's careful analysis of who was actually responsible for the analytical failures that led to Iraq: Doug Feith's DoD office.
The CIA purge being conducted by Goss's aides distorts the principle of accountability in two crucial ways. One is the choice of whom to terminate. In the apt words of Joseph Cirincione, director of the Carnegie Endowment's Non-Proliferation Project, "They're firing all the wrong people."The LAT editorializes against Goss' partisanship:
The danger is that by politicizing the intelligence process, Goss could not only further undermine the agency's morale and professionalism, but the nation's security itself. Unfortunately, Goss' partisan record leads us to read his memo in the worst possible light.Of course, there are reactionaries who still defend Goss's actions. The White House has promoted a benign reading of Goss' memo, despite its clear language. White House spokesman Scott McClellan claims the memo was "misconstrued." CIA enemy Robert Novak embraces McCain's argument, calling the CIA a "rogue operation" working for liberals. Bill Geertz claims the purge is simply an effort to whip the Agency into shape, following plans "from a House intelligence committee report made public in June that singled out the directorate of operations for harsh criticism, primarily saying it was unwilling to undertake risky missions." Mr. Geertz fails to mention that it was Goss' committee that produced the report, and partisan hack Jay Jakub in particular.
Dr. David Graham Blows Whistle on FDA
Dr. David J. Graham, "a 20-year FDA veteran who is the associate director for science at its Office of Drug Safety," claimed before the Senate Finance Committee that "26,000 to 55,600 patients might have died as a result of taking Vioxx," and that "the FDA, as currently configured, is incapable of protecting America against another Vioxx." He pointed to five other currently on-market drugs that present similar risks.
"Dr. Graham described an environment where he was 'ostracized,' 'subjected to veiled threats' and 'intimidation,'" Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, said in a statement after Finance Committee investigators interviewed the researcher Thursday.Update, 11/19/04, 1:18 PM EST: See also, NYT; WP; USAT; Seattle PI.
Graham's testimony has hurt stock values (we're talking billions of dollars). FDA spokespeople are "categorically rejecting" Graham's comments.
Powell and Iran Nukes
Colin Powell said on Wednesday that Iran is trying to put nuclear warheads on missiles:
Speaking to reporters en route to a meeting in Chile, Powell said the information suggested Iran was "interested in nuclear weapons they could deliver … not just something that sits there."Also on Wednesday, the opposition group National Council of Resistance, the political front for the MEK, "leveled startling but unconfirmed charges...that Iran had bought blueprints for a nuclear bomb and obtained weapons-grade uranium on the black market" and that "Iran was still secretly enriching uranium at an undisclosed Defense Ministry site in Tehran, despite an agreement with the Europeans two days ago to suspend all enrichment activities." [NYT, 11/17] Barry Schweid, an AP diplomatic writer, reports that Powell's statements foreshadow an eventual US submarining of the EU negotiations with Iran:
The Bush administration is not considering talks with Iran on developing nuclear weapons even though Secretary of State Colin Powell will attend a conference next week with diplomats from Iran and other countries.It now appears, though, that this is simply history repeating itself, with the Bush administration using weak intelligence to undermine diplomatic solutions to security problems. Powell's comments were "based on an unvetted, single source who provided information" - reportedly "a 'walk-in' source [who] approached U.S intelligence earlier this month with more than 1,000 pages purported to be Iranian drawings and technical documents, including a nuclear warhead design and modifications to enable Iranian ballistic missiles to deliver an atomic strike." [WP 11/19/04] The source was unknown to US intelligence, the coincidental timing with the MEK announcement is suspicious, and the "weak" intelligence has neither been confirmed, nor turned over to the IAEA for confirmation.
N.B.: The NYT:
Leading the charge for a tough line on Iran has been John R. Bolton, under secretary of state for arms control and international security. At the moment, administration officials say there are no prominent members of Mr. Bush's inner circle enthusiastic about the European approach of negotiating with Iran; most of the moderates are lower-level areas specialists in the State Department. But only last week Prime Minister Tony Blair persuaded Mr. Bush to endorse the European approach.Update, 11/19/04 1:38 PM EST: "Western" diplomats, presumably American (Bolton?), are accusing Iran of trying to squeeze out one more weekend's worth of enriched uranium precursors prior to implementing the EU negotiated freeze. Is this supposed to be bad news? Doesn't this imply they intend to comply with the freeze?
Update 11/20/04 3:20 AM EST: The Guardian is reporting that the diplomatic reports (which aren't coming solely from US sources) have put the EU-Iran agreement at risk:
A breakthrough deal between Iran and the EU aimed at defusing an international crisis over Tehran's alleged nuclear ambitions was thrown into uncertainty last night when diplomats said Iran was rushing to process feed material for the manufacture of bomb-grade uranium.The question is whether Iran is producing uranium hexaflouride or tetraflouride. Hexaflouride is ready for the enrichment process.
People think there's no difference between the Republicans and the Democrats in part because the "fair and balanced" media so cynically perpetuate that idea. Look at this LAT editorial "condemning" the GOP for it's hypocrisy on passing the Delay rule:
Democrats such as House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi are predictably huffing that Republicans are showing that "they simply do not care if their leaders are ethical." But Pelosi herself was fined in March by the Federal Election Commission for using multiple political action committees to exceed federal campaign contribution limits.Rather than engaging in rank speculation about hypothetical Democratic attitudes, why not stick to the case at hand? The GOP, including some of the very people now supporting these ethics rules roll-backs (though we can't be sure because it was a voice vote and GOP congresspeople seem reluctant to fess up), are guilty of in-your-face hypocrisy. "Ethics" is an attack ad, not a commitment, to the GOP. If Pelosi becomes Speaker some day and the Democrats start changing rules to entrench their power, then the LAT can be outraged. Right now, all they are doing is rationalizing Delay's abuses and destroying trust in government.
Jonathan Chait, in an op-ed arguing that Democrats should embrace the elimination of the National Endowment for the Arts, says "the NEA is in large part a way of forcing the NASCAR set to subsidize the art house set." Assuming arguendo that the NASCAR set doesn't appreciate good art, Chait still makes a bunch of bad arguments.
Pillaging in the Omnibus Spending Bill
Man, Republican Senators have loaded this spending bill with some egregious environmental riders. They want to:
The Republicans are literally favoring shit over the American people. Is this what a "mandate" means?
Education and Race
Richard Rothstein in the newest New York Review of Books skirts around an important question concerning racial disparities in educational achievement: why do conservatives like the Thernstroms blame Black culture when there are obviously different incentives for Black and white educational success? In every other performance related field people like the Thernstroms push to eliminate distorted incentives, from environmental regulations to income taxes. Yet in education, where Black Americans, by virtue of employment and wage discrimination, receive significantly smaller rewards for achievement than their white peers, these conservatives blame culture. Yglesias recommends "bribing" kids for their performance, which could potentially reduce the incentive gap.
NYT: Correction Needed
In an interview, Mr. From pointed out that Republicans invited officials who disagreed with the party's position on abortion rights, like Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger of California and Rudolph W. Giuliani, the former mayor of New York, to speak at their national convention. Democrats should do likewise, he argued.Mediamatters.org corrected this error back in June. Casey had not endorsed Bill Clinton. Other pro-life Democrats spoke at the convention.
By the way, is it too much to ask that "leaders" of the conservative faction of the Democratic Party like From stop spreading malicious distortions? We just elevated a pro-life Mormon, Harry Reid, to the Minority Leader position in the Senate - perhaps From should mention that when he's on his little recrimination kick? The NYT should have mentioned it too.
Jay Jakub, the Republican staff director for the House Subcommittee on Human Intelligence, Analysis and Counterintelligence, was hired onto Goss' CIA staff. Spencer Ackerman reports:
But some CIA officials are particularly concerned about Jay Jakub, a former GOP subcommittee staff director who's now Goss' nebulously titled senior advisor for operations and analysis. Jakub, a principal author of the June intelligence committee report, was a CIA analyst and case officer before serving as chief investigator on ultraconservative Rep. Dan Burton's inquiry into Democratic campaign finance during the 1996 election. "He's widely viewed as having very strong partisan views," says one of Jakub's former CIA colleagues. "Jay leaps too early. He acts on his views, and often doesn't seem like a measured decision maker."The Barton investigation Ackerman highlights was run by David Bossie, of Citizens United fame, and Barbara Comstock. The Hill reported in 1998 that Jakub "a former CIA analyst considered one of the most talented investigators on the committee, announced that he would be leaving by the end of the month for other opportunities." [Jock Friendly, The Hill, 5/13/98]
National Journal published a bio sketch in 1998:
The House Select Intelligence Committee just enlisted some expertise from the field: Jay Jakub and John T. Stopher. Jakub, 34, spent eight years with the Central Intelligence Agency as an intelligence analyst overseeing security policy in Turkey, Greece, the Balkans and Eastern Europe, and comes directly from former CIA director John M. Deutch's now-suspended Weapons of Mass Destruction Commission. In between these two jobs, he helped investigate foreign money laundering for the House probe of campaign fund raising during the 1996 election. [Gorman & Zeller, National Journal, 9/19/98]The Washington Post reported on opinion about Jakub within the intelligence community:
More generally, Goss's aides arrived at the CIA with harsh views of the clandestine service. Their views were laid out in a House intelligence committee report in June. "There is a dysfunctional denial of any need for corrective action," the report said. The clandestine service suffers from "misallocation and redirection of resources, poor prioritization of objectives, micromanagement of field operations and a continued political aversion to operational risk."He has published publicly on Anglo-American intelligence sharing:
1995:04219 The Anglo-American 'special relationship' in the post Cold-War world: much more than meets the eye. Jay Jakub, Defense Analysis
Spies and Saboteurs: Spies and Saboteurs is the story of the origins of the Anglo-American "Special Relationship" in human intelligence collection and special operations, which took place amid the global conflagration that was the Second World War. It is the story of William "Wild Bill" Donovan--the father of America's Central Intelligence Agency--and of his relationship with legendary British spymasters. Relying almost exclusively upon recently declassified OSS and British intelligence documents and survivor interviews, it examines the transatlantic association in espionage and sabotage, guerilla warfare and disinformation. It explores the evolution of covert relations from a "tutorial" arrangement with the US as pupil, to an unequal then full partnership, and ultimately to competition and rivalry in the prosecution of the clandestine war.In November of 2001, he produced this flowchart [PDF] "to show just how disruptive it would be to create a cabinet-level department to oversee the nation's security." [NYT, 11/27/2001, citing the AP]
Progress on GWS
A British independent investigation called on the Ministry of Defence to recognize Gulf War Syndrome.
The report said all the scientific studies agreed Gulf veterans were twice as likely to suffer from ill health as if they had been deployed elsewhere.The BBC reported last week on a leaked American investigation pointing to Sarin as a contributor to GWS.
See also BBC report on the inquiry.
Progressive States Rights
It is not true that progressives are hostile to states' rights or local control. To the contrary, some of our lions, like RFK, embraced local control as a necessary aspect of the war on poverty. Poverty has local causes, and needs local solutions - but the federal government has an obligation to foster experimentation.
What we're seeing, he says, is the growth of blue-state nationalism, a new sort of identity politics forced into life in reaction to the relentless insults of red America. For years now, conservatives have excoriated liberals in almost exactly the same way that previous right-wing movements demonized Jews -- as unwholesomely cosmopolitan, traitorous, decadent, inclined to both socialism and economic elitism. Right-wing authors like Michael Savage, Sean Hannity and Ann Coulter routinely try to write their opponents out of the nation.
DHS Non-Disclosure Agreements
Via Salon, I see that Spencer Hsu reported yesterday in the Washington Post that DHS has, since May, attempted to get all 180,000 of its employees, as well as local and Congressional homeland security officials and aides, to sign non-disclosure agreements. These agreements limit the disclosure of "any information that could 'adversely affect the national interest or the conduct of federal programs' or violate a person's privacy, a much lower barrier than damaging national security." Those signing the agreement waive many protections, including allowing "government inspections 'at any time or place' to ensure compliance."
Killing of Unarmed Iraqi a Strategic Setback
Dan Murphy of Christian Science Monitor reports that the filmed marine killing of an unarmed Iraqi in Fallujah has undermined US strategy:
Fallujah has long been a center of Iraq's information war - whether it was video of the four mutilated US security contractors there last April that insurgents hoped would demoralize the US, or the pictures of the women and children severely wounded in the retaliatory American assault that followed.
I just attended a New America Foundation brown bag on Noah Feldman's What We Owe Iraq. His argument is that we have an ethical obligation to provide Iraqis a viable opportunity to establish an effective constitutional democracy. This entails increasing our commitment to stabilizing the security situation, stimulating the development of a legitimate bargaining authority within the Sunni insurgency, and persuading Kurds and Shiites to recognize the necessity of political compromise, rather than theological decisionism. [See press on Feldman's book: WSJ, WSJ, NYT, NYT (first chapter) - more from Feldman at NAF].
Railroad Astroturf Operation
The NYT follows up its article on the conflict of interest-ridden railroad industry regulators with a look at one of the astroturf organizations spawned by the industry to wage a PR campaign on its behalf. Union Pacific, the same rail operator that has taken advantage of close administration ties to foster a "partnership" approach to regulation, founded a non-profit, Operation Lifesaver, to inform drivers of the risks of railroad crossings. At first glance, that seems like an admirable public service; just below the surface, though, is a PR operation targeted at judges and police officers to convince them that the legal liability for railroad crossing accidents is born by the driver.
The AP asks if a "backlash loom[s] against opinion news." It has a good run down of recent challenges to the media practice, including John Stewart's appearance on Crossfire, David Westin's Harvard University speech, some of Michael Kinsley's recent writing, and the work of the Project for Excellence in Journalism. I would add John Carrol's May broadside against pseudo-journalism, the creation of mediamatters.org and the publication of Brock's Republican Noise Machine, the publication of Mooney's CJR article on science reporting, and much of the work at Columbia Journalism Review's Campaign Desk.
Separation of Powers
The Bush administration continues to undermine the system of checks and balances, again with the willing acquiescence of the institutions that offer the supposed check. Reuters is reporting Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist's "Fox News Sunday" comments on Arlen Specter:
A Republican senator who has questioned whether an abortion opponent could win approval to the U.S. Supreme Court must agree to back President Bush's nominees if he is to head the committee acting on those nominations, the Senate's Republican leader said.Has there ever been a Senate Majority Leader less protective of Senate powers and prerogatives? The Constitutional Advise and Consent clause is more than just a request that Senators sign on the dotted line.
As we are seeing with the CIA and DoJ, this is what happens when the President elevates loyalists over qualified, independent voices. Unlike the agencies, though, the Senate is not supposed to serve the White House.
Update, 6:50 PM EST: The AP has a more complete update on the status of the Specter situation.