IRS Not Adequately Protecting Sensitive Data
By Eric Sinrod
First, the IRS takes your money, and now it seems that the IRS may not be adequately protecting your private information, according to a recent report by the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration. Curious? You should be.
The IRS processes in excess of 220 million tax returns per year. These returns contain personal financial data and personally identifiable information that includes social security numbers. The report concludes that hundreds of IRS laptops and other computer devices have been lost or stolen, employees have not properly encrypted data on the devices, and password controls for the laptops have not been adequate. As a consequence, it is "very likely" that sensitive data for a "significant number" of taxpayers has become available for potential identity theft and other fraudulent schemes. Not a pretty picture.
In terms of hard numbers, the report reveals that at least 490 IRS computers were lost or stolen between January 2, 2003 and June 13, 2006. While all such incidents cannot be prevented, the report suggests that the number would have been lower had IRS employees locked laptops in cabinets at work when away from the office, locked them in the trunks of their vehicles when unattended, and locked them up at home when not in use.
Problematic is the report's conclusion that lost or stolen devices open up the possibility for the revelation of sensitive data because IRS employees do not always follow encryption procedures because they were either unaware of security requirements, were inattentive, or did not know that personal data is considered sensitive. Yikes.
Not only have there been problems with laptops and other portable devices, but the report shows that the security of backup data at offsite facilities is not necessarily safe. At four such sites, for example, backup data has not been encrypted and adequately protected. Gulp.
Not surprisingly, the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration has some recommendations when it comes to the IRS and protection of sensitive taxpayer information. These recommendations include reminding employees of their responsibilities for protecting computer devices, purchasing locks for laptops, imposing penalties for negligence, and summarizing violation statistics and disciplinary actions.
The recommendations also embrace providing proper instructions on encrypting sensitive information, checking of encryption by employees, conducting annual inventory validation of backup media, and performing physical checks of offsite facilities used to store media.
The report indicates that the IRS has agreed with all of its findings and most of its recommendations. Let's just hope that going forward, the IRS does not take a "good enough for government work" attitude. The IRS as part of is mission has no trouble taxing you - now, let's hope that your money is put to work to ensure that your private information that is provided as part of the tax process is protected properly.
Wednesday, April 18, 2007
Court upholds ban on abortion procedure
By MARK SHERMAN, Associated Press Writer
The Supreme Court upheld the nationwide ban on a controversial abortion procedure Wednesday, handing abortion opponents the long-awaited victory they expected from a more conservative bench.
The 5-4 ruling said the Partial Birth Abortion Ban Act that Congress passed and President Bush signed into law in 2003 does not violate a woman's constitutional right to an abortion.
The opponents of the act "have not demonstrated that the Act would be unconstitutional in a large fraction of relevant cases," Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote in the majority opinion.
The administration defended the law as drawing a bright line between abortion and infanticide.
The decision pitted the court's conservatives against its liberals, with President Bush's two appointees, Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Samuel Alito, siding with the majority.
Justices Clarence Thomas and Antonin Scalia also were in the majority.
It was the first time the court banned a specific procedure in a case over how — not whether — to perform an abortion.
Abortion rights groups as well as the leading association of obstetricians and gynecologists have said the procedure sometimes is the safest for a woman. They also said that such a ruling could threaten most abortions after 12 weeks of pregnancy, although government lawyers and others who favor the ban said there are alternate, more widely used procedures that remain legal.
The outcome is likely to spur efforts at the state level to place more restrictions on abortions.
"I applaud the Court for its ruling today, and my hope is that it sets the stage for further progress in the fight to ensure our nation's laws respect the sanctity of unborn human life," said Rep. John Boehner (news, bio, voting record) of Ohio, Republican leader in the House of Representatives.
Said Eve Gartner of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America: "This ruling flies in the face of 30 years of Supreme Court precedent and the best interest of women's health and safety. ... This ruling tells women that politicians, not doctors, will make their health care decisions for them." She had argued that point before the justices.
More than 1 million abortions are performed in the United States each year, according to recent statistics. Nearly 90 percent of those occur in the first 12 weeks of pregnancy, and are not affected by Wednesday's ruling.
Six federal courts have said the law that was in focus Wednesday is an impermissible restriction on a woman's constitutional right to an abortion.
The law bans a method of ending a pregnancy, rather than limiting when an abortion can be performed.
"Today's decision is alarming," Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg wrote in dissent. She said the ruling "refuses to take ... seriously" previous Supreme Court decisions on abortion.
Ginsburg said the latest decision "tolerates, indeed applauds, federal intervention to ban nationwide a procedure found necessary and proper in certain cases by the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists."
She was joined by Justices Stephen Breyer, David Souter and John Paul Stevens.
The procedure at issue involves partially removing the fetus intact from a woman's uterus, then crushing or cutting its skull to complete the abortion.
Abortion opponents say the law will not reduce the number of abortions performed because an alternate method — dismembering the fetus in the uterus — is available and, indeed, much more common.
In 2000, the court with key differences in its membership struck down a state ban on partial-birth abortions. Writing for a 5-4 majority at that time, Justice Breyer said the law imposed an undue burden on a woman's right to make an abortion decision.
The Republican-controlled Congress responded in 2003 by passing a federal law that asserted the procedure is gruesome, inhumane and never medically necessary to preserve a woman's health. That statement was designed to overcome the health exception to restrictions that the court has demanded in abortion cases.
But federal judges in California, Nebraska and New York said the law was unconstitutional, and three appellate courts agreed. The Supreme Court accepted appeals from California and Nebraska, setting up Wednesday's ruling.
Kennedy's dissent in 2000 was so strong that few court watchers expected him to take a different view of the current case.
Kennedy acknowledged continuing disagreement about the procedure within the medical community. In the past, courts have cited that uncertainty as a reason to allow the disputed procedure.
But Kennedy said, "The law need not give abortion doctors unfettered choice in the course of their medical practice."
He said the more common abortion method, involving dismemberment, is beyond the reach of the federal ban.
While the court upheld the law against a broad attack on its constitutionality, Kennedy said the court could entertain a challenge in which a doctor found it necessary to perform the banned procedure on a patient suffering certain medical complications.
Doctors most often refer to the procedure as a dilation and extraction or an intact dilation and evacuation abortion.
The law allows the procedure to be performed when a woman's life is in jeopardy.
The cases are Gonzales v. Carhart, 05-380, and Gonzales v. Planned Parenthood, 05-1382.
Posted by politicalstuff at 11:38 AM
Sunday, April 15, 2007
The IRS warns of a late-breaking Internet tax scam, just before the April 17 deadline. Are you at risk?
IRS warns of online tax scam
The IRS warns of a late-breaking Internet tax scam, just before the April 17 deadline. Are you at risk?
By Brian Braiker
April 14, 2007 - Haven’t done your taxes yet? If not, you’re in good company—with the deadline extended to April 17 this year, millions of honest taxpayers still have yet to file. In the rush to get them done on time, many may turn to the Web to file electronically.
And as a result, some may get fleeced.
The Internal Revenue Service announced Friday that they had discovered a new late-breaking scam: bogus Web sites are masquerading as affiliates of the IRS’s Free File Alliance of 19 tax-software companies. The people who set up these scam sites take tax information from well-meaning taxpayers, change their bank account numbers to their own and then file the return through a legitimate Free File partner.
Terry Lemons, a senior spokesperson for the IRS, stresses in an interview with NEWSWEEK’s Brian Braiker that such scams are nothing new—and the only way to safely participate in the Free File program is by going directly to the official IRS site. He also warns of other common scams that pre-date the Internet, and extolls the virtues of legitimate electronic filing. Excerpts:
NEWSWEEK: What caused you to alert taxpayers to this?
Terry Lemons: We have a program available through our Web site where people can prepare their tax returns for free through 19 different private-sector companies. What we discovered late Friday is that there was a site pretending to be one of the affiliates to get these people’s tax information, with official looking logos. If you stumbled onto this site you might think it’s legitimate. People were entering info, and the [people behind the scam site] were taking the bank account number, changing it to their own, and having the refund routed to their bank account.
How many of these scam sites are there?
We identified a couple of questionable sites [on Friday, April 13]. We’re still taking a look at them. It’s still very early in the process.
What are their URLs?
This is where it gets tricky. Because the investigation is still underway, I can’t point you to specific sites. But if you’re concerned, go to the official IRS site. That’s the only way to enter one of these Free File sites. There are legitimate places out there that offer online tax preparation for a fee. But if you want to actually do free filing through our Free File program, you have to go through the IRS—if you think you’ve entered it and you didn’t go through the IRS Web site, you’re not in the Free File program.
What recourse can the people who’ve been scammed take?
We are working to identify who the affected taxpayers are. We’re going to do everything possible to help these people out.
How many have been scammed so far?
It’s too early [to know] in this particular scam. It popped up so late in our tax season; we’re just days away. You have millions of people preparing, so you don’t want to have someone in a rush do an Internet search and end up at an unscrupulous site.
Is this similar to scams you’ve seen in the past?
At this time of year we typically see a lot of tax scams pop up. People have been thinking of countless ways through the years to scam taxpayers. We’ve seen a lot of phishing incidences, people using e-mail malevolently. Every March we see a spike in people sending out e-mails pretending to be from the IRS. With tax or any kind of financial information, any time you get an e-mail asking you to click on a link, rather than clicking, you really ought to be sure you’re going to the legitimate Web address.
What sort of scams predate the Internet?
One classic scam is people going door to door impersonating IRS agents; that’s been around for a long time. Another scam is people who pretend to be tax preparers and promise a big refund. Some of those guys will simply put their own bank account numbers on the return. Some unscrupulous preparers put some big refund on the return and ask for a percentage. That’s a real warning sign that you’ve got someone that’s not legitimate on your hands. And even if you go through a tax preparer, you’re the one ultimately responsible for what’s on the tax return. You need to treat the decision the same was as you would selecting a doctor or lawyer.
Any honest mistakes to watch out for?
The most common mistake we see is in people doing paper returns and making math errors. Simple mistakes like that and writing the Social Security number wrong. That’s the nice thing about filing electronically, that’s taken care of.
Have you filed your taxes yet?
[Laughs.] I’m still working on mine. I usually get mine done early but we’ve had a really busy tax season. This time of year everyone works for the IRS.
Posted by politicalstuff at 5:54 PM
A controversial series on the post-9/11 world isn't exactly fair and balanced—and that’s why it works.
Controversial PBS Series: 'America at a Crossroads'
A controversial series on the post-9/11 world isn't exactly fair and balanced—and that’s why it works.
By Devin Gordon
April 23, 2007 issue - In "The Case for War," the third installment of PBS's sprawling, 11-part, $20 million documentary series "America at a Crossroads," former Bush administration adviser Richard Perle spends the better part of an hour explaining why going to war in Iraq was the right thing to do. "The Case for War" has infuriated many public broadcasters and media watchdogs from the moment that plans for it, and for "America at a Crossroads," were announced in March 2004. Its critics accused the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, the federal entity that helps fund PBS, of letting the Bush team hijack public television for its own ends. And they attacked Perle for pushing a neoconservative agenda with taxpayer money.
But when I watched "The Case for War," mostly I just felt bad for the guy. At one point, Perle wades into an antiwar rally in Washington, D.C., and is immediately swarmed. "It got pretty vicious," he tells NEWSWEEK. "When someone shouts, 'You're a weapon of mass destruction' or 'You're worse than Hitler,' how do you respond to that?" Throughout, however, Perle is unfailingly calm, even a bit downcast. To appease critics and give the film some objectivity, he also debates the Iraq question with several intelligent people who had the luxury of hindsight. (Other opponents of the war declined invitations to appear on camera, Perle says, including Noam Chomsky, actor Tim Robbins and "that fat guy who makes those documentaries." He means Michael Moore.) He comes across not as a frothing neocon caricature but as a thoughtful man with sincere beliefs who happens to be—at least from our current vantage point—on the wrong side of history. Despite the efforts to make it so, "The Case for War" isn't "balanced." It's the world according to Richard Perle, which is a pretty lonely perspective now. And that's why it's so fascinating.
"America at a Crossroads," which will air on PBS for six consecutive nights beginning April 15, had what its executive producer Dalton Delan calls "a tainted birth." The goal of the series was to prompt discussion about a handful of complex issues facing America in the post-9/11 world, including the struggles of moderate Muslims and Europe's antipathy toward the United States. (A disclosure: one of the films, "The Brotherhood," features NEWSWEEK reporters Mark Hosenball and Michael Isikoff; on screen, they're like our Woodward and Bernstein, only furrier.) But the debate began much sooner than anyone had in mind. "Crossroads" was the brainchild of CPB's executive vice president Michael Pack, a documentarian who had been installed in 2003 with a mandate to bring more conservative voices to PBS. Critics of the series argued that too many of the proposed installments, especially the Perle hour and a film about U.S. troops in Iraq called "Warriors," smacked of administration propaganda.
"Counterbalancing" projects were launched, then scrapped. The series's original advisory board was dismissed and replaced. In January 2006, Washington's public-television station, WETA, was brought in to oversee the project. "We knew that this could be a great series," Delan says. "But in this fishbowl world of scrutiny, trust was important. And any sideshow, perceived or otherwise, would've been a hurdle to that."
One such hurdle was removed just before WETA assumed control of "Crossroads." Brian Lapping, an award-winning British filmmaker and the initial producer of "The Case for War," agreed to recuse himself from the project after his friendship with Perle became public knowledge. When Karl Zinsmeister, one of the producers of "Warriors," accepted a position as President Bush's chief domestic-policy adviser, he also stepped aside at WETA's behest. Longtime PBS news anchor Robert MacNeil was brought in to host the series and tie together its disparate installments. But WETA stopped short of abandoning the Perle film (or any others) due to carping about imbalance. "The Case for War," says Jeff Bieber, an executive producer at WETA, "seemed to represent the kind of programs that PBS traditionally has not done, which is to showcase a conservative viewpoint."
The series is at its best during installments like Perle's, when the perspective it presents is sharp, specific and unfamiliar. "Crossroads" might have had an easier journey to the screen if its producers had forsaken polarizing narrators (such as Muslim author and reformer Irshad Manji in "Faith Without Fear") in favor of dispassionate drones, but what a bore that would've been. And besides, aren't we smart enough to listen to what Perle has to say and decide for ourselves if we agree? To suggest otherwise betrays a dim, even condescending, opinion of PBS's audience. Balance, after all, is an illusory concept. There are portions of "Crossroads" that are biased toward one viewpoint, but the series, on the whole, is not. A film such as "Warriors," which is about the day-to-day valor of a battalion in Iraq, might strike some viewers as naive about the complexities of the war. But its scenes of raw combat and perplexed soldiers calling every Iraqi man "Uday"—a reference to Saddam Hussein's dead son—give it the ring of truth. The next night, "Crossroads" will air a film called "Gangs of Iraq," which is a sobering look at the forces dragging Iraq into chaos. Set amid the same war, the two films couldn't be more different. But that doesn't invalidate either of them.
The biggest flaw in "America at a Crossroads" isn't imbalance. It's ill timing. The series was supposed to air around the fifth anniversary of 9/11, but all the political bickering at the outset thwarted that plan. The result is a series that feels unmoored to any major moment and, in some spots, oddly outdated. "It's not a bad time," says Bieber. "But yes, had this series aired when, say, Congress was debating the surge, that would've been great. Holding it for closer to the 2008 election would've been even better, but that just wasn't possible." Even MacNeil points out the folly of a series called "America at a Crossroads" that makes no mention of Iran or North Korea. "We did our best with the cards we were dealt," he says. Instead, the series kicks off with a two-hour primer on Osama bin Laden and the roots of Al Qaeda. It'd be a worthy curtain raiser if "Crossroads" had aired in 2003. But here in 2007, with bin Laden largely marginalized and Iraq in ruins, "America at a Crossroads" left me wondering if America has already blown through its crossroads, and now there's no turning back.
Posted by politicalstuff at 5:46 PM
Bombs hit Baghdad Shiite areas; 45 dead
By LAUREN FRAYER, Associated Press Writer
Cars, minibuses and roadside bombs exploded in Shiite Muslim enclaves across the city Sunday, killing at least 45 people in sectarian violence that defied the Baghdad security crackdown, while a radical anti-U.S. cleric raised a new threat to Iraq's government.
Two officials close to Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr said his followers would quit their six Cabinet posts Monday — a move that could leave Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's already weak administration without enough support to stay in power.
And in a rare gesture of dissent from America's partners in Baghdad, dozens of Iraqi policemen demonstrated in front of their station, accusing U.S. troops of treating them like "animals" and "slaves."
The U.S. military command announced the combat deaths of three more Americans. Two British service members died when their helicopters crashed in midair north of Baghdad, and hours later a U.S. helicopter was hit by ground fire near Mosul but landed safely with no injuries.
Six powerful bombs, gunfire and artillery blasts enveloped Baghdad in a near-constant din that seemed a setback for the 9-week-old U.S.-Iraqi military campaign to pacify the capital.
U.S. commanders previously cited a slight decrease in violence since the crackdown began Feb. 14, but urged patience for what they warned would be a long, tough fight.
"Although we're making steady progress ... we have a long way to go," Rear Adm. Mark Fox, a U.S. military spokesman in Baghdad, told reporters Sunday. "We will continue to face attacks from those who attempt to tear down what the Iraqi people have worked so hard to build."
The crackdown is believed to have driven many insurgents from Baghdad, and violence has soared in areas outside the capital, such as the bombing in the Shiite holy city of Karbala that killed 47 people and wounded 224 Saturday.
But violence has spiked upward again in Baghdad, with Sunday's six bombings coming just three days after a suicide bomber blew himself up inside parliament and killed a lawmaker.
"This week has been difficult for the Iraqi people," Fox acknowledged.
The carnage caused some to voice doubts about the Baghdad crackdown.
"The security plan has made more troubles for Iraqis than helping them," said Juma'a Khamis, 42, a technician who lives in the capital. "There have been no positive results. It's a failure, and so is the government."
Others retained hope that the campaign could carve out breathing room for Iraqi forces to regain control of the city.
"We need to build our security forces, and step by step we can achieve stability," said Nassir Amir, a 31-year-old civil engineer. "The Iraqi government is trying its best but it faces a lot of difficulties ... It needs more time — maybe one year at least."
Violence isn't the only threat to the government. A pullout by the al-Sadr faction, which provided the crucial votes that put al-Maliki in office, could collapse his already shaky regime.
Al-Sadr's six followers on the 37-seat Cabinet would officially withdraw from the government Monday, said Saleh al-Aujaili and Hassan al-Rubaie, members of the Sadrist bloc in parliament. They said al-Sadr's 30 legislators would stay in parliament.
The officials said al-Sadr ordered the Cabinet ministers to quit in protest over the arrests of leaders in his Shiite militia during the Baghdad crackdown and for the prime minister's failure to back setting a timetable for U.S. withdrawal.
Earlier in the day, dozens of Iraqi police officers chanted "No, no to America! Get out occupiers!" during a protest at the Rashad station in Baghdad's eastern neighborhood of Mashtal. U.S. troops in two Humvees and a Bradley fighting vehicle watched from a distance.
Officers complained that American troops do not treat them with respect, but it wasn't clear if any specific incident set off the demonstration.
The day's first bombings came at midday, when two cars packed with explosives blew up five minutes apart in a busy market area of Shurta Rabia, a mostly Shiite area of western Baghdad.
The first detonated in front of a kebab restaurant, and the second went off as rescuers were evacuating victims, police said. Many women and children were reported among the 18 dead and 50 wounded.
Less than two hours later, a suicide bomber blew himself up on a minibus near a courthouse in the mainly Shiite neighborhood of al-Utafiyah of northwest Baghdad — killing at least eight people and wounding 11, officials said. Many victims were severely burned, an official at Khazimiyah Hospital said.
Another minibus rigged with explosives detonated near a cluster of electronics shops in the predominantly Shiite district of Karradah, killing 11 people and wounding 15, authorities said.
The owner of a glass shop said he saw someone park the bus and leave.
"It was an ordinary thing because usually bus drivers stop there waiting for passengers, so we didn't suspect anything," said the witness, who gave only his nickname, Abu Jassim. "Five minutes later, the bus blew up — damaging the surrounded area and burning more than eight civilian cars that were passing by."
After nightfall, insurgents struck in Karradah again — with two roadside bombs exploding within five minutes and 20 yards of one another. Eight more people died and 23 were wounded, police said. Six shops and several parked cars were damaged.
The two British helicopters crashed after colliding over a rural area near Taji, 12 miles north of Baghdad. Two British crew members were killed and four were injured, one very seriously.
"We believe it's almost certainly an accident," Prime Minister Tony Blair told British Broadcasting Corp. television.
British forces, headquartered in the southern city of Basra, rarely fly missions near Taji.
"I can't talk about the particular mission they were involved in, but we do have units operating as part of the coalition across Iraq," a British defense official said on condition of anonymity, in line with government policy.
In the northern city of Mosul, a U.S. Kiowa helicopter was hit by insurgent ground fire, causing it to make a "precautionary landing due to mechanical problems," a military statement said. The aircraft was assisting Iraqi soldiers whose outpost was attacked by insurgents, it said.
Uninjured, both pilots "returned to their base, launched another helicopter and went back to the engagement area to continue the fight," the statement said. Four Iraqi soldiers were killed in the battle, it said.
One U.S. Army soldier was killed by small arms fire Sunday while trying to reach an Iraqi police unit under attack near a mosque in southern Baghdad, the military said in a statement. One civilian was wounded in the incident.
Another soldier died Saturday when a roadside bomb exploded alongside a foot patrol south of Baghdad, the military said. A Marine died the same day in combat in Anbar province, west of the capital.
A third soldier died from non-combat related causes Saturday while on leave in Qatar, the military said.
Associated Press writers Qassim Abdul-Zahra in Baghdad and Jennifer Quinn in London contributed to this report.
Posted by politicalstuff at 5:45 PM
The New York Times
Global Warming Called Security Threat
By ANDREW C. REVKIN and TIMOTHY WILLIAMS
For the second time in a month, private consultants to the government are warning that human-driven warming of the climate poses risks to the national security of the United States.
A report, scheduled to be published on Monday but distributed to some reporters yesterday, said issues usually associated with the environment — like rising ocean levels, droughts and violent weather caused by global warming — were also national security concerns.
“Unlike the problems that we are used to dealing with, these will come upon us extremely slowly, but come they will, and they will be grinding and inexorable,” Richard J. Truly, a retired United States Navy vice admiral and former NASA administrator, said in the report.
The effects of global warming, the study said, could lead to large-scale migrations, increased border tensions, the spread of disease and conflicts over food and water. All could lead to direct involvement by the United States military.
The report recommends that climate change be integrated into the nation’s security strategies and says the United States “should commit to a stronger national and international role to help stabilize climate changes at levels that will avoid significant disruption to global security and stability.”
The report, called “National Security and the Threat of Climate Change,” was commissioned by the Center for Naval Analyses, a government-financed research group, and written by a group of retired generals and admirals called the Military Advisory Board.
In March, a report from the Global Business Network, which advises intelligence agencies and the Pentagon on occasion, concluded, among other things, that rising seas and more powerful storms could eventually generate unrest as crowded regions like Bangladesh’s sinking delta become less habitable.
One of the authors of the report, Peter Schwartz, a consultant who studies climate risks and other trends for the Defense Department and other clients, said the climate system, jogged by a century-long buildup of heat-trapping gases, was likely to rock between extremes that could wreak havoc in poor countries with fragile societies.
“Just look at Somalia in the early 1990s,” Mr. Schwartz said. “You had disruption driven by drought, leading to the collapse of a society, humanitarian relief efforts, and then disastrous U.S. military intervention. That event is prototypical of the future.”
“Picture that in Central America or the Caribbean, which are just as likely,” he said. “This is not distant, this is now. And we need to be preparing.”
Other recent studies have shown that drought and scant water have already fueled civil conflicts in global hot spots like Afghanistan, Nepal, and Sudan, according to several recent studies.
This bodes ill, given projections that human-driven warming is likely to make some of the world’s driest, poorest places drier still, experts said.
“The evidence is fairly clear that sharp downward deviations from normal rainfall in fragile societies elevate the risk of major conflict,” said Marc Levy of the Earth Institute at Columbia University, which recently published a study on the relationship between climate and civil war.
Given that climate models project drops in rainfall in such places in a warming world, Mr. Levy said, “It seems irresponsible not to take into account the possibility that a world with climate change will be a more violent world when making judgments about how tolerable such a world might be.”
Posted by politicalstuff at 5:44 PM
Domenici Sought Iglesias Ouster
By Mike Gallagher
Former U.S. Attorney David Iglesias was fired after Sen. Pete Domenici, who had been unhappy with Iglesias for some time, made a personal appeal to the White House, the Journal has learned.
Domenici had complained about Iglesias before, at one point going to Attorney General Alberto Gonzales before taking his request to the president as a last resort.
The senior senator from New Mexico had listened to criticism of Iglesias going back to 2003 from sources ranging from law enforcement officials to Republican Party activists.
Domenici, who submitted Iglesias' name for the job and guided him through the confirmation process in 2001, had tried at various times to get more white-collar crime help for the U.S. Attorney's Office— even if Iglesias didn't want it.
At one point, the six-term Republican senator tried to get Iglesias moved to a Justice Department post in Washington, D.C., but Iglesias told Justice officials he wasn't interested.
In the spring of 2006, Domenici told Gonzales he wanted Iglesias out.
Gonzales refused. He told Domenici he would fire Iglesias only on orders from the president.
At some point after the election last Nov. 6, Domenici called Bush's senior political adviser, Karl Rove, and told him he wanted Iglesias out and asked Rove to take his request directly to the president.
Domenici and Bush subsequently had a telephone conversation about the issue.
The conversation between Bush and Domenici occurred sometime after the election but before the firings of Iglesias and six other U.S. attorneys were announced on Dec. 7.
Iglesias' name first showed up on a Nov. 15 list of federal prosecutors who would be asked to resign. It was not on a similar list prepared in October.
The Journal confirmed the sequence of events through a variety of sources familiar with the firing of Iglesias, including sources close to Domenici. The senator's office declined comment.
The House and Senate Judiciary committees are investigating Iglesias' firing as well as the dismissals of six other U.S. attorneys.
Gonzales, the embattled attorney general whose job is likely in the balance, is scheduled to testify Tuesday before the Senate Judiciary Committee.
Senate and House Democrats have focused on a telephone call Domenici made to Iglesias in October.
Iglesias testified before the congressional committees that Domenici called him at home and asked if indictments were imminent in a public corruption investigation of Albuquerque's Metropolitan Courthouse construction. Iglesias told him indictments were not expected anytime soon.
Iglesias testified that Domenici said, "I'm very sorry to hear that." And then hung up.
Iglesias said he felt "pressured" and "violated" by the telephone call but did not report it to Justice Department headquarters as required.
Domenici has admitted and apologized for making the call, but he denied pressuring Iglesias. He has also said he didn't mention the election.
Democrats have accused Domenici of attempting to influence the outcome of a tight congressional race between incumbent Republican Heather Wilson and former state Attorney General Patricia Madrid. Wilson won the election by fewer than 900 votes.
Iglesias could not be reached for comment. He was reportedly out of the country on Navy duty.
A spokesman for Domenici's office said they were not prepared to comment at this time.
Looking for a paper trail
Exactly how Iglesias' name came to be included on a Nov. 15 list of U.S. attorneys to be fired has been a mystery House and Senate Democrats have been trying to unravel.
There are gaps in documents provided to Congress by the Justice Department about the firings and other records are severely redacted.
Gonzales' former chief of staff, Kyle Sampson, said he couldn't give a reason for Iglesias' firing during his testimony before Congress last month. He did say that if a U.S. attorney wasn't succeeding politically, he wasn't succeeding.
Documentation that has been turned over to Congress doesn't indicate problems with Iglesias' performance from the Department Justice point of view.
The documents reveal Domenici called Gonzales and his deputies on several occasions in 2005 and 2006.
In one undated memo, a Gonzales aide wrote, "Domenici says he doesn't move cases," in reference to Iglesias.
New Mexicans who complained directly to the Justice Department about Iglesias said they learned he was held in high regard by Gonzales and his staff.
At least one memo shows Iglesias was offered a job heading the Executive Office of U.S. Attorneys in Washington, D.C.
Iglesias turned the job down.
That job offer, according to several sources, was made at the prodding of Domenici.
According to sources, Iglesias was also considered for U.S. attorney for Washington, D.C., and other administrative posts at department headquarters.
Iglesias was apparently unaware that Domenici was unhappy with his job performance when he turned those jobs down.
In September 2005, Iglesias announced the arrests of state Treasurer Robert Vigil and his predecessor, Michael Montoya, on extortion charges. Both are Democrats in a state where Democrats control the Legislature and most statewide offices.
Republicans who had complained about political corruption in the state for years saw an opportunity to do more than complain. And this was an issue with political traction.
The point man would be Iglesias.
During one of his few news conferences while U.S. attorney, Iglesias called political corruption "endemic" in New Mexico.
The FBI also put a high priority on public corruption, naming it its top priority behind terrorism.
According to Justice Department memos turned over to congressional investigators, Domenici approached Iglesias in late 2005 and asked if he needed additional prosecutors for corruption cases.
Iglesias, according to the memo, told Domenici he didn't need white-collar crime prosecutors. He needed prosecutors for immigration cases.
Domenici was disappointed in the response. After that conversation, Domenici decided he would try to get Iglesias help, whether Iglesias wanted it or not.
In 2006, Domenici asked Gonzales if he could find additional experienced white-collar crime prosecutors to send to New Mexico. Gonzales had a number of prosecutors who were finishing the ENRON prosecutions and were quite experienced at complex white-collar crime cases.
None was sent here.
Within Iglesias' own office, prosecutors suggested moving more attorneys into the White Collar Crime-Public Corruption section in 2005 because the FBI was developing more cases and leads than the section could handle in a timely fashion.
Iglesias was initially enthusiastic about the idea but didn't follow through after consulting senior staff.
Treasurer's Office scandal
Montoya and others pleaded guilty in the Treasurer's Office scandal. Vigil went to trial in April 2006. After more than five weeks, a mistrial was declared. Several jurors said one holdout prevented conviction on at least some charges.
The second trial in September ended in one conviction on attempted extortion and acquittal on 23 counts. Vigil has been sentenced to 37 months in prison.
After the first trial, then-Attorney General Madrid indicted key prosecution witnesses in the federal case based on their testimony. She said Iglesias hadn't been tough enough in cutting plea deals and hadn't worked out an agreement with her office.
As a result, one key witness refused to testify in the second trial.
During this time, the much-publicized courthouse investigation was essentially put on the shelf. The lead prosecutor in the U.S. Attorney's Office was handling both the Vigil trials and the courthouse investigation.
Delays in the courthouse case led to frustration among Republicans who had tried to make Madrid's track record on ethics and corruption cases an issue in the Madrid-Wilson race.
Indictments in the courthouse case were announced last month.
Posted by politicalstuff at 5:42 PM
Gwen Ifill Calls Out Russert, Brooks For Their Silence On Imus
This morning on NBC’s Meet the Press, PBS anchor Gwen Ifill directly called out host Tim Russert and fellow guest David Brooks for failing to speak out against Don Imus’ offensive remarks.
“There has been radio silence from a lot of people who have done this program who could have spoken up and said, I find this offensive or I didn’t know,” Ifill said. “These people didn’t speak up.” She then turned Russert and Brooks, frequest guests on Imus’s show. “Tim, we didn’t hear from you. David, we didn’t hear from you.”
Ifill added, “A lot of people did know and a lot of people were listening and they just decided it was okay. They decided this culture of meanness was fine — until they got caught. My concern about Mr. Imus and a lot of people and a lot of the debate in this society is not that people are sorry that they say these things, they are sorry that someone catches them.”
Despite being called out by Ifill, Russert said little during the show about his frequent appearances on Imus’ show. Intead, he suggested that Imus will launch a new show dedicated to “racial reconciliation and healing,” which Russert said he would “absolutely” listen to.
And yet, you write this: “Why do my journalistic colleagues appear on Mr. Imus’ show? That’s for them to defend and others to argue about. I certainly don’t know any black journalists who will.”
Yow know, it’s interesting to me. This has been an interesting week. The people who have spoken, the people who issued statements and the people who haven’t. There has been radio silence from a lot of people who have done this program who could have spoken up and said, I find this offensive or I didn’t know. These people didn’t speak up. Tim, we didn’t hear from you. David, we didn’t hear from you. What was missing in this debate was someone saying, you know, I understand that this is offensive. You know, I have a 7-year-old god daughter. Yesterday she went out shopping with her mom for high-Thetop basketball shoes so she can play basketball. The offense, the slur that Imus directed at me happened more than 10 years ago. I would like to think that 10 years from now, that Asia isn’t going to be deciding that she wants to get recruited for the college basketball team or be a tennis pro or go to medical school and that she is still vulnerable to those kinds of casual slurs and insults that I got 10 years ago, and that people will say, I didn’t know, or people will say, I wasn’t listening. A lot of people did know and a lot of people were listening and they just decided it was okay. They decided this culture of meanness was fine — until they got caught. My concern about Mr. Imus and a lot of people and a lot of the debate in this society is not that people are sorry that they say these things, they are sorry that someone catches them. When Don Imus said this about me when I worked here at NBC, when I found out about it, his producer called because Don said he wants to apologize. Well, now he says he never said it. What was he apologizing for? He was apologizing for getting caught, not apologizing for having said it in the first place. And that to me is the debate we need to have, David is right, about the culture of meanness, about the culture of racial complaint, about the internal culture within our community about how we talk to one another. But just this week it was finally saying, enough.
Posted by politicalstuff at 5:33 PM
The New York Times
G.O.P. Candidates Lay Into Democrats, Not One Another
By ADAM NAGOURNEY
DES MOINES, April 14 — A parade of Republican White House candidates appealed for support from over 1,000 Iowa Republicans on Saturday, with two of their leading candidates — Senator John McCain and Rudolph W. Giuliani — assailing Democrats in Washington for pressing legislation that would set a timetable for bringing American troops back from Iraq.
It was the first time that the major Republican candidates had appeared at the same event — the annual Lincoln Day dinner, held in the sprawling ballroom of a downtown convention center here. For more than three hours, an audience of the state’s most active Republicans listened attentively as candidates proclaimed their strong opposition to abortion rights, called for a crackdown against illegal immigrants and warned that a Democratic return to the White House would result in higher taxes.
Although the event was called a “Unity Dinner,” the speeches reflected divisions among the Republicans on various issues, in particular abortion. Several candidates, including Mr. McCain of Arizona and Mike Huckabee of Arkansas, presented themselves as lifelong opponents of abortion rights, drawing clear if unspoken contrasts with Mr. Giuliani, who supports abortion rights, and Mr. Romney, who once supported abortion rights but now opposes them.
But the strongest divisions emerged between the parties, as Mr. Giuliani and Mr. McCain offered attacks on Democrats for their efforts to bring an end to the war in Iraq. Apart from his remark about abortions — and a warm-up joke that involved Zsa Zsa Gabor — Mr. McCain devoted almost his entire nine-minute speech to arguing in support of the war, and attacking Democrats for opposing it.
“The Democrats want to set a date for withdrawal, which should be named a date certain for surrender,” Mr. McCain said. “There is no way we can prevail if we announce a date for withdrawal.”
“There is only one commander-in-chief of the United States and that is George W. Bush,” he continued, drawing some of the loudest applause of the night in response to one of the few times Mr. Bush was even mentioned. “I support him, and I believe in him.”
Mr. Giuliani, the former mayor of New York, said the debate on the war had “intensified to me the difference between us and the Democrats.” He criticized Democrats whom he said opposed expanding domestic surveillance programs and wanted to weaken some provisions of the so-called Patriot Act, saying such moves were a retreat from the offensive on terrorism.
“If we back off that, then we are going back on the defense,” Mr. Giuliani said, “and we are no longer on the offense.”
Mr. Giuliani said he did not fault people who failed to grasp the threat of terrorism after the first attack on the World Trade Center or after the bombing of the U.S.S. Cole. “But after Sept. 11, it’s clear what we need to do to protect ourselves,” he said.
Mr. Romney, the former Massachusetts governor, who is also a leading candidate for his party’s nomination, called for expanded spending on the military in order to toughen the United States against threats and warned about the threat of what he called Jihadists.
“They want to create the collapse of the United States of America and our retreat militarily,” he said.
“The Republican Party — and conservatism generally — are a philosophy of strength,” he said. “Military strength, economic strength, personal strength and family strength.”
The attendance at the event, both by the candidates and the state’s Republicans, reflected the importance Iowa has assumed in the presidential nominating process, and the intense interest voters here have in the race.
Several candidates said Republicans should avoid attacking one another and be prepared to band together around a nominee next year. “I would like you to select me,” Mr. Giuliani said. “But if you don’t, every single person who comes up after me — every single one of them — is better than Hillary, Senator Obama and Senator Edwards,” referring to Senators Hillary Rodham Clinton and Barack Obama, as well as former Senator John Edwards. It was his only remark that drew loud applause from the crowd.
And one candidate, Jim Gilmore, the former governor of Virginia, drew soft boos when he mentioned candidates’ names in a not-so-subtle way of suggesting that three of the leading candidates had records of shifting positions on some issues that are crucial to conservatives.
“Don’t be fooled by people who come to you now and say they are conservative,” Mr. Gilmore said. “I can assure you that Rudy McRomney is not conservative, and he knows he is not a conservative.”
But the undercurrent was unmistakable, even when names were not used. Mr. Huckabee, a former governor of Arkansas, pointedly noted that he had always been an opponent of abortion rights and gun-control measures, and that he had supported President Bush’s tax cuts from the beginning.
“I’m not late in declaring that life begins at conception and we ought to protect human life,” he said. “I am not late in believing that the Bush tax cuts were good when they were first proposed, and they are still good today.”
Mr. Romney recently joined the National Rifle Association, as he sought to argue that he was a lifelong opponent of gun control measures. And Mr. McCain voted against many of Mr. Bush’s tax cuts, a position that has contributed to conservative unease with his candidacy.
Mr. Romney appeared on stage with his wife, Ann, and one of his sons, Josh, paying a long and warm tribute to his family. The tableau came immediately after Mr. Giuliani finished and served — by design or not — to remind Republicans of what has troubled some here about Mr. Giuliani: his three marriages and his estranged relationship with his son, Andrew.
The candidates were each given six minutes to talk, though that was one rule that none of the candidates, after spending hours flying here, seemed prepared to follow. Mr. Giuliani spoke for 17 minutes, though he left immediately after he was done, passing up the glad-handing of dinner attendees to leave Iowa for a fund-raiser in Missouri.
In a reflection of the potency of the immigration issue here, Representative Tom Tancredo of Colorado drew some of the loudest applause of the night when he questioned his opponent’s commitment to cracking down on illegal immigrants and said he would never support a measure allowing them to stay in this country.
“I will never grant amnesty to illegal immigrants,” Mr. Tancredo said.
Marc Santora contributed reporting.
Posted by politicalstuff at 5:32 PM
Gonzales: U.S.A. Review Should Have Been "More Rigorous"
By Paul Kiel
The Justice Department has released Alberto Gonzales' written statement for Tuesday's hearing, which was provided today to the Senate Judiciary Committee. We've posted the entire section concerning the U.S. attorneys below.
The statement is long on promises and short on specifics, and Gonzales' narrative for how the firings occurred is a very simple one: he tasked Kyle Sampson with it, had a handful of conversations about it over the course of two years, and then eventually signed off on the firings.
Nevertheless, there are a couple of noteworthy passages.
First, Gonzales says again that (as far as he knows, at least) none of the U.S. attorneys were fired for "improper" reasons -- which would be "in order to impede or speed along particular criminal investigations for illegitimate reasons." But he says that "it is clear to me that I should have done more personally to ensure that the review process was more rigorous." That's an admission that's sure to open him up to some battering from senators on the panel.
Second, he again says that he "misspoke" at a press conference on March 13th when he said "I was not involved in any discussions about what was going on.” That statement, he says, "was too broad." He regrets the confusion, he says.
The entire thing is below....
From Gonzales' written statement for Tuesday's hearing:
First, I will address the issue of the resignations of eight of 93 U.S. Attorneys. I know this is an issue of concern to the Committee, and I want you to know that I share your commitment to bringing all of the facts to light on this matter. I hope we can make great progress on that goal today.
I also want the Committee and those U.S. Attorneys to know how much I appreciate their public service. Each is a fine lawyer and dedicated professional who gave many years of service to the Department. I apologize to them and to their families for allowing this matter to become an unfortunate and undignified public spectacle, and I am sorry for my missteps that have helped to fuel the controversy.
The Justice Department has tried to be forthcoming with the Congress and the American people about the process that led to the resignations. The Department has provided thousands of pages of internal and deliberative documents to the Congress. I consistently and voluntarily have made Justice Department officials available for interviews and hearings on this subject.
I have taken these important steps to provide information for two critical reasons: (1) I have nothing to hide, and (2) I am committed to assuring the Congress and the American public that nothing improper occurred here. The sooner that all the facts are known, the sooner we can all devote our exclusive attention to our important work – work that includes protecting the American people from the dangers of terrorism, violent crime, illegal drugs, and sexual predators. I know that the Committee must be eager to focus on those issues of great importance to the American people as well.
At this point, we can all agree that U.S. Attorneys serve at the pleasure of the President. We further should agree on a definition of what an “improper” reason for the removal of a U.S. Attorney would be. As former Acting Solicitor General and Assistant Attorney General Walter Dellinger has stated, an improper reason would be: “The replacement of one or more U.S. attorneys in order to impede or speed along particular criminal investigations for illegitimate reasons.”
I agree with that. Stated differently, the Department of Justice makes decisions based on the evidence, not whether the target is a Republican or a Democrat.
For the benefit of the Committee as well as for the American people, I would like to be abundantly clear about the decision to request the resignations of eight (of the 93) United States Attorneys – each of whom had served his or her full four-year term of office:
I know that I did not, and would not, ask for a resignation of any individual in order to interfere with or influence a particular prosecution for partisan political gain.
I also have no basis to believe that anyone involved in this process sought the removal of a U.S. Attorney for an improper reason.
These facts have been made clear through the testimony of Justice Department officials who have appeared before the Congress, as well as by the thousands of pages of internal documents that the Department of Justice has released. Based upon the record as I know it, it is unfair and unfounded for anyone to conclude that any U.S. Attorney was removed for an improper reason. Our record in bringing aggressive prosecutions without fear or favor and irrespective of political affiliations – a record I am very proud of – is beyond reproach.
While reasonable people may dispute whether or not the actual reasons for these decisions were sufficient to justify a particular resignation, again, there is no factual basis to support the allegation, as many have made, that these resignations were motivated by improper reasons. As this Committee knows, however, to provide more certainty, I have asked the Justice Department’s Office of Professional Responsibility (OPR) to investigate this matter. Working with the Department’s Office of Inspector General (OIG), these non-partisan professionals will complete their own independent investigation so that the Congress and the American people can be 100 percent assured of the facts.
The Committee should also know that, to ensure the independence and integrity of these investigations, and the investigations of congressional committees, I have not spoken with nor reviewed the confidential transcripts of any of the Department of Justice employees interviewed by congressional staff. I state this because, as a result, I may be somewhat limited when it comes to providing you with all of the facts that you may desire. I hope you understand that, to me, it was absolutely essential that the investigative work proceeds in a manner free of any complications by my efforts to prepare for this testimony.
While I firmly believe that these dismissals were appropriate, I have equal conviction that the process by which these U.S. Attorneys were asked to resign could have – and should have – been handled differently.
I made mistakes in not ensuring that these U.S. Attorneys received more dignified treatment. Others within the Department of Justice also made mistakes. As far as I know, these were honest mistakes of perception and judgment and not intentional acts of misconduct. The American public needs to know of the good faith and dedication of those who serve them at the Department of Justice.
As I have stated before, I want to be as crisp and clear as I can be with the Committee about the facts of my involvement in this matter as I recall them.
The Coordination Process
Shortly after the 2004 election and soon after I became Attorney General, my then-deputy-chief-of-staff Kyle Sampson told me that then-Counsel to the President Harriet Miers had inquired about replacing all 93 U.S. Attorneys. Mr. Sampson and I both agreed that replacing all 93 U.S. Attorneys would be disruptive and unwise. However, I believed it would be appropriate and a good management decision to evaluate the U.S. Attorneys and determine the districts where a change may be beneficial to the Department.
I delegated the task of coordinating a review to Mr. Sampson in early 2005. Mr. Sampson is a good man and was a dedicated public servant. I believed that he was the right person (1) to collect insight and opinions, including his own, from Department officials with the most knowledge of U.S. Attorneys and (2) to provide, based on that collective judgment, a consensus recommendation of the Department’s senior leadership on districts that could benefit from a change.
I recall telling Mr. Sampson that I wanted him to consult with appropriate Justice Department senior officials who would have the most relevant knowledge and information about the performance of the U.S. Attorneys. It was to be a group of officials, including the Deputy Attorney General, who were much more knowledgeable than I about the performance of each U.S. Attorney. I also told him to make sure that the White House was kept informed since the U.S. Attorneys are presidential appointees.
Mr. Sampson periodically updated me on the review. As I recall, his updates were brief, relatively few in number, and focused primarily on the review process itself. During those updates, to my knowledge, I did not make decisions about who should or should not be asked to resign.
For instance, I recall two specific instances when Mr. Sampson mentioned to me that Harriet Miers had asked about the status of the Department’s evaluation of U.S. Attorneys.
I also recall Mr. Sampson mentioning Assistant Attorney General Rachel Brand as a possible candidate to be U.S. Attorney if a vacancy were to occur. I am not sure he mentioned a specific district, but it may have been Michigan. I do not recall my response, nor when it happened. But I do recall thinking I did not want to lose Ms. Brand as head of Legal Policy. I also recall Mr. Sampson mentioning career prosecutor Deborah Rhodes for San Diego in the event of a vacancy. I do not recall my response or any other discussion. Nor do I recall the timing of when this was raised with me. Although these names were mentioned to me, I do not recall making any decision, either on or before December 7, 2006, about who should replace the U.S. Attorneys who were asked to resign that day.
Near the end of the process, as I have said many times, Kyle Sampson presented me with the final recommendations, which I approved. I did so because I understood that the recommendations represented the consensus of senior Justice Department officials most knowledgeable about the performance of all 93 U.S. Attorneys. I also remember that, at some point in time, Mr. Sampson explained to me the plan to inform the U.S. Attorneys of my decision.
I believed the process that Mr. Sampson was coordinating would produce the best result by including those senior Justice Department officials with the most knowledge about this matter. As in other areas of the Department’s work – whether creating a plan to combat terrorism or targeting dangerous drugs like methamphetamine – my goal was to improve the performance of the Justice Department. And as in other areas of the Department’s work, I expected a process to be established that would lead to recommendations based on the collective judgment and opinions of those with the most knowledge within the Department.
In hindsight, I would have handled this differently. As a manager, I am aware that decisions involving personnel are some of the most difficult and challenging decisions one can make. United States Attorneys serve at the pleasure of the President, but looking back, it is clear to me that I should have done more personally to ensure that the review process was more rigorous, and that each U.S. Attorney was informed of this decision in a more personal and respectful way.
I also want to address suggestions that I intentionally made false statements about my involvement in this process. These suggestions have been personally very painful to me. I have always sought the truth. I never sought to mislead or deceive the Congress or the American people about my role in this matter. I do acknowledge however that at times I have been less than precise with my words when discussing the resignations.
For example, I misspoke at a press conference on March 13th when I said that I “was not involved in any discussions about what was going on.” That statement was too broad. At that same press conference, I made clear that I was aware of the process; I said that “I knew my chief of staff was involved in the process of determining who were the weak performers. Where were the districts around the country where we could do better for the people in that district, and that’s what I knew.” Of course, I knew about the process because of, at a minimum, these discussions with Mr. Sampson. Thus, my statement about “discussions” was imprecise and overbroad, but it certainly was not in anyway an attempt to mislead the American people.
I certainly understand why these statements generated confusion, and I regret that. I have tried to clarify my words in later interviews with the media, and will be happy to answer any further questions the Committee may have today about those statements.
It is said that actions speak louder than words. And my actions in this matter do indeed show that I have
endeavored to be forthcoming with the Congress and the American people.
I am dedicated to correcting both the management missteps and the ensuing public confusion that now surrounds what should have been a benign situation. For example:
In recent weeks I have met personally with more than 70 U.S. Attorneys around the country to hear their concerns and discuss ways to improve communication and coordination between their offices and Main Justice.
These discussions have been frank, and good ideas are coming out, including ways to improve communication between the Department and their offices so that every United States Attorney can know whether their performance is at the level expected by the Attorney General and the Deputy Attorney General. Additionally, I have asked the members of the Attorney General’s Advisory Committee of United States Attorneys to present to me recommendations on formal and informal steps that we can take to improve communication.
During these meetings I am also sharing with the U.S. Attorney community several key messages that I wish to also share with the Committee:
First, the process of selecting U.S. Attorneys to be asked to resign, while not improper, should have been more rigorous and should have been completed in a much shorter period of time.
Second, every U.S. Attorney who was asked to resign – Dan Bogden, Margaret Chiara, Paul Charlton, David Iglesias, Carol Lam, John McKay, Kevin Ryan, and Bud Cummins – served honorably, and they and their families made sacrifices in the name of public service. The Justice Department owes them more respect than they were shown. In some cases, Department leaders should have worked with them to make improvements where they were needed. In all cases, I should have communicated the concerns more effectively, and I should have informed them of my decisions in a more dignified manner. This process could have been handled much better and for that I want to apologize publicly.
And third, I am also telling our 93 U.S. Attorneys that I look forward to working with them to pursue the great goals of our Department in the weeks and months to come. I have told them that I expected all of them to continue to do their jobs in the way they deem best and without any improper interference from anyone. Likewise, in those offices where U.S. Attorneys have recently departed, I emphasized the need to continue to aggressively investigate and prosecute all matters – sensitive or otherwise – currently being handled by those offices.
I wish to extend that sentiment to the Committee as well. During the past two years, we have made great strides in securing our country from terrorism, protecting our neighborhoods from gangs and drugs, shielding our children from predators and pedophiles, and protecting the public trust by prosecuting public corruption. Recent events must not deter us from our mission. I ask the Committee to join me in that commitment and that re-dedication.
We must ensure that all the facts surrounding the situation are brought to full light. It is my sincere hope that today’s hearing brings us closer to a clearing of the air on the eight resignations.
That is why I intend to stay here as long as it takes to answer all of the questions the Committee may have about my involvement in this matter. I want this Committee to be satisfied, to be fully reassured, that nothing improper was done. I want the American people to be reassured of the same.
Posted by politicalstuff at 5:31 PM
Cheney Hasn't Called Libby Since Trial
WASHINGTON — In the nearly six weeks since his close friend and former chief of staff was convicted of lying and obstructing an investigation, Vice President Dick Cheney has not once spoken to I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby.
"Well, there hasn't been occasion to do so," Cheney said in an interview broadcast Sunday on CBS' "Face the Nation."
Libby is the highest-ranking White House official convicted in a government scandal since the Iran-Contra affair two decades ago. He was found guilty last month of perjury and obstruction in the investigation into the 2003 leak of CIA operative Valerie Plame's identity.
The episode undercut the Bush administration's credibility, one of a string of a bad-news stories that have hurt the president's standing.
President Bush and Cheney have expressed sadness for Libby and his family, but largely refrained from comment because the matter is an active legal case. Libby plans to appeal.
In the interview, Cheney said he believes deeply in Libby.
"He's one of the most dedicated public servants I've ever worked with, and I think this is a great tragedy," Cheney said.
Yet Cheney has not spoken with Libby to tell him so directly.
Cheney's interviewer, Bob Schieffer, was so surprised to hear that news that he asked the vice president about it again.
Why not calls to express your regrets?
"I just _ I haven't had occasion to do that," was all that Cheney would say.
Libby faces a likely sentencing range of one to three years in prison when he is sentenced June 5.
Posted by politicalstuff at 5:29 PM