Bush won't supply subpoenaed documents
By TERENCE HUNT, AP White House Correspondent
President Bush, moving toward a constitutional showdown with Congress, asserted executive privilege Thursday and rejected lawmakers' demands for documents that could shed light on the firings of federal prosecutors.
Bush's attorney told Congress the White House would not turn over subpoenaed documents for former presidential counsel Harriet Miers and former political director Sara Taylor.
In reaction, Senate Judiciary Chairman Patrick Leahy accused the administration of shifting "into Nixonian stonewalling" and revealing "disdain for our system of checks and balances."
"With respect, it is with much regret that we are forced down this unfortunate path which we sought to avoid by finding grounds for mutual accommodation," White House counsel Fred Fielding said in a letter to Leahy and the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee. "We had hoped this matter could conclude with your committees receiving information in lieu of having to invoke executive privilege. Instead, we are at this conclusion."
Thursday was the deadline for surrendering the documents. The White House also made clear that Miers and Taylor would not testify next month, as directed by the subpoenas, which were issued June 13. The stalemate could end up with House and Senate contempt citations and a battle in federal court over separation of powers.
"Increasingly, the president and vice president feel they are above the law," said Leahy, D-Vt., after getting the news from Fielding in an early-morning phone call. "In America no one is above law."
In his letter, Fielding said Bush had "attempted to chart a course of cooperation" by releasing more than 8,500 pages of documents and sending Gonzales and other senior officials to testify before Congress. The White House also had offered a compromise in which Miers, Taylor, White House political strategist Karl Rove and their deputies would be interviewed by Judiciary Committee aides in closed-door sessions, without transcripts. Democrats Patrick Leahy of Vermont and John Conyers of Michigan, the chairs of the Senate and House Judiciary Committees, have rejected that offer.
On the other hand, Fielding said Bush "was not willing to provide your committees with documents revealing internal White House communications or to accede to your desire for senior advisors to testify at public hearings.
"The reason for these distinctions rests upon a bedrock presidential prerogative: for the President to perform his constitutional duties, it is imperative that he receive candid and unfettered advice and that free and open discussions and deliberations occur among his advisors and between those advisors and others within and outside the Executive Branch," Fielding said.
"The doctrine of executive privilege exists, at least in part, to protect such communications from compelled disclosure to Congress, especially where, as here, the president's interests in maintaining confidentiality far outweigh Congress's interests in obtaining deliberative White House communications," Fielding said.
"Further, it remains unclear precisely how and why your committees are unable to fulfill your legislative and oversight interests without the unfettered requests you have made in your subpoenas," Fielding said. "Put differently, there is no demonstration that the documents and information you seek by subpoena are critically important to any legislative initiatives that you may be pursuing or intending to pursue."
It was the second time in his administration that Bush has exerted executive privilege, said White House deputy press secretary Tony Fratto. The first instance was in December, 2001, to rebuff Congress' demands for Clinton administration documents.
Tensions between the administration and the Democratic-run Congress have been building for months as the House and Senate Judiciary panels have sought to probe the firings of eight federal prosecutors and the administration's program of warrantless eavesdropping. The investigations are part of the Democrats' efforts to hold the administration to account for the way it has conducted the war on terrorism since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.
Democrats say the firings of the prosecutors over the winter was an example of improper political influence. The White House says U.S. attorneys are political appointees who can be hired and fired for almost any reason.
Democrats and even some key Republicans have said that Attorney General Alberto Gonzales should resign over the U.S. attorney dismissals, but he has steadfastly held his ground and Bush has backed him.
Just Wednesday, the Senate Judiciary Committee subpoenaed the White House and Vice President Dick Cheney's office, demanding documents pertaining to terrorism-era warrant-free eavesdropping.
Separately, that panel also is summoning Gonzales to discuss the program and an array of other matters — including the prosecutor firings — that have cost a half-dozen top Justice Department officials their jobs.
The Judiciary panels also subpoenaed the National Security Council. Leahy added that, like House Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers, D-Mich., he would consider pursuing contempt citations against those who refuse.
Associated Press Writer Deb Riechmann contributed to this story.
Thursday, June 28, 2007
Wednesday, June 27, 2007
The Huffington Post
More Fred Thompson Scandal
Just about two months ago, Fred Thompson appeared on Hannity & Colmes and pontificated openly in that sweet Southern twang--you know the one that makes Republicans instantly vibrate--about making changes in his "contractual" relationships because of his candidacy. The Domed One said, "obviously, there's some practical things, some contractual things that I'm doing."
Well, it's looking like those "contractual things" are as important to him as the sanctity of marriage. At least when it comes to avoiding second wives who aren't still granted nap-time after show-and-tell is finished .
Of particular interest currently, is that Thompson not only maintains a constant presence on ABC Radio delivering opinion and analysis gleaned from life as a serial-lobbyist, but also provides daily podcasts for the ABC Radio website along with his own goofy version of a blog. He is doing this, mind you, after already having declared his intention to run for President numerous times:
· Thompson Refers To His Decision To Run In Past Tense. In a recent USA Today interview, Thompson referred in the past tense to having decided "I'm going to do this," and then again in the past tense, saying "when I did" decide to move forward with running. During a CNBC interview in early June, Thompson talked about a formal announcement as a foregone conclusion, saying "Well, I don't want to get into a lot of details in terms of a plan before I even announce my candidacy," ["Thompson wants to be 2008's outsider," USA Today, 6/4/07; Cudlow and Kramer, CNBC, 6/6/07]
· Thompson Writes About "My Effort" To Use Internet In Context Of Internet As Source Of Electoral Support. On a political blog in late May 2007, Thompson wrote that:"Whether or not the Internet can elect any particular candidate in any particular race, it's clear that all of you and our many friends across the blogosphere and the Web are part of a true information revolution. That's why so much of my effort has been focused on talking to Americans through this medium." [PajamasMedia.com, 5/23/07(accessed 6/4/07)]
· Thompson Referred To Staff As "Campaign Official." In a May 1, 2007 interview on Fox News Channel, Thompson referred to "campaign official of ours who's helping us out" [Hannity and Colmes, Fox News Channel, 5/01/07]
· Thompson Word Choice Says He's Running. In an interview with the Times of London in late June, Thompson said "I wouldn't run for it if I wasn't willing to pay the price." [The Times (London), 6/21/07]
Oh, and he has formed one of those, whatdoyacallems? That's right, an exploratory committee to run for President.
As if this wasn't bad enough, Thompson's campaign blog features links and excerpts of his commentary so prevalently they're as widely distributed as oxycodone HCl in Rush Limbaugh's bloodstream. Hell, Thompson even admits this corporate helping-hand is assisting his campaign, but hasn't felt any need to live up to his promise to change those "contractual things." Because he's a man of the people, don't ya know:
· Thompson Considers Himself "Already In The Hunt" Because Of His Internet Visibility, Acknowledging He Is Saving Campaign Money Because Of Web Presence Via ABC, Others. Talking about his Internet presence - which includes the prominent ABC Radio blogging and audio files of radio appearances, Thompson noted that "using the Internet already 'has allowed me to be in the hunt, so to speak, without spending a dime.'" ["Thompson wants to be 2008's outsider," USA Today, 6/4/07]
I'm sure glad this was the man who investigated Bill Clinton for campaign finance abuses, as he seems to have a thorough understanding of all the loopholes. But hey, just watch him on tv - during this week, Thompson will appear 31 times, (twice in "In The Line of Fire", and the rest in various incarnations of Law & Order) - and you'll see he's honest, because, ya know, he may not be a man of any integrity, but he plays one on tv.
Posted by politicalstuff at 1:02 AM
Cheney role as power broker in spotlight again
By Caren Bohan
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney was back this week in a place he intensely dislikes: the spotlight.
Cheney's penchant for secrecy and his unprecedented role within the Bush administration have been a key topic at recent White House news briefings, in some cases drowning out subjects from Iraq to immigration to the Middle East.
A newspaper series on how Cheney wields his power and his feud with an obscure record-keeping agency have stirred the latest controversies.
Cheney, a master at the Washington power game, is depicted as operating behind the scenes and pushing hard-line views on issues such as the treatment of terrorism suspects in a four-part series in the Washington Post that began on Sunday.
The vice president also is facing scathing criticism from lawmakers for refusing to provide records requested by the an office in the National Archives regarding the handling of classified documents.
The Post series portrays Cheney as bypassing top officials at the State Department, Justice Department and the National Security Council to gain the upper hand in battles over the handling of terrorism suspects at the military prison at Guantanamo Bay and other issues.
"Cheney and his allies, according to more than two dozen current and former officials, pioneered a novel distinction between forbidden 'torture' and permitted use of 'cruel and inhuman or degrading' methods of questioning," the Post said.
White House spokesman Tony Fratto said Cheney performs his role "precisely as the president would like him to."
Cheney, like others in the administration, has lost some policy debates and won others, Fratto said. "The only person who wins all of the policy debates is the president."
On the economic side, the Post said, Cheney trumped not only the U.S. Treasury secretary but also then-Federal Reserve chairman Alan Greenspan in advocating a bigger 2003 tax-cut package than Greenspan thought prudent.
Democrats accuse the vice president of trying to cast himself as a "fourth branch of government" because of his legal argument in resisting the record-keeping request. His office told the National Archives that it was not an "entity within the executive branch."
Critics have ridiculed the notion that the vice president's office is "unique" from other parts of government because he has a largely ceremonial role as president of the Senate in addition to his executive-branch duties.
"It comes as no surprise that the 'imperial president' and his vice president are once again trying to dodge scrutiny with a ridiculous claim that Dick Cheney is not part of the executive branch of government," said Sen. John Kerry, a Massachusetts Democrat.
Rep. Rahm Emanuel, an Illinois Democrat and a member of the U.S. House of Representatives leadership, proposed cutting funding for Cheney's office unless he clarifies which branch of government he is part of.
The White House has backed Cheney's view he does not have to provide the data on classified documents requested by the archives office but distanced itself from an effort to cast the vice president's office as a separate branch of government.
The mandate for the record keeping is covered under an order Bush himself issued and the president always intended for Cheney to be exempt from it, the White House said.
Cheney spokeswoman Lea Anne McBride said it was not "necessary to go through the law and history" of the vice president's role because Bush had already decided that Cheney does not need to provide the records.
Posted by politicalstuff at 12:59 AM
Republicans reignite Iraq war debate
By Susan Cornwell
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President George W. Bush's Iraq war policy suffered a second blow in as many days on Tuesday when another senior senator from his Republican party publicly called for U.S. troop withdrawals.
A day after Indiana Republican Sen. Richard Lugar declared that Bush's "surge" policy of adding troops was not working, Sen. George Voinovich of Ohio sent Bush a letter "expressing his belief that our nation must begin to develop a comprehensive plan for our gradual military disengagement from Iraq," Voinovich's office announced.
Lugar is the ranking Republican on the Foreign Relations Committee and Voinovich is a member of that panel. The Ohioan made his move even as Democrats were hailing Lugar for publicly criticizing the Iraq war, saying Lugar had reignited what had seemed a stalled debate.
In a Senate floor speech on Monday night, Lugar said the United States should draw down its troops in Iraq and redeploy some of them in the region before it is too late to do so politically -- before the U.S. 2008 presidential campaign gets into full swing and partisan confrontation limits options.
U.S. policy was limiting America's diplomatic effectiveness around the world and straining the U.S. military, Lugar said. "The costs and risks of continuing down the current path outweigh the potential benefits that might be achieved."
Although Democrats believe they were catapulted to power in Congress by voters who wanted to end the war, they have been unable to translate that mandate into legislation bringing about an end to the conflict, largely because not enough Republicans have joined them in the narrowly-divided Senate,
"I believe that Senator Lugar's words yesterday could be remembered as the turning point in this intractable civil war in Iraq," said Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, a Nevada Democrat who voted to authorize the Iraq war in 2002 but soured on the conflict.
"But that will depend on whether more Republicans take the stand that Senator Lugar took, the courageous stand," Reid said.
Lugar told reporters on Tuesday he was not as not looking for a showdown with the White House, but a bipartisan consensus on getting the United States to reduce its presence in Iraq, where America now has 157,000 troops.
"I'm going to find out who else agrees with me, how I can work with other senators, how I can work with the president," Lugar, who chaired the Foreign Relations Committee until Democrats took power in January, said outside the Senate.
Since delivering the speech, the White House had telephoned him and he will be meeting administration officials "soon," Lugar said. Other Republican senators had been "generally supportive" of his remarks, he added.
The White House tried to play down Lugar's speech, saying he had been a thoughtful critic of the war for some time. Lugar told reporters it was true he had made many of his criticisms privately to Bush as far back as January -- but not publicly.
Even Lugar's fellow Republicans said his move had recharged the Iraq debate. One, Virginia Sen. John Warner, a former chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, suggested a tipping point in Congress could come as soon as next month, when a defense policy bill comes to the Senate floor -- instead of holding until September, when Iraq commander Gen. David Petraeus is due to report.
But one Republican supporter of the war, Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, was unmoved by Lugar's public change in stance. "As much as I respect Senator Lugar, I think it's unfair to the troops in the field to say that the surge is not working," he said.
The Senate Armed Services Committee voted on Tuesday to approve Bush's nomination of a "war czar" for Iraq and Afghanistan, Lt. Gen. Douglas Lute, and confirmed Preston Geren as Army secretary.
(additional reporting by Thomas Ferraro and Richard Cowan)
Posted by politicalstuff at 12:58 AM
Senate Republicans block Democratic labor bill
By Thomas Ferraro
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Senate Republicans on Tuesday rejected a bill to make it easier to form unions, defeating a drive by newly empowered Democrats to shore up a shrinking constituency -- organized labor.
On a vote of 51-48, Democratic backers fell short of the 60 votes needed to clear a procedural hurdle and move toward passing the legislation.
The measure would have enabled employees to create a union simply by obtaining the signatures of most of their fellow workers rather winning a federally supervised election.
Labor, which has seen union membership plunge in recent years, contends the elections are tilted to favor employers and often result in the unlawful firing of organizers and even threats to close plants.
But traditionally pro-business Republicans blocked the bill, arguing it would violate workers' rights and undermine a hallmark of American democracy -- the secret ballot.
"The principle of a secret ballot is deeply rooted in the American tradition, and workers here have enjoyed this freedom at the workplace by law for 60 years," said Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky.
"By preserving the secret ballot in union organizing drives, Republicans made sure America's 140 million workers are not intimidated or coerced into siding with either labor or management," McConnell said.
A MORAL ISSUE
Democratic Sen. Edward Kennedy of Massachusetts led the charge for the bill, calling the drive a moral issue backed by religious leaders and civil rights groups.
"Majority sign-up is simple. It's fair, and it ensures that if a majority of workers want a union, they'll get one. There's nothing more democratic than that," Kennedy said.
John Sweeney, president of the AFL-CIO, the largest U.S. labor federation, warned Republicans who blocked the bill they will be targeted for defeat in the 2008 elections.
"The vote made clear exactly who is on the side of working families' dreams and economic opportunity -- and who is siding with corporate America to block those opportunities," Sweeney said.
Republicans denounced the bill as political payback to union leaders for helping Democrats win control of Congress last year. They also charged the bill would allow union organizers to bully workers, and cited surveys that found most Americans oppose ending the secret ballot at the workplace.
Democrats returned fire by accusing Republicans of stopping the bill on behalf of the business community, much of which has seen its profits soar in recent years while wages of working Americans remain stagnant.
Democrats campaigned on a promise to close the growing gap between rich and poor, and earlier this year kept a vow to raise the federal minimum wage for the first time in a decade.
But Democrats' paper-thin Senate majority of 51-49 has thus far prevented them from advancing into law other campaign promises, such as ones to reduce the cost of a college education and prescription drugs and, most importantly, begin a withdrawal of U.S. troops from the Iraq war.
The bill blocked by Republicans was a top legislative priority of organized labor, which has sought to increase declining membership.
As of 2006, the most recent year figures are available, 13.1 percent of America's wage and salary workers were represented by unions, down from 23.3 percent in 1983, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
"The unions are desperate. They are losing the game and now they want to change the rules," said McConnell.
Posted by politicalstuff at 12:56 AM
Senator challenges judge over detainee rules
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A White House lawyer turned U.S. judge was asked on Tuesday to explain apparent discrepancies between reports he played a role in talks about setting rules for the treatment of enemy combatants and his congressional testimony he was not involved.
In a letter to Judge Brett Kavanaugh, Assistant Senate Democratic Leader Dick Durbin of Illinois also asked that the judge recuse himself from cases involving those detainees.
"By testifying under oath that you were not involved in this issue, it appears that you misled me, the Senate Judiciary Committee, and the nation," Durbin wrote Kavanaugh, who was confirmed by the Senate last year on a vote of 57-36 for a seat on the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia.
Kavanaugh was nominated to the court by President George W. Bush after serving as a White House lawyer.
The Washington Post reported on Monday that Kavanaugh was involved in a heated 2002 White House meeting about whether U.S. citizens declared enemy combatants should be given access to lawyers. Durbin said National Public Radio confirmed the information on Tuesday.
A court spokesman for Kavanaugh said in a statement, "Judge Kavanaugh's confirmation testimony was accurate, and Judge Kavanaugh will continue to carefully address recusal issues based on the law and the facts of each case."
At Kavanaugh's May 2006 confirmation hearing, Durbin questioned him about William Haynes, a former general counsel at the Defense Department, who was nominated by Bush to the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.
"I asked: 'What did you know about Mr. Haynes's role in crafting the administration's detention and interrogation policies?'" Durbin wrote.
"You testified: 'Senator, I did not - I was not involved and am not involved in the questions about the rules governing detention of combatants - and so I do not have the involvement with that,'" Durbin quoted him as testifying.
Durbin said in his letter to Kavanaugh that in light of the media reports, "your sworn testimony appears inaccurate and misleading."
He asked Kavanaugh to provide the Senate Judiciary Committee with "an explanation for this apparent contradiction."
Posted by politicalstuff at 12:53 AM
Sunday, June 24, 2007
Poll: What Americans (Don't) Know
We asked Americans about current events, history and cultural literacy. And we got some pretty disheartening results.
By Brian Braiker
July 2-9, 2007 issue - For our What You Need to Know Now cover story, we asked our polling firm to test 1,001 adults on a variety of topics, including politics, foreign affairs, business, technology and popular culture. The results were mixed, to be charitible. NEWSWEEK's first What You Need to Know Poll found many gaps in America's knowledge—including a lingering misperception about an Iraqi connection to the September 11 terror attacks, an inability to name key figures in the American government and general cultural confusion.
Even today, more than four years into the war in Iraq, as many as four in ten Americans (41 percent) still believe Saddam Hussein’s regime was directly involved in financing, planning or carrying out the terrorist attacks on 9/11, even though no evidence has surfaced to support a connection. A majority of Americans were similarly unable to pick Saudi Arabia in a multiple-choice question about the country where most of the 9/11 hijackers were born. Just 43 percent got it right—and a full 20 percent thought most came from Iraq.
Still, seven in ten (70 percent) are aware that the United States has not discovered any hidden weapons of mass destruction in Iraq since the war began. And perhaps because most (85 percent) are aware that Osama bin Laden remains at large, roughly half of the poll’s respondents (52 percent) think that the United States is losing the fight against his terror group, Al Qaeda, despite no military defeats or recent terrorist attacks to suggest as much.
Closer to home, more Americans are able to name Jordin Sparks as the winner of the most recent season of American Idol (18 percent) than can identify John Roberts as the Supreme Court’s chief justice (11 percent). Only one in three (31 percent) know that Ben Bernanke is the current Federal Reserve chairman; a quarter (26 percent) think Alan Greenspan, who retired in early 2006, still holds the position. Still, more than half of those polled (59 percent) could identify Nancy Pelosi as House Speaker in a multiple-choice question. (Younger respondents had a harder time with this question though, with 46 percent of those under 40 able to identify Pelosi compared to 68 percent of those older than 40.)
One-third of the public (36 percent) correctly answered a multiple-choice question showing they knew that both Al Gore and Andrew Jackson had lost a presidential election despite winning more popular votes. A similar number (37 percent) could identify Abraham Lincoln as the first Republican elected president.
Our understanding of broader global affairs and history is sketchy at best. Less than half (42 percent) of the public was aware that Iraq only existed as an independent nation since 1920; 15 percent think Iraq existed as a country before and nearly half (43 percent) refrained from even guessing. Conversely, more than half (60 percent) could identify Vladimir Putin as Russia’s leader. Only three in ten (29 percent) are aware that nine countries posses nuclear weapons. Four in ten (38 percent) think only five countries posses such technology; 21 percent put the number of nuclear countries at 11.
Roughly half (53 percent) are aware that Judaism is an older religion than both Christianity and Islam (41 percent aren’t sure). And a quarter of the population mistakenly identify either Iran (26 percent) or India (24 percent) as the country with the largest Muslim population. Only 23 percent could correctly identify Indonesia. Close to two-thirds (61 percent) are aware that the Roman Empire predates the Ottoman, British and American empires.
NEWSWEEK also quizzed respondents on business, technology, science and medicine. About one third (37 percent) have an idea of the current value of the Dow Jones Industrial Average, and even fewer (23 percent) could correctly select 2000 as the year that the dotcom bubble burst. The business question most respondents (55 percent) could answer correctly was the approximate price of oil (about $70).
Americans could only answer one of our three science and medicine questions correctly: 54 percent seemed to know that the human brain does not stop producing new neurons until after the age of 65. Only 15 percent, however, are aware that childbirth kills one woman a minute each day around the world. A quarter (28 percent) mistakenly thinks the top killer of women is AIDS and more than half (54 percent) thought it was heart attacks. Furthermore, only a small minority (17 percent) correctly chose “greater output from the sun” from a list of items as the lone factor that does not contribute to global warming (with 65 percent mistakenly believing that rice patties are not a contributing factor).
On the cultural front, even though there have been many popular television shows and movies based on her work, less than half (40 percent) of Americans can identify Jane Austen as the author of “Pride and Prejudice” and “Sense and Sensibility.” Women (44 percent) were somewhat more likely than men (36 percent) to answer the question correctly. Still, nearly two thirds (65 percent) of Americans correctly identified soccer as the most popular sport in the world; just 17 percent believe it’s America’s pastime, baseball.
Geography is not the strongest subject for many Americans either. Less than half of the poll’s respondents (45 percent) know that South Korea is closer to Japan than Vietnam, the Philippines and Australia. Close to two-thirds (64 percent) do know that the Amazon River is in South America. And despite Iraq’s ongoing relevance to current events, just half (50 percent) could select Libya as the only country out of a list of four that doesn't border it.
The NEWSWEEK Poll, conducted June 18-June 19, has a margin of error of plus or minus 4 percentage points for questions based on Census Current Population Survey parameters for gender, age, education, race and population density. In conducting the poll, Princeton Survey Research Associates International interviewed 1,001 adults aged 18 and older.
Posted by politicalstuff at 12:43 AM
A New Dick Cheney/Alberto Gonzales Mystery
July 2-9, 2007 issue - A new battle has erupted over Vice President Dick Cheney's refusal to submit to an executive order requiring a government review of his handling of classified documents. But the dispute could also raise questions for embattled Attorney General Alberto Gonzales. For the past four years, Cheney's office has failed to comply with an executive order requiring all federal offices—including those in the White House—to annually report to the National Archives on how they safeguard classified documents. Cheney's hard-line chief of staff, David Addington, has made the novel argument that the veep doesn't have to comply on the ground that, because the vice president also serves as president of the Senate, his office is not really part of the executive branch.
Cheney's position so frustrated J. William Leonard, the chief of the Archives' Information Security Oversight Office, which enforces the order, that he complained in January to Gonzales. In a letter, Leonard wrote that Cheney's position was inconsistent with the "plain text reading" of the executive order and asked the attorney general for an official ruling. But Gonzales never responded, thereby permitting Cheney to continue blocking Leonard from conducting even a routine inspection of how the veep's office was handling classified documents, according to correspondence released by House Government Reform Committee chair Rep. Henry Waxman.
Why didn't Gonzales act on Leonard's request? His aides assured reporters that Leonard's letter has been "under review" for the past five months—by Justice's Office of Legal Counsel (OLC). But on June 4, an OLC lawyer denied a Freedom of Information Act request about the Cheney dispute asserting that OLC had "no documents" on the matter, according to a copy of the letter obtained by NEWSWEEK. Steve Aftergood, the Federation of American Scientists researcher who filed the request, said he found the denial letter "puzzling and inexplicable"—especially since Leonard had copied OLC chief Steve Bradbury on his original letter to Gonzales. The FOIA response has piqued the interest of congressional investigators, who note Bradbury is the same official in charge of vetting all document requests from Congress about the U.S. attorneys flap. Asked about the apparent discrepancy, Justice spokesman Brian Roehrkasse said the OLC response "was and remains accurate" because Leonard's letter had generated no "substantive work product."
Waxman told NEWSWEEK he now plans to investigate the handling of the issue by Justice as well as Cheney's refusal to comply with the executive order, which he called part of a "pattern" of stonewalling by the veep. Cheney spokeswoman Lea Anne McBride said, "We're confident we are conducting the office properly under the law." She also pointed to comments by White House Deputy Press Secretary Dana Perino, who said that Bush, not the National Archives, was the "sole enforcer" of the executive order relating to classified information.
Posted by politicalstuff at 12:41 AM
Vitamin makers to get more scrutiny; The FDA wants dietary supplements to match what's on the labels.
Vitamin makers to get more scrutiny
The FDA wants dietary supplements to match what's on the labels.
By Daniel Costello, Times Staff Writer
Starting this summer, the makers of vitamins and dietary supplements will have to do something they've never done before: verify that what they sell is real.
On Friday, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration announced that starting in late August, manufacturers in the $22-billon-a-year industry must conduct tests to show that their products contain all the ingredients on the label — nothing more and nothing less.
Companies must also keep records of consumer complaints.
"This will help consumers be more confident that the dietary supplements they take are labeled accurately and free of contamination," said Vasilios Frankos, director of the FDA's Division of Dietary Supplements Programs.
The long-awaited regulations come after years of complaints by consumer advocates that the lightly regulated industry is badly in need of more federal oversight.
Unlike pharmaceuticals and over-the-counter medications, dietary supplements such as weight-loss pills and sports-nutrition formulas are considered food supplements and do not fall under the stricter safety guidelines for drugs.
Studies have found that some dietary supplements do not contain all of the ingredients listed on their labels and that ingredients are often in significantly higher or lower dosages than advertised.
What's more, a number of supplements have been pulled from the market in recent years because they were found to be contaminated with pesticides, metals or other unknown and potentially dangerous ingredients.
Last year, an FDA analysis found instances in which supplements sold to treat erectile dysfunction contained undeclared ingredients that are supposed to be available only by prescription.
Paul Bolar, vice president of regulatory affairs for Pharmavite, the Northridge-based manufacturer of Nature Made vitamins, said the industry welcomed the new regulations because they would help make manufacturing and safety practices more uniform across the board.
"We think this will help consumer confidence in our industry, which is badly needed right now," Bolar said.
The new federal rules go into effect Aug. 24. Companies with 500 or more employees must implement the changes within a year; those with fewer than 20 workers have three years to comply.
FDA officials said that penalties for companies that violate the new rules would vary depending on the severity of the violation.
Companies with minor violations will be given time to make corrections, but bigger problems could lead to products being seized by regulators.
Janell Mayo Duncan, senior counsel for Consumers Union, a New York-based advocacy group, welcomed the new rules but said much more needed to be done to ensure the safety of dietary supplements.
"This is a small, small step in the right direction," she said.
Posted by politicalstuff at 12:40 AM
U.S., Critic of N. Korea Payments, Also Sends Millions
By Colum Lynch
Washington Post Staff Writer
UNITED NATIONS -- Over the past six months, the Bush administration has repeatedly criticized the U.N. Development Program for channeling millions of dollars in hard currency into North Korea to finance the agency's programs, warning that the money might be diverted to Pyongyang's nuclear weapons program.
But the United States also has funneled dollars to Kim Jong Il's regime over the past decade, financing travel for North Korean diplomats and paying more than $20 million in cash for the remains of 229 U.S. soldiers from the Korean War. And in a bid to advance nuclear talks, the Bush administration recently transferred back to North Korea about $25 million in cash that the Treasury Department had frozen at Banco Delta Asia, a Macao-based bank that the United States had accused of laundering counterfeit U.S. currency on behalf of North Korea.
Such transactions emphasize philosophical differences in the administration over the wisdom of engaging with North Korea and highlight the compromises that the United States, the United Nations and others face in dealing with Pyongyang.
"The U.S. has no moral high ground," said Michael Green, a former special assistant to President Bush who served as senior director for Asian affairs in the National Security Council. "In terms of bribing Kim Jong Il, UNDP is a minor offender."
North Korea's regime has skillfully extracted hundreds of millions of dollars in bribes from foreign companies and governments, and has persuaded South Korea and China to supply billions of dollars' worth of food and fuel with virtually no oversight. South Korea reportedly paid hundreds of millions to bribe the North Korean leader to attend a 2000 summit, and China agreed in 2005 to build a $50 million glass factory for North Korea in exchange for its participation in six-nation nuclear talks.
Such payments are "part and parcel of doing business in North Korea," said L. Gordon Flake, executive director of the Mansfield Foundation, a nonprofit organization that promotes U.S. relations with Asian countries.
Since 1995, the United States has provided the North Korean regime with more than $1 billion worth of food and fuel in the hopes of forestalling famine -- and of restraining Kim's nuclear ambitions. In an effort to promote diplomatic contacts between the two countries, the Energy Department has channeled money to U.S. nonprofit agencies and universities, including a $1 million grant to the Atlantic Council to cover travel costs for informal talks between U.S. and North Korean diplomats.
U.S. military officials routinely traveled to North Korea's demilitarized zone between 1996 and 2005 to give cash to North Korean army officers for the recovery of the remains of 229 of the more than 7,000 U.S. troops missing in North Korea since the Korean War. "There was a painstaking transfer process: cold, hard cash, counted carefully, turned over carefully," said Larry Greer, spokesman for the Pentagon's Prisoner of War/Missing Personnel Office.
Greer insisted that the payments, which covered labor, material and other expenses, were in line with recovery operations in other parts of the world. But he and other officials said North Korea frequently tried to inflate the costs and once requested that the U.S. military build a baby-clothing factory. The United States demurred, he said.
The Bush administration dramatically scaled back U.S. assistance to North Korea in 2002, but it continued to finance the effort to recover remains of Korean War veterans until 2005, when the U.S. military said it could no longer ensure the safety of U.S. recovery teams. Between 2002 and 2005, the United States flew a seven-member North Korean team, at a cost of $25,000 a year, to Bangkok for discussions about future recovery missions, according to the Congressional Research Service.
"It's pretty close to a ransom of remains," said James A. Kelly, U.S. assistant secretary of state for East Asian and Pacific affairs, adding he had little confidence that Washington could account for how the money was spent. "I personally didn't like it, but I didn't feel it was enough to get into a big squabble with the veterans organizations that felt strongly about it."
Mark D. Wallace, the U.S. representative to the United Nations for administration and reform, lambasted the U.N. Development Program earlier this year for engaging in similar practices. For instance, he faulted the UNDP for flying a North Korean official in business class to New York at a cost of $12,000 to attend a meeting of the U.N. agency's board of directors.
His complaints triggered a preliminary U.N. audit this month that confirmed that the UNDP had failed to abide by its rules by hiring workers handpicked by the North Korean government and paying them in foreign currency.
The UNDP operated for years "in blatant violation of U.N. rules [and] served as a steady and large source of hard currency" for the North Korean government, Wallace said. The UNDP's efforts, he added, have been "systematically perverted for the benefit of the Kim Jong Il regime, rather than the people of North Korea."
The controversy led the UNDP to suspend its North Korean operations in March after the government refused to allow it to independently hire staff members. The World Food Program and the U.N. Children's Fund -- which also pay government-supplied workers in foreign currency -- remain active in North Korea.
Wallace has expanded his inquiry, alleging in congressional briefings that North Korea diverted nearly $3 million in UNDP cash to purchase real estate in France, Britain and Canada. He also contended that the UNDP received tens of thousands of dollars in counterfeit U.S. currency and imported sensitive "dual use" equipment into North Korea that could be used for a weapons program. The United States claims to possess internal UNDP documents to back up the claims but has refused to turn them over.
UNDP spokesman David Morrison said that the allegations "don't seem to add up" and that the United States has not substantiated its assertions. He said the agency can account for the $2 million to $3 million it spends each year on its North Korea programs. UNDP officials said the dual-use equipment -- which included Global Positioning System devices and a portable Tristan 5 spectrometer available on eBay for $5,100 -- was part of a weather forecasting system for flood- and drought-prone regions.
"We have been subject to all manner of wild allegations about wide-scale funding diversion," Morrison said.
U.S. officials said there is no link between criticism of the UNDP and U.S. efforts to restrain North Korean nuclear ambitions. "If I were a conspiracy theorist, I would think that way, but there is really no connection," said a senior U.S. official who tracks the issue.
Staff writer Glenn Kessler contributed to this report.
Posted by politicalstuff at 12:37 AM
The New York Times
Judge Criticizes Wiretap Program
By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
WASHINGTON, June 23 (AP) — A federal judge who used to authorize wiretaps in terrorist and espionage cases on Saturday criticized President Bush’s decision to order warrantless surveillance after the Sept. 11 attacks.
The judge, Royce C. Lamberth of federal district court in Washington, said it was proper for executive branch agencies to conduct such surveillances. “But what we have found in the history of our country is that you can’t trust the executive,” he said at a convention of the American Library Association.
Judge Lamberth, who was appointed by President Ronald Reagan, disagreed with letting the executive branch alone decide which people to spy on in security cases.
“The executive has to fight and win the war at all costs,” he said. “But judges understand the war has to be fought, but it can’t be at all costs.” He added: “We still have to preserve our civil liberties. Judges are the kinds of people you want to entrust that kind of judgment to more than the executive.”
Judge Lamberth was named chief of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court in 1995 by Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist. He held that post until 2002.
The court meets in secret to review applications from the F.B.I., the National Security Agency and other agencies for warrants to wiretap or search the homes of people in the United States in terrorist or espionage cases.
A White House spokesman, Tony Fratto, said Mr. Bush believed in the program, which is classified because its purpose is to stop terrorists’ planning.
The program “is lawful, limited, safeguarded and — most importantly — effective in protecting American citizens from terrorist attacks,” Mr. Fratto said. “It’s specifically designed to be effective without infringing Americans’ civil liberties.”
Posted by politicalstuff at 12:35 AM
"The Vice President has a choice to make. If he believes his legal case, his office has no business being funded as part of the executive branch."
Washington, D.C. House Democratic Caucus Chairman Rahm Emanuel
issued the following statement regarding his amendment to cut funding
for the Office of the Vice President from the bill that funds the
executive branch. The legislation -- the Financial Services and General
Government Appropriations bill -- will be considered on the floor of
the House of Representatives next week.
"The Vice President has a choice to make. If he believes his legal
case, his office has no business being funded as part of the executive
However, if he demands executive branch funding he cannot
ignore executive branch rules. At the very least, the Vice President
should be consistent. This amendment will ensure that the Vice
President's funding is consistent with his legal arguments. I have
worked closely with my colleagues on this amendment and will continue
to pursue this measure in the coming days."
Posted by politicalstuff at 12:32 AM
Cheney exerts influence out of public view; Vice president has shaped his times as no other has before
The Washington Post
WP: Cheney exerts influence out of public view
Vice president has shaped his times as no other has before
PART 1 OF 4
By Barton Gellman and Jo Becker
Just past the Oval Office, in the private dining room overlooking the South Lawn, Vice President Cheney joined President Bush at a round parquet table they shared once a week. Cheney brought a four-page text, written in strict secrecy by his lawyer. He carried it back out with him after lunch.
In less than an hour, the document traversed a West Wing circuit that gave its words the power of command. It changed hands four times, according to witnesses, with emphatic instructions to bypass staff review. When it returned to the Oval Office, in a blue portfolio embossed with the presidential seal, Bush pulled a felt-tip pen from his pocket and signed without sitting down. Almost no one else had seen the text.
Cheney's proposal had become a military order from the commander in chief. Foreign terrorism suspects held by the United States were stripped of access to any court -- civilian or military, domestic or foreign. They could be confined indefinitely without charges and would be tried, if at all, in closed "military commissions."
"What the hell just happened?" Secretary of State Colin L. Powell demanded, a witness said, when CNN announced the order that evening, Nov. 13, 2001. National security adviser Condoleezza Rice, incensed, sent an aide to find out. Even witnesses to the Oval Office signing said they did not know the vice president had played any part.
The episode was a defining moment in Cheney's tenure as the 46th vice president of the United States, a post the Constitution left all but devoid of formal authority. "Angler," as the Secret Service code-named him, has approached the levers of power obliquely, skirting orderly lines of debate he once enforced as chief of staff to President Gerald R. Ford. He has battled a bureaucracy he saw as hostile, using intimate knowledge of its terrain. He has empowered aides to fight above their rank, taking on roles reserved in other times for a White House counsel or national security adviser. And he has found a ready patron in George W. Bush for edge-of-the-envelope views on executive supremacy that previous presidents did not assert.
Over the past six years, Cheney has shaped his times as no vice president has before. This article begins a four-part series that explores his methods and impact, drawing on interviews with more than 200 men and women who worked for, with and in opposition to Cheney's office. Many of those interviewed recounted events that have not been made public until now, sharing notes,e-mails, personal calendars and other records of their interaction with Cheney and his senior staff. The vice president declined to be interviewed.
Two articles, today and tomorrow, recount Cheney's campaign to magnify presidential war-making authority, arguably his most important legacy. Articles to follow will describe a span of influence that extends far beyond his well-known interests in energy and national defense.
In roles that have gone largely undetected, Cheney has served as gatekeeper for Supreme Court nominees, referee of Cabinet turf disputes, arbiter of budget appeals, editor of tax proposals and regulator in chief of water flows in his native West. On some subjects, officials said, he has displayed a strong pragmatic streak. On others he has served as enforcer of ideological principle, come what may.
Cheney is not, by nearly every inside account, the shadow president of popular lore. Bush has set his own course, not always in directions Cheney preferred. The president seized the helm when his No. 2 steered toward trouble, as Bush did, in time, on military commissions. Their one-on-one relationship is opaque, a vital unknown in assessing Cheney's impact on events. The two men speak of it seldom, if ever, with others. But officials who see them together often, not all of them admirers of the vice president, detect a strong sense of mutual confidence that Cheney is serving Bush's aims.
The vice president's reputation and, some say, his influence, have suffered in the past year and a half. Cheney lost his closest aide, I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, to a perjury conviction, and his onetime mentor, Donald H. Rumsfeld, in a Cabinet purge. A shooting accident in Texas, and increasing gaps between his rhetoric and events in Iraq, have exposed him to ridicule and approval ratings in the teens. Cheney expresses indifference, in public and private, to any verdict but history's, and those close to him say he means it.
Waxing or waning, Cheney holds his purchase on an unrivaled portfolio across the executive branch. Bush works most naturally, close observers said, at the level of broad objectives, broadly declared. Cheney, they said, inhabits an operational world in which means are matched with ends and some of the most important choices are made. When particulars rise to presidential notice, Cheney often steers the preparation of options and sits with Bush, in side-by-side wing chairs, as he is briefed.
Before the president casts the only vote that counts, the final words of counsel nearly always come from Cheney.
‘The go-to-guy on the Hill’
In his Park Avenue corner suite at Cerberus Global Investments, Dan Quayle recalled the moment he learned how much his old job had changed. Cheney had just taken the oath of office, and Quayle paid a visit to offer advice from one vice president to another.
"I said, 'Dick, you know, you're going to be doing a lot of this international traveling, you're going to be doing all this political fundraising . . . you'll be going to the funerals,' " Quayle said in an interview earlier this year. "I mean, this is what vice presidents do. I said, 'We've all done it.' "
Cheney "got that little smile," Quayle said, and replied, "I have a different understanding with the president."
"He had the understanding with President Bush that he would be -- I'm just going to use the word 'surrogate chief of staff,' " said Quayle, whose membership on the Defense Policy Board gave him regular occasion to see Cheney privately over the following four years.
Cheney, 66, grew up in Lincoln, Neb., and Casper, Wyo., acquiring a Westerner's passion for hunting and fishing but not for the Democratic politics of his parents. He wed his high school sweetheart, Lynne Vincent, beginning what friends describe as a lifelong love affair. Cheney flunked out of Yale but became a highly regarded PhD candidate in political science at the University of Wyoming -- avoiding the Vietnam War draft with five deferments along the way -- before abandoning the doctoral program and heading to Washington as a junior congressional aide.
He went on to build an unmatched Washington resume as White House chief of staff, House minority whip and secretary of defense. An aversion to political glad-handing and a series of chronic health problems, including four heart attacks, helped derail his presidential ambitions and shifted his focus to a lucrative stint as chairman of Halliburton, an oil services company. His controlled demeanor, ranging mainly from a tight-lipped gaze to the trademark half-smile, conceals what associates call an impish sense of humor and unusual kindness to subordinates.
Cheney's influence in the Bush administration is widely presumed but hard to illustrate. Many of the men and women who know him best said an explanation begins with the way he defined his role.
As the Bush administration prepared to take office, "I remember at the outset, during the transition, thinking, 'What do vice presidents do?' " said White House Chief of Staff Joshua B. Bolten, who was then the Bush team's policy director. Bolten joined Libby, his counterpart in Cheney's office, to compile a list of "portfolios we thought might be appropriate." Their models, Bolten said, were Quayle's Council on Competitiveness and Al Gore's National Partnership for Reinventing Government.
‘Every table and every meeting’
"The vice president didn't particularly warm to that," Bolten recalled dryly.
Cheney preferred, and Bush approved, a mandate that gave him access to "every table and every meeting," making his voice heard in "whatever area the vice president feels he wants to be active in," Bolten said.
Cheney has used that mandate with singular force of will. Other recent vice presidents have enjoyed a standing invitation to join the president at "policy time." But Cheney's interventions have also come in the president's absence, at Cabinet and sub-Cabinet levels where his predecessors were seldom seen. He found pressure points and changed the course of events by "reaching down," a phrase that recurs often in interviews with current and former aides.
Mary Matalin, who was counselor to the vice president until 2003 and remains an informal adviser, described Cheney's portfolio as "the iron issues" -- a list that, as she defined it, comprises most of the core concerns of every recent president. Cheney took on "the economic issues, the security issues . . . the energy issues" -- and the White House legislative agenda, Matalin said, because he became "the go-to guy on the Hill." Other close aides noted, as well, a major role for Cheney in nominations and appointments.
As constitutional understudy, with no direct authority in the executive branch, Cheney has often worked through surrogates. Many of them owed their jobs to him.
While lawyers fought over the 2000 Florida ballot recount, with the presidential election in the balance, Cheney was already populating a prospective Bush administration. Brian V. McCormack, then his 26-year-old personal aide, said Cheney worked three cellphones from the round kitchen table of his townhouse in McLean, "making up lists" of nominees beginning with the secretaries of state, defense and the Treasury.
"His focus was that we need to prepare for the event that [the recount] comes out in our favor, because we will have a limited time frame," McCormack recalled.
Close allies found positions as chief and deputy chief of the Office of Management and Budget, deputy national security adviser, undersecretary of state, and assistant or deputy assistant secretary in numerous Cabinet departments. Other loyalists -- including McCormack, who progressed to assignments in Iraq's occupation authority and then on Bush's staff -- turned up in less senior, but still significant, posts.
In the years that followed, crossing Cheney would cost some of the same officials their jobs. David Gribben, a friend from graduate school who became the vice president's chief of legislative affairs, said Cheney believes in the "educational use of power." Firing a disloyal or poorly performing official, he said, sometimes "sends a signal crisply." Cheney believes he is "using his authority to serve the American people, and he's obviously not afraid to be a rough opponent," Gribben said.
A prodigious appetite for work, officials said, prepares Cheney to shape the president's conversations with others. His Secret Service detail sometimes reports that he is awake and reading at 4:30 a.m. He receives a private intelligence briefing between 6:30 and 7 a.m., often identifying issues to be called to Bush's attention, and then sits in on the president's daily briefing an hour later. Aides said that Cheney insists on joining Bush by secure video link, no matter how many time zones divide them.
Stealth is among Cheney's most effective tools. Man-size Mosler safes, used elsewhere in government for classified secrets, store the workaday business of the office of the vice president. Even talking points for reporters are sometimes stamped "Treated As: Top Secret/SCI." Experts in and out of government said Cheney's office appears to have invented that designation, which alludes to "sensitive compartmented information," the most closely guarded category of government secrets. By adding the words "treated as," they said, Cheney seeks to protect unclassified work as though its disclosure would cause "exceptionally grave damage to national security."
Across the board, the vice president's office goes to unusual lengths to avoid transparency. Cheney declines to disclose the names or even the size of his staff, generally releases no public calendar and ordered the Secret Service to destroy his visitor logs. His general counsel has asserted that "the vice presidency is a unique office that is neither a part of the executive branch nor a part of the legislative branch," and is therefore exempt from rules governing either. Cheney is refusing to observe an executive order on the handling of national security secrets, and he proposed to abolish a federal office that insisted on auditing his compliance.
In the usual business of interagency consultation, proposals and information flow into the vice president's office from around the government, but high-ranking White House officials said in interviews that almost nothing flows out. Close aides to Cheney describe a similar one-way valve inside the office, with information flowing up to the vice president but little or no reaction flowing down.
All those methods would be on clear display when the "war on terror" began for Cheney after eight months in office.
A ‘triumvirate’ and its leader
In a bunker beneath the East Wing of the White House, Cheney locked his eyes on CNN, chin resting on interlaced fingers. He was about to watch, in real time, as thousands were killed on Sept. 11, 2001.
Previous accounts have described Cheney's adrenaline-charged evacuation to the Presidential Emergency Operations Center that morning, a Secret Service agent on each arm. They have not detailed his reaction, 22 minutes later, when the south tower of the World Trade Center collapsed.
"There was a groan in the room that I won't forget, ever," one witness said. "It seemed like one groan from everyone" -- among them Rice; her deputy, Stephen J. Hadley; economic adviser Lawrence B. Lindsey; counselor Matalin; Cheney's chief of staff, Libby; and the vice president's wife.
Cheney made no sound. "I remember turning my head and looking at the vice president, and his expression never changed," said the witness, reading from a notebook of observations written that day. Cheney closed his eyes against the image for one long, slow blink.
Three people who were present, not all of them admirers, said they saw no sign then or later of the profound psychological transformation that has often been imputed to Cheney. What they saw, they said, was extraordinary self-containment and a rapid shift of focus to the machinery of power. While others assessed casualties and the work of "first responders," Cheney began planning for a conflict that would call upon lawyers as often as soldiers and spies.
More than any one man in the months to come, Cheney freed Bush to fight the "war on terror" as he saw fit, animated by their shared belief that al-Qaeda's destruction would require what the vice president called "robust interrogation" to extract intelligence from captured suspects. With a small coterie of allies, Cheney supplied the rationale and political muscle to drive far-reaching legal changes through the White House, the Justice Department and the Pentagon.
The way he did it -- adhering steadfastly to principle, freezing out dissent and discounting the risks of blow-back -- turned tactical victory into strategic defeat. By late last year, the Supreme Court had dealt three consecutive rebuffs to his claim of nearly unchecked authority for the commander in chief, setting precedents that will bind Bush's successors.
Yet even as Bush was forced into public retreats, an examination of subsequent events suggests that Cheney has quietly held his ground. Most of his operational agenda, in practice if not in principle, remains in place.
In expanding presidential power, Cheney's foremost agent was David S. Addington, his formidable general counsel and legal adviser of many years. On the morning of Sept. 11, Addington was evacuated from the Eisenhower Executive Office Building next to the White House and began to make his way toward his Virginia home on foot. As he neared the Arlington Memorial Bridge, someone in the White House reached him with a message: Turn around. The vice president needs you.
Down in the bunker, according to a colleague with firsthand knowledge, Cheney and Addington began contemplating the founding question of the legal revolution to come: What extraordinary powers will the president need for his response?
Before the day ended, Cheney's lawyer joined forces with Timothy E. Flanigan, the deputy White House counsel, linked by secure video from the Situation Room. Flanigan patched in John C. Yoo at the Justice Department's fourth-floor command center. White House counsel Alberto R. Gonzales joined later.
Thus formed the core legal team that Cheney oversaw, directly and indirectly, after the terrorist attacks.
Yoo, a Berkeley professor-turned-deputy chief of the Office of Legal Counsel, became the theorist of an insurrection against legal limits on the commander in chief. Addington, backed by Flanigan, found levers of government policy and wrote the words that moved them.
"Addington, Flanigan and Gonzales were really a triumvirate," recalled Bradford A. Berenson, then an associate White House counsel. Yoo, he said, "was a supporting player."
Gonzales, a former Texas judge, had the seniority and the relationship with Bush. But Addington -- a man of imposing demeanor, intellect and experience -- dominated the group. Gonzales "was not a law-of-war expert and didn't have very developed views," Yoo recalled, echoing blunter observations by the Texan's White House colleagues.
Cheney ‘has the portfolio’
Flanigan, with advice from Yoo, drafted the authorization for use of military force that Congress approved on Sept. 18. [Read the authorization document ] Yoo said they used the broadest possible language because "this war was so different, you can't predict what might come up."
In fact, the triumvirate knew very well what would come next: the interception -- without a warrant -- of communications to and from the United States. Forbidden by federal law since 1978, the surveillance would soon be justified, in secret, as "incident to" the authority Congress had just granted. Yoo was already working on that memo, completing it on Sept. 25.
It was an extraordinary step, bypassing Congress and the courts, and its authors kept it secret from officials who were likely to object. Among the excluded was John B. Bellinger III, a man for whom Cheney's attorney had "open contempt," according to a senior government lawyer who saw them often. The eavesdropping program was directly within Bellinger's purview as ranking national security lawyer in the White House, reporting to Rice. Addington had no line responsibility. But he had Cheney's proxy, and more than once he accused Bellinger, to his face, of selling out presidential authority for good "public relations" or bureaucratic consensus.
Addington, who seldom speaks to reporters, declined to be interviewed.
"David is extremely principled and dedicated to doing what he feels is right, and can be a very tough customer when he perceives others as obstacles to achieving those goals," Berenson said. "But it's not personal in the sense that 'I don't like you.' It's all about the underlying principle."
Bryan Cunningham, Bellinger's former deputy, said: "Bellinger didn't know. That was a mistake." Cunningham said Rice's lawyer would have recommended vetting the surveillance program with the secret court that governs intelligence intercepts -- a step the Bush administration was forced to take five years later.
On Oct. 25, 2001, the chairmen and ranking minority members of the intelligence committees were summoned to the White House for their first briefing on the eavesdropping and were told that it was one of the government's most closely compartmented secrets. Under Presidents George H.W. Bush or Bill Clinton, officials said, a conversation of that gravity would involve the commander in chief. But when the four lawmakers arrived in the West Wing lobby, an aide led them through the door on the right, away from the Oval Office.
"We met in the vice president's office," recalled former senator Bob Graham (D-Fla.). Bush had told Graham already, when the senator assumed the intelligence panel chairmanship, that "the vice president should be your point of contact in the White House." Cheney, the president said, "has the portfolio for intelligence activities."
‘Oh, by the way’
By late October, the vice president and his allies were losing patience with the Bush administration's review of a critical question facing U.S. forces in Afghanistan and elsewhere: What should be done with captured fighters from al-Qaeda and the Taliban? Federal trials? Courts-martial? Military commissions like the ones used for Nazis under President Franklin D. Roosevelt?
Cheney's staff did not reply to invitations to join the interagency working group led by Pierre Prosper, ambassador at large for war crimes. But Addington, the vice president's lawyer, knew what his client wanted, Berenson said. And Prosper's group was still debating details. "Once you start diving into it, and history has proven us right, these are complicated questions," one regular participant said.
The vice president saw it differently. "The interagency was just constipated," said one Cheney ally, who spoke on condition of anonymity.
Flanigan recalled a conversation with Addington at the time in which the two discussed the salutary effect of showing bureaucrats that the president could act "without their blessing -- and without the interminable process that goes along with getting that blessing."
Throughout his long government career, Cheney had counseled against that kind of policy surprise, insisting that unvetted decisions lead presidents to costly mistakes.
When James A. Baker III was tapped to be White House chief of staff in 1980, he interviewed most of his living predecessors. Advice from Cheney filled four pages of a yellow legal pad. Only once, to signify Cheney's greatest emphasis, did Baker write in all capital letters:
BE AN HONEST BROKER
DON'T USE THE PROCESS TO IMPOSE YOUR POLICY VIEWS ON PRES.
Cheney told Baker, according to the notes, that an "orderly paper flow is way you protect the Pres.," ensuring that any proposal has been tested against other views. Cheney added:
"It's not in anyone's interest to get an 'oh by the way decision' -- & all have to understand that. Can hurt the Pres. Bring it up at a Cab. mtg. Make sure everyone understands this."
In 1999, not long before he became Bush's running mate, Cheney warned again about "'oh, by the way' decisions" at a conference of White House historians. According to a transcript, he added: "The process of moving paper in and out of the Oval Office, who gets involved in the meetings, who does the president listen to, who gets a chance to talk to him before he makes a decision, is absolutely critical. It has to be managed in such a way that it has integrity."
Cheney's Advice to Baker
Advice from Cheney to then incoming presidential chief of staff James A. Baker filled four pages of a yellow legal pad. View the actual notes and a transcript. More »
Two years later, at his Nov. 13 lunch with Bush, Cheney brought the president the ultimate "oh, by the way" choice -- a far-reaching military order that most of Bush's top advisers had not seen.
According to Flanigan, Addington was not the first to think of military commissions but was the "best scholar of the FDR-era order" among their small group of trusted allies. "He gained a preeminent role by virtue of his sheer ability to turn out a draft of something in quick time."
That draft, said one of the few lawyers apprised of it, "was very closely held because it was coming right from the top."
‘In support of the president’
To pave the way for the military commissions, Yoo wrote an opinion on Nov. 6, 2001, declaring that Bush did not need approval from Congress or federal courts. Yoo said in an interview that he saw no need to inform the State Department, which hosts the archives of the Geneva Conventions and the government's leading experts on the law of war. "The issue we dealt with was: Can the president do it constitutionally?" Yoo said. "State -- they wouldn't have views on that."
Attorney General John D. Ashcroft was astonished to learn that the draft gave the Justice Department no role in choosing which alleged terrorists would be tried in military commissions. Over Veterans Day weekend, on Nov. 10, he took his objections to the White House.
The attorney general found Cheney, not Bush, at the broad conference table in the Roosevelt Room. According to participants, Ashcroft said that he was the president's senior law enforcement officer, supervised the FBI and oversaw terrorism prosecutions nationwide. The Justice Department, he said, had to have a voice in the tribunal process. He was enraged to discover that Yoo, his subordinate, had recommended otherwise -- as part of a strategy to deny jurisdiction to U.S. courts.
Raising his voice, participants said, Ashcroft talked over Addington and brushed aside interjections from Cheney. "The thing I remember about it is how rude, there's no other word for it, the attorney general was to the vice president," said one of those in the room. Asked recently about the confrontation, Ashcroft replied curtly: "I'm just not prepared to comment on that."
According to Yoo and three other officials, Ashcroft did not persuade Cheney and got no audience with Bush. Bolten, in an October 2006 interview after becoming Bush's chief of staff, did not deny that account. He signaled an intention to operate differently in the second term.
"In my six months' experience it would not fall to the vice president to referee that kind of thing," Bolten added. "If it is a presidential decision, the president will make it. . . . I think the vice president appreciates that -- that his role is in support of the president, and not as a second-tier substitute."
Three days after the Ashcroft meeting, Cheney brought the order for military commissions to Bush. No one told Bellinger, Rice or Powell, who continued to think that Prosper's working group was at the helm.
After leaving Bush's private dining room, the vice president took no chances on a last-minute objection. He sent the order on a swift path to execution that left no sign of his role. After Addington and Flanigan, the text passed to Berenson, the associate White House counsel. Cheney's link to the document broke there: Berenson was not told of its provenance.
Berenson rushed the order to deputy staff secretary Stuart W. Bowen Jr., bearing instructions to prepare it for signature immediately -- without advance distribution to the president's top advisers. Bowen objected, he told colleagues later, saying he had handled thousands of presidential documents without ever bypassing strict procedures of coordination and review. He relented, one White House official said, only after "rapid, urgent persuasion" that Bush was standing by to sign and that the order was too sensitive to delay. [Read the order ]
In an interview, Berenson said it was his understanding that "someone had briefed" the president "and gone over it" already. He added: "I don't know who that was."
‘It'll leak in 10 minutes’
On Nov. 14, 2001, the day after Bush signed the commissions order, Cheney took the next big step. He told the U.S. Chamber of Commerce that terrorists do not "deserve to be treated as prisoners of war." [Read Cheney's full remarks ]
The president had not yet made that decision. Ten weeks passed, and the Bush administration fought one of its fiercest internal brawls, before Bush ratified the policy that Cheney had declared: The Geneva Conventions would not apply to al-Qaeda or Taliban fighters captured on the battlefield.
Since 1949, Geneva had accorded protections to civilians and combatants in a war zone. Those protections varied with status, but the prevailing U.S. and international view was that anyone under military control -- even an alleged war criminal -- has some rights. Rumsfeld, elaborating on the position Cheney staked out, cast that interpretation aside. All captured fighters in Afghanistan, he said at a news briefing, are "unlawful combatants" who "do not have any rights" under Geneva.
At the White House, Bellinger sent Rice a blunt -- and, he thought, private -- legal warning. The Cheney-Rumsfeld position would place the president indisputably in breach of international law and would undermine cooperation from allied governments. Faxes had been pouring in at the State Department since the order for military commissions was signed, with even British authorities warning that they could not hand over suspects if the U.S. government withdrew from accepted legal norms.
One lawyer in his office said that Bellinger was chagrined to learn, indirectly, that Cheney had read the confidential memo and "was concerned" about his advice. Thus Bellinger discovered an unannounced standing order: Documents prepared for the national security adviser, another White House official said, were "routed outside the formal process" to Cheney, too. The reverse did not apply.
Powell asked for a meeting with Bush. The same day, Jan. 25, 2002, Cheney's office struck a preemptive blow. It appeared to come from Gonzales, a longtime Bush confidant whom the president nicknamed "Fredo." Hours after Powell made his request, Gonzales signed his name to a memo that anticipated and undermined the State Department's talking points. The true author has long been a subject of speculation, for reasons including its unorthodox format and a subtly mocking tone that is not a Gonzales hallmark.
A White House lawyer with direct knowledge said Cheney's lawyer, Addington, wrote the memo. Flanigan passed it to Gonzales, and Gonzales sent it as "my judgment" to Bush [Read the memo ]. If Bush consulted Cheney after that, the vice president became a sounding board for advice he originated himself.
Addington, under Gonzales's name, appealed to the president by quoting Bush's own declaration that "the war against terrorism is a new kind of war." Addington described the Geneva Conventions as "quaint," casting Powell as a defender of "obsolete" rules devised for another time. If Bush followed Powell's lead, Addington suggested, U.S. forces would be obliged to provide athletic gear and commissary privileges to captured terrorists.
According to David Bowker, a State Department lawyer, Powell did not in fact argue that al-Qaeda and Taliban forces deserved the privileges of prisoners of war. Powell said Geneva rules entitled each detainee to a status review, but he predicted that few, if any, would qualify as POWs, because they did not wear uniforms on the battlefield or obey a lawful chain of command. "We said, 'If you give legal process and you follow the rules, you're going to reach substantially the same result and the courts will defer to you,'" Bowker said.
Late that afternoon, as the "Gonzales memo" began to circulate around the government, Addington turned to Flanigan.
"It'll leak in 10 minutes," he predicted, according to a witness.
The next morning's Washington Times carried a front-page article in which administration sources accused Powell of "bowing to pressure from the political left" and advocating that terrorists be given "all sorts of amenities, including exercise rooms and canteens."
Though the report portrayed Powell as soft on enemies, two senior government lawyers said, Addington blamed the State Department for leaking it. The breach of secrecy, Addington said, proved that William H. Taft IV, Powell's legal adviser, could not be trusted. Taft joined Bellinger on a growing -- and explicit -- blacklist, excluded from consultation. "I was off the team," Taft said in an interview. The vice president's lawyer had marked him an enemy, but Taft did not know he was at war.
"Which, of course, is why you're ripe for the taking, isn't it?" he added, laughing briefly.
Staff researcher Julie Tate contributed to this report.
Posted by politicalstuff at 12:26 AM
House votes to ban aid to Saudi Arabia
By Richard Cowan
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. House of Representatives voted on Friday to prohibit any aid to Saudi Arabia as lawmakers accused the close ally of religious intolerance and bankrolling terrorist organizations.
The prohibition, reflecting persistent tensions with the kingdom after the September 11 attacks on the United States in 2001, was attached to a foreign aid funding bill for next year that has not yet been debated by the Senate.
It also faces a veto threat from the White House because of an unrelated provision.
A spokesman for the Saudi embassy in Washington declined to comment on the legislation.
In the past three years, Congress has passed bills to stop the relatively small amount of U.S. aid to Saudi Arabia, only to see the Bush administration circumvent the prohibitions.
Now, lawmakers are trying to close loopholes so that no more U.S. aid can be sent to the world's leading petroleum exporter.
"By cutting off aid and closing the loophole we send a clear message to the Saudi Arabian government that they must be a true ally in advancing peace in the Middle East," said Rep. Anthony Weiner, a New York Democrat.
According to supporters of the legislation, the United States provided $2.5 million to Riyadh in 2005 and 2006.
The money has been used to train Saudis in counter-terrorism and border security and to pay for Saudi military officers to attend U.S. military school.
"Saudi Arabia propagates terrorism. We all know that 15 of the 19 9/11 hijackers were Saudi," said Rep. Shelley Berkley, a Nevada Democrat. She added that Saudi youths had entered Iraq to "wage jihad" against U.S. forces fighting there.
Osama bin Laden, the Saudi-born leader of the al Qaeda group that carried out the September 11 attacks, was expelled from the kingdom in 1991 for anti-government activities.
Lawmakers also complained that with Saudi Arabia's vast wealth from oil revenues, U.S. taxpayers do not need to subsidize training Saudis.
"With poor countries all over the globe begging us for help, why are we giving money to this oil-rich nation?" Berkley said.
The U.S. State Department has routinely criticized Saudi Arabia for religious intolerance, disenfranchisement of women and arbitrary justice.
U.N. committees and groups such as Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International also have been critical of the Saudi legal system and its rights record, including punishments such as flogging and amputation.
Riyadh tends to dismiss the criticism by saying it follows the traditions of Islamic law.
Saudi Arabia is home to the two holiest sites in Islam -- Mecca and Medina -- and to a conservative Sunni Muslim ideology often called Wahhabism.
Despite the efforts by the lawmakers to cut off aid, the United States has had a strong relationship with Saudi Arabia in terms of energy and security.
But recently Saudi King Abdullah has asserted a more robust leadership role in the Middle East, putting himself at odds with Washington over Iraq and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
According to the Energy Information Administration, an agency of the U.S. Department of Energy, crude oil imports from Saudi Arabia are the third largest after Canada and Mexico.
Until 2003, the United States kept up to 10,000 soldiers in Saudi Arabia to help enforce a no-fly zone over southern Iraq that was put in place after the first Gulf War in 1991. Most of those forces have been withdrawn.
Posted by politicalstuff at 12:24 AM
Bush pick for key Justice Department job withdraws
By Will Dunham
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President George W. Bush's nominee for the third-ranking U.S. Justice Department post withdrew on Friday, becoming the department's latest casualty amid congressional scrutiny of the firings of federal prosecutors.
The move by William Mercer, selected by Bush for the post of associate attorney general, came just days before a scheduled Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on Tuesday on his nomination. Mercer had been serving in the job on an acting basis since last September while also holding the job of U.S. attorney in Montana, a post he will retain.
Mercer becomes the sixth Justice Department official to step aside since March as the Democratic-led Congress investigates the department's firing of nine U.S. attorneys.
"After much consideration, I have concluded that it is highly unlikely that both the Judiciary Committee and the Senate will take prompt action on my nomination in the near term, if ever," Mercer said in a letter to Attorney General Alberto Gonzales explaining why he asked Bush to withdraw his nomination.
"This view is informed in part by statements suggesting that some senior Justice nominees will not be voted upon until the Senate receives e-mails and witnesses it has demanded from the White House," Mercer added.
Gonzales, who has fended off demands from some lawmakers for his resignation, ousted the prosecutors last year as part of a plan that originated at the White House.
Critics have questioned whether partisan politics played an improper role in the dismissal plans. Bush and Gonzales say the firing of nine of the 93 U.S. attorneys, all Bush appointees, was justified, although mishandled.
'NO CLEAR END IN SIGHT'
"With no clear end in sight with respect to my nomination, it is untenable for me to pursue both responsibilities and provide proper attention to my family," Mercer wrote.
Judiciary Committee Chairman Sen. Patrick Leahy, a Vermont Democrat, said he viewed the move as an attempt by the Bush administration to sidestep questions from lawmakers.
"The White House has found many ways to keep sunlight from reaching some of the darker corners of the Bush Justice Department, but this is a new one," Leahy said in a statement.
"With a confirmation hearing looming next Tuesday, they have withdrawn this nomination to avoid having to answer more questions under oath."
In a statement, Gonzales offered praise for Mercer.
"Given his 17 years of service in the Department of Justice, I have benefited from Bill Mercer's service as the Acting Associate Attorney General over the past 10 months and am very pleased that the Department will continue to benefit from his leadership, talent and experience through his role as U.S. Attorney in Montana," Gonzales said.
"It's unfortunate that some members of the Senate have indicated they will not act to confirm highly qualified nominees," added Emily Lawrimore, a White House spokeswoman, by e-mail.
Exactly a week ago, Mike Elston, the chief of staff to outgoing Deputy Attorney General Paul McNulty, became the fifth Justice Department official to depart since the controversy over the firing of the federal prosecutors flared.
Unlike the others leaving senior department posts, Mercer will retain the U.S. attorney job in Montana. Mercer had faced criticism from some in Congress and elsewhere for holding both jobs at once.
Posted by politicalstuff at 12:22 AM
NY Gov: State Senate stalls reform, seeks more pay
ALBANY, New York (Reuters) - New York Democratic Gov. Eliot Spitzer on Friday bashed the GOP-led Senate for blocking reforms on everything from clean air to campaign finance, and vowed to keep playing hardball despite criticism of his style.
His Republican opponent, Senate Majority Leader Joseph Bruno, in a statement, blamed Spitzer for letting the Legislature's session end on Thursday in "a whimper" despite its promising start.
Spitzer's fellow Democrat, Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, said: "If I were offering suggestions, it would be for everybody involved in the process, that cooler heads prevail and substantive dialogue is what will produce a greater result."
One key issue left open was Mayor Michael Bloomberg's bid to fight gridlock by discouraging Manhattan commuters from driving by charging an $8-per-car fee on weekdays from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Spitzer, eager to burnish his reputation as a reformer, also sought to strengthen the oversight of public authorities, which control billions of dollars of spending and bonding, and curb how much cities spend on construction by cutting the number of contracts they must sign for each project.
Other bills would have streamlined rules for choosing new power plant locations and made much better use of as much as $1 billion of state tax credits for cleaning up 54 brownfields, which are old and polluted industrial sites, Spitzer said.
Asked by Albany reporters if he was to blame for some of the impasse, Spitzer referred to his campaign promise that everything changes on "Day One" of his January swearing-in.
"What changed is that there is an energy, a determination, a will, a grit of resolve, and we're not going to quit."
PAY RAISE AND POLITICS
Promising to travel the state to make his case, Spitzer slammed senators for voting themselves a pay raise and approving nearly $500 million of pork barrel spending.
Bruno has fiercely objected to Spitzer's open support for Democrats in legislative races.
"We don't target people or senators," the governor said.
Releasing a list of the session's achievements, which he said included an historic 10 percent increase in school aid, Spitzer added: "We're going to play hardball when it comes to getting the bills passed to do the people's business."
New York's mayor, now an independent, soared above the partisan clashes on his Friday WABC radio show, saying he hoped Bruno and the Democratic speaker will enact a so-called congestion pricing bill by a July 16 federal funding deadline.
The Senate wanted to create a commission to study the congestion-pricing plan. Bruno wanted the Senate, the Assembly, the governor and the mayor to all share control of $380 million a year in new revenue from the congestion fee.
In contrast, Bloomberg wanted to rule that spending.
Silver, as often is the case, has not said whether he backs Bloomberg's plan, one of the mayor's 127 Earth Day initiatives. On Friday, the speaker said he will review whether the fees should vary with the time of day and whether the mayor or the state mass transit agency should control the fee revenue.
Another issue is who should pay more -- city dwellers or suburbanites, who could deduct the city fees from their bridge and tunnel tolls, Silver said.
"I'm sure that the Senate will look for a significant portion of any money raised under the mayor's plan to go to the Long Island Rail Road," he added.
Long Island has long been a Republican base.
The Senate's Republican leader, blasting Spitzer's aides for booting one of his staffers from the governor's news conference, said: "It's unfortunate that the governor continues to bully and threaten in an attempt to get his way."
Bruno also called Spitzer's push to slash campaign contributions "his singular pursuit of an issue that no one cares about."
An Assembly spokesman could not immediately say whether the house adjourned before authorizing $1.4 billion of tax-exempt bonds for local development projects.
Posted by politicalstuff at 12:21 AM