Saturday, May 06, 2006

Libby Plans to Call on Rove to Testify; Libby Also Seeks Testimony From Outed CIA Officer's Husband and Former State Department Official

ABC News
Libby Plans to Call on Rove to Testify
Libby Also Seeks Testimony From Outed CIA Officer's Husband and Former State Department Official

May 5, 2006 — - I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby's lawyers plan to call on White House Deputy Chief of Staff Karl Rove as a witness in his trial for allegedly lying to a federal grand jury and investigators over the CIA leak case.

The defense revealed today it will also focus on testimony from former State Department official Marc Grossman and Joseph Wilson, husband of undercover CIA officer Valerie Plame.

Libby, the former aide to Vice President Dick Cheney, was charged in October 2005 over statements about how he learned about Plame's CIA connections. Plame was identified by columnist Robert Novak in July 2003, and U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald was appointed as a special prosecutor to investigate the matter later that year.

At a hearing today, Libby's lawyer Ted Wells said five witnesses would testify that Wilson revealed Plame's status before Novak did. U.S. District Judge Reggie B. Walton fired back at Wells saying, "I don't know how it has any bearing on whether your client allegedly testified falsely."

The defense team also asked that the government produce any documents and e-mails they have in their possession relating to the ongoing investigation.

The hearing offered no clues on Fitzgerald's investigation into Rove's statements made before the grand jury last week or whether Fitzgerald will bring charges against Rove.

Wells asked that materials relating to Rove be provided to the defense, asserting that the prosecution is required to do so even if no charges have been brought against Rove. Fitzgerald denied he was withholding evidence.

Some Document Requests Denied

The defense also requested additional documents from the CIA, the State Department and the White House. Walton denied some, saying he did not see how the documents related to the perjury and obstruction of justice charges against Libby.

However, Walton granted the defense information about the declassification process of the Iraq National Intelligence Estimate. The 2002 report was declassified by President Bush after Wilson and other critics began to question the administration's Iraq pre-war intelligence. Walton also said information provided to Federal investigators after interviews with Bush and Cheney could be turned over to the defense.

Meanwhile, Fitzgerald has told the defense that they have not been able to locate certain White House records.

"In an abundance of caution, we advise you that we have learned that not all e-mail of the Office of Vice President and the Executive Office of the President for certain time periods in 2003 was preserved through the normal archiving process on the White House computer system, " Fitzgerald wrote in a letter to Libby's lawyers dated Jan. 23, 2006.

Not a Debate Over War in Iraq

Walton questioned Wells several times about why the defense needed documents pertaining to Joseph Wilson's trip to Niger to prepare for Libby's defense.

"I don't see how that has anything to do with this case," Walton said.

The judge worried the jury would focus on whether America was winning the war and said he would not let the trial be a proxy for a fight over the decision to go to war in Iraq.

"You want to try the legitimacy of the war, and I don't see how this helps us determine whether Libby lied when he talked to the FBI and went before the grand jury," Walton said.

Glimpse Into Future Defense Arguments

Wells said the defense will highlight two areas: 1) what Libby was told about Plame's employment at the CIA and Wilson's trip to Niger and 2) testimony from reporters involved in the case.

The testimony from reporters has been an ongoing battle. A hearing will be held on May 16 to deal with the issue of media subpoenas for former New York Times reporter Judith Miller, NBC host Tim Russert and Time Magazine reporter Matt Cooper. Journalists' testimony was a major part of Fitzgerald's investigation leading to the charges against Libby.

At a hearing on Feb. 24, Walton seemed to indicate the defense was going too far in wanting to subpoena multiple journalists to establish the known field for how many journalists may have known about Plame's employment at the CIA.

Walton also refused to impose a gag order on this case, saying they should only be issued in "extreme circumstances." He encouraged the counsel not to make public statements before the trial.

Libby said only spoke once during the the two-hour hearing, to waive the right to a speedy trial. Walton said the trial, which is set to begin in January 2007, will last about one month.


Libby lawyer to argue Bush's role in leak

Libby lawyer to argue Bush's role in leak
By James Vicini

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The lawyer for former White House aide Lewis "Scooter" Libby said on Friday he would argue that his client revealed intelligence on Iraq after Vice President Dick Cheney authorized it and President George W. Bush declassified the information.

At a hearing on what documents the prosecution must turn over to the defense, lawyer Theodore Wells also said he believed there may be testimony or statements by Bush and Cheney that the disclosure of the intelligence was authorized.

Wells said he was entitled to any such information from the special prosecutor investigating who in the Bush administration leaked the identity of a CIA operative, Valerie Plame, to the news media.

U.S. District Judge Reggie Walton ruled that prosecutors must turn over information about how the intelligence was declassified because it was important to Libby's defense.

Prosecutors disclosed last month that Libby had testified he had been authorized to disclose the intelligence to reporters in the summer of 2003, to counter criticism of Bush's Iraq policy from Plame's husband, diplomat Joseph Wilson.

Bush has acknowledged declassifying the information, prompting charges of hypocrisy from Democrats who say he has denounced some leaks while encouraging others.

Libby, Cheney's former chief of staff, is charged with lying to investigators as they sought to determine who disclosed Plame's name to a conservative columnist in July 2003.

Wells said he would tell the jury that Libby disclosed the intelligence with Cheney's authorization and with the understanding Bush had declassified it.

The trial is scheduled to begin in January, keeping alive an issue that has dogged the White House for months.

Special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald said he already turned over the relevant documents. Fitzgerald said he agreed with the defense the intelligence had been declassified, but did not know precisely when that happened.

The leak occurred at a time when opponents were stepping up their criticism of the March 2003 invasion after U.S. forces had failed to find weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.

Wells also said he planned to attack the credibility of Wilson, a former ambassador. He said he planned to call five witnesses who would say that Wilson told them about his wife working at the CIA.

Wilson investigated for the CIA an administration claim that Iraq had tried to buy uranium, an ingredient used in nuclear weapons, in Niger, and he later wrote in a New York Times article that the charges could not be substantiated.

Wells said he wanted a wide range of government documents about Wilson's trip to Niger.

The judge rejected the request on the grounds that it was not relevant to the lying charges against Libby. "I'm just not going to let this case become a judicial resolution of the legitimacy of the (Iraq) war," he said.

Wells also said top White House aide Karl Rove would likely be a defense witness at the trial and the prosecutor must turn over information about Rove, who remains under investigation.

Fitzgerald said he was not withholding information about Rove. Rove, who faces possible perjury charges, last month testified before a grand jury for the fifth time. Fitzgerald has yet to decide whether to charge Rove.


Conservatives Drive Bush's and Republican Congress' Approval Ratings to New Lows

ABC News
Conservatives Drive Bush's Approval Down
Poll: Conservatives Drive Bush's and Republican Congress' Approval Ratings to New Lows
The Associated Press

WASHINGTON - Angry conservatives are driving the approval ratings of President Bush and the GOP-led Congress to dismal new lows, according to an AP-Ipsos poll that underscores why Republicans fear an Election Day massacre.

Six months out, the intensity of opposition to Bush and Congress has risen sharply, along with the percentage of Americans who believe the nation is on the wrong track.

The AP-Ipsos poll also suggests that Democratic voters are far more motivated than Republicans. Elections in the middle of a president's term traditionally favor the party whose core supporters are the most energized.

This week's survey of 1,000 adults, including 865 registered voters, found:

Just 33 percent of the public approves of Bush's job performance, the lowest of his presidency. That compares with 36 percent approval in early April. Forty-five percent of self-described conservatives now disapprove of the president.

Just one-fourth of the public approves of the job Congress is doing, a new low in AP-Ipsos polling and down 5 percentage points since last month. A whopping 65 percent of conservatives disapprove of Congress.

A majority of Americans say they want Democrats rather than Republicans to control Congress (51 percent to 34 percent). That's the largest gap recorded by AP-Ipsos since Bush took office. Even 31 percent of conservatives want Republicans out of power.

The souring of the nation's mood has accelerated the past three months, with the percentage of people describing the nation on the wrong track rising 12 points to a new high of 73 percent. Six of 10 conservatives say America is headed in the wrong direction.

Republican strategists said the party stands to lose control of Congress unless the environment changes unexpectedly.

"It's going to take some events of significance to turn this around," GOP pollster Whit Ayres said. "I don't think at this point you can talk your way back from those sorts of ratings."

He said the party needs concrete progress in Iraq and action in Congress on immigration, lobbying reform and tax cuts.

"Those things would give the country a sense that Washington has heard the people and is responding in a way that will give conservatives a sense that their concerns are being addressed," Ayres said.

Conservative voters blame the White House and Congress for runaway government spending, illegal immigration and lack of action on social issues such as a constitutional amendment outlawing gay marriage. Those concerns come on top of public worries about Iraq, the economy and gasoline prices.

"I think he's the dumbest president we've ever had," said Mark Rauzi, a conservative voter from Gillespie, Ill. "I disapprove of a lot of the stuff he's doing. This war was a big boo-boo and he won't admit he did wrong."

Hardline conservatives are not likely to vote Democratic in the fall, but it would be just as devastating to the Republicans if conservatives lose their enthusiasm and stay home on Election Day.

AP-Ipsos polling suggests that Democrats may be winning the motivation game. Fewer voters today than in 2004 call themselves Republicans or Republican-leaning. In addition, 27 percent of registered voters were strong Republicans just before the 2004 election, while only 15 percent fit that description today.

Democratic numbers are the same or better since 2004.

"This tells us we've got our work cut out for us," said Sen. Sam Brownback, a conservative Republican from Kansas who may run for president in 2008. "The key for us is to show restraint on spending and on dealing with immigration."

Bush's strong suit continues to be his handling of foreign policy and terrorism, an area in which he modestly improved his ratings since April. Still, a majority of Americans disapprove of his performance on both fronts.

It gets worse. Only 23 percent of the public approve of the way the president is handling gasoline prices, the lowest in AP-Ipsos polling. Those who strongly disapprove outnumber those who strongly approve by an extraordinary 55 percent to 8 percent.

As for his overall job performance, history suggests that Bush's paltry 33 percent spells trouble for Republicans in the fall.

In the past six decades, only one president had a lower job approval rating six months before a midterm election Richard Nixon in May 1974, the year in which Watergate-scarred Republicans lost 48 seats in the House and four in the Senate.

By November, Nixon was out of a job too, having resigned the presidency in August.

Nearly half of the public strongly disapproves of Bush, a huge jump from his 5 percent strong disapproval rating in 2002. The poll has a margin of error of 3 percentage points.

Of all Republicans, nearly 30 percent disapprove of the job Bush is doing, including 13 percent who feel strongly about it.

"Hopefully this is a wake-up call for my party to get out of its bunker and hunker mentality," said Republican strategist Greg Mueller, whose firm specializes in conservative politics.

He urged his party to start criticizing Democratic positions on the Iraq war, immigration and the economy.

"We've been like a punching bag," Mueller said.

Democrats need to gain 15 seats in the House and six in the Senate for control of Congress, no easy task in an era that favors incumbents.

"What we have to do is earn the public approval of our right to govern again," said Democratic Party chairman Howard Dean.

The Democratic strategy is to nationalize the elections around a throw-the-bums-out theme.

Republicans counter that they will do better than polls suggest when voters are forced on Election Day to choose between candidates in their particular House and Senate races.

"But," Ayres said, "we better get in gear."

White House press secretary Scott McClellan said the poll numbers were "snapshots in time."

"When you're engaged in a war, it makes people anxious about the future," McClellan said. "But this country is on a solid track under this president because of his leadership. We have worked together to accomplish big things."

On the Net:


Associated Press writer Will Lester, manager of news surveys Trevor Tompson, and polling director Mike Mokrzycki contributed to this story.


Veto? Who Needs a Veto?

The New York Times
Veto? Who Needs a Veto?

One of the abiding curiosities of the Bush administration is that after more than five years in office, the president has yet to issue a veto. No one since Thomas Jefferson has stayed in the White House this long without rejecting a single act of Congress. Some people attribute this to the Republicans' control of the House and the Senate, and others to Mr. Bush's reluctance to expend political capital on anything but tax cuts for the wealthy and the war in Iraq. Now, thanks to a recent article in The Boston Globe, we have a better answer.

President Bush doesn't bother with vetoes; he simply declares his intention not to enforce anything he dislikes. Charlie Savage at The Globe reported recently that Mr. Bush had issued more than 750 "presidential signing statements" declaring he wouldn't do what the laws required. Perhaps the most infamous was the one in which he stated that he did not really feel bound by the Congressional ban on the torture of prisoners.

In this area, as in so many others, Mr. Bush has decided not to take the open, forthright constitutional path. He signed some of the laws in question with great fanfare, then quietly registered his intention to ignore them. He placed his imperial vision of the presidency over the will of America's elected lawmakers. And as usual, the Republican majority in Congress simply looked the other way.

Many of the signing statements reject efforts to curb Mr. Bush's out-of-control sense of his powers in combating terrorism. In March, after frequent pious declarations of his commitment to protecting civil liberties, Mr. Bush issued a signing statement that said he would not obey a new law requiring the Justice Department to report on how the F.B.I. is using the Patriot Act to search homes and secretly seize papers if he decided that such reporting could impair national security or executive branch operations.

In another case, the president said he would not instruct the military to follow a law barring it from storing illegally obtained intelligence about Americans. Now we know, of course, that Mr. Bush had already authorized the National Security Agency, which is run by the Pentagon, to violate the law by eavesdropping on Americans' conversations and reading Americans' e-mail without getting warrants.

We know from this sort of bitter experience that the president is not simply expressing philosophical reservations about how a particular law may affect the war on terror. The signing statements are not even all about national security. Mr. Bush is not willing to enforce a law protecting employees of nuclear-related agencies if they report misdeeds to Congress. In another case, he said he would not turn over scientific information "uncensored and without delay" when Congress needed it. (Remember the altered environmental reports?)

Mr. Bush also demurred from following a law forbidding the Defense Department to censor the legal advice of military lawyers. (Remember the ones who objected to the torture-is-legal policy?) Instead, his signing statement said military lawyers are bound to agree with political appointees at the Justice Department and the Pentagon.

The founding fathers never conceived of anything like a signing statement. The idea was cooked up by Edwin Meese III, when he was the attorney general for Ronald Reagan, to expand presidential powers. He was helped by a young lawyer who was a true believer in the unitary presidency, a euphemism for an autocratic executive branch that ignores Congress and the courts. Unhappily, that lawyer, Samuel Alito Jr., is now on the Supreme Court.

Since the Reagan era, other presidents have issued signing statements to explain how they interpreted a law for the purpose of enforcing it, or to register narrow constitutional concerns. But none have done it as profligately as Mr. Bush. (His father issued about 232 in four years, and Bill Clinton 140 in eight years.) And none have used it so clearly to make the president the interpreter of a law's intent, instead of Congress, and the arbiter of constitutionality, instead of the courts.

Like many of Mr. Bush's other imperial excesses, this one serves no legitimate purpose. Congress is run by a solid and iron-fisted Republican majority. And there is actually a system for the president to object to a law: he vetoes it, and Congress then has a chance to override the veto with a two-thirds majority.

That process was good enough for 42 other presidents. But it has the disadvantage of leaving the chief executive bound by his oath of office to abide by the result. This president seems determined not to play by any rules other than the ones of his own making. And that includes the Constitution.


That Missing Vaccine Capacity

The New York Times
That Missing Vaccine Capacity

The more the federal government tells us how to prepare for a possible avian flu pandemic, the more apparent it becomes that we won't be prepared anytime soon. If a pandemic hits within the next several years, it will be up to hospitals, doctors, public health agencies and ordinary people to muddle through as best they can — with guidance, but little money, from the federal government.

The latest advice from the federal government, in a plan issued this week, makes it clear that a worst-case pandemic would indeed be bad. A third of the population might become infected, two million Americans might die, and 40 percent of the work force might be out of commission at the height of the outbreak. Nobody has the foggiest idea whether a pandemic will arrive in the near future or how severe one might be, but federal officials argue, persuasively, that we have to brace ourselves for the worst.

The 227-page document usefully spells out some 300 actions to be taken by federal agencies and the timetables for achieving them. It also offers advice to businesses, schools, individuals and others in the private sector. All of this is to the good. It makes sense to think through problems in advance rather than in the midst of a raging pandemic.

What troubles us most is what looks like a less-than-urgent push to develop a new vaccine production capacity that can quickly respond to an emergency. There is no overstating the importance of effective vaccines; they could greatly reduce the need for other costly and less effective measures to deal with a lethal new virus. To its credit, the Bush administration, as part of its $7.1 billion preparedness plan, has poured substantial money into developing and procuring vaccines and antiviral drugs. But its primary goal — to expand and modernize domestic production capacity to make enough vaccine for all Americans within six months — seems as distant as ever. Last fall officials said that goal might be reached in four to five years. Half a year later, the target is still five years away, and is contingent on future appropriations and the responsiveness of vaccine makers. Congress needs to look hard to see whether a more aggressive effort might convert the industry more quickly.

Meanwhile, the burden of caring for the sickest patients would fall on the nation's hospitals. Most of us probably assume that should we get sick, our local hospitals would of course take us in. But that confidence may be misplaced. The federal government has offered many pages of advice on what hospitals should do to prepare, but precious little money to help them do it. Given that many hospitals are already on the financial ropes, with their emergency rooms clogged, it seems unlikely that they could handle a sudden onslaught of very ill patients.

Some experts are estimating that $5 billion may be needed to get all hospitals prepared. That is a hefty sum that no one seems eager to pay — and all the more reason to get cracking on a faster way to make vaccines.


US job growth less than expected

US job growth less than expected
The US economy created 138,000 jobs in April, fewer than expected, as the unemployment rate stayed steady at 4.7%, the Labor Department has said.

The gain was the smallest since last October, when job growth was dented by 2005's devastating hurricane season.

The financial sector, health care and manufacturing industries made most gains, but these were offset by a fall of 36,000 jobs in retailing.

The total number of jobless people was largely unchanged at 7.1 million.

Analysts had expected 200,000 jobs would be created in April.

The department also reduced the number of jobs that had been created in February and March to around 200,000 each month, from its initial estimates of 225,000 and 211,000 respectively.

The Labor Department added that the average US hourly wage had climbed by 3.8% over the past year - this was the fastest rate since August 2001.

Mixed picture

US Treasury Secretary John Snow gave an upbeat interpretation of the news.

"This month's report, showing more jobs, more hours worked and higher wages tells a positive story," he said.

But many analysts warned that the figures were below the rate of job growth need to keep up with population.

Economist Ethan Harris of Lehman Brothers said that the figures were in line with "trend-like job growth instead of booming job growth."

Earlier in the week, US economic growth was reported to be 4.8% in the first quaater of the year, higher than expected.

The most recent figures paint a confusing picture for the Federal Reserve, the US central bank which is set to decide interest rates next week.

The Fed has raised rates 15 times to 4.75%, and is widely expected to raise them again to 5.0%.

But Bernard Bernanke, the Fed boss, has suggested that a pause in rate rises might then be in order.

Story from BBC NEWS:


Court skeptical of FCC on broadband wiretap access

Court skeptical of FCC on broadband wiretap access
By Peter Kaplan

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. telecommunications regulators on Friday faced tough questioning from a federal appeals court about whether the government can force broadband Internet service providers to give law enforcement authorities access for surveillance purposes.

One of the three judges hearing the case called the government's rationale for the surveillance requirement "gobbledygook," and another also expressed reservations.

"This is totally ridiculous. I can't believe you're making this argument," Judge Harry Edwards told the Federal Communications Commission lawyer.

The issue before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia is a decision by the FCC in August requiring facilities-based broadband providers and those that offer Internet telephone service to comply with U.S. wiretap laws.

The FCC has set a May 14, 2007 deadline for compliance.

Authorities are concerned that the growth of Internet communications could allow criminals to circumvent wiretaps by using e-mail and Internet phone service instead of traditional telephone services.

Private networks would not be subject to the wiretap requirements but those that are connected with a public network would have to comply with the law.

The FCC decision prompted an appeal by universities and libraries. The groups, including the American Library Association and Association of American Universities, challenged the agency's authority to extend such requirements to high-speed Internet services.

The groups challenging the decision note that the law contains an exemption for "information services." They say the FCC has long included broadband Internet in that category.

Judge Edwards agreed. And he scoffed at the FCC's argument that broadband Internet services included a separate telecommunications "component" that made it subject to the wiretapping requirements.

"Your argument makes no sense," Edwards told Jacob Lewis, an associate general counsel with the FCC.

"I'm sorry I'm not making myself clear," Lewis said.

"You're making yourself very clear. That's the problem," Edwards replied.

One of the other two justices on the panel, David Sentelle, expressed more sympathy for the government's argument, especially regarding the idea of extending the surveillance requirements to Internet phone service. But Sentelle also sounded skeptical about the FCC's position on broadband services.

The third judge, Janice Brown, did not question the lawyers.


CIA health questioned as Goss quits

CIA health questioned as Goss quits
By David Morgan

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The abrupt resignation of CIA Director Porter Goss raises disturbing questions about the U.S. flagship intelligence agency's health, amid growing concerns about a nuclear Iran, turmoil in Iraq and the al Qaeda threat.

More than four years after the September 11 attacks, critics of the Bush administration, including Democrats in Congress, also warned that problems at the CIA had parallels elsewhere in the 16-agency U.S. intelligence community including at the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security.

Goss' departure capped months of unhappiness over his leadership of the CIA and efforts to rebuild the agency's key clandestine and analytical operations for the war on terrorism, analysts and former intelligence officers said.

"The real problem is that Goss has laid out his vision, but what he hasn't been able to do -- this because of his management style and his weak leadership -- is to build allies within the ranks who can be agents for change," said former CIA agent and author Melissa Boyle Mahle.

Added another former CIA officer who spoke on condition of anonymity: "The agency's gone down hill since he arrived. There's been an exodus of senior people, and the guy he appointed to head the clandestine service has proved mediocre."

Goss, a former Florida congressman who headed the House of Representatives Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, was charged with increasing CIA spy ranks that had been found sorely lacking after the September 11 attacks.

But analysts said an early confrontation between the Goss staff and clandestine officers prompted a number of senior agents to resign and left the CIA with little senior leadership at a time when the agency is taking on an army of green recruits and trying to recover from massive failures on Iraq and the September 11 attacks.

"In the last year-and-a-half, more than 300 years of experience has either been pushed out or walked out the door in frustration. This has left the agency in free-fall," said Jane Harman, ranking Democrat on the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence.

Congressional Republicans stressed that Goss had made progress in bringing reform to the CIA at a time of great turmoil.

But Harman's counterpart in the Senate, Democratic Sen. John Rockefeller of West Virginia, said management problems in intelligence were more widespread than just at the CIA.

"There are red-flags throughout the community," said Rockefeller, vice chairman of the Senate intelligence panel.

"The Department of Homeland Security has fallen well short of its mandate to protect our borders. The FBI continues to struggle with meeting its national security and counterterrorism responsibilities," he said.


Friday, May 05, 2006

Rumsfeld on defensive over Iraq

Rumsfeld on defensive over Iraq
By Will Dunham

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld faced tough questions and hecklers during a stormy speech in Atlanta on Thursday, with a former CIA analyst accusing him of lying his way into the Iraq war.

Rumsfeld, an unyielding defender of the war, denied lying. He told an audience at the Southern Center for International Studies that the Bush administration gave an "honest opinion" that prewar Iraq had weapons of mass destruction.

"I would like to ask you to be upfront with the American people. Why did you lie to get us into a war that was not necessary, that has caused these kinds of casualties? Why?" asked audience member Ray McGovern, who had a 27-year career as a CIA analyst.

"Well, first of all, I haven't lied," Rumsfeld said.

One woman whose son was a U.S. soldier killed in the war asked if the Pentagon was making sure American troops were better equipped for combat. "You bet," Rumsfeld said. "And I'm so sorry about your son."

There have been 2,411 U.S. military deaths in the war, with 17,874 troops wounded in combat, the Pentagon said on Thursday. Opinion polls show U.S. public support for the war declining. President George W. Bush recently voiced strong support for Rumsfeld after a handful of retired generals demanded his ouster, accusing him of strategic blunders in Iraq and ignoring military advice.

Rumsfeld, whose speech focused on U.S. military alliances worldwide, was interrupted briefly by hecklers, including one clutching a sign that read: "Guilty! of war crimes."

McGovern pressed Rumsfeld about the case for war made by the administration before the March 2003 invasion.

"I'm not in the intelligence business," Rumsfeld said about U.S. assertions that now-deposed President Saddam Hussein possessed chemical and biological weapons and was seeking nuclear arms.

Rumsfeld said then-Secretary of State Colin Powell, in his February 2003 speech before the United Nations detailing U.S. beliefs about Iraqi arms, had "spent weeks and weeks with the Central Intelligence Agency people and prepared a presentation that I know he believed was accurate."

Rumsfeld said Bush, who made the threat posed by Iraq's weapons his main justification for war, also "spent weeks and weeks with the Central Intelligence people" before making his case to the American people.

"They gave the world their honest opinion," Rumsfeld added. "It appears that there were no weapons of mass destruction."


McGovern shot back, "You said you knew where they were," referring to the Iraqi weapons.

"I did not," Rumsfeld retorted. "I said I knew where suspect sites were."

"You said you know where they were, near Tikrit, near Baghdad, and north, east, south and west of there. Those are your words," McGovern shot back.

"I'd just like an honest answer," McGovern added. "We're talking about lies," also mentioning the administration's assertions of prewar ties between Iraq and al Qaeda.

A week and a half into the war, Rumsfeld was asked on March 30, 2003, on ABC's "This Week with George Stephanopoulos," whether he found it curious that U.S. forces had not yet found weapons of mass destruction.

"Not at all," Rumsfeld responded, according to a Pentagon transcript of the interview.

"We know where they are. They're in the area around Tikrit and Baghdad and east, west, south and north somewhat," Rumsfeld stated.

Rumsfeld on January 20, 2003, said Saddam's government had "large, unaccounted for stockpiles of chemical and biological weapons, including VX, sarin, mustard gas, anthrax, botulism, and possibly smallpox," as well as "an active program to acquire and develop nuclear weapons."

Other audience members in Atlanta were gentler. One asked about "what happened in your childhood to make you the man you are today? This might help some parents, because you're a great man." Rumsfeld noted that "my mom was a school teacher and my dad read history voraciously."


Senate panel seeks US policy on detainee treatment

Senate panel seeks US policy on detainee treatment
By Vicki Allen

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The Senate Armed Services Committee called on Thursday for a legal definition of inhumane treatment of military detainees as it pressed the Bush administration to comply with a law banning mistreatment of such prisoners.

The committee called for a legal opinion from federal departments to pin the administration down on its treatment of prisoners at Guantanamo Bay and other terrorism suspects as lawmakers cleared a $517.7 billion defense authorization bill.

The measure seeks the administration's stance on whether techniques such as forcing an inmate to wear women's underwear or simulating the sensation of drowning complied with the law passed last year barring cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment of prisoners.

The measure "shows bipartisan dissatisfaction" with the Bush administration's response on setting out a clear policy on detainee treatment, a committee aide said.

Over President George W. Bush's objections, Congress last year passed a law spearheaded by Arizona Republican John McCain that set standards for treating military prisoners in the wake of abuses at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq and harsh interrogations at the Guantanamo base in Cuba.

McCain was tortured as a war prisoner in Vietnam.

Bush initially threatened to veto a bill with the torture ban, saying it would hinder the ability to obtain information to combat terrorism. He finally bowed to congressional pressure and signed it.

The law called for interrogators to abide by standards in the Army Field Manual. But the revised manual has been delayed repeatedly, leaving standards unclear, a Senate aide said.

The Armed Services committees of the Senate and House of Representatives cleared their versions of the defense authorization bill this week. Both called for a further $50 billion for the Iraq and Afghan wars, although that money will be provided in later appropriations bills.

That $50 billion would come on top of the $67 billion the Senate and House have approved for the wars, bringing the total near $400 billion.

Both Senate and House defense authorization bills call for pay raises for the military.

With lawmakers from both parties saying the Iraq war has stretched the armed forces too thin, both bills would let the Pentagon boost troop numbers on a long-term basis, a step it has resisted as too costly and counter to efforts to streamline operations and use personnel more efficiently.

Showing dissatisfaction with reconstruction efforts in Iraq conducted largely by the Pentagon, the Senate bill also calls for the administration to develop a plan among federal departments for stabilization and reconstruction.

The full House is expected to consider its version of the bill next week; the Senate is expected to consider its version later this month.


China left out of US-hosted anti-terror meet

China left out of US-hosted anti-terror meet
By Jim Wolf

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. generals did not invite China to a meeting last week attended by 91 countries and aimed at boosting cooperation in the U.S.-declared global war on terrorism, the military said on Thursday.

China borders several hot spots, including Afghanistan and Pakistan, and is home to ethnic groups whose members have been detained by the United States as enemy combatants. President Bush has highlighted the importance of working with China in the post-September 11 world.

"We intend to deepen our cooperation in addressing threats to global security -- including the nuclear ambitions of Iran, the genocide in Darfur, Sudan, the violence unleashed by terrorists and extremists, and the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction," Bush told President Hu Jintao of China at a White House welcoming ceremony April 20.

Five days later, more than 230 participants from 91 countries, met in Washington to compare notes on counterterrorism issues, without China, which the Pentagon calls a potential strategic competitor.

Among the 91 nations represented in the so-called Multilateral Planners Conference were traditional U.S. allies plus such countries as Albania, Tajikistan, Tonga and Djibouti, a member of the military joint staff said.

China was not invited "because the (U.S.) inter-agency coordination requirement and timeline didn't allow sufficient time to extend an invitation," Maj. Almarah Belk of the Air Force, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, said in an e-mailed reply to a query from Reuters.

A Chinese Embassy spokesman did not respond to a request about whether China would have liked to attend.


The April 25-26 meeting was the fourth in a series held since May 2004 to bring together security planners from around the world.

A Feb 3. invitation to the session was sent to counterparts by Lt. Gen. Victor Renuart of the Air Force who, as the joint chief's director for strategic plans and policies, is the U.S. military's top strategist.

In the invitation, he described the forum as designed "to enhance our understanding of global and regional security environments and foster a common vision for confronting the challenges in the 21st century."

A copy of the invitation appears on the conference's Web site, Renuart said he hosted the conference on behalf of Gen. Peter Pace of the Marine Corps, chairman of the joint chiefs.

Twenty nations attended the conference for the first time, including Saudi Arabia, Vietnam and Yemen, a member of the joint staff said.

Failing to include China was a mistake, said Kurt Campbell, a former Asia policy chief at the Pentagon, because fighting radical Islamic fundamentalism "is one area where we can and have worked well with China."

"The only U.S. agency that has difficulty clearing a meeting with China is the office of the secretary of defense," added Campbell, now at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington.

James Mulvenon, who runs a 15-member team of China analysts at the Center for Intelligence Research and Analysis, a group that consults for U.S. intelligence agencies, said leaving China out sends a wrong signal to the Chinese, "especially when we're trying to form a strategic relationship with them."

(Additional reporting by Paul Eckert)


White House Plan Defers Leadership In Bird-Flu Fight
White House Plan Defers Leadership In Bird-Flu Fight
By David Brown
Washington Post Staff Writer

The Bush administration plan for an influenza pandemic released yesterday hinges on sharing authority with global agencies such as the World Health Organization, and, at the opposite end of the spectrum, with governors, mayors and school superintendents.

The 227-page road map acknowledges that the federal government cannot -- and should not try -- to fully manage the response to an event that is likely to start overseas, eventually take hold in even the smallest U.S. communities, and last for months.

"The impact of a severe pandemic may be more comparable to that of war or a widespread economic crisis than a hurricane, earthquake, or act of terrorism," the authors of the plan wrote. "The center of gravity of the pandemic response will be in communities [and] the support the federal government can guarantee to any state, tribe or community will be limited."

At the same time, the road map -- developed to support an equally voluminous pandemic "strategy" unveiled in November -- lays out an ambitious agenda of more than 300 tasks for federal agencies, along with a timetable for completing them.

They include such tasks as helping improve a flu laboratory in Singapore and encouraging new cell-based vaccine-making technology in this country; devising plans to route all international flights to just a few U.S. airports during a pandemic; and helping local jurisdictions come up with plans for canceling school and triaging patients at hospital emergency rooms.

Nevertheless, many crucial questions about the government's response remain unanswered in the "Implementation Plan of the National Strategy for Pandemic Influenza."

They include how officials would decide who should get limited supplies of vaccine and antiviral drugs; whether the government would dip into those domestic supplies to help contain a foreign outbreak; at what point to trigger mass treatment of U.S. citizens in an effort to contain the virus here; and how travel and border-crossing might be limited.

"We recognize that we cannot make these decisions in a vacuum and must consult with our international partners to ensure that we adopt a consistent approach," Frances Fragos Townsend, President Bush's assistant for homeland security and counterterrorism, said at White House briefing.

The document anticipates that a flu pandemic would probably come in two or three global waves, each lasting about three months; in any given community, an outbreak would last six to eight weeks; at least one-third of the population would become ill, and workforce absenteeism could peak at 40 percent.

Mortality in the United States depends on many variables; the report assumes there could be 200,000 to 2 million deaths.

A pandemic on the scale of the Spanish flu that circled the world three times in 1918 and 1919, killing at least 50 million people, could result in the loss of 5 percent of the U.S. gross domestic product, according to Congressional Budget Office estimates cited in the report.

The administration's plan appeared to reflect the lessons of the severe acute respiratory syndrome outbreak of 2003 and the response to Hurricane Katrina last summer.

SARS, a virus that emerged in China, caused about 8,400 cases of illness in 28 countries and about 800 deaths. The WHO organized the global response in a way unprecedented for the Geneva-based agency. It coordinated disease surveillance, helped disseminate treatment strategies and influenced governments' behavior, advising against travel to Canada and forcing China to make a full accounting of its SARS cases. Many experts believe the SARS experience amounted to a dry run for a much more dangerous flu pandemic.

The Bush plan cedes to the WHO the lead role in managing this global health crisis -- something it has resisted on other health issues, notably AIDS.

"The World Health Organization represents the linchpin of international preparedness and response activities. . . . During a pandemic we will rely upon it to be a highly visible and credible coordinator of the international response," the plan says.

In particular, the authors wrote, "we will rely upon the WHO to confirm sustained human-to-human transmission of a novel influenza virus." That decision will trigger the global response and have repercussions through the United States even if there are no cases here. In practice, U.S. scientists will have a major say in making that crucial call, as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta is a major source of the WHO's expertise.

The plan specifies that the Department of Homeland Security "is responsible for overall coordination of federal response actions for a pandemic." However, the disastrous response to Katrina seems to echo in a statement that, in effect, advises people not to wait for help from Washington.

Nothing in the plan "alters or impedes the ability of federal, state, local, or tribal departments and agencies to carry out their specific authorities or perform their responsibilities under applicable laws," its authors wrote.

Despite the $7.1 billion Bush has asked for pandemic preparation, Irwin Redlener, a physician at Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health, said little of the money will go to localities. Most will be spent on vaccine development and building a national stockpile of antiviral drugs.

Local hospitals and health departments "cannot possibly fulfill what amounts to a string of unfunded mandates," he said.

This view was shared by Joshua M. Sharfstein, Baltimore's health commissioner.

"The key challenge from our perspective is to answer the question, How do we keep Baltimore running? How do we ensure the trash is picked up, the police and fire departments work, that businesses can stay open?" he said. "It would be immensely easier if we had additional resources equal to what we are being asked to do."

Leading Democrats in Congress also criticized it, with Sen. Charles E. Schumer (N.Y.) saying that "pawning [responsibility] off on the state and local government is not a solution." Sen. Edward M. Kennedy (Mass.) said the document "still leaves us without a coherent overall national plan."


Former Marine Admits Passing Secret Documents

The New York Times
Former Marine Admits Passing Secret Documents

NEWARK, May 4 — A former Marine security attaché who worked in the White House in the Clinton and George W. Bush administrations pleaded guilty in federal court to passing top-secret information and documents to political opponents of the current Philippine government.

The former marine, Leandro Aragoncillo, 47, a naturalized American citizen who came to the United States from his native Philippines in 1983, also confessed that he had continued mining top-secret and classified material after leaving the Office of the Vice President in the White House in 2003. He took a job as an intelligence analyst for the Federal Bureau of Investigation in 2004.

Mr. Aragoncillo's illegal activities were uncovered in an audit of his computer use at the bureau after he appealed in March 2005 to immigration officials on behalf of a former Filipino police official who had been detained in New York for overstaying his visa.

He was arrested in September along with the former police official, Michael Ray Aquino, whom the indictment accused of being Mr. Aragoncillo's go-between in the espionage case. Mr. Aragoncillo faces 15 to 24 years in prison when sentenced on Aug. 14.

Mr. Aragoncillo admitted passing documents from White House briefing books, situation reports and other top-secret documents from the F.B.I. computer that contained information like the names of confidential informants in the Philippines.

Other documents provided to unnamed opponents of President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo of the Philippines were described by Mr. Aragoncillo as a "blueprint" of how to stage a military coup that the United States government might support.

"His betrayal is profound and a disservice to his country and all the men and women in military and security positions," said Christopher J. Christie, the United States attorney who prosecuted the case.

Chester Keller, the federal public defender representing Mr. Aragoncillo, said his client never intended to harm the American people and sought only to help the Philippine people.


Bush to nominate Myers to run US Geological Survey

Bush to nominate Myers to run US Geological Survey
By Yereth Rosen

ANCHORAGE, Alaska (Reuters) - President Bush plans to nominate Mark Myers, a critic of Alaska's Republican Gov. Frank Murkowski's close ties with oil companies, to head the U.S. Geological Survey, the White House said on Thursday.

Myers stepped down as Alaska's oil and gas manager in October to protest Murkowski's secret negotiations with oil companies to build a natural gas pipeline. Myers deemed the concessions to major oil producers to be too generous.

Reached at his home in Anchorage, Myers said there is no link between the events surrounding his departure from the Murkowski administration and his nomination to head the USGS, a scientific agency within the Interior Department responsible for studying the American landscape and its natural resources.

Myers was one of six Alaska Department of Natural Resources deputies to resign in solidarity after Murkowski fired the department's commissioner, Tom Irwin, for criticism about the governor's fiscal terms for a $20 billion natural gas pipeline.

Irwin said in a memorandum that the governor's concessions would shortchange the state to the benefit of ConocoPhillips, BP and Exxon Mobil. Murkowski reached an agreement in February with major oil companies but the contract has not been released for public review.


A Bug in Windows GOP: Microsoft's $1.6 Million Man; He's righteous conservative consultant-turned-candidate Ralph Reed

Microsoft's $1.6 Million Man
He's righteous conservative consultant-turned-candidate Ralph Reed.
By Rick Anderson

A Bug in Windows GOP

Microsoft is ending its relationship with choirboy-lobbyist Ralph Reed, but the company's ties to others in the seemingly infinite loop of the Republican lobbying scandal are deep—in D.C. and Seattle. (June 1, 2005)

After it was disclosed a year ago that Microsoft had retained Ralph Reed Jr. for lobbying and consulting work, a mystery remained. How much was the Christian conservative and anti-gay-rights crusader paid by the Redmond software giant? Microsoft refused to say, but now Reed has had to disclose the income. It comes to a substantial $1.6 million over five years, according to Reed's personal financial documents.

Reed revealed the payments, made from 2001 through last year, in a May 1 filing with the Georgia State Ethics Commission. He is seeking election to be that state's lieutenant governor. The filing, required of candidates who have worked as lobbyists in Georgia, reveals that Reed was paid $572,000 by Microsoft in 2001, $240,000 in 2002, $401,000 in 2003, $240,000 in 2004, and $117,5000 in 2005. That income and another $90,000 consulting for Enron, among others helped bump his current personal worth to $4.6 million, he disclosed.

The former Christian Coalition leader turned political consultant did not have to reveal payments by Microsoft prior to that five-year period. But Reed was known to have been on Microsoft's payroll in 2000, when George W. Bush began his White House campaign (see "A Bug in Windows GOP," June 1, 2005) and for several years prior, which could bring his total Microsoft income to $2 million or more. While working for Bush in 2000, Reed worked on Microsoft's behalf for settlement of the company's landmark antitrust lawsuit. Reed asked supporters to write his candidate, Bush, in support of his client, Microsoft. He ultimately apologized for the "misperception" that might have caused.

At the same time in 2000, Reed was working as a subcontractor for Seattle-based Preston Gates Ellis, the law and lobbying firm of the father of Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates. Reed became involved with other religious-right Republicans in what would become today's Lobbygate scandal. Money from the law firm was funneled through key scandal figure Jack Abramoff and tax-reform guru Grover Norquist to help Reed run a deceptive antigambling campaign in the South. (See "Choctaw Cash," July 6, 2005.)

In 2004, Microsoft paid Reed a $20,000 monthly retainer while he again campaigned for Bush, playing a major role as the party's Southeast regional campaign coordinator. Exactly what duties he performed for Microsoft haven't been revealed. Says Ginny Terzano, spokesperson for Microsoft in D.C.: "While we typically do not discuss consultant retainers, it was made public last spring that Microsoft hired Century Strategies, Ralph Reed's consulting firm, in the late 1990s, to consult on issues related to international trade and competition." The firm was terminated in 2005, she said, "when we decided that it would not be appropriate to have a consultant on retainer that was seeking elective office at the same time."

Microsoft dropped Reed, a notorious opponent of gay-rights laws, about the time the company was also suffering a public-relations meltdown for failing to support a gay-rights bill in Olympia, which was defeated. The company did a U-turn and threw its support to the bill this year, and it passed. It will take effect in June.


The Fox News Effect
The Fox News Effect
By Richard Morin

We report. You decide. Does President Bush owe his controversial win in 2000 to Fox cable television news?

Yes, suggest data collected by two economists who found that the growth of the Fox cable news network in the late 1990s may have significantly boosted the Republican Party's share of the vote in the 2000 election and delivered Florida to Bush.

"Our estimates imply that Fox News convinced 3 to 8 percent of its audience to shift its voting behavior towards the Republican Party, a sizable media persuasion effect," said Stefano DellaVigna of the University of California at Berkely and Ethan Kaplan of Stockholm University.

In Florida alone, they estimate, the Fox effect may have produced more than 10,000 additional votes for Bush -- clearly a decisive factor in a state he carried by fewer than 600 votes.

Fox cable news debuted in 1996 as a competitor to CNN and four years later was available to about one in five Americans. That allowed DellaVigna and Kaplan to compare changes in the Republican vote shar efrom 1996 to 2000 in 9,256 cities and towns where Fox News was introduced. They also examined election cdata from 2004.

The Experiment: The Fox Effect II

We experiment. You decide: Do people apply a political litmus test to the news?

Yes, suggest the results of the latest online experiment by The Washington Post, and Stanford University's political communication lab.

The test found Republicans preferred to get their news from Fox -- even when the news stories were about subjects far removed from politics, such as sports or travel.

On the other hand, Democrats avoided Fox when it came to political news and preferred National Public Radio and CNN. And when the news focused on controversial issues such as the Iraq war and politics, "partisans are especially likely to screen out sources they consider opposed to their political views," said Stanford professor Shanto Iyengar, director of the communication lab.

More than 2,000 people participated in the test of whether attention to the identical news story was increased or decreased when the story was attributed to Fox News, NPR, CNN or the BBC. Participants saw a brief headline accompanied by the logo of the news organization. They were asked to choose which story they wanted to see, then repeated the task across six news categories -- American politics, the war in Iraq, race in America, crime, travel and sports.

There was one twist: Some participants saw a story attributed to Fox, whereas others saw the same story attributed to CNN, NPR or the BBC. Comparing the percentage of Democrats who chose to see a story about race if it was on Fox vs. CNN offered clues about whether partisanship mattered.

The results found strong evidence that people apply a political litmus test to the news, avoiding sources they view as unfriendly while seeking out compatible sources, a finding confirmed by researchers at Polimetrix in a national study with a representative sample of adults done in cooperation with the Stanford lab.

The Republicans even preferred to get news about sports and travel from Fox while Democrats didn't have as strong a preference on non-political stories, Iyengar found.

Read a complete analysis of the results of the latest Post-Stanford experiment.

The Next Experiment

We're beginning a new study today: Experiment Katrina, in which we hope to learn something about the long-term consequences of last August's devastating hurricane. It's our most ambitious experiment so far and was designed in collaboration with our colleagues at Stanford's political communication lab.

Who Would Have Thought?

Alphabetical Discrimination, Stripper Power and Crossing the Street

"What's in a Surname? The Effects of Surname Initials on Academic Success" by Liran Einav and Leeat Yariv, Journal of Economic Perspectives, Vol. 20, No. 1. Economists at Stanford and Caltech find that economists whose last names begin with letters earlier in the alphabet are more likely to receive tenure at top universities, more likely to become fellows of the top economics society and more likely to receive the Nobel Prize and other prestigious awards.

"Strategic Flirting and the Emotional Tab of Exotic Dancing" by Tina Deshotels and Craig Forsyth, Deviant Behavior, Vol. 27. Sociologists at Jacksonville State University and University of Louisiana at Lafayette interview 112 exotic dancers and find that stripping made them feel they had power over men but "impeded their ability to create an authentic self and in particular an authentic sexual self."

"Sensation Seeking and Pedestrian Crossing Compliance" by Tova Rosenbloom, Social Behavior and Personality, Vol. 34, No. 2. An Israeli criminologist finds that people who cross the street when the light is red score higher on a psychological test measuring sensation seeking that those who wait for the light to turn green.


Thursday, May 04, 2006

We may have to bomb Iran
We may have to bomb Iran
Rod Liddle

Natanz seems an agreeable little town, perched nearly 5,000ft up in the majestic mountains of central Iran, full of dusty relics of Alexander the Great and black-clad peasants scurrying hither and thither. It is a shame, then, that we may soon be obliged to bomb it to smithereens. An even bigger shame, though, if we don’t.

Natanz is where the Iranians are carrying out their hectic uranium enrichment programme — something they were politely requested to stop doing by the International Atomic Energy Agency one month ago. The deadline for them to pack up their thousands of centrifuges passed on Friday — but they are still beavering away and have expressed a marked reluctance to take the slightest notice of the international community.

There doesn’t seem to be much doubt that their intention is to produce nuclear weapons; a handful every year, perhaps. The Natanz facility is partially underground, a fact that provoked the IAEA inspectors to note, rather drily, that this was “inconsistent” with the Iranian claims that the plant was solely for the purpose of manufacturing mildly enriched uranium for benignly commercial purposes.

Equally anomalous to this defence is the fact that those same inspectors found particles of extremely enriched uranium at Natanz, the sort of stuff you need to make atomic bombs. Presented with this evidence, the Iranians shuffled their feet a little, looked at the ground and then announced that maybe they hadn’t washed the equipment thoroughly when they bought it from the Pakistanis and consequently there was still the odd bit of weapons-grade material kicking around, sorry about that, you know how it is, can’t get the help, etc.

You can believe them if you wish. It would be a kinder, happier world if we were all able to trust one another. But my suspicion is that Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Iran’s president, who has expressed a desire to see Israel wiped from the face of the world, may soon have the wherewithal. A suspicion supported with physical evidence and a statement of malevolent intent. What more evidence do you need? An awful lot more, as far as the international community is concerned. Paralysis has descended since the invasion of Iraq and it afflicts not just the United Nations and the European Union but western public opinion, too. So ill-judged and catastrophic was the Anglo-US adventure against Saddam Hussein that it has warped our ability to think rationally about what to do with Iran. Opposition to pre-emptive military action against Iran will be deafening.

The war against Iraq was predicated upon two misconceptions — first of all that Saddam possessed weapons of mass destruction. He did not. His hopeless army possessed scarcely any weapons at all. But even allowing for hindsight, the term “weapons of mass destruction” in Saddam’s case referred only to chemical and biological weapons — which, although thoroughly nasty, are a politically inspired misnomer. It is nukes that inflict genuine mass destruction and there was never a suggestion that Saddam had any of those.

The difference with any action against Iran is stark: hard evidence of genuine WMD in preparation; hard, stated evidence of intent. And a clearly defined, containable and comparatively attainable military objective — knocking out that enrichment site at Natanz.

I have debated this issue with numerous British politicians, from Tony Benn on the left to Steven Norris on the right, and the result is always the same. “We must negotiate with the Iranians,” they all say, a mantra, a form of whistling in the dark.

Well, of course we must first negotiate. Of course we must, later, bring whatever pressure we can to bear from supra-national organisations such as the UN. We should beg, bully, plead and cajole the medieval Ahmadinejad. We should offer economic incentives. When these do not work, we should impose sanctions. We should bar the Iranian team from the World Cup and refuse them entry to the Eurovision song contest — that’ll teach ’em. But what on earth do we do when all that fails, as it looks as though it will? Faced with that probability, there is just silence from the politicians: the question is never answered.

Never mind such niceties as verifying Iran’s nuclear aims: there is still a large tranche of the western world that believes with bovine obduracy that because we and the Americans and the French and the Israelis have nukes, why shouldn’t poor old Third World Iran? Fair play to the burka boys, don’t you think? The answer is simple and yet — in some quarters — quite unsayable: because it is Iran.

There is a final irony: the war against Iraq may have been at least partially responsible for the election next door of a primitive fundamentalist from the Dark Ages. So, too, the commitment within the country to continue enriching uranium, regardless of how unhappy it might make the imperialistic western powers.

One way or another we will need to get to grips with Natanz quite soon. I may not want to live in a world with nuclear weapons — but I really don’t want to live in a world where Iran has nuclear weapons.


Eric Boehlert's "Lapdogs" On The Swift Boat Hoax: "The Press, Spooked About Being Tagged As Too Liberal, Played Dumb On An Unprecedented Scale"...

Huffington Post
Eric Boehlert's "Lapdogs" On The Swift Boat Hoax: "The Press, Spooked About Being Tagged As Too Liberal, Played Dumb On An Unprecedented Scale"...

In his new book, "Lapdogs: How the Press Rolled Over for Bush," Eric Boehlert dissects the Beltway media's culpability during the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth smear campaign from the 2004 campaign and concludes the episode "likely delivered Bush the cushion he needed to win in November" and "represented an embarrassing new benchmark for campaign season reporting." "Lapdogs" holds the press accountable for the central role it played in enabling a smear campaign that consumed the crucial campaign month of August 2004 -- "a media monsoon that washed away Kerry's momentum coming out of the Democratic convention."

How, for instance, the Washington Post published 13 page-one Swift Boat stories in 12 days, most of which failed to address the key fact that the Swift boat allegations -- that Kerry lied about his Vietnam War record -- were riddled with errors and compounded by the veterans' fanciful, ever-changing stories. Despite the lack of evidence to substantiate their claims, which were floated 35 years after the fact and bankrolled by partisan Republicans, the press refused, in real time, to call out the Swift Boat allegations as a dirty trick.

"Lapdogs: How the Press Rolled Over for Bush," in bookstores next week, charges that the press, spooked by allegations of liberal bias, has been "afraid of the facts and the consequences of reporting them" during the Bush years.


House bill would increase U.S. forces

House bill would increase U.S. forces

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Pentagon would be permitted to add thousands of ground troops under a House bill, reflecting lawmakers' long-standing concerns that U.S. forces must be increased, particularly during wartime.

The provision is part of a massive measure the House Armed Services Committee planned to approve on Wednesday. The bill sets Defense Department policy and spending levels of roughly $510 billion for the military for next year, including $50 billion to cover the first portion of next year's costs for wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Just six months before voters elect a new Congress, lawmakers shaped the bill to address concerns arising from the Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts, including plans for more generous recruitment incentives, pay raises and combatting roadside bombs. Actual money for specific programs is provided in separate, later legislation.

It is likely senators will reflect similar priorities when the Senate Armed Services Committee passes its version of the bill by Friday, given a desire across Capitol Hill to be perceived as supporting troops and their families during wartime — particularly in an election year.

Overall, the House bill "reflects our committee's strong and continuing support for the brave men and women of the United States armed services," said Rep. Duncan Hunter, R-Calif., the committee's chairman.

Rep. Ike Skelton of Missouri, the lead Democrat on the House committee, said the bill addresses two priorities — "demands of the present and preparations that must be made to ensure we continue to have the best prepared, trained and equipped force in the world."

Since the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, Congress has approved $368 billion for wars in Iraq, Afghanistan and global efforts against terrorism, including defense, foreign aid and veterans' costs, according to the Congressional Research Service, the research arm for lawmakers.

The bill plans increased spending beyond the administration's request for operations, training and maintenance, while lowering the money the Pentagon can spend on some major weapons systems still being developed, such as the Future Combat Systems, the Army's key weapons program.

Also, the House bill continues the committee's push to encourage the Pentagon to expand the number of U.S. military ground forces.

In recent weeks, several retired generals have stepped forward to argue that the planning for the war in Iraq — including troop levels — was not sufficient. And, in recent interviews, former Secretary of State Colin Powell said he told Rumsfeld and Bush that he was worried that U.S. did not have enough troops to complete the mission.

As in previous years, the bill permits the Army to increase the number of active-duty soldiers by 30,000 — or 6% beyond what President Bush requested — to a maximum target of 512,400. It also requires the Army to maintain an active-duty force of at least 504,400, roughly 2,000 more soldiers than the current level.

Additionally, the bill allows the Marine Corps to add 5,000 troops — or 3% more than Bush sought — to reach a force of 180,000 Marines.

The bill also authorizes the Army National Guard to have 350,000 troops, the same number allowed last year, and increases the number of Army National Guard full-time support personnel by nearly 2,300.

With recruitment and retention of soldiers a concern of lawmakers while the country is at war, the House bill would institute higher incentives to help keep the ranks filled.

It would authorize an additional $100 million for Army recruiting and retention bonuses; $100 million for the Army Reserve to fund Army-wide basic officer courses; and $59 million for Air National Guard bonuses.

To protect U.S. troops in Iraq, the bill plans $209.7 million for devices to prevent roadside bomb explosions in Iraq and for aircraft to patrol above roads to look for the bombs, a leading killer of U.S. troops in Iraq.

The House bill also calls for $300 million to fund a 2.7% military pay raise. The raise would be 0.5 percentage points more than what the president proposed.

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FBI Sought Data on Thousands in '05
FBI Sought Data on Thousands in '05
By Dan Eggen
Washington Post Staff Writer

The FBI sought personal information on thousands of Americans last year from banks, Internet service providers and other companies without having to seek approval from a court, according to new data released by the Justice Department.

In a report to the top leaders of both parties in the House, the department disclosed that the FBI had issued more than 9,200 "national security letters," or NSLs, seeking detailed information about more than 3,500 U.S. citizens or legal residents in 2005.

The report, released late Friday, represents the first official count of NSL use. It was required under legislation that extended the USA Patriot Act anti-terrorism law.

The count does not include other such letters that are issued by the FBI to obtain more limited subscriber information from companies, such as a person's name, address or other identifying data, according to the report. Sources have said that would include thousands of additional letters and may be the largest category of NSLs issued. The Washington Post reported in November that the FBI now issues more than 30,000 NSLs each year, including subscriber requests.

The Justice Department report also outlined a continued increase in the use of secret warrants under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, or FISA. The secret court that oversees the law approved a record 2,072 orders for clandestine searches or surveillance in 2005 -- an 18 percent increase from the year before.

The new statistics provide the latest measure of the government's rapidly expanding anti-terrorism activities, which include a wide range of secret warrants and powers aimed at monitoring suspicious behavior and preventing attacks.

Many of the tactics have come under criticism from civil liberties groups as intrusive and lacking in proper oversight. National security letters, for example, are a form of administrative subpoena that can be issued by scores of FBI managers around the country.

"This tells us why they didn't want to tell us in the past how many of these they were actually using," said Caroline Fredrickson, Washington legislative director for the American Civil Liberties Union. "The idea that this kind of power resides in the hands of so many people at the FBI with no court oversight is very troubling."

The government previously has declined to reveal how many NSLs have been issued by the FBI and criticized the Post report as inaccurate. A Justice Department official said yesterday that the department would not comment on how many more NSLs have been issued for subscriber data only.

At the FISA court, the number of warrants for clandestine searches and surveillance has more than doubled in the past five years, according to government figures. The court -- which historically has refused only a handful of warrant applications -- did not reject any of the government's requests last year, although two cases were withdrawn by Justice before a ruling was issued, the report said.

The Justice official said part of the increase in 2005 can be attributed to an expansion of the office that submits FISA cases.

The FBI also used a controversial section of the Patriot Act to obtain business-related records 155 times in 2005. But most of that activity was the result of temporary technical problems with an earlier statute, and the number is expected to fall dramatically this year, according to the report to Congress.


The Politics of Leaking
The Politics of Leaking
By Howard Kurtz
Washington Post Staff Writer

We seem to have argued our way into a debate over good leaks and bad leaks.

Some conservatives are mighty upset over the leaks involved in two Pulitzer-winning stories, the NYT's domestic surveillance scoop and The WP's disclosure of the secret CIA prisons. So we're getting an earful about the suspect motives of leakers and how newspapers are damaging national security and maybe even that reporters who publish classified material should go to jail.

I don't recall these folks being exercised about the gusher of Ken Starr leaks during the Clinton investigations. Those didn't involve national security, but they did involve grand jury secrets, the disclosure of which is illegal. In those years, the Wall Street Journal editorial page was so appalled at President Bill Clinton that the question of who was dishing to reporters got short shrift.

Let's face it: There's a principle here, that journalists should have the right to ferret out information they deem to be in the public interest, even if it's against the law for sources to provide that information. But to be equally candid, people--even including journalists--applaud the leaks they like and denounce the leaks they detest. Thus, some news organizations demanded a special prosecutor after senior administration officials disclosed Valerie Plame's CIA employment to Robert Novak, and were appalled at what appeared to be a case of political retaliation against Joe Wilson.

That, said the WSJ in this editorial , which I quoted the other day, is a "preposterous double standard. . . . It would appear that the only relevant difference here is whose political ox is being gored, and whether a liberal or conservative journalist was the beneficiary of the leak. That the press sought to hound Robert Novak out of polite society for the Plame disclosure and then rewards [Dana] Priest and [James] Risen with Pulitzers proves the worst that any critic has ever said about media bias."

But doesn't everyone make distinctions between, say, Deep Throat leaking information about Watergate corruption vs. leaks about Clinton's sex life vs. leaks about the Iraq war authorized by George W. Bush himself? Even the information about why CIA officer Mary McCarthy was fired--supposedly for leaking classified information to The Post, which she has denied--was conveyed in the form of not-for-attribution leaks.

The latest to join the argument, in a big way, is Bill Keller. In a response to the WSJ slam, the New York Times executive editor writes:

"Your editorial posits a conspiracy between journalists and 'a cabal of partisan bureaucrats' to undermine President Bush by sabotaging the war on terror. Among the suspects swept up and summarily convicted in your argument are: a) government officials who have disclosed secret doings of the government (with the exception of President Bush, whose leak-authorizing somehow escapes your notice); b) reporters and editors at the New York Times and Washington Post for reporting on these secret doings--notably the detention of terror suspects in CIA facilities in Europe and eavesdropping on Americans without warrants; and c) the Pulitzer Board, which honored both of those journalistic exploits last week.

"I leave to others, including the court of public opinion, whether the government officials who spoke to reporters about secrets that troubled them were partisan evildoers, as the Journal contends, or conscientious public servants, or something more complicated. Since most of them, including the nearly a dozen who were cited in the first warrantless eavesdropping story, have not been publicly identified, it's hard to know how the Journal is so certain of their motives. . . .

"To believe that aggressive journalism is driven by liberal partisanship requires an awfully selective memory. (Ask Bill Clinton. Ask Congressman Mollohan.) The role of journalism on our side of the news/opinion divide, at least as we aspire to perform it, is not to be advocates for or against any president or any party or any cause. It is not to tell our readers what we think or what they should think, but to provide information and analysis that enables them to make up their own minds. We are sometimes too credulous, sometimes too cynical--in other words, we are human--but I think we get the balance right most of the time, and when we don't we feel an obligation to correct it.

"In addition to fair treatment in the news pages, presidents are entitled to a respectful and attentive hearing, particularly when they make claims based on the safety of the country. In the case of the eavesdropping story, President Bush and other figures in his administration were given abundant opportunities to explain why they felt our information should not be published. We considered the evidence presented to us, agonized over it, delayed publication because of it. In the end, their case did not stand up to the evidence our reporters amassed, and we judged that the responsible course was to publish what we knew and let readers assess it themselves. You are welcome to question that judgment, but you have presented no basis for challenging it, let alone for attributing it to bad faith or animus toward the president."


Red States, Blue States: New Labels for Long-Running Differences

The New York Times
Red States, Blue States: New Labels for Long-Running Differences

THE red state-blue state division has captured the pundits' imaginations, leading to much armchair theorizing about how political constituencies in the United States are evolving.

According to some, the country is splitting into two opposing camps, with political divisions becoming more polarized and more spatially segregated than they have been in the past.

A recent working paper, "Myths and Realities of American Political Geography," by two Harvard University economists, Edward L. Glaeser and Bryce A. Ward, challenges this conventional wisdom. The paper can be downloaded from

The economists examined a number of contemporary and historical data sources on cultural, religious, economic and political attitudes and compared these responses across states.

They found that differences in political attitudes across states are nothing new: the Civil War and Roaring Twenties had much larger geographic variation in political views than we do today. Though dispersion in political attitudes has generally declined over the last 60 years, the last four years have brought a small uptick.

Though views have become somewhat less associated with geography in the 20th century, they still show strong differences. The fraction of the voters in a given area who vote Republican correlates well with the fraction who voted Republican in the last election.

Furthermore, America is not becoming more polarized. Of course, Republicans have a more positive view of the Republican Party than the Democratic Party, and vice versa, but attitudes have hardly changed since 1978. It is fair to point out, though, that attitudes seem to have become somewhat more partisan in the last few years.

The most remarkable phenomenon is the rise of religion in politics. Thirty years ago, income was a better prediction of party affiliation than church attendance, but this is no longer true. Religion also played a big role in politics a century ago, so we may well be returning to the historical norm.

Cultural and religious attitudes play a big role in voting behavior. For example, the fraction of the population who agreed with the statement "AIDS is God's punishment for immoral sexual behavior" was highly correlated with whether the state was red or blue, according to surveys conducted by the Pew Research Center. The differences in religious attitudes between Vermont and Mississippi are huge.

These cultural divisions have been around for a long time. In the 1936-37 Gallup poll, residents of New England and the Middle Atlantic states were far more likely than citizens elsewhere to support federally financed health measures aimed at venereal disease, to support a free press and to be willing to vote for Catholic or Jewish candidates.

Consumption patterns seem to be correlated with cultural attitudes. For example, the states with the largest level of wine consumption per capita also tend to have the most liberal political and social attitudes. In vino veritas?

Another peculiar connection is the strong correlation between religiosity and militarism. Respondents to Pew's survey who agree that "prayer is an important part of my daily life" also agree that the "best way to ensure peace is through military strength."

So why are these cultural and political divisions so persistent? The authors offer both some simple correlations and some more elaborate theories. It turns out that the degree of industrialization 85 years ago is an "astonishingly good predictor of Democratic support" among today's voters, as is the fraction of the population that is foreign-born.

But the biggest effect seems to be the correlation between religion and Republicanism. Among white voters who attend religious services at least once a week, 71 percent voted Republican in the last election, according to the Pew survey.

Republicans have traditionally appealed to those with higher incomes. The genius of Republicans, beginning with Ronald Reagan and continuing with Karl Rove, was to bring the religious vote into their party, forming a winning coalition of Main Street businessmen, the very wealthy and evangelical Christians. Strange bedfellows, to be sure, but they win elections.

Mr. Glaeser and Mr. Ward offer some speculation about why religion is such an attractive theme for politicians. According to their theory, direct appeals to voters on issues like abortion are tricky, because strong positions inspire groups on both sides of the issue, who then cancel each other out in votes. The trick is to send "coded messages" to different groups of voters. Strong opponents of abortion, for example, may react positively to certain religious allusions that appear innocuous to mainstream voters.

The Economist magazine characterizes American politics as a contest between the incompetence of Republicans and the incoherence of the Democrats. But there is a reason for the Democrats' incoherence: they are feverishly trying to assemble their own collection of strange bedfellows, and no one quite knows what it is.

Ultimately, both parties face the same challenge: how to keep the support of their cultural and political extremists without giving them so much power that they alienate the middle-of-the-road voters.

In this sort of game, the incumbents tend to have an advantage, unless they are perceived as having messed up so badly that even their most fervent supporters desert them. Hey, maybe the Democrats have a chance after all.

Hal R. Varian is a professor of business, economics and information management at the University of California, Berkeley.


Suicide bomber kills at least 18 in Iraq

Suicide bomber kills at least 18 in Iraq
By Fadil al-Badrani

FALLUJA, Iraq (Reuters) - A suicide bomber blew himself up among a crowd of men waiting to sign up to join the police in the Iraqi city of Falluja on Wednesday, killing at least 18 people, doctors said.

Violence has flared in mainly Sunni Arab Anbar province, with U.S. and Iraqi forces killing over 100 insurgents over the past week in the capital Ramadi and a suicide car bomber killing 10 in an attempt to assassinate the governor on Tuesday.

Parliament, which will soon vote on forming a government of national unity -- seen as the best hope for ending the bloodshed -- began its first normal business session since being elected in December.

But speaker Mahmoud al-Mashhadani postponed what was to have been the most important task, the selection of a committee to review and amend the constitution, until after a new government is formed and approved by parliament.

"I suggest waiting to form the constitutional committee until the forming of the next government and the situation stabilizes because it is an important issue and needs more negotiation among the blocs," he said.

The once-dominant Sunni minority is more fully represented since abandoning its boycott of the U.S.-backed political process by voting in December. Parliament, beginning a first full four-year term since the fall of Saddam Hussein, is due to sit again next Wednesday.

Shi'ite Prime Minister-designate Nuri al-Maliki has said he could have a cabinet line-up ready soon.


Sunni Arabs say the constitution gives too much power to the majority Shi'ites and want it changed, demanding they head the review committee.

Maliki has said he hopes to announce a rainbow coalition to embrace Shi'ites, Sunnis and Kurds, a step seen as vital to quelling the Sunni insurgency and mounting sectarian bloodshed involving guerrillas on all sides.

He has 30 days from April 22 to present a list to the 275-member parliament for its approval.

Politicians involved in the negotiations say agreement may be emerging on the top five ministries -- interior, defense, finance, foreign affairs and oil.

Political blocs say they are using a complex points system based primarily on results from December's election to determine how many ministries are allocated to each grouping.

"The deadline to form the government is May 22, but Nuri al-Maliki has set himself a target of May 9," said Khudheyir al- Khuzai, a member of Maliki's dominant Shi'ite Alliance.

"We are willing to work 20 hours a day to achieve this."

The U.S. military says attacks on civilians have doubled since a Shi'ite mosque was bombed in February and senior Iraqi officials say at least 100,000 have fled their homes.

In what has become a regular occurrence, the bodies of 14 men, with bullet holes and showing signs of torture, were found in Baghdad on Wednesday, police said.

The victims were blindfolded and bound. Twenty such bodies were found in the city on Tuesday, police said.

In Falluja, 60 km (40 miles) west of the capital, doctor Bilal Mahmoud said most of the 20 people wounded in the attack on the police recruits were in a critical condition.

The insurgents have been shifting their focus from U.S. and other foreign troops to Iraq's new army and police force, although American soldiers are still dying at a rate of close to two a day.

The large crowds drawn to recruiting centers are a common target. More than 80 people were killed in an attack on a police recruiting center in Ramadi in January.

The government is keen to expand recruitment in Sunni areas, to reduce perceptions that the army and police are offshoots of the original Shi'ite and Kurdish-led interim government.

In addition to tackling the violence, Maliki's other major task will be to revive an economy shattered by three years of war and insurgency.

Pivotal to that will be the oil industry, losing billions of dollars a year from rebel attacks, corruption and smuggling.

Oil Minister Hashem al-Hashemi told reporters on Wednesday Iraq aimed to increase oil exports to about 2 million barrels per day (bpd) by the end of the year from about 1.5 bpd now and compared with about 1.7 bpd before the U.S.-led 2003 invasion.

Iraq has the world's third-largest oil reserves, but sabotage attacks against pipelines and installations cost it $7 billion in 2005 and $6 billion in 2004.

(Additional reporting by Michael Georgy in Baghdad)


Republicans scramble for pump price solution

Republicans scramble for pump price solution
By Chris Baltimore

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Republicans in Congress scrambled on Wednesday to find a new way to deal with soaring gasoline pump prices after a plan to hand out $100 checks to consumers fell flat.

The House of Representatives rejected a plan to boost U.S. refinery capacity by revamping state and federal permitting schemes and encouraging building on abandoned military base sites.

A handful of House and Senate lawmakers went to the White House for a "brainstorming session" on energy proposals, after prominent Republican lawmakers including House Majority Leader John Boehner dismissed the $100 check proposal as "insulting" to consumers.

President George W. Bush said proposals ranged from building better battery-powered gasoline-electric hybrid cars, to producing more motor fuel from sources like corn and building new refineries.

Republicans, fighting to hold on to their majority in Congress, were struggling to find new ideas at the meeting.

"I don't think there were any proposals that have not been kicked around," said Sen. Pete Domenici, chairman of the Senate Energy Committee. The New Mexico Republican said there are no quick fixes to bring down energy prices so conservation will need to be more of a focus.

Sen. Kent Conrad, a North Dakota Democrat who also met with Bush, said "there was an air of seriousness" and urgency in dealing with the problem because of risks to the economy.

With gasoline prices above $3 a gallon in many U.S. cities, pump prices have been the main topic of discussion of both parties in Congress as lawmakers fretted that voters will vent their rage in the upcoming November elections.

Nationwide gasoline pump prices averaged $2.92 a gallon last week, according to government figures, just short of the record $3.07 hit last September after Hurricane Katrina walloped Gulf Coast oil installations.

One way to solve the crunch, Republicans say, would be to speed up permits to build new refineries.

House leaders fast-tracked a proposal by Republican Reps. Joe Barton of Texas and Charles Bass of New Hampshire that would tap the Environmental Protection Agency to coordinate siting, permitting and approving of refineries.

The vote on the bill was 237 to 188, far short of the two-thirds majority needed to pass fast-tracked bills.

Some 185 Democrats voted against the bill, spurring House Majority Whip Roy Blunt to accuse them of obstructionist tactics.

"If we want to help consumers at the pump, we need to address refining capacity," White House spokeswoman Dana Perino said. "Unfortunately, there are some Democrats who don't want to do that."

Barton said he would bring the refinery plan up for another vote next week where it could pass with a simple majority.

Many Democrats say the bill would have short-circuited state permitting powers, and said it gives oil refiners incentives that they don't need.

U.S. refiners don't want to build because "the dirty secret is they're not going to make any money off of that," said Rep. Hilda Solis, California Democrat.

The United States uses about 21 million barrels per day of gasoline, jet fuel and other refined petroleum products, but domestic refineries only churn out about 17 million bpd, Barton said.

That means that industry will have to spend $40 billion to $60 billion on new capacity to fill the gap, Barton said.

The House also passed a measure that would make it a federal crime for companies to profiteer on pricing gasoline, diesel fuel, crude oil, heating oil and biofuel. Criminal penalties would be up to $150 million and two years in jail at the wholesale level and $2 million and similar jail time for retail violations.

Barton said he also sent "a fairly strongly worded letter" to big U.S. oil company executives asking them to detail how they will reinvest their record profits in expanding refineries and other energy infrastructure. Barton said he planned to call oil CEOs to participate in an energy panel hearing.

Senate Democrats on Thursday will introduce legislation to limit U.S. dependence on foreign oil imports.

(additional reporting by Susan Cornwell and Caren Bohan)


House passes bill it calls ethics-reform - but is it really?

House passes ethics-reform bill
By Andy Sullivan

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Rattled by corruption scandals, the House of Representatives narrowly passed a package of ethics reforms on Wednesday that Democrats decried as a "sham, which would do little to clean up Congress.

The House voted 217 to 213, largely along party lines, to require greater disclosure of political lobbying activities and highlight special-interest "earmarks" hidden in some large spending bills.

Only eight Democrats voted for the bill, while 20 Republicans voted against it.

The bill, supported by the White House, must be reconciled with a separate reform bill passed by the Senate in March.

A string of corruption cases have cast a spotlight on the cozy relationship between lawmakers and Washington's $2 billion lobbying industry, and with congressional elections scheduled for November Republican leaders have made lobbying reform a priority.

"This bill will fulfill the public's right to know who is seeking to influence their Congress," said the bill's sponsor, California Rep. David Dreier. "It will not permit business as usual, it will not perpetuate the status quo."

Democrats, who have made corruption a central theme of their campaign to recapture a control of Congress, said the bill is only designed to create the illusion of reform and does nothing to curb the influence of money in politics.

"This bill is a sham and by promoting it as a real reform measure Republicans are lying to the American people," said New York Democratic Rep. Louise Slaughter.


The bill would require lobbyists to file disclosure forms electronically four times a year, instead of twice a year.

Lawmakers would need prior approval from colleagues on the ethics committee before flying on corporate jets or taking privately funded trips.

Earmarks -- a spending measure that devotes funds for a specific purpose, often to help a lawmaker's own district or pet project -- will have to listed along with the lawmaker who sponsors them, in each of the sprawling spending bills that keep the government running.

Republican leaders have promised to broaden the earmark provision to apply to other spending bills as well when they reconcile it with the Senate's ethics bill.

Unlike the Senate bill, the House version does not prevent lobbyists from buying lawmakers gifts or meals worth less than $50, and it does not extend the current one-year "cooling off" period a lawmaker must wait before lobbying his former colleagues.

Corruption has cast a shadow over the House in recent months.

Former California Republican Rep. Randy "Duke" Cunningham is serving an eight-year prison sentence for accepting $2.4 million in bribes, while two former staffers of former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay have pleaded guilty to corruption in another scandal centered around former lobbyist Jack Abramoff.

On the Democratic side, Louisiana Rep. William Jefferson is under investigation for taking bribes in a Nigerian telecommunications venture, while West Virginia Rep. Alan Mollohan recently stepped down from the ethics committee amid questions about his real-estate holdings.