Saturday, March 24, 2007

Documents show Gonzales approved firings

Yahoo! News
Documents show Gonzales approved firings
By LARA JAKES JORDAN, Associated Press Writer

Attorney General Alberto Gonzales approved plans to fire several U.S. attorneys in an hourlong meeting last fall, according to documents released Friday that indicate he was more involved in the dismissals than he has claimed.

Last week, Gonzales said he "was not involved in any discussions about what was going on" in the firings of eight prosecutors that has since led to a political firestorm and calls for his ouster.

A Nov. 27 meeting, in which the attorney general and at least five top Justice Department officials participated, focused on a five-step plan for carrying out the firings of the prosecutors, Gonzales' aides said late Friday.

There, Gonzales signed off on the plan, which was drafted by his chief of staff, Kyle Sampson. Sampson resigned last week. Another Justice aide closely involved in the dismissals, White House liaison Monica Goodling, has also taken a leave of absence, two officials said.

The five-step plan approved by Gonzales involved notifying Republican home-state senators of the impending dismissals, preparing for potential political upheaval, naming replacements and submitting them to the Senate for confirmation.

Six of the eight prosecutors who were ultimately ordered to resign are named in the plan.

The department released more than 280 documents Friday night, including e-mails, calendar pages and memos to try to satisfy Congress' demands for details on how the firings were handled — and whether they were politically motivated. There are no other meetings on the calendar pages released between that Nov. 27 and Dec. 7, when the attorneys were fired, to indicate Gonzales participated in other discussions on the matter, Justice spokeswoman Tasia Scolinos said.

Scolinos said it was not immediately clear whether Gonzales gave his final approval to begin the firings at that meeting. Scolinos also said Gonzales was not involved in the process of selecting which prosecutors would be asked to resign.

On March 13, in explaining the firings, Gonzales told reporters he was aware that some of the dismissals were being discussed but was not involved in them.

"I knew my chief of staff was involved in the process of determining who were the weak performers — where were the districts around the country where we could do better for the people in that district, and that's what I knew," Gonzales said last week. "But that is in essence what I knew about the process; was not involved in seeing any memos, was not involved in any discussions about what was going on. That's basically what I knew as the attorney general."

Later, he added: "I accept responsibility for everything that happens here within this department. But when you have 110,000 people working in the department, obviously there are going to be decisions that I'm not aware of in real time. Many decisions are delegated."

The documents were released Friday night, a few hours after Sampson agreed to testify at a Senate inquiry next week into the firings of eight U.S. attorneys last year.

Asked to explain the difference between Gonzales' comments and his schedule, Justice spokesman Brian Roehrkasse said the attorney general had relied on Sampson to draw up the plans on the firings.

"The attorney general has made clear that he charged Mr. Sampson with directing a plan to replace U.S. attorneys where for one reason or another the department believed that we could do better," Roehrkasse said. "He was not, however, involved at the levels of selecting the particular U.S. attorneys who would be replaced."

Gonzales this week directed the Justice Department's Office of Professional Responsibility to investigate the circumstances of the firings, officials said. The department's inspector general also will participate in that investigation.

Nonetheless Democrats pounced late Friday.

"Clearly the attorney general was not telling the whole truth, but what is he trying to hide?" said Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (news, bio, voting record), D-Nev.

"If the facts bear out that Attorney General Gonzales knew much more about the plan than he has previously admitted, then he can no longer serve as Attorney General," said Sen. Chuck Schumer of New York, who is heading the Senate's investigation into the firings.

Added House Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers (news, bio, voting record):

"This puts the Attorney General front and center in these matters, contrary to information that had previously been provided to the public and Congress."

Presidential spokesman Trey Bohn referred questions to the Justice Department, saying White House officials had not seen the documents.

The developments were not what Republicans, skittish about new revelations, had hoped.

Earlier Friday, a staunch White House ally, Sen. John Cornyn (news, bio, voting record), summoned White House counsel Fred Fielding to Capitol Hill and told him he wanted "no surprises."

"I told him, 'Everything you can release, please release. We need to know what the facts are,'" Cornyn said.

Sampson will appear Thursday at a hearing of the Senate Judiciary Committee, his attorney said. "We trust that his decision to do so will satisfy the need of the Congress to obtain information from him concerning the requested resignations of the United States attorneys," Sampson attorney Brad Berenson wrote in a letter to the leaders of the Senate Judiciary Committee that oversees the Justice Department.

New e-mails released Friday indicate that some of Gonzales' most trusted advisers were kept out of the loop in the firings. Scolinos apparently learned about the plans to dismiss attorneys on Nov. 17, 2006 — nearly two years after Sampson and the White House first began talking about replacing prosecutors.

In an e-mail to White House aide Cathie Martin, who first raised the issue of the firings with Scolinos, the Justice spokeswoman said she didn't believe they would become a big story.

"I think most will resign quietly — they don't get anything out of making it public they were asked to leave in terms of future job prospects," Scolinos wrote.

Democrats question whether the eight were selected because they were not seen as, in Sampson's words, "loyal Bushies."


Associated Press writer Laurie Kellman contributed to this report.


Friday, March 23, 2007

Paging Rose Mary Woods: '18-Day Gap' in Release of Latest Emails in 'AttorneyGate'

Editor & Publish
Paging Rose Mary Woods: '18-Day Gap' in Release of Latest Emails in 'AttorneyGate'

NEW YORK As each day passes, the phrase "shades of Watergate" appears more and more often in the press regarding the conflict surrounding the recent firing of eight U.S. attorneys. There was the hiring of former Nixon legal adviser Fred Fielding (he was once rumored to be Deep Throat) by President Bush, the selective release of documents, the threat to oppose subpoenas -- and now something reminiscent of the famous "18 1/2 minute gap."

Mike Allen writes for The Politico, "In DOJ documents that were publicly posted by the House Judiciary Committee, there is a gap from mid-November to early December in e-mails and other memos, which was a critical period as the White House and Justice Department reviewed, then approved, which U.S. attorneys would be fired while also developing a political and communications strategy for countering any fallout from the firings."

The blog Talking Points Memo, which has followed this scandal closest for the longest time, did the math and found out that the gap is 18 days, and promptly compared it to the "18 1/2 minute gap" from Watergate -- when a key part of a Nixon tape suddenly went blank.

Nixon blamed it on his secretary Rose Mary Woods, while others suspected the president himself. The missing information was erased. That may not be true in the current conflict.

Asked about the gap today, Tony Snow, White House spokesman said, "I've been led to believe that there's a good response for it, and I'm going to let you ask them (DOJ) because they're going to have an answer."


FBI Violations May Number 3,000, Official Says

Washington Post
FBI Violations May Number 3,000, Official Says
By R. Jeffrey Smith

The Justice Department's inspector general told a committee of angry House members yesterday that the FBI may have violated the law or government policies as many as 3,000 times since 2003 as agents secretly collected the telephone, bank and credit card records of U.S. citizens and foreign nationals residing here.

Inspector General Glenn A. Fine said that according to the FBI's own estimate, as many as 600 of these violations could be "cases of serious misconduct" involving the improper use of "national security letters" to compel telephone companies, banks and credit institutions to produce records.

National security letters are comparable to subpoenas but are issued directly by the bureau without court review. They largely target records of transactions rather than personal documents or conversations. An FBI tally showed that the bureau made an average of 916 such requests each week from 2003 to 2005, but Fine told the House Judiciary Committee that FBI recordkeeping has been chaotic and "significantly understates" the actual use of that tool.

Fine, amplifying the criticisms he made in a March 9 report, attributed the FBI's "troubling" abuse of the letters to "mistakes, carelessness, confusion, sloppiness, lack of training, lack of adequate guidance and lack of adequate oversight."

His account evoked heated criticism of the bureau from Republicans and Democrats alike, including a comment from Rep. Dan Lungren (R-Calif.) that it "sounds like a report about a first- or second-grade class."

Testifying with Fine, FBI General Counsel Valerie E. Caproni attributed the shortcomings to poor controls instead of deliberate misconduct and offered profuse apologies. Asked by Rep. Melvin Watt (D-N.C.) whether the public should "be concerned about that kind of disregard of the law and internal process," Caproni replied: "I think the public should be concerned. We're concerned. And we're going to fix it."

She attributed the "F report card" from Fine partly to the bureau's inexperience in conducting its national security work in secrecy, away from a judicial system that threatens to expose any flaws. "That imposes upon us a far higher obligation to make sure we have a vigorous compliance system," she said. She noted, for example, that the FBI never told its agents to retain signed copies of the national security letters used.

"This was an example of the incredibly sloppy practice that was unacceptable," Fine interjected. His report also noted that some lawyers at FBI field offices -- who work for the special agents in charge, rather than for legal officials at FBI headquarters -- felt pressured to go along with requests for letters that they knew were not adequately documented.

Fine's estimate of the incidence of serious abuses was extrapolated from his investigators' scrutiny of 293 national security letters, out of 44,000 letters -- containing 143,074 data requests -- that the FBI has reported issuing during the three-year period he reviewed. Of those letters studied, he found "about seven where there were illegal uses" to obtain information the FBI was not entitled to have. Caproni questioned the validity of the extrapolation but acknowledged that 1 percent of the letters examined by Fine were tainted by "unquestionably serious violations."

Fine said, however, that he found no evidence that FBI agents "intended to go out and obtain information that they knew they could not obtain and said, 'We're going to do it anyway.' I think what they did was complete carelessness" prompted partly by a desire to take "shortcuts."

Fine's extrapolated tally of 3,000 likely illegal or improper letters did not include three other categories of wrongdoing disclosed in his report: One was a headquarters unit's use of 739 "exigent circumstances" letters to obtain telephone records from AT&T, Verizon and MCI on an emergency basis using false statements or improper documentation. The second was an improper use of 300 national security letters to obtain information for a single classified project. And the third was the FBI's use of improper letters to obtain the financial records of 244 people from banks.

Although the FBI's policy is to hold such records for at least 20 years, even if the target of the data collection proves not to have any terrorist connections, Caproni said that if no legal authority can be found during an audit now underway, the records will be destroyed.

Rep. F. James Sensenbrenner Jr. (R-Wis.) expressed surprise at how widespread the use of national security letters had become, asking: "Do we have that many potential terrorists running around the country? If so, I'm really worried." He said the inspector general's report shows that "the FBI has had a gross overreach," and added that its officials "can't get away with this and expect to maintain public support for the tools that they need to combat terrorism."


Inside The FBI's Cybercrime Survey
Tech: Inside The FBI's Cybercrime Survey
Auction fraud, Nigerian scam letters and identity theft, oh my! The FBI's latest survey of Internet crime concludes that 2006 was a record year for cyberswindlers.
By Brian Braiker

March 21, 2007 - Ever receive a “Dear friend” e-mail from a “West African widow” you’ve never met? Did this person claim to have access to millions of dollars in “leftover funds” and want to transfer them to a “foreign partner” such as yourself for safekeeping, for which you would be handsomely compensated?

Did you, even for just one second, consider replying to that e-mail?

If you did, you’re not alone. Gullible greedies laid out, on average, $5,100 a pop in response to such "419" e-mail scams (named for the section of Nigerian criminal code they violate), according to the recently released FBI's Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) annual survey. The IC3 reports that during 2006, consumers filed 207,492 complaints, down 10 percent from the year before. There may have been fewer complaints, but victims say they lost more than ever online—$198.4 million, the highest total in the six years the FBI has released the report. The highest average losses per victim were among those snookered by the Nigerian 419 letter fraud. But of all Internet crime complaints, online auction fraud was the by far the most reported, accounting for nearly half (44.9 percent) of all complaints.

NEWSWEEK’s Brian Braiker recently spoke with James E. Finch, assistant director of the FBI Cyber Division, about the survey and why, if an online offer looks too good to be true, it probably is. Excerpts:

NEWSWEEK: Nearly half of all complaints last year were about auction fraud [primarily people collecting money on bids without delivering the promised items]. Does it surprise you that it’s such a large piece of the pie?
James E. Finch: It is surprising to me, but then again you look at the number of people who use the online auctions who have very little computer-security skill. Online auctions are really a way for a lot of people to make money, and that naturally attracts many people—trained and untrained—to the auctions. Based on the number of online auctions, I would think those numbers would probably continue to go up.

Losses were highest among victims of the Nigerian letter scam. Is it astonishing to you how gullible some people still are? This thing has been around for years.
If you look at the delivery method, the Internet has allowed the Nigerian letter fraud scam to be—I wouldn’t say perfected—but certainly reach a lot more potential victims. In many cases with the postal services, you didn’t have that broad reach. With the Internet you can reach thousands with the push of a keystroke. This is a scam that is reaching people who have never been touched before by it.

It predates the Internet?
Oh, yeah. This plagued the postal service for many years. Now, every year you get a new batch of potential victims. There are so many different twists to that fraud. People see this as a something-for-nothing type deal. I’m seeing variations of the Nigerian letter fraud, but for the most part it’s the same thing that’s been going on for years.

This survey tallies allegations of fraud that have been reported. There must be countless other people who feel they’ve been victims that don’t come forward.
We have no way to accurately gauge underreporting. It would be merely a guess. Certainly I agree there is probably a lot. There are those who have not realized they were scammed or were victims of a scam. Some don’t report due to embarrassment—there are numerous reasons. But as the scams become more perfected, people start to lose more money, certainly they believe there is more recourse. We are starting to see more litigation where people are following through and seeing successes.

But the number of complaints has gone down over last year.
Yeah, they have. It could be due to perpetrators going after larger targets—that’s difficult to prove. It could be the result of other things. I would not say we have any reason to believe that is going to be the case for ‘07 that they go down even further.

Are you noticing any trends in these numbers? Anything about, say, child pornography, phishing or identity theft?
What we’ve actually seen is that the skill set of the perpetrators is getting better. Are the tools to counter that improved skill set available? I believe the tools are out there. However, some people do not avail themselves of those tools. That’s why we're not seeing a downtrend. The hackers are getting better, and we’re getting new people online every day, new potential victims on a regular basis. I suspect at some point online auctions will probably provide a different type of security to counter the vulnerabilities that actually allow auction frauds.

So we’ll see a correction in the marketplace?
If it negatively impacts the bottom line, they correct. I expect to see the online auctions change to meet the increased skills of the hackers, the perpetrators of online frauds.

I’ve noticed that just over the course of this year I’ve been getting more spam than ever. Why is that?
I do see spam being more focused. And a lot of spammers are putting their services out for hire. There are a lot more sites available to those who would like to spam. There is easier access to tools necessary to spam. So you are seeing more people do it who didn’t have the ability before.

Symantec, the Internet-security software company, recently reported that cybercriminals are consolidating much in the same way IT vendors are.
Without a doubt. You have entire groups who have never physically met who come together as an organization with different assignments in the organization to perpetrate organized crime online.

Any tips for people who may not be the savviest users of the Web?
Certainly all of the security tips continue to be good ones: antivirus software, spyware software, software that looks for rootkits. Many of the suites out there are certainly useful for online- or cybersecurity. Using wireless connectivity, they should certainly change the default of the SSID number—people buy routers with default passwords and they never change them, so right away someone owns your system because you didn’t change the password. Users should certainly avail themselves of encryptions. Many people don’t, and as a result, they are putting their information at great risk, especially personal identification information.

A lot of the perpetrators are from out of the country. Romania ranks fifth on your list.
We’ve seen them from all over the world. I don’t think Romania has the market cornered on organized online crime. I think what you can probably surmise is that the same countries that were involved in mail fraud, in insurance scams, are taking advantage of the Internet, taking advantage of the anonymity and speedy delivery.

Does their being abroad make it harder for the FBI to combat?
Working closely with our international law-enforcement partners is an absolute must in combating cybercrime. It’s not unusual for me to deploy one of our Cyber Action Teams to a country to assist them. And in most cases we’re going after organized groups. But because the Internet has no boundaries, it has forced us to forge those relationships overseas. That includes an international child-pornography task force, the Innocent Images International Task Force, where officers [abroad] commit to working six months along[side] our agents to combat child porn facilitated by the Internet, so it’s worked out well.



Drones could defend airports

Drones could defend airports
By Mimi Hall

The Homeland Security Department and the military this summer will test whether drones flying 65,000 feet above the nation's busiest airports could be used to protect planes from being shot down by terrorists with shoulder-fired missiles.

Dubbed "Project Chloe" after a character on Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff's favorite TV show, 24, the anti-missile strategy is the latest to be explored by government leaders looking to thwart potential missile threats at commercial airports. Other methods are being considered, but Homeland Security officials say they may be too costly or impractical.

The drones, to be tested over the Patuxent River Naval Air Station outside Washington, would be outfitted with missile-warning systems and possibly anti-missile lasers that could send plane-bound missiles veering off course, says Kerry Wilson, a deputy administrator of Homeland Security's anti-missile program.

An unmanned plane's warning indicators could pick up the ultraviolet plume from a missile's rocket booster and trigger an anti-missile laser, which could be shot from the drone or from a site on the ground. That laser would lock on to the missile, essentially blinding it.

The tests follow four years of research on anti-missile laser systems that could be mounted on the bellies of planes for $1 million or more per plane.

Those systems, regularly used by the military, are being tested on nine Federal Express cargo planes to see how well they hold up. Early military tests showed they broke down after 300-400 hours of use, a failure rate that's problematic for commercial use.

Concerns about those systems prompted officials to look for a less expensive, more reliable solution, and using unmanned aerial vehicles "is an idea worth looking at," Wilson said.

Project Chloe has critics in Congress and in private industry.

Rep. Steve Israel, D-N.Y., says the government should share the cost of installation and maintenance of the more expensive systems with the airline industry. "It's been four years of trying to figure out how to get this cheaper," he says. "But it's just a matter of time before a shoulder-fired missile becomes the biggest blow to our economy."

Aviation groups have expressed concerns about drones in civilian airspace. Chris Dancy of the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association says there would be no problem with drones flying at 65,000 feet, well above the altitude of commercial jets. He said he was concerned, however, about how airspace would be restricted when the drones take off and land.

Inexpensive, widely available shoulder-fired missiles have been used against passenger and cargo planes overseas. Although no one has tried to take down a plane in the USA, Homeland Security is concerned about the possibility.

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Prosecutor Says Bush Appointees Interfered With Tobacco Case
Prosecutor Says Bush Appointees Interfered With Tobacco Case
By Carol D. Leonnig
Washington Post Staff Writer

The leader of the Justice Department team that prosecuted a landmark lawsuit against tobacco companies said yesterday that Bush administration political appointees repeatedly ordered her to take steps that weakened the government's racketeering case.

Sharon Y. Eubanks said Bush loyalists in Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales's office began micromanaging the team's strategy in the final weeks of the 2005 trial, to the detriment of the government's claim that the industry had conspired to lie to U.S. smokers.

She said a supervisor demanded that she and her trial team drop recommendations that tobacco executives be removed from their corporate positions as a possible penalty. He and two others instructed her to tell key witnesses to change their testimony. And they ordered Eubanks to read verbatim a closing argument they had rewritten for her, she said.

"The political people were pushing the buttons and ordering us to say what we said," Eubanks said. "And because of that, we failed to zealously represent the interests of the American public."

Eubanks, who served for 22 years as a lawyer at Justice, said three political appointees were responsible for the last-minute shifts in the government's tobacco case in June 2005: then-Associate Attorney General Robert D. McCallum, then-Assistant Attorney General Peter Keisler and Keisler's deputy at the time, Dan Meron.

News reports on the strategy changes at the time caused an uproar in Congress and sparked an inquiry by the Justice Department. Government witnesses said they had been asked to change testimony, and one expert withdrew from the case. Government lawyers also announced that they were scaling back a proposed penalty against the industry from $130 billion to $10 billion.

High-ranking Justice Department officials said there was no political meddling in the case, and the department's Office of Professional Responsibility (OPR) concurred after an investigation.

Yesterday was the first time that any of the government lawyers on the case spoke at length publicly about what they considered high-level interference by Justice officials.

Eubanks, who retired from Justice in December 2005, said she is coming forward now because she is concerned about what she called the "overwhelming politicization" of the department demonstrated by the controversy over the firing of eight U.S. attorneys. Lawyers from Justice's civil rights division have made similar claims about being overruled by supervisors in the past.

Eubanks said Congress should not limit its investigation to the dismissal of the U.S. attorneys.

"Political interference is happening at Justice across the department," she said. "When decisions are made now in the Bush attorney general's office, politics is the primary consideration. . . . The rule of law goes out the window."

McCallum, who is now the U.S. ambassador to Australia, said in an interview yesterday that congressional claims of political interference were rejected by the OPR investigation, for which Eubanks was questioned. He said that there was a legitimate disagreement between Eubanks and some career lawyers in the racketeering division about key strategy and that his final decision to reduce the proposed penalty to pay for smoking-cessation programs was vindicated by the judge's ruling that she could not order such a penalty.

"Her claims are totally false in terms of [us] trying to weaken the case," McCallum said. "Her claims were looked into by the Office of Professional Responsibility and were found to be groundless."

In June 2006, the OPR cleared McCallum, concluding that his "actions in seeking and directing changes in the remedies sought were not influenced by any political considerations, but rather were based on good faith efforts to obtain remedies from the district court that would be sustainable on appeal."

Keisler and Meron did not return telephone calls seeking comment.

U.S. District Judge Gladys Kessler ruled last August that tobacco companies violated civil racketeering laws by conspiring for decades to deceive the public about the dangers of their product. She ordered the companies to make major changes in the way cigarettes are marketed. But she said she could not order the monetary penalty proposed by the government.

The Clinton Justice Department brought the unprecedented civil suit against the country's five largest tobacco companies in 1999. President Bush disparaged the tobacco case while campaigning in 2000. After Bush took office, some officials expressed initial doubts about the government's ability to fund the prosecution, Justice's largest.

Eubanks said McCallum, Keisler and Meron largely ignored the case until it became clear that the government might win. She recalled that "things began to get really tense" after McCallum read news reports in April 2005 that one government expert, professor Max H. Bazerman of Harvard Business School, would argue that tobacco officials who engaged in fraud could be removed from their corporate posts. Eubanks said she received an angry call from McCallum on the day the news broke.

"How could you put that in there?" she recalled him saying. "We're not going to be pursuing that."

Afterward, McCallum, Keisler and Meron told Eubanks to approach other witnesses about softening their testimony, Eubanks said.

Matthew Myers of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids was one of the witnesses whom Eubanks asked to change his testimony. Yesterday, he said he found her account to be "the only reasonable explanation" for what transpired.

Two weeks before closing arguments in June, McCallum called for a meeting with Eubanks and her deputy, Stephen Brody, to discuss what McCallum described as "getting the number down" for the $130 billion penalty to create smoking-cessation programs. Brody declined to comment yesterday on the legal team's deliberations, saying that they were private.

During several tense late-night meetings, McCallum repeatedly refused to suggest a figure, Eubanks said, or give clear reasons for the reduction. Brody refused to lower the amount. Finally, on the morning the government was to propose the penalty in court, she said, McCallum ordered it cut to $10 billion.

The most stressful moment, Eubanks said, came when the three appointees ordered her to read word for word a closing argument they had rewritten. The statement explained the validity of seeking a $10 billion penalty.

"I couldn't even look at the judge," she said.

Staff writer Dan Eggen contributed to this report.


Federal Election Commission: Bush Violated Spending Limits in 2004 Campaign
FEC Democrats Say Bush Violated Limits
By Matthew Mosk
Washington Post Staff Writer

The three Democrats on the Federal Election Commission revealed yesterday that they strongly believe President Bush exceeded legal spending limits during the 2004 presidential contest and that his campaign owes the government $40 million.

Their concerns spilled out during a vote to approve an audit of the Bush campaign's finances, which is conducted to make sure the campaign adhered to spending rules after accepting $74.6 million in public money for the 2004 general election.

Republican commissioners defended the way the Bush campaign billed the cost of more than $80 million in television ads, which were the source of the dispute.

The commission by statute comprises three Democrats and three Republicans. Commissioner Michael E. Toner, a Republican, resigned March 14, but the vote was taken before his departure. Because of the deadlock, the objections were recorded in a footnote to the audit but will not result in any sanctions or repayment.

"We had a disagreement on this audit, and it was a doozy," said one of the Democrats, Commissioner Ellen L. Weintraub.

The dispute centered on the use of what the commissioners called "hybrid" ads, which were intended to promote both the president and Republican members of Congress. The Bush campaign argued that it should not bear the full cost of these ads, so it split the tab with the Republican Party.

As a result, only half of the cost would count toward spending limits imposed on the campaign when it agreed to take public funds. Weintraub said the spending limit is an essential part of the agreement candidates make to accept public financing. "Bush-Cheney 2004 took the $74 million, and then they broke the bargain," she said.

Commissioner Hans A. von Spakovsky, a Republican, strongly disagreed. "There was no broken bargain," he said. "There was no violation of the law."


Obama flip flops on funding the Iraq war

ABC News
Obama Changed Position on War Funding
Democratic Presidential Contender Opposed War Funding in 2003 but Has Voted Four Times for Funding in Senate

March 21, 2007— - In a conference call with reporters Wednesday, Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., said that his votes to fund the war in Iraq do not contradict his opposition to the war.

"Once we were in, we were going to have some responsibility to try to make it work as best we can," the presidential candidate said. "More importantly, you make sure the troops are supported. I don't think there's any contradiction there whatsoever. We should not get in; once we were in, we had to make the best of a bad situation."

There isn't necessarily a contradiction in this position; other opponents of the war vote to fund the troops so as to ensure they're as safe as possible. But there certainly seems a contradiction between this view of war funding and Obama's view just a few years ago, after the war in Iraq had been raging for more than six months.

Obama Opposed War Funding in 2003

In video obtained by ABC News of a Winnetka, Ill., Democratic event from Sunday, Nov. 16, 2003, then-state senator Obama told a cheering crowd that it was wrong to vote to fund the war.

"Just this week, when I was asked, would I have voted for the $87 billion dollars, I said 'No,'" Obama said to applause as he referred to a bill to fund troops in Iraq and Afghanistan.

"I said no unequivocally because, at a certain point, we have to say 'No' to George Bush," Obama said. "If we keep on getting steamrolled, we are not going to stand a chance."

Obama's campaign says that he opposed the $87 billion war supplement because a portion of the funds were to be directed toward reconstruction of Iraq, which he feared would be distributed inappropriately.

"He was against this $20 billion in no-bid contracts that was forced into the bill for reconstruction for the country of Iraq with no accountability," said Obama spokesman Bill Burton.

In a questionnaire he completed for the liberal group Council for a Livable World and in a 2003 press release he issued as a state senator, Obama suggested the Congress delay the $87 billion in funding "until the president provides a specific plan and timetable for ending the U.S. occupation, justifies each and every dollar to ensure it is not going to reward Bush political friends and contributors, and provides 'investment in our own schools, health care, economic development and job creation that is at least comparable' to what is going to Iraq."

But at the time, Obama's public statements suggested he opposed voting for the supplement as a way of opposing the president's overall strategy in Iraq, and not just the reconstruction funds.

Obama told the Chicago Sun Times in November 2003 that he opposed the funding because it "enables the Bush administration to continue on a flawed policy without being accountable to the American people."

And in that Council for a Livable World questionnaire he completed while a Senate candidate in September 2003, Obama wrote that he wanted to delay approving the additional funds until President Bush provided a timetable for withdrawal, although the Obama campaign notes that he also wrote he was concerned about the reconstruction money going to political friends of the White House.

Clinton Camp Counters Obama's Iraq War Stance

The Clinton campaign has aggressively tried to point out or poke holes in how consistent Obama's anti-war stance has been.

Earlier this week at a forum at Harvard University, Clinton pollster Mark Penn said, ''When they got to the Senate, Sen. Obama's votes were exactly the same [as Clinton's votes].

Members of the Clinton campaign -- most notably former President Clinton -- have also tried to fuzz the record as to whether Obama would have hypothetically voted against the war had he been in the Senate in October 2002, though Obama's public comments at the time on the subject are consistently opposed to the war.

Read: "Words of War: Clinton Camp Muddies Obama's Anti-War Stance but Record Is Clear"

Regardless of the reason for his initial opposition to funding the war, since taking office two years ago, Obama has voted four times for a war appropriations bill, which together add up to more than $300 billion.

On the Ed Shultz radio show earlier this month, Obama said, "There's a possibility, given how obstinate this administration is" that attempts to cut off funding would result in Bush deciding to "play chicken, and say, 'You know what, I'm going to leave these folks here and you guys do whatever you want.'"

Obama continued to explain to the liberal talk show host, "And then suddenly we've got a situation where these folks, they don't have body armor, they don't have the kinds of equipment that they need to have a shot of coming home in one piece. You're already seeing deployments of National Guard units that have not been adequately trained, that's been acknowledged by the armed forces, and, so, it's a real concern."


Reconstruction in Iraq criticised

Reconstruction in Iraq criticised
Vanessa Heaney
BBC News, Washington

The US reconstruction programme in Iraq has been described as chaotic and badly managed, in an official report by the US special inspector general for Iraq.

Stuart Bowen said tension and a lack of co-ordination between the Pentagon and the State Department led to disarray.

Mr Bowen presented his report to the Senate Homeland Security committee.

The panel's chairman, Joseph Liebermann, said billions of dollars had been wasted and the overall mission in Iraq had been undermined.

'Little accountability'

The US Defense Department never had a proper plan to manage the post-war reconstruction of Iraq, according to the man charged with investigating the efforts.

Stuart Bowen found numerous problems, from a lack of strategy to poor communication between the Pentagon and State department.

"Anyone who has spent appreciative time in the Iraq reconstructive effort understands the tension that exists between the two," he said.

Money flowed into projects, before training and staff were fully in place.

Only three contracting officers were initially sent to the capital, Baghdad, to oversee the spending of the reconstruction money.

There was little oversight for the Iraqi companies hired to do the work. The result was a lack of clearly defined authority and little financial accountability.

The report was not intended to lay blame with any one agency, but it recommended that government departments work together more closely in the future.

Unless things change, the same mistakes could be repeated.
Story from BBC NEWS:


Bong Hits 4 Jesus and the First Amendment

Huffington Post
Bong Hits 4 Jesus and the First Amendment
Byron Williams

What should we make of a nonsensical statement on a 14-foot banner, held by a high school student, combining religion and drug use? Suspension? Does it warrant revocation of his First Amendment rights?

These are the questions raised as the Supreme Court this week debated how restrictive schools could be in limiting a student's right to free speech.

In 2002, Joseph Frederick, then an 18-year-old senior in Juneau Alaska, along with several other students held the 14-foot banner that read, "Bong Hits 4 Jesus." when the torch for the Winter Olympics was scheduled to pass in front of the high school. Frederick was standing on a public street as the TV cameras came into range.

The school's principal, Deborah Morse, took the banner away from the students and sent Frederick to the office. He was suspended for 10 days. A federal judge rejected his claim, but the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled for the student and said the principal could be forced to pay damages.

According to the 9th Circuit ruling, the student had a right to express himself as long as he didn't disrupt the school or its educational mission. Citing the 1969 ruling Tinker v. Des Moines decision, the court declared that a school district was "not entitled to suppress speech that undermines whatever mission it defines for itself." Under Tinker, student speech is protected unless it is disruptive or invades the rights of other students.

"A school cannot censor or punish students' speech merely because the students advocate a position contrary to government policy," Judge Andrew Kleinfeld said in the 3-0 ruling last year.

I would not be thrilled if, as a parent, I received a call from school stating that my son was holding a "Bong Hits for Jesus" banner as a parade passed. But does that warrant suspension from school, especially if he is not on school property?

I would, however, be extremely upset with the school, if learning that he attempted to justify his position by quoting Thomas Jefferson and the First Amendment, only to have his suspension increased from 5 days to 10, as was the case with Frederick.

I must admit a prejudice for any student that spends his free time reading Voltaire, but I am even more persuaded by anyone, regardless of age, who still takes the Constitution seriously. When is it the mission of the school to regulate speech on public property?

But Ken Starr, the same Ken Starr that prosecuted the Monica Lewinsky affair, argued that schools should be given special deference in the area of drugs to move against pro-drug speech -- even messages like Frederick's banner, which are open to varying interpretations.

If Starr is right, could a pro-choice principal limit the speech of pro-life students who wish to pass out leaflets supporting their position? If "Bong hits for Jesus " is wrong it also raises the question: why would civil disobedience be protected under the Constitution?

On its surface, it is easy find this issue as having little value beyond those who are directly involved--one need only be against drugs and for Jesus. But this case is but another example of how our civil liberties have come under attack in recent years with very little public outcry.

Far more people were upset when gas prices escalated than when the attorney general, under oath, questioned the Constitutional relevance of habeas corpus.

However the court decides, I fear that our collective lack of civic understanding is what's on trial. What is required to be an American far outweighs the ability to proclaim it on a bumper sticker or wear a flag on a lapel. Without an accompanying understanding that is rooted in the Constitution, such outwardly displays are but perverted forms of idolatry.

As Village Voice columnist Nat Hentoff said to me this week, "The most disadvantaged people in our society are the ones who don't know what the country stands for."

Byron Williams is an Oakland pastor and syndicated columnist. E-mail him at or leave a message at (510) 208-6417.


Revised Army Data Significantly Ups Number Of Desertions

The New York Times
Army Revises Upward the Number of Desertions

A total of 3,196 active-duty soldiers deserted the Army last year, or 853 more than previously reported, according to revised figures from the Army.

The new calculations by the Army, which had about 500,000 active-duty troops at the end of 2006, significantly alter the annual desertion totals since the 2000 fiscal year.

In 2005, for example, the Army now says 2,543 soldiers deserted, not the 2,011 it had reported. For some earlier years, the desertion numbers were revised downward.

National Public Radio first reported on Tuesday that the Army had been inaccurately reporting desertion figures.

A soldier is considered a deserter if he leaves his post without permission, quits his unit or fails to report for duty with the intent of staying away permanently. Soldiers who are absent without leave — or AWOL, a designation that assumes a soldier still intends to return to duty — are automatically classified as deserters and are dropped from a unit’s rolls if they remain away for more than 30 days.

Some Army officers link the recent uptick in annual desertion rates to the toll of wartime deployments and point to the increasing percentage of troops who are on their second or third tours in Iraq or Afghanistan.

But an Army spokeswoman, Maj. Anne Edgecomb, gave different reasons. Most soldiers desert because of personal, family or financial problems, Major Edgecomb said, adding, “We don’t have any facts to indicate that soldiers who desert now are doing so for reasons different from why soldiers deserted in the past.”

Lt. Col. Brian C. Hilferty, an Army spokesman, said the desertion data errors were caused by confusion among employees who tally them. “They were counting things wrong, and doing it inconsistently,” Colonel Hilferty said in an interview.

He added, “We are looking at the rise in desertions, but the numbers remain below prewar levels, and retention remains high. So the force is healthy.”

The failure to count deserters accurately is inexcusable, said Derek B. Stewart, director for Defense Department personnel issues for the Government Accountability Office.

“It is just unbelievable to the G.A.O. to hear that the Army does not know what that number is,” Mr. Stewart said in an interview Thursday.

Noting that the problem with the desertion numbers arises when the service cannot find enough recruits to fill certain crucial specialties like medical experts and bomb defusers Mr. Stewart said, “In the context of their current recruiting problems for certain occupations, these desertion numbers are huge.”

The new figures also show a faster acceleration in the rate of desertions over the previous two fiscal years than announced. In 2006, for instance, desertions rose by 27 percent, not 17 percent, as the Army had previously reported, a spokesman said.

The revised figures show 2,543 desertions in the fiscal year 2005, an 8 percent increase from the 2,357 the year before. Previously, the service said 2005 desertions dropped by 17 percent, to 2,011 from 2,432.

But from the fiscal year 2000 through 2003, there were hundreds fewer desertions than the Army had previously reported. The Army’s revised data, while reflecting significant errors in year-to-year desertions, showed a total of 22,468 desertions since the fiscal year 2000, nearly the same as the old count of 22,586.

Over all, desertions, a chronic problem in the Army but hardly pervasive, now account for less than 1 percent of active-duty soldiers. The current annual rates pale in comparison with the 33,094 soldiers — 3.41 percent of the total force — who deserted the Army in 1971, during the Vietnam War.

The Army’s data does not reflect deserters from the 63,000 currently activated National Guard and Reserve soldiers, and Colonel Hilferty said that data was not available yesterday. But he said few soldiers from those units deserted.

In an e-mail statement yesterday, Colonel Hilferty also said that the record keeping was damaged in the Sept. 11 attack on the Pentagon, which destroyed personnel records.

“Unfortunately, for the past several years,” he said, “our methodology for tracking deserters at the macro level has been flawed.”


Gonzales, Cheney Blocked Call For Guantanamo Closing

The New York Times
New to Pentagon, Gates Argued for Closing Guantánamo Prison

WASHINGTON, March 22 — In his first weeks as defense secretary, Robert M. Gates repeatedly argued that the detention facility at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, had become so tainted abroad that legal proceedings at Guantánamo would be viewed as illegitimate, according to senior administration officials. He told President Bush and others that it should be shut down as quickly as possible.

Mr. Gates’s appeal was an effort to turn Mr. Bush’s publicly stated desire to close Guantánamo into a specific plan for action, the officials said. In particular, Mr. Gates urged that trials of terrorism suspects be moved to the United States, both to make them more credible and because Guantánamo’s continued existence hampered the broader war effort, administration officials said.

Mr. Gates’s arguments were rejected after Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales and some other government lawyers expressed strong objections to moving detainees to the United States, a stance that was backed by the office of Vice President Dick Cheney, administration officials said.

As Mr. Gates was making his case, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice joined him in urging that the detention facility be shut down, administration officials said. But the high-level discussions about closing Guantánamo came to a halt after Mr. Bush rejected the approach, although officials at the National Security Council, the Pentagon and the State Department continue to analyze options for the detention of terrorism suspects.

The base at Guantánamo holds about 385 prisoners, among them 14 senior leaders of Al Qaeda, including Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, who were transferred to it last year from secret prisons run by the Central Intelligence Agency. Under the Pentagon’s current plans, some prisoners, including Mr. Mohammed, will face war crimes charges under military trials that could begin later this year.

“The policy remains unchanged,” said Gordon D. Johndroe, a spokesman for the National Security Council.

Even so, one senior administration official who favors the closing of the facility said the battle might be renewed.

“Let’s see what happens to Gonzales,” that official said, referring to speculation that Mr. Gonzales will be forced to step down, or at least is significantly weakened, because of the political uproar over the dismissal of United States attorneys. “I suspect this one isn’t over yet.”

Details of the internal discussions on Guantánamo were described by senior officials from three departments or agencies of the executive branch, including officials who support moving rapidly to close Guantánamo and those who do not. One official made it clear that he was willing to discuss the internal deliberations in part because of Mr. Gonzales’s current political weakness. The senior officials discussed the issue on ground rules of anonymity because it entailed confidential conversations.

The officials said Mr. Gates and Ms. Rice expressed their concerns about Guantánamo in conversations with Mr. Bush and others, including Mr. Gonzales, beginning in January and onward. One widely discussed alternative would move the prisoners to military brigs in the United States, where they would remain in the custody of the Pentagon and would be subject to trial under military proceedings. There is widespread agreement, however, that moving any detainees or legal proceedings to American territory could bring significant complications.

Some administration lawyers are deeply reluctant to move terrorism suspects to American soil because it could increase their constitutional and statutory rights — and invite an explosion of civil litigation. Guantánamo was chosen because it was an American military facility but not on American soil.

Placing the detainees in military brigs on United States territory might fend off some of those challenges. The solution may eventually require a new act of Congress establishing legal standing for the detainees and new rules for their trial and incarceration if brought to the United States.

Mr. Gates’s criticism of Guantánamo marks a sharply different approach than the one taken by his predecessor, Donald H. Rumsfeld. It also demonstrated a new dynamic in the administration, in which Mr. Gates was teaming up with Ms. Rice, who often was at loggerheads with Mr. Rumsfeld. The State Department has long been concerned about the adverse foreign-policy impact of housing prisoners at Guantánamo.

In the end, Mr. Gates did succeed in killing plans to build a $100 million courthouse and detention complex at Guantánamo, after he argued that the large and expensive project would leave the impression of a long-lasting American detainee operation there and that the money could be more effectively spent elsewhere by the Pentagon. Mr. Gates approved a far more modest facility at one-tenth of the cost.

The setback in his effort to close Guantánamo was described by senior Pentagon officials as Mr. Gates’s only significant failure during an effort in his first three months in office to shift course from policies pursued by Mr. Rumsfeld. The outcome suggests that Mr. Bush, Mr. Cheney and Mr. Gonzales remain committed to a detention plan that has become one of the most controversial elements of the administration’s counterterrorism program.

Mr. Cheney’s spokeswoman, Lee Anne McBride, said via e-mail that “we don’t discuss internal deliberations.”

Mr. Bush has repeatedly said he ultimately wants to shutter the detention operations at Guantánamo. But he has also said it is not possible to do so any time soon.

State Department and Pentagon officials have said that even close allies are uncomfortable with American policies toward Guantánamo, making it more difficult in some cases to coordinate efforts in counterterrorism, intelligence and law enforcement.

More than 390 detainees have been transferred abroad from the Guantánamo facility since it was opened amid global controversy in 2002. Last year, 111 detainees were transferred out, and 12 more have been this year. About 20 of those repatriated to home countries have been picked up again in sweeps of terrorism suspects or have been killed or captured in battle, Pentagon officials say.

Many countries do not want to take back the detainees held at Guantánamo. Some home nations will not guarantee that returning detainees would be assured humane treatment and fair trials, while others will not guarantee that detainees viewed by American officials as still dangerous would not be set free.

Mr. Gates’s challenge has sent a ripple through the White House, because it forced officials to confront the question of whether Mr. Bush was actually moving to fulfill his stated desire to close the detention facility. Officials who advocate shutting down Guantánamo, including some at the Pentagon and the State Department, said an underlying motivation of those who want to keep the center open is that closing it would be seen as a public admission of an incorrect policy — something the Bush administration is loath to do.

Neither Mr. Gates nor Ms. Rice have made public their comments to Mr. Bush. “Nobody is going to be insubordinate with the president,” said one senior administration official involved in the discussions. “You know the saying: ‘One war, one team.’ ”

But in a recent Pentagon news conference, Mr. Gates did speak about his concerns over Guantánamo in general terms.

“I think that Guantánamo has become symbolic, whether we like it or not, for many around the world,” Mr. Gates said at the time. “The problem is that we have a certain number of the detainees there who often by their own confessions are people who if released would come back to attack the United States. There are others that we would like to turn back to their home countries, but their home countries don’t want them.”

He said officials “are trying to address the problem of how do we reduce the numbers at Guantánamo and then what do you do with the relatively limited number that would be irresponsible to release.”

“And I would tell you that we’re wrestling with those questions right now,” he continued.

In an interview on Thursday, Gordon England, the deputy secretary of defense who is Mr. Gates’s point man on detention issues, suggested that the long-term answer to Guantánamo might be creating some new international legal structure or set of multilateral agreements to manage captured members of global terrorist organizations.

“I don’t know the alternative unless the international community, frankly, develops an alternative,” Mr. England said. “It is not a U.S. problem. It is an international problem to be dealt with.”

Mr. England said American government officials had “an extraordinarily high degree of confidence from the information available” that many Guantánamo detainees were “going to damage the country, so you just can’t let them go.”

“So,” he added, “this is difficult. I know it’s onerous. I know there are a lot of questions about it. We deal with it the best we can. But at the end of the day, we are not going to put the country or our citizens in jeopardy.”


Thursday, March 22, 2007

The New iRack

The New iRack

Good political humor:


Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Don't Take the Offer!

Huffington Post
Cenk Uygur
Don't Take the Offer!

The president has said he will allow his top aides to talk to the Senate if they are not in public, under oath or on the record. Under no circumstances should the Democrats take this offer! None. It's not even close.

Why on God's green earth would the Senate allow anyone to testify without being sworn in?

There is no national security on the line here. It's not even the president or the vice-president (not that I think that's a good excuse). It's the president's political advisers. Of course they should be sworn in.

There is one and only one reason why someone wouldn't want to be sworn in under these circumstances - they want to be able to lie. Only the world's biggest sucker would let them.

No transcript? Are they kidding? Not only do they not want to be criminally liable for their testimony, they don't even want a record of it. How desperate are they to lie?

Finally, politically speaking the Democrats lose nothing by demanding the normal course of business. You get a subpoena, you follow it. Period. The Bush administration looks like they are trying to dodge legitimate questions on this - because they are. They keep getting pounded by the press and the public - because they should.

There is no downside for the Democrats. They are asking perfectly legitimate questions through perfectly legitimate channels. Meanwhile the Bush administration is running from the law and offering no clear explanation for their actions.

If this administration keeps this kind of obstructionist politics and wanton rule-breaking up, they are going to drive their party into the ground. If they refuse to give in to any form of accountability, the only people who will pay a steep price is their own party.

It's not the Democrats that should be pleading with the White House to let the aides testify in public, it's the Republicans. After all, it's their ass on the line in 2008.


Bush v. Checks and Balances

Huffington Post
Bryan Young
Bush v. Checks and Balances

Bush himself finally held a press conference today to outline his stance on the Attorney General scandal. His stance is essentially this: "Maybe there was some wrong-doing, but if you start investigatin' it, then you're guilty of partisanship. If you hand out subpoenas, I'll be sure to block 'em."

This is most troubling for me because this is essentially Bush thumbing his nose at us, the Congress and Democracy itself.

Here's what he actually said:

"If the Democrats truly do want to move forward and find the right information, they ought to accept what I proposed," Bush said. "If scoring political points is the desire, then the rejection of this reasonable proposal will really be evident for the American people to see."

Bush said he would aggressively fight in court any attempt to subpoena White House aides.

"If the staff of a president operates in constant fear of being hauled before congressional committees ... the president would not receive candid advice and the American people would be ill-served," he said. "I'm sorry the situation has gotten to where it's got, but that's Washington, D.C., for you. You know there's a lot of politics in this town."

Reading this scares the hell out of me and it should scare the hell out of you, too. The staff of a president and the president himself should operate in constant fear of being hauled before a congressional committee. That's pretty much what Congress is for, isn't it? I mean, aside from legislating, they're there at the pleasure of the population to provide oversight into the potential wrong-doing of any other branch of government. That's why they've been given powers of impeachment and oversight in the Constitution. Everyone should operate under the fear that if they do something wrong or illegal in their job that they will be held accountable. Public servants, who serve at the pleasure (or displeasure in Bush's case) of the people absolutely need to worry about what they say and do in the name of the American people. And so for Bush to say that his people will talk to Congress but not under oath or in public, means that they are not confident in the legality of their dealings. It has nothing to do with the fear of losing "candor in advising the President" and it has everything to do with the fact that they've done something wrong.

All I can say is that I hope that Congress does go to the mat with Bush over this because I want every presidency, Republican or Democratic, to have as much transparency in their decision-making process as possible short of risking national security. And I want every Congress, regardless of majority, to have the ability to demand that transparency.

It seems to me to be the best way for Democracy for to thrive and it's no surprise to me that George Bush clearly disagrees with that philosophy.


Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Anti-war protesters arrested on Wall Street

Anti-war protesters arrested on Wall Street

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Police arrested 44 anti-war protesters outside the New York Stock Exchange on Monday after they lay down in front of the entrance to mark the fourth anniversary of the U.S. invasion of Iraq.

There was no impact on trade.

Uniformed police outnumbered the fewer than 100 protesters outside the stock exchange building at the corner of Broad and Wall streets in New York's historic financial district.

"Stop the money, stop the war," people chanted as police hauled away limp-bodied protesters.

Protesters said there had been four separate but coordinated acts of civil disobedience. A police spokesman said 44 people were arrested.

Demonstrators said they were directing their protest at major defense contractors Lockheed Martin, Boeing, Northrop Grumman, Halliburton, General Electric and others.

"U.S. service members and Iraqi civilians are dying so that an elite few can profit," said Fabian Bouthillette, 26, a high school teacher who served for two years in the U.S. Navy.

The demonstrators began the day at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, several blocks from the stock exchange, where they were met by seven Vietnam War veterans who said they were guarding the monuments.


A Mother's Crusade Against the Iraq War
A Mother's Crusade Against the Iraq War
Tina Richards came to Congress seeking to save her son, a Marine corporal, from redeployment to Iraq. A chance encounter with Rep. David Obey that was caught on film became an overnight YouTube sensation. Richards speaks out—on her son’s health, the politics of war and what it’s like to be thrust into the limelight.
By Eve Conant

March 19, 2007 - You might not know her name, but she’s fast become a fresh face of the antiwar left. Missouri mom Tina Richards became an overnight YouTube sensation last week, when an encounter she had with Rep. David Obey in a Capitol Hill corridor went viral—just as Congress was debating a bid to rein in spending for President Bush’s surge in Iraq. During the encounter, Richards approaches Obey, chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, to discuss her son, Marine Cpl. Cloy Richards—who suffers from undiagnosed traumatic brain injuries following two tours of duty in Iraq and a failure by the military health-care system to provide adequate treatment, his mother says. Obey responds patiently, at first, but the congressman grows agitated as the conversation continues, and he tells Richards that “liberal idiots” were pushing Congress to defund the war—which, Obey argues, would further hurt the cause of veterans whose health-care needs are already being shortchanged.

Richards, the CEO of Grassroots America, a nonprofit devoted to social-justice issues, has continued walking the halls of Congress since then, pushing members to end the war in Iraq. Cloy is due to be deployed to Iraq later this month despite his injuries, she says, and has threatened suicide if he is to be deployed again. She spoke with NEWSWEEK’s Eve Conant about her son, the politics of the war and her newfound place in the antiwar limelight.

NEWSWEEK: How did this run-in with Obey take place? Was that planned?
Tina Richards: People seem to think it was a setup—that it was specially planned with cameras. But Kathleen Gable and Tyler Westbrook are filmmakers who’ve been documenting all peace-movement activities on the Hill, and we had all heard there was going to be a sit-in at Obey’s office. I thought I’d better hurry, not to the sit-in, but to put in my request for an interview with him before it started. Mondays are usually the day I go asking for meetings with everyone on the Subcommittee for Defense Appropriations, Obey is the chair for all appropriations. I try to get to all of the offices of the representatives dealing with defense by Friday. Every Monday I start all over again. What you hear about the failures at the VA and at Walter Reed; these are all affecting my daily life.

How’s that? Why are you making the rounds in Congress?
I went to Obey’s office to drop off letters about my son and some of his poems. I know it sounds stupid, but if you read those poems you’d understand the pain of what this war has done to him and to our families. I never in my dreams thought I’d actually come across Obey in the hallway. I hadn’t actually studied his record before, but I was going to drop off my letter and I knew he had the power to vote against the supplemental. Call me naïve, but I’m just trying to save my son. I see very few people going up there to Congress to say that they are against the war. I talk to staff, to aides, congressmen and congresswomen, and they say the American people are not calling or writing them and don’t seem to care about what’s going on in Iraq. When Obey was yelling, I was trying to remain calm; I didn’t want to aggravate the situation. But I was hoping there’d be a chance for him to listen to my side.

You’ve been getting death threats now, is that right?

Yes. I never attacked or accosted anybody. But I’m getting all these e-mails, some saying I should use the gun my son wants to use on myself. Some on the left are saying I raised a murderer and I deserve this. I’ve read 30 or 40 of these e-mails, and my son has read the rest and is deleting them. I grew up in the military, I believe in a standing army to defend our country. [Richards’s father was in the Marines; her brother was in the Air Force. In addition to Cloy, she has a 13-year-old daughter and a foster son who is currently serving in the California National Guard.] I don’t believe that there’s never a time for war. But diplomacy should come first, and that didn’t happen. Not all the e-mails are bad. One person serving in the military actually sent me $50 to thank me for what I was doing and help me out.

If people came up to the Hill, would they be heard?
Only 1.4 percent of the American population is fighting this war. That means troops and their families. I’ve been criticized [by people saying] that I should know more before I go up there. But I’m just trying to save my son and stop this stupid war, so others don’t have to go through the pain and suffering we’ve had to.

You seem to be following in the footsteps of documentary filmmaker Michael Moore when it comes to corralling lawmakers. How did all this start for you?
I came to D.C. from Missouri on Jan. 27 for the peace march. I coordinated for the state of Missouri for the United for Peace and Justice Coalition, and they had scheduled appointments to discuss their concerns with Congress. I saw that common people were allowed into the halls of Congress—that these are our halls, too. Even if we’re not in all their districts, their votes affect our lives. While I was there, my son called on Jan. 29 to say that the Marine mobilization had called to check again whether he was ready to deploy. He said he had to decide whether to go or to kill himself. I promised him he wouldn’t have to make that choice. I said to him, your voice will be heard in the halls of Congress. I thought the best way would be through his poems.

Why does your son want to kill himself?
Back in September the Marine mobilization unit had contacted him to check where he was and whether he was qualified for redeployment, again. He does qualify because we don’t have forms from the VA for his disability, because they keep sending us letters saying, “Don’t call us, we’ll call you,” and “We’re too busy.’ Back in September I found him sitting in the driveway in the car. He doesn’t drive anymore because he thinks there are roadside bombs everywhere so he can’t actually drive. I thought—why is he in the car? I sat down with him in the car and asked him what was wrong. I saw he’d been crying. He said, “Mom, I can’t go back. I thought I was defending a country, but this war is illegal and immoral and I can’t just go back there and kill innocent Iraqis.” I told him I would take him to Canada. He said he couldn’t leave his duty, but that his choice was either to kill himself or kill innocent Iraqis. I promised him he’d never have to make that decision, and for six weeks now I’ve been going to Congress people to help him….So I’m here and I’ve been walking the halls and that’s where I ran into Kathleen and Tyler [the film crew]. We’ve gone to press conferences of military families who want the troops back home, and no press showed up but them. That’s where we met. These are just two citizens—Kathleen is on the fourth mortgage of her home to be here to film the peace movement, and Tyler left behind his wife and kid to come out here, sleeping on back porches at friends’ houses at first. The American people don’t care about what’s happening to our soldiers like we do. They can put a yellow ribbon on the back of their car, they can turn the TV or radio off, and the war is over for them for the day. We live with this 24 hours a day and can’t shut it out.

What is your son Cloy’s disability?
He has undiagnosed traumatic brain injury: memory loss, severe depression … a rocket exploded near him and he has neck and back injuries. He’s had six or eight concussions while serving in Iraq, and he was never treated for any of them and never diagnosed because the VA system is too broken to do it. I can’t think of all of his symptoms right now, but there are a lot more. I’m sorry, I haven’t slept in a week. I haven’t slept much these past four years. I will sleep when this war is over.

What should the Democratic Party do? Do you have any heroes on the Hill?
Well, the Democratic Party needs to stand up and start being strong. They were given a mandate by the people in the last elections, and polls show people want the war over and they want our troops home. I’d want them to stop using Republican talking points, like to support troops you need to fund the war. In 2004, Bush said that anyone who voted against the supplemental was voting against body armor. The Democrats are so afraid of being viewed as not supporting the troops that they won’t stand up and reframe the debate. I didn’t believe it in ’04 and a lot more people don’t believe it now, so why are they using the same language as George Bush and Dick Cheney? [Rep.] Lynne Woolsey [of California] read my son’s poem and talked about him on the House floor; that gave me a lot of heart. Same goes for Rep. Barbara Lee, Rep. Maxine Waters and Rep. John Conyers. I just ran into Rep. [John] Murtha and told him I’d been trying to get an appointment with him for three weeks. He said that was horrible and rushed into a hearing. And then half an hour into that hearing I got a call from his office to set up an appointment.

Do you see yourself as perhaps the next Cindy Sheehan?
I disagree with Cindy Sheehan on a lot of issues, but I have a great amount of respect for her. Her son sacrificed his life for this war. I know that she stood up at a time when the country was not talking about Iraq. Back then I didn’t even know a peace movement existed. Where I live—in Salem, Mo., a small town in the Ozarks—there is nothing like that. But when I saw her on TV, I thought, wow, there are other people out there who want this war to end, not just me. But she’s also outspoken about her views on issues that are not related to the war, and I don’t agree with some of those views.

There’s been something of a backlash against you, even though Obey made an apology. What’s that feel like?
As for the apology: I left a business card and a letter and my son’s poems all in Obey’s office. I know they can reach me. The incident happened on a Monday, and I have never received a call, and still don’t have an appointment with him because I’m not a constituent. I hear on the news there’s an apology, but I don’t have a TV or radio where I am and I wouldn’t even have known it happened. Maybe it’s just the way I was raised, but when you make an apology you usually talk to the other person.

That said, doesn’t Obey have a point—that defunding might hurt the cause of veterans, like Kane, who are already being shorted by the military health-care system?
A lot of articles and organizations and people a lot smarter than me have debunked that idea. He told me that it took 31 resolutions and the will of the people to end Vietnam. Well, this war won’t be ended by the will of the people. George Bush has had nothing but political pressure on this, but he doesn’t care. After the election he’s sending in more troops. What does 31 resolutions mean, anyway? Think two, three, seven years down the line, how many troops will die by then? Problems with that idea are stated clearly by political analysts. I’m just a mom trying to save her son. You can’t pay for Walter Reed or the VA unless you pay for the continuation of the war? That doesn’t make any sense. I don’t understand why George Bush’s supplemental wasn’t DOA. Democrats now have the support and power to reclaim the debate. And instead of using it, they are using Republican language to justify continuing the war. They are setting themselves up by putting Walter Reed and VA funding on the supplemental.

Are you just going after the Democrats?
People ask me why I’m not going after the Republicans. I’ve been going after them for four years and they don’t listen. I hoped that if I went to Democrats who see this war as illegal and immoral, there would be some dialogue. I’ll keep going through the halls of Congress until I get it, but they keep shutting people out.

Will you go home at some point, perhaps to see your son?
He’s coming to join me in D.C. this week, starting on Monday as I go through the halls of Congress. He wanted to come up and try it for himself. This isn’t easy. I don’t even have rent money right now for my house in Missouri. I’ve been sleeping on a couch in Maryland. But I can’t just go home to my son and make him decide whether to kill himself or be deployed again. I refuse to live with that. [She starts to cry]. I get apologies or people refuse to meet with me, but meanwhile on March 24 he has to report to his Marine Mobilization Unit with documentation that he doesn’t have to prove he’s disabled, because the VA system is too broken to give it to him. I’m looking right now at the Capitol building, and these people have the power to end this and they are not listening. They are shutting us out, the people who are hurting from this war. Maybe I’m stupid or idealistic, but I believe these halls are for the people. This breaks my heart. This is the country and the government I believe in. Maybe this is politics as usual, but I want to finish what I’ve started. Maybe more doors will be slammed in my face, but this isn’t right.



NIH chief: Stem cell ban hobbles science

NIH chief: Stem cell ban hobbles science

WASHINGTON (AP) — Lifting the ban on taxpayer funding of research on new stem cells from fertilized embryos would better serve both science and the nation, the chief of the National Institutes of Health told lawmakers Monday.

Allowing the ban to remain in place, Dr. Elias A. Zerhouni told a Senate panel, leaves his agency fighting "with one hand tied behind our back."

"It is clear today that American science will be better served — the nation will be better served — if we allow our scientists to have access to more cell lines," Zerhouni told two members of the Senate health appropriations subcommittee during a hearing on the NIH's proposed 2008 budget. The NIH, with a nearly $29 billion annual budget, is the main federal agency that conducts and funds medical research.

Zerhouni's comments appear to be his strongest yet in support of lifting President Bush's 2001 ban that restricted government funding to research using only embryonic stem cell lines then in existence. There are just 21 such lines now in use.

Bush issued the first and so far only veto of his presidency last year when he killed legislation that would have expanded federal funding of stem-cell research. In January, the House passed a revived proposal.

Stem cells are created in the first days after conception and typically are culled from frozen embryos, destroying them in the process. Because they go on to form the body's tissues and cells — Zerhouni called them "software of life" — scientists say they could unlock the mysteries of many diseases and one day lead to cures.

Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, said contamination of the 21 embryonic lines available under the ban make it unlikely they ever will be used in treating humans.

Zerhouni, in answering questions from Harkin and Sen. Arlen Specter, R-Pa., the only subcommittee members present for his testimony, said the limited number of cell lines aren't sufficient to do needed research.

"We cannot, I do not think, be second best in this area," Zerhouni told the two, both ardent supporters of stem-cell research. He later said other countries, including China and India, are increasing their spending on overall medical research.

Congress doubled the NIH's budget between 1998 and 2003, but it has remained essentially flat since then, when adjusted for inflation.


2008 Campaign Goes Negative on YouTube; Unauthorized Anti-Clinton Ad Shows YouTube's Potential '08 Influence

ABC News
2008 Campaign Goes Negative on YouTube
Unauthorized Anti-Clinton Ad Shows YouTube's Potential '08 Influence

March 19, 2007 — - A striking, new and unauthorized negative campaign ad for Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., that attacks his presidential nomination rival Sen. Hillary Clinton, D-N.Y., is the latest sensation on the popular video sharing site You Tube.

The 74-second ad is a creative take on director Ridley Scott's controversial 1984 Super Bowl commercial that launched Apple as a brash alternative to market leader IBM.

But this time, the blond female athlete running away from riot-gear clad police and carrying a sledgehammer is wearing an Obama tank top and listening to an iPod.

The ad's protagonist runs past zombie-like citizens watching a grainy, widescreen television image of Clinton talking about her presidential campaign.

Clinton, the Democratic front-runner, is likened to an Orwellian Big Brother, and the female athlete smashes her sledgehammer into the widescreen television and destroys it, shocking the citizens out of their complacency.

"On Jan. 14, the Democratic primary will begin," the ad's tagline reads, "and you'll see why 2008 won't be like 1984."

In the final scenes, the familiar Apple computer symbol is in the shape of an "O" for Obama, which morphs into the Web site address

The website may be Obama's official campaign website, however the ad's creator is a mystery.

The Obama campaign claims it had nothing to do with the video. And today, the Clinton campaign declined to comment on the ad.

The question remains whether this is an attempt for Clinton's rivals to critique her anonymously, or whether it was created independently by political activists.

'Brave New World' of Political Advertising

"This ad represents the emergence of a new era in political advertising," said Simon Rosenberg, president of the Washington-based New Democrat Network, an influential party advocacy group.

"It's a condition of 21st century politics," said Rosenberg. "It's a brave new world...the barrier to entry for politics has been lowered and it's much easier for average Americans to participate and engage."

The ease of new technology is enabling political activists to make their own media and post it online. Using a simple laptop and software, ordinary Americans can garner attention that political campaigns are spending millions of dollars of advertising to get.

"It used to be that unless they bought tens of millions of dollars in advertising, you weren't going to be heard," said Rosenberg. "Now, if an ad catches on, on YouTube or wherever, and becomes trendy and exciting, it could have just as much impact," he said.

Negative Attack Ads Are Nothing New in Campaigns

Experts say negative attack ads have become so prevalent because they have been shown to work. However in this new era of presidential politics, attacks don't have to necessarily come from candidates, and they don't have to air on television to create a stir.

"While these ads effectively push the envelope, they are a double-edged sword," said Matthew Felling, Media Director for the Center for Media and Public Affairs.

"They do cut through the tedious noise of traditional ads, but they also have no rules and can slice up a candidates' credibility," said Felling.

Going negative in a presidential campaign ad is nothing new.

Perhaps the best-remembered example of negative advertising during a presidential campaign was the 1964 "Daisy" ad by President Lyndon B. Johnson's campaign.

The ad aired only once, depicting a 6-year-old girl plucking petals from a daisy -- along with a missile launch countdown and then a nuclear mushroom cloud.

The suggestion was that if elected president, Republican candidate Barry Goldwater might lead the United States to a nuclear war with the Soviet Union. Goldwater lost by a wide margin.

New Technology May Level Political Playing Field

Experts say the emergence and popularity of YouTube could level the playing field when it comes to third-party attack ads.

In 2004, the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth successfully ran a series of negative television ads attacking Sen. John Kerry's, D-Mass., character with half-truths.

The ads were publicly denounced by the Bush-Cheney '04 campaign and officially lambasted by Republicans and Democrats alike.

Initially financed by a wealthy, Republican donor from Texas, the ads had a lasting, damaging effect to Kerry's campaign.

Today, experts say the ease and availability of media technology, and the accessibility and popularity of YouTube, means that political activists with an eye-catching ad don't need big money to make a big impact.

"This is unsettling, particularly for the candidate," said Rosenberg. "It means that increasingly, the political campaigns are going to be one voice among many, albeit a very loud one," he said.

"They're not going to be in control and there's nothing they can do about that," said Rosenberg.

Digital Age of Politics

In addition to the explosion of social networking sites like My Space and Face book, experts say new technology will make independently produced political ads even more accessible. "The next big thing to watch is broadcast quality video becoming available on mobile phones," said Rosenberg, noting that the Apple iPhone is scheduled for launch in June 2007.

"Broadband video will be in 80-million phones by 2009," said Rosenberg, "You Tube is going mobile by the end of the year. Tivo will soon allow you to record things off the internet. Media, including these viral political ads are going to be viewed in a rapidly accelerated way," he said.

More and More People Online Seeking Political Information

While most people continue to turn to traditional news outlets for political news, a majority of Internet users now say they get their political information from alternative Web sites, candidate sites, blogs and comedy sites like Jon Stewart's "Daily Show", according to a January 2007 Pew report.

With more and more people online turning to the internet for political information, and the ability of sites like You Tube to increasingly be able to get video into voters' hands, political watchers say the 2008 campaign is reaching into unchartered digital territory.

"We have no idea what the campaigns are going to look like in Fall 2008 because the velocity of change is increasing," said Rosenberg.


Material Shows Weakening of Climate Reports

The New York Times
Material Shows Weakening of Climate Reports

WASHINGTON, March 19 — A House committee released documents Monday that showed hundreds of instances in which a White House official who was previously an oil industry lobbyist edited government climate reports to play up uncertainty of a human role in global warming or play down evidence of such a role.

In a hearing of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, the official, Philip A. Cooney, who left government in 2005, defended the changes he had made in government reports over several years. Mr. Cooney said the editing was part of the normal White House review process and reflected findings in a climate report written for President Bush by the National Academy of Sciences in 2001.

They were the first public statements on the issue by Mr. Cooney, the former chief of staff of the White House Council on Environmental Quality. Before joining the White House, he was the “climate team leader” for the American Petroleum Institute, the main industry lobby.

He was hired by Exxon Mobil after resigning in 2005 following reports on the editing in The New York Times. The White House said his resignation was not related to the disclosures.

Mr. Cooney said his past work opposing restrictions on heat-trapping gases for the oil industry had had no bearing on his actions once he joined the White House. “When I came to the White House,” he testified, “my sole loyalties were to the president and his administration.”

Mr. Cooney, who has no scientific background, said he had based his editing and recommendations on what he had seen in good faith as the “most authoritative and current views of the state of scientific knowledge.”

Mr. Cooney was defended by James L. Connaughton, chairman of the environmental council and his former boss.

The hearing was part of an investigation, begun under the committee’s Republican chairman last year, into accusations of political interference in climate science by the Bush administration.It became a heated and largely partisan tug of war over the appropriate role of scientists and political appointees in framing how the government conveys information on global warming.

The hearing also produced the first sworn statements from George C. Deutsch III, who moved in 2005 from the Bush re-election campaign to public affairs jobs at NASA. There he warned career press officers to exert more control over James E. Hansen, the top climate expert at the space agency.

Testifying at the hearing, Dr. Hansen said editing like that of Mr. Cooney and efforts to limit scientists’ access to the news media and the public amounted to censorship and muddied the public debate over a pressing environmental issue. “If public affairs offices are left under the control of political appointees,” he said, “it seems to me that inherently they become offices of propaganda.”

Republicans criticized Dr. Hansen for what they described as taking political stances, for spending increasing amounts of time on public speaking and for accepting a $250,000 Heinz Award for environmental achievement from the Heinz Family Philanthropies, run by Teresa Heinz Kerry, the wife of Senator John Kerry, Democrat of Massachusetts.

Representative Darrell Issa, Republican of California, proposed that Dr. Hansen, by complaining about efforts to present two sides on global warming research, had become an advocate for limiting the debate.

Dr. Hansen replied, “What I’m an advocate for is the scientific method.”

Mr. Deutsch said his warnings to other NASA press officials about Dr. Hansen’s statements and news media access were meant to convey a “level of frustration among my higher-ups at NASA.”

Mr. Deutsch resigned last year after it was disclosed that he had never graduated from Texas A&M University, as his résumé on file at NASA said. He has since completed work for the degree, he said Monday.

Democrats focused on fresh details that committee staff members had compiled showing how Mr. Cooney made hundreds of changes to government climate research plans and reports to Congress on climate that raised a sense of uncertainty about the science.

The documents “appear to portray a systematic White House effort to minimize the significance of climate change,” said a memorandum circulated by the Democrats under the committee chairman, Representative Henry A. Waxman of California.


Kristol & Co. Got It Soooo Wrong Back in 2003 That It Isn't Even Funny

Huffington Post
Jackson Williams
Kristol & Co. Got It Soooo Wrong Back in 2003 That It Isn't Even Funny

The following comes from The Weekly Standard, the well known conservative magazine that FOX News contributor William Kristol edits.

Back on April 21, 2003 they published "The Cassandra Files" (in full here) to crow about the wonderful success of their Iraq war. The subhead of the piece was "The stupidity of the antiwar doomsayers." I looked up the date of this piece, and just to refresh your memory, it ran a mere nine days before President Bush landed on the U.S.S. Abraham Lincoln on May 1 and gave a speech under a banner reading "Mission Accomplished."

In other words, the whole neocon Bush gang was in a very serious and well coordinated "strutting" mode at the time, classically counting their chickens before they'd hatched. The Standard took what it saw as the most off-the-wall and egregious anti-war predictions and then made pithy fun of them. My favorite example is this one:

They don't call it "conventional wisdom" for nothing. Mere days before the fall of Baghdad, one of America's newsweeklies, the "hip" one, makes a fatuous blunder for the ages:

"Cheney [down arrow] tells Meet the Press just before war, 'We will be greeted as liberators.' An arrogant blunder for the ages."

--Newsweek, April 7, 2003 edition

You gotta love that! The Weekly Standard is saying that calling Cheney's "greeted as liberators" comment a blunder was, in fact, itself a blunder for the ages! Here's some other examples the Standard cited as inane in early 2003:

"This invasion of Iraq, if it goes off, will join the Bay of Pigs, Vietnam, Desert One, Beirut, and Somalia in the history of military catastrophe. What will set it apart, distinguishing it for all time, is the immense--and transparent--political stupidity."

--Chris Matthews, San Francisco Chronicle, August 25, 2002

"Iraqis hate the United States government even more than they hate Saddam, and they are even more distrustful of America's intentions than Saddam's. . . . [I]f President Bush thinks our invasion and occupation will go smoothly because Iraqis will welcome us, then [he] is deluding himself."

--New York Times columnist Nicholas D. Kristof, October 4, 2002

But being the soul of magnanimity and restraint, we're not going to do any such thing. Instead, THE SCRAPBOOK is going to run through the streets, laughing hysterically at all the people who were so blinded by hatred of President Bush--or general anti-Americanism, or their own sheer foolishness--that they continued to prophesy doom even after the war had begun and was already being won. People like a certain former U.N. weapons inspector turned Baath party apologist turned peace-movement celebrity:

"The United States is going to leave Iraq with its tail between its legs, defeated....We do not have the military means to take over Baghdad and for this reason I believe the defeat of the United States in this war is inevitable. . . . [W]e will not be able to win this war, which in my opinion is already lost."

--Scott Ritter, on a South African radio station, March 25, 2003

It takes all kinds, of course. You've got your late-career journalist gasbag, phoning it in from the dinner-party front lines:

"With every passing day, it is more evident that the allies made . . . gross military misjudgments. . . . The very term 'shock and awe' has a swagger to it, no doubt because it was intended to discourage Mr. Hussein and his circle. But it rings hollow now."

--New York Times "news analyst" R.W. Apple Jr., March 30, 2003

You've got your war novelist, phoning it in from his experiences in Vietnam, 30 years ago:

"Visions of cheering throngs welcoming them as liberators have vanished in the wake of a bloody engagement whose full casualties are still unknown. . . . Welcome to hell. Many of us lived it in another era. And don't expect it to get any better for a while."

--James Webb, in the New York Times, March 30, 2003


2,000 Pages Of Justice Dept. Docs, Emails Released: "You Have No Idea How Bad It Is Here"

US News
Paralysis Sets In as DOJ Faces Crisis
More from chief legal affairs correspondent Chitra Ragavan:

The Justice Department is expected to release more than 400 pages of E-mails and documents by close of business today to comply with a demand from Democrats in Congress over the growing crisis regarding the firing of eight U.S. attorneys last year. The crisis has engulfed the department and threatens to cut short Attorney General Alberto Gonzales's tenure.

Update: The Justice Department now says the document dump will contain closer to 2000 documents.

"You have no idea," said one Justice official, "how bad it is here."

The fear that virtually any piece of communication will have to be turned over has paralyzed department officials' ability to communicate effectively and respond in unison to the crisis, as has the fact that senior Justice officials themselves say they still don't know the entire story about what happened that led to the crisis. So they are afraid that anything they put down on paper could be viewed as lies or obfuscation, when in fact, the story is changing daily as new documents are found and as the Office of Legal Counsel conducts its own internal probe into the matter.

The paralysis will affect the calculations that Gonzales must make this week as to whether he should stay or go. If Gonzales doesn't resign, there's little doubt that he will get few of his initiatives through for the rest of his tenure and that his people will spend months churning out documents at the behest of angry Democrats who will be investigating virtually anything that moves. But this could also give Gonzales an exit strategy, officials say. He could say that while neither he nor his subordinates did anything wrong, he has decided to resign for the greater good of the department and for justice at large.

The Bush administration is making its own calibrated calculations. A stubbornly loyal individual, the president has had trouble cutting his ties to his embattled cabinet secretaries. However, if he chooses to keep Gonzales on, he is at risk of seriously eroding political capital at a time when his administration is being criticized even by party loyalists.

But if he decides to let him go, then who can fill Gonzales's place? For one thing, who would want the job? And who could Bush find that could get Senate confirmation, since Democrats now run the show? It would have to be a seasoned insider, a consummate veteran or an elder statesman who has bipartisan respect and acceptance and a squeaky-clean record.

"The trouble," says one former official, "is that no one comes to mind."