Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Tenet says he never told Cheney anything about Joe Wilson, and other stuff



The Progress Report



KENTUCKY: January 2005 e-mail warned Gov. Ernie Fletcher's (R) office about its personnel hiring practices, which are now under investigation by the state attorney general.

NEW HAMPSHIRE: State commission on same-sex unions dealt a series of defeats to same-sex marriage proponents yesterday, urging lawmakers to reject legalizing gay marriage.

WEST VIRGINIA: State lawmakers host a summit on reducing costs of prescription drugs.


THINK PROGRESS: New Federal Reserve Chairman was a champion of 2001 and 2003 budget-busting tax cuts.

DAILY KOS: Rosa Parks, misremembered.

POLITICAL ANIMAL: Why did Patrick Fitzgerald request the full version of the Italian inquiry into the forged pre-war Niger/uranium documents?

C&L: Arizona rape victim "spent three frantic days" trying to obtain emergency contraception.


"I. Lewis Libby Jr., Vice President Dick Cheney's chief of staff, first learned about the C.I.A. officer at the heart of the leak investigation in a conversation with Mr Cheney weeks before her identity became public in 2003...notes, taken by Mr. Libby during the [June 12, 2003] conversation, for the first time place Mr. Cheney in the middle of an effort by the White House to learn about Ms. Wilson’s husband, Joseph C. Wilson IV."
-- New York Times, 10/25/05


"I don’t know Mr. Wilson. I probably shouldn’t judge him. I have no idea who hired him and it never came [up]…"
-- Vice President Dick Cheney, 9/14/03


Progress Report


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 October 25, 2005
It Starts With Cheney
A Turning Point for Syria
Go Beyond The Headlines
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Rosa Parks

Rosa Parks, whose defiant refusal to move to the back of a Montgomery, Alabama bus helped ignite the civil rights movement, died yesterday at the age of 92. Mrs. Parks was arrested and fined for breaking Alabama's bus segregation laws, and in response, blacks in Montgomery began a 13 month long boycott of the bus system. The Supreme Court ultimately struck down the Jim Crow law that made blacks second-class citizens.  Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. would later write about her courageous step towards equality, "[N]o one can understand the action of Mrs. Parks unless he realizes that eventually the cup of endurance runs over, and the human personality cries out, 'I can take it no longer.'" Rep. John Conyers Jr. (D-MI), for whom Mrs. Parks worked for 20 years, said, "There are very few people who can say their actions and conduct changed the face of the nation, and Rosa Parks is one of those individuals."  Learn more about Rosa Parks here.

It Starts With Cheney

The New York Times reveals this morning that I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, Vice President Cheney's chief of staff, first learned "about the C.I.A. officer at the heart of the leak investigation in a conversation with Mr. Cheney weeks before her identity became public in 2003." The assertion is backed by hard evidence. According to the Times, "Notes of the previously undisclosed conversation" are in the possession of special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald. While the revelation does not, on its face, suggest Cheney is in serious legal jeopardy, it could cause problems for the vice president if it conflicts with what he told the federal prosecutors, or if it can be shown that he participated in a larger conspiracy to knowingly reveal the identity of a covert CIA agent and/or subsequently cover it up. For Libby, the revelation that he learned of Plame from Cheney is particularly damaging because it is at odds with testimony he provided to the grand jury that he first learned of Plame's identity from journalists.

ZEROING IN ON CHENEY:  Libby's notes of his conversation with Cheney indicate that they spoke on June 12, 2003, about Joe Wilson and his wife Valerie Plame. On that same morning, the Washington Post reported on its front page that a former ambassador (later learned to be Wilson) had passed on information prior to the war suggesting that the claim that Iraq was attempting to acquire uranium was false. That story directly implicated Cheney, saying the CIA's decision to send Wilson to Niger "was triggered by questions raised by an aide to Vice President Cheney." The Washington Post reported recently that Fitzgerald has "zeroed in on the role of Vice President Cheney's office." As early as February 2004, the Guardian reported, "informed sources said...that three of the five officials who are the real targets of the probe work or worked for Mr Cheney." The New York Daily News recently reported that Fitzgerald may be "edging closer to a blockbuster conspiracy charge - with help from a secret snitch." Already, a number of Cheney's current aides and former aides are known to have testified in the leak probe, including Libby, Mary Matalin, John Hannah, Catherine Martin, Jennifer Millerwise, and David Wurmser. (Click here to see our full list of Bush officials implicated in the probe.)

WHAT DID CHENEY TELL PROSECUTORS? In June 2004, the New York Times reported that Cheney had been "recently interviewed" by federal prosecutors in the leak probe. Although that story said Cheney did not testify under oath, the Times reports today that "Cheney was interviewed under oath by Mr. Fitzgerald last year" Cheney was reportedly asked last year whether he knew of "any concerted effort by White House aides to name the officer. It was not clear how Mr. Cheney responded to the prosecutors' questions." There are a few indications as to what Cheney may have told prosecutors. When Joe Wilson alleged that it was Cheney's office that did a "work-up" on him in 2003 in order to smear him, a spokesman in Cheney's office responded, "That is false." When Cheney was asked about his involvement in smearing Wilson on Meet the Press, the vice president said, "I don't know Mr. Wilson" But Libby's notes reveal that Cheney knew about Wilson and his wife a month before Novak outed her.

LIBBY'S INCONSISTENCY: A strategist "familiar with White House thinking" told the Los Angeles Times, "Nobody should fall out of their chair if they hear that the vice president discussed classified information trying to determine facts with his national security advisor and chief of staff." That spin overlooks Libby's inconsistent story to this point. Previously, it was reported that Rove was "shown testimony from Libby suggesting the two had discussed with each other information they had gotten about Wilson's wife from reporters in early July 2003. Rove responded that Libby's testimony was consistent with his general recollection that he had first learned Wilson's wife worked for the CIA from reporters or government officials who had talked with reporters." Last July, the Los Angeles Times reported, "Libby has indicated to investigators that he learned the identity of Plame from journalists."

WHAT DID BUSH KNOW? In 2001, the New York Times reported Bush and Cheney had an extremely close relationship. "[F]riends and advisers say the relationship between the two men is as crucial as ever, and still refer to Mr. Cheney as the president's consigliere, or the coach to Mr. Bush's quarterback." Bush himself noted, "There is no finer member of my administration than our Vice President, Dick Cheney. He's a great friend, a great advisor, a steady hand. He is the finest Vice President our nation has ever had." Bush and Cheney's close relationship was evidence by their joint appearance before 9/11 Commission. The question that must now be answered is whether Vice President Cheney had any discussions about Valerie Plame with President Bush prior to her outing.

A Turning Point for Syria

For several years, and certainly since the 2003 invasion of Iraq, Syria reform has been among the Bush administration's top foreign policy priorities. On Thursday, the United Nations released a preliminary report "pointing the finger directly at the highest levels of the Syrian government" for February's car-bomb assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri. Most notably, the report fingered Asef Shawkat, Syria's military-intelligence chief and the brother-in-law of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. The report has sent tremors through the Middle East, and represents an opening for reform. Yet, an important lesson must be noted: this unique opportunity has come about not from the brash rhetoric and inconsistent policies of the Bush administration, but from the careful, diligent, trusted work of the United Nations.

SYRIA CASE DEMONSTRATES IMPORTANCE OF U.N.: The U.N. report is likely to be more effective at mobilizing international action on Syria than any U.S. diplomatic effort in the last year and a half. Indeed, it may not have been possible without the United Nations. As Suzanne Nossel of the Security and Peace Initiative argues: "Without a broadly mandated UN, how could the Hariri case have moved beyond finger pointing? The Lebanese government could never have been trusted to investigate. There's no way the US itself could have interfered. The Arab League could not have been objective. The EU would never have waded in. The International Criminal Court would not have had jurisdiction. Without the UN, it's hard to envision how the investigation, particularly given its depth and breadth, could have been carried out." Demonstrating the region's high regard for the United Nations, the entire Hariri report was actually read aloud on al Jazeera television. It is another example of why, "if we are ever shortsighted enough to abandon or significantly scale back the UN, we will find ourselves with the impossible task of having to recreate what we destroyed."

ADMINISTRATION HAMSTRUNG BY INCONSISTENT APPROACH TO SYRIA: Syria would unquestionably benefit from reform. Its support for foreign terrorist groups, its lack of assistance on Iraq border security, and its deplorable human rights record must all be addressed. But the Bush administration's approach to these problems has been marked by its inconsistency and lack of clarity. On the one hand, the Bush administration has pushed for help on issues like terrorist financing. At the same time, it has strictly enforced sanctions that make it extremely difficult for Syria to modernize its financial industry, which would greatly improve its capacity to track terrorists' financial transactions Also, the United States can hardly claim that its goal in Syria is improve human rights conditions, since the Bush administration has long relied on Syria in its practice of "extraordinary rendition," whereby detainees are transported to other countries for (typically brutal) "interrogation." Says former CIA agent Robert Baer, "If you want them to be tortured, you send them to Syria." In one prominent case, a Canadian citizen was transferred by U.S. officials to Syria for "interrogation sessions that lasted for up to 18 hours," during which "Syrian intelligence officers beat him with thick electrical cables and with their fists, threatened to break his spine, and forced him to listen to other prisoners' screams." The prisoner was eventually determined to be innocent and released. Two days after he made his story public, "President Bush gave a speech that announced America's 'forward strategy of freedom in the Middle East' and denounced Syria for a 'legacy of torture, oppression, misery, and ruin.'"

RIGHT THREATENS MORE DANGEROUS REGIME CHANGE: Iraq-style regime change for Syria has been on the conservative wish-list for some time, dating back at least as early as April 2003, when so-called "turn-left" strategists "openly advocated moving from Baghdad on to Damascus." For many, that strategy remains operative. Newsweek reported earlier this month that, "[d]eep in the Pentagon, admirals and generals are updating plans for possible U.S. military action in Syria," and that the Defense Department unit responsible for military planning in Syria is "busier than ever." According to the Financial Times, the administration "is actively seeking an alternative who would take over" for Syrian President al-Assad. Yet, it is far from certain that military action in Syria would enhance American security. Even the National Intelligence Council, led by Bush loyalist John Negroponte, has "been warning...that if Assad is toppled, the result isn't likely to be better in terms of regional stability, and it could well be worse." As Bradford Plumer writes, "The question here isn't whether the world would be better off without Assad's family in charge of Syria— -- of course it would— -- but whether getting rid of him would actually be a smart idea, and more importantly, how the Syria hawks actually plan on doing it."

Under the Radar

ECONOMY -- PRAISE OF NEW FEDERAL RESERVE CHAIR MAY BE PREMATURE:  Ben Bernanke, yesterday tapped as President Bush's choice to replace Alan Greenspan as chairman of the Federal Reserve, has received widespread praise from bipartisan sources. The Financial Times said Bernanke was "the best claim to be independent" of all the candidates Bush had considered, and Allan H. Meltzer, professor of political economy at Carnegie Mellon University, called Bernanke "a good choice." But, these praises ignore Bernanke's troubling Sept. 27 remarks that point to tax cuts for the wealthy as the best way to recover from Katrina: "These recent events make it all the more important that we keep the fundamentals of the national economy strong and continue to promote economic policies that will encourage growth and job creation." Bernanke cited extension of the 2001 and 2003 tax cuts as one of the most important economic policies for Congress to act on. Bernanke must have ignored the evidence that this year, "people making at least $1 million a year will enjoy an average $103,000 tax break this year from the 2001 and 2003 tax cut bills. That’s nearly 140 times as large as the $742 tax cut the average middle-income household will receive."

HUMAN RIGHTS -- CHENEY FIGHTS AGAINST OUTLAWING TORTURE:  The Bush administration wasn't happy when the Senate overwhelmingly voted to limit and define US. interrogation techniques against terrorism suspects. Vice President Cheney is now attempting to exempt the Central Intelligence Agency from this measure. His proposal "states that the measure barring inhumane treatment shall not apply to counterterrorism operations conducted abroad or to operations conducted by 'an element of the United States government' other than the Defense Department." The CIA is believed to be involved in several torture scandals in Iraq, including situations where detainees have died, but has refused to release any data on detainee abuse. "This is the first time they've said explicitly that the intelligence community should be allowed to treat prisoners inhumanely," said Tom Malinowski, the Washington advocacy director for Human Rights Watch. "In the past, they've only said that the law does not forbid inhumane treatment."

SUPREME COURT -- BUSH REFUSES TO RELEASE SUPREME COURT NOMINEE'S RECORDS:  A bipartisan group of senators has called on President Bush to release Harriet Miers's records so that they can prepare for her nomination hearings, but Bush isn't budging. "It's a red line I'm not willing to cross," Bush said. Not only has the president refused to release documents of his conversations with Miers, but has also refused Sen. Max Baucus's (D-MT) request for Miers's tax records. Senate Judiciary Chairman Arlen Specter (R-PA) sees the White House refusal to give the Senate more information on Miers as detrimental not only to the Senate's ability to learn about Miers, but also to Miers's ability to answer questions: "And if you have a nominee who ... declines or is precluded from answering many, many, many questions, that makes it hard on the nominee and makes it hard on the ability of the Senate to evaluate it."

SUPREME COURT -- CONSERVATIVES CALL FOR MIERS TO WITHDRAW: "Conservative activists intensified their opposition to the Supreme Court nomination of Harriet Miers yesterday, launching two Web sites and planning radio and television advertising aimed at forcing her withdrawal," the Washington Post reports. "The advocacy groups, which had expected to use their vast mailing lists and fundraising networks to support President Bush's Supreme Court nominees, instead are employing those tools to sow concern about Miers's conservative credentials and lack of judicial experience among their constituents outside Washington." One of the websites, WithdrawMiers.org, features a petition calling for her withdrawal and a box for anonymous reader tips.  "At this point, that's the most politically appropriate move for President Bush or Miss Miers herself to make," said Jessica Echard of the Eagle Forum. "The nomination affirms the absurd policy that conservatives can only nominate these stealth nominees."

IRAQ -- BRITISH POLL FINDS MAJORITY OF IRAQIS OPPOSED TO PRESENCE OF COALITION TROOPS: The Telegraph reported on a British Defense Ministry poll in which "up to 65 per cent of Iraqi citizens support attacks and fewer than one per cent think Allied military involvement is helping to improve security in their country." "The nationwide survey also suggests that the coalition has lost the battle to win the hearts and minds of the Iraqi people, which Tony Blair and George W Bush believed was fundamental to creating a safe and secure country." According to the poll, 82 percent of Iraqi citizens are "strongly opposed" to coalition troops being in Iraq. As the Washington Monthly's Kevin Drum said yesterday, "Karen Hughes can't do anything about poll numbers like that."


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