Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Military chiefs give US six months to win Iraq war

· Violence expected to rise after UK withdrawal
· Troop numbers too low
· Coalition is 'disintegrating'

An elite team of officers advising US commander General David Petraeus in Baghdad has concluded the US has six months to win the war in Iraq - or face a Vietnam-style collapse in political and public support that could force the military into a hasty retreat.

The officers - combat veterans who are leading experts in counter-insurgency - are charged with implementing the "new way forward" strategy announced by president George Bush on January 10. The plan includes a controversial "surge" of 21,500 additional American troops to establish security in the Iraqi capital and Anbar province.

But the team, known as the "Baghdad brains trust" and ensconced in the heavily fortified Green Zone around the US embassy, is struggling to overcome a range of entrenched problems in what has become a race against time, said a former senior administration official familiar with their deliberations. "They know they are operating under a clock. They know they are going to hear a lot more talk in Washington about 'Plan B' by the autumn - meaning withdrawal. They know the next six-month period is their opportunity. And they say it's getting harder every day," the former official said.

By improving security, the plan's short-term aim is to create time and space for the Iraqi government to bring rival Shia, Sunni and Kurd factions together in a process of national reconciliation, us officials say. If that works within the stipulated timeframe, longer-term schemes for rebuilding Iraq under the so-called "go long" strategy will be set in motion. But the next six months are make-or-break for both the US military and the Iraqi government.

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New commission to debate war powers

A new panel will debate whether Congress or the president has the constitutional power to wage war, The Wall Street Journal's 'Washington Wire' blog reports.

"The newly launched National War Powers Commission will be chaired by former Secretary of State James Baker, fresh off leading the Iraq Study Group, along with another former top diplomat, Warren Christopher," reports Neil King, Jr. for the 'Wire.' "The panel enter a debate almost as old as the republic, but also one that is particularly salient now as Democrats in Congress ponder whether to curtail funding for the Iraq war or even to repeal the 2002 measure authorizing it."

The commission has been assembled by the Miller Center of Public Affairs at the University of Virginia and is reportedly receiving no federal funding.

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CNN: Libby jury asks judge if he said Libby had lied, then write back saying they answered their own question

A question sent from the jury to the judge in the trial of former Cheney chief of staff I Lewis "Scooter" Libby has apparently been answered by the jurors themselves. The question -- which CNN says "essentially" asked if the judge had asserted Cheney's former aide had lied.

CNN's Brian Todd: A bit of activity in Libby trial... The jury sent another note back to the judge essentially saying "We've answered our own question, no clarification needed. We apologize. We are going to get back to work." ... The original question had to do with Count #3 of the Libby indictment ... that is Libby made false statements about a conversation he had with Time Mag. reporter Matt Cooper in July of 2003.

Libby told Cooper that reporters were telling the administration that administration's critic Joe Wilson worked for the CIA but Libby didn't know if it was true. The prosecution contends that Libby did know it was true and confirmed it unequivocally in that conversation ... the question from the jury, verbatim, "Is the charge that the statement was made or about the content of the statement itself?"

Essentially [they were] asking the judge, "Are you saying that Scooter Libby lied that the conversation even happened or is he lying about the content of the conversation."... but after further discussion they said "We are clear on what we have to do. No further clarification needed. Thank you. We apologize." ... There was a lot of laughter in the courtroom from attorneys on both sides.


Judge Replies to Jury Note in Libby Case

WASHINGTON — One week into their deliberations, jurors in the CIA leak trial had a question for the judge. The judge responded with a question of his own: What do you mean? Jurors passed a note to U.S. District Judge Reggie B. Walton at the end of the day Tuesday. Walton took the bench Wednesday morning and, without saying what the question was, told attorneys he didn't understand it.

"I have some questions in my mind as to exactly what the jury is asking me," Walton said. "I'm going to send a note back to the jury indicating I'm not exactly certain what you're asking and can you please clarify."

The question could provide the first clue about the deliberations in the case of former White House aide I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby. Since getting the case last Wednesday, jurors had asked no questions, only requesting office supplies.

Defense attorney and prosecutors have reviewed the note but did not discuss it's contents. Defense attorney Theodore Wells said he and prosecutors believe they understand the note and proposed similar responses. But Walton said he wanted to be sure.

The jury was whittled to 11 members this week when one woman was dismissed for reading or seeing something about the case over the weekend.

Libby faces up to 30 years in prison if convicted, though he would be likely to get far less time under federal sentencing guidelines.


Walter Reed patients told to keep quiet

Soldiers at Walter Reed Army Medical Center’s Medical Hold Unit say they have been told they will wake up at 6 a.m. every morning and have their rooms ready for inspection at 7 a.m., and that they must not speak to the media.

“Some soldiers believe this is a form of punishment for the trouble soldiers caused by talking to the media,” one Medical Hold Unit soldier said, speaking on the condition of anonymity.

It is unusual for soldiers to have daily inspections after Basic Training.

Soldiers say their sergeant major gathered troops at 6 p.m. Monday to tell them they must follow their chain of command when asking for help with their medical evaluation paperwork, or when they spot mold, mice or other problems in their quarters.

They were also told they would be moving out of Building 18 to Building 14 within the next couple of weeks. Building 14 is a barracks that houses the administrative offices for the Medical Hold Unit and was renovated in 2006. It’s also located on the Walter Reed Campus, where reporters must be escorted by public affairs personnel. Building 18 is located just off campus and is easy to access.


Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Majority in Poll Favor Deadline For Iraq Pullout

With Congress preparing for renewed debate over President Bush's Iraq policies, a majority of Americans now support setting a deadline for withdrawing U.S. forces from the war-torn nation and support putting new conditions on the military that could limit the number of personnel available for duty there, according to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll.

Opposition to Bush's plan to send an additional 21,500 troops to Iraq remained strong. Two in three Americans registered their disapproval, with 56 percent saying they strongly object. The House recently passed a nonbinding resolution opposing the new deployments, but Republicans have blocked consideration of such a measure in the Senate.

Senate Democrats, led by Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl M. Levin (Mich.) and Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Joseph R. Biden Jr. (Del.), are preparing another resolution that would have the effect of taking away the authority Bush was granted in 2002 to go to war. The measure would seek to have virtually all combat forces withdrawn from Iraq by the end of March 2008.

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Gen. Pace: Military capability eroding

WASHINGTON - Strained by the demands of wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, there is a significant risk that the U.S. military won't be able to quickly and fully respond to yet another crisis, according to a new report to Congress.

The assessment, done by the nation's top military officer, Gen. Peter Pace, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, represents a worsening from a year ago, when that risk was rated as moderate.

The report is classified, but on Monday senior defense officials, speaking on condition on anonymity, confirmed the decline in overall military readiness. And a report that accompanied Pace's review concluded that while the Pentagon is working to improve its warfighting abilities, it "may take several years to reduce risk to acceptable levels."

Pace's report comes as the U.S. is increasing its forces in Iraq to quell escalating violence in Baghdad. And top military officials have consistently acknowledged that the repeated and lengthy deployments are straining the Army, Marine Corps and reserve forces and taking a heavy toll on critical warfighting equipment.

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Stocks fall as Chinese stocks take a hit

NEW YORK - Wall Street fell sharply in early trading Tuesday, joining a global stock decline on growing concerns about slowing economies in the U.S. and China. Worries that U.S. stocks are about to embark on a major correction fed the drop, which took the Dow Jones industrials down more than 120 points.

A 9 percent slide in Chinese stocks earlier set the tone for the opening of trading. Concerns that China's economy will slow sent many investors selling just a day after they sent Shanghai's benchmark index to a record high close.

A warning from former Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan Monday that the U.S. economy may be headed for a recession also took a toll. A Commerce Department that orders for durable goods in January dropped by the largest amoung in three months exacerbated concerns about the economy, as did a Standard & Poor's index showing single-family home prices across the nation were flat in December.

In the first hour of trading, the Dow Jones industrial average dropped 123.69, or 0.98 percent, to 12,508.57.

Broader stock indicators also fell sharply. The Standard & Poor's 500 index was down 17.96, or 1.24 percent, to 1,431.41, and the Nasdaq composite index was down 49.13, or 1.96 percent, to 2,455.39.


Cheney OK after Afghan blast; 23 killed

BAGRAM, Afghanistan - A suicide bomber attacked the entrance to the main U.S. military base in Afghanistan on Tuesday during a visit by Vice President Dick Cheney, killing up to 23 people and wounding 20.

Cheney was unhurt in the attack, which was claimed by the Taliban and was the closest that militants have come to a top U.S. official visiting Afghanistan. At least one U.S. soldier, an American contractor and a South Korean solder were among the dead,
NATO said.

Cheney said the attackers were trying "to find ways to question the authority of the central government." A Taliban spokesman said Cheney was the target.

About two hours after the blast, Cheney left on a military flight for Kabul to meet with President Hamid Karzai and other officials, then left Afghanistan.

The vice president had spent the night at the sprawling Bagram Air Base, ate breakfast with the troops, and met with Maj. Gen. David Rodriguez, the commander of U.S. troops in Afghanistan.

He was preparing to leave for a meeting with Karzai when the suicide bomber struck about 10 a.m., sending up a plume of smoke visible by reporters accompanying him. U.S. military officials declared a "red alert" at the base.

"I heard a loud boom," Cheney told reporters. "The Secret Service came in and told me there had been an attack on the main gate."

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Monday, February 26, 2007

Iraqi vice president dodges bomb; 10 die

Iraq's Shiite vice president escaped an apparent assassination attempt Monday after a bomb exploded in municipal offices where he was making a speech, knocking him down with the force of the blast that left at least 10 people dead.

Adel Abdul-Mahdi was bruised and hospitalized for medical exams, an aide said. Police initially blamed the attack on a bomb-rigged car, but later said the explosives were apparently planted inside the building.

The attack sent another message that suspected Sunni militants could strike anywhere despite a major security crackdown across the capital. Hours before the blast, U.S. military teams with bomb-sniffing dogs combed the building, said workers at the site.

The bomb struck while Abdul-Mahdi was addressing municipal officials in the upscale Mansour district, which has many embassies and saw a rise in private security patrols after past kidnappings blamed on militants.

Abdul-Mahdi is one of two vice presidents. The other, Tariq al-Hashemi, is Sunni.

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Judge Dismisses CIA Leak Trial Juror

WASHINGTON — A juror was dismissed from the trial of former White House aide I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby on Monday after court officials learned she had been exposed to information about the case over the weekend.

U.S. District Judge Reggie B. Walton ordered the juror removed, saying "what she had exposure to obviously disqualifies her." The judge declined to say what information the juror had seen.

Walton said the remaining jurors had not been tainted. He said he would allow deliberations to continue with 11 jurors rather than calling on one of two alternate jurors.

"They should continue with their deliberations and I will emphasize again the importance of not having contact with any outside information," Walton said.

The woman who was dismissed from jury is an art history expert and scholar who formerly served as a curator of prints at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.


Judge questions Libby jurors over media

WASHINGTON - Attorneys and a federal judge began questioning each juror in the CIA leak trial Monday after one juror apparently saw or read something about the case over the weekend.

U.S. District Judge Reggie B. Walton has ordered jurors to avoid contact with media coverage of former White House aide I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby's monthlong trial. He said Monday that one juror was exposed to information about the trial over the weekend.

Jurors occasionally saw some news coverage during the monthlong trial. Unlike those incidents, Walton said Monday that he worried that the information may have been passed to several jurors. He said each juror would be questioned behind closed doors.

The decision came as jurors began their fourth day of deliberations in the case and raised the possibility of a mistrial if jurors had been prejudiced in the highly publicized and politically charged case.


CIA leak jury debate moves into 2nd week

WASHINGTON - A jury is moving into its second week of debate on whether former White House aide I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby obstructed the investigation into who leaked the identity of a CIA operative married to a prominent Iraq war critic.

The eight women and four men began deliberations late Wednesday morning and have issued only two brief written notes, which suggested they are methodically reviewing the evidence against the former chief of staff to Vice President Dick Cheney.


Sunday, February 25, 2007

US generals ‘will quit’ if Bush orders Iran attack

SOME of America’s most senior military commanders are prepared to resign if the White House orders a military strike against Iran, according to highly placed defence and intelligence sources.

Tension in the Gulf region has raised fears that an attack on Iran is becoming increasingly likely before President George Bush leaves office. The Sunday Times has learnt that up to five generals and admirals are willing to resign rather than approve what they consider would be a reckless attack.

“There are four or five generals and admirals we know of who would resign if Bush ordered an attack on Iran,” a source with close ties to British intelligence said. “There is simply no stomach for it in the Pentagon, and a lot of people question whether such an attack would be effective or even possible.”

A British defence source confirmed that there were deep misgivings inside the Pentagon about a military strike. “All the generals are perfectly clear that they don’t have the military capacity to take Iran on in any meaningful fashion. Nobody wants to do it and it would be a matter of conscience for them.

“There are enough people who feel this would be an error of judgment too far for there to be resignations.”

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Saturday, February 24, 2007

Cheney Says All Options on Table for Iran

SYDNEY, Australia (Feb. 24) - Vice President Dick Cheney on Saturday renewed Washington's warning to Iran that "all options" are on the table if the country continues to defy U.N.-led efforts to end Tehran's nuclear ambitions.

At a joint news conference with Prime Minister John Howard during a visit to Australia, Cheney also said Washington was "comfortable" with Britain's decision to withdraw troops from Iraq and that it was up to Australia to decide if it would do the same.

Cheney said the United States was "deeply concerned" about Iran's activities, including the "aggressive" sponsoring of terrorist group Hezbollah and inflammatory statements by President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad .

He said top U.S. officials would meet soon with European allies to decide the next step toward planned tough sanctions against Iran if it continues enriching uranium.

"We worked with the European community and the United Nations to put together a set of policies to persuade the Iranians to give up their aspirations and resolve the matter peacefully, and that is still our preference," Cheney said.

"But I've also made the point, and the president has made the point, that all options are on the table," he said, leaving open the possibility of military action.

The International Atomic Energy Agency reported on Thursday that Iran had not only ignored a U.N. Security Council ultimatum to freeze its enrichment program, but had expanded the program by setting up hundreds of centrifuges. Enriched uranium fuels nuclear reactors but, enriched further, is used in nuclear bombs.

The IAEA report came after the expiration Wednesday of a 60-day grace period for Iran to halt uranium enrichment.

Ahmadinejad said on Thursday it was of no importance if countries did not believe Iran's nuclear activities were peaceful, and said the country would resist "all bullies."

Howard said efforts to keep Iran in check would be hampered if the United States and its allies lose the Iraq war.

"I can't think of a country whose influence and potential clout would be more enhanced in that part of the world than Iran's could be if there were to be a coalition defeat in Iraq," Howard said.

On Iraq, Cheney sidestepped a question about whether the White House had asked the British government to redeploy troops into another part of Iraq rather than withdraw them.


McCain Says Iraq Could End His Career

SEATTLE — Republican presidential hopeful John McCain said Friday that British Prime Minister Tony Blair has sacrificed his career to support the Iraq war, and the Arizona senator acknowledged that he could face the same fate.

McCain, a staunch defender of President Bush's new Iraq troop deployment strategy, said he worries that a cutback of British troops in southern Iraq announced by Blair this week could lead to stronger control by "Iranian-backed Shiite" forces. But he said Blair and the British deserve gratitude for their efforts.

"He has literally sacrificed his political career because of Iraq," McCain said during an appearance before the World Affairs Council and the City Club of Seattle. "That is a great testament to his political courage."

Asked later by a reporter if he was in danger of making the same sacrifice, McCain responded, "Sure."


Friday, February 23, 2007

Democrats Seek to Repeal 2002 War Authorization

Senate Democratic leaders intend to unveil a plan next week to repeal the 2002 resolution authorizing the war in Iraq in favor of narrower authority that restricts the military's role and begins withdrawals of combat troops.

House Democrats have pulled back from efforts to link additional funding for the war to strict troop-readiness standards after the proposal came under withering fire from Republicans and from their party's own moderates. That strategy was championed by Rep. John P. Murtha (D-Pa.) and endorsed by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.).

"If you strictly limit a commander's ability to rotate troops in and out of Iraq, that kind of inflexibility could put some missions and some troops at risk," said Rep. Chet Edwards (D-Tex.), who personally lodged his concerns with Murtha.

In both chambers, Democratic lawmakers are eager to take up binding legislation that would impose clear limits on U.S. involvement in Iraq after nearly four years of war. But Democrats remain divided over how to proceed. Some want to avoid the funding debate altogether, fearing it would invite Republican charges that the party is not supporting the troops. Others take a more aggressive view, believing the most effective way to confront President Bush's war policy is through a $100 billion war-spending bill that the president ultimately must sign to keep the war effort on track.


Thursday, February 22, 2007

McCain: Bush Pursuit of Iraq a 'Train Wreck'

McCain Slams Bush Administration on Iraq and Global Warming, Criticizes Both Cheney and Rumsfeld

Feb. 22, 2007 — Proving that presidential infighting isn't just for Democrats, Republican front-runner Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., took several sharply worded shots at the Bush administration this week, distancing himself from an unpopular president and an unpopular war while wooing the right Republicans who put the president in power and once before denied McCain the White House.

McCain's latest anti-Bush tirade came during a joint appearance Wednesday in California with Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, a Republican.

The two leaders met to discuss energy and the environment, but the subject turned to Iraq.

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If Bush were CEO, he'd be fired, says business executive

Comparing the United States to a troubled private corporation, a business executive in Salon this morning says that if President Bush were the CEO of a private company, its board would send him packing.

Warren Hellman founded Hellman & Friedman, a private equity investment firm, and was the youngest employee ever appointed partner at Lehman Brothers. Noting that Bush is the first president with a Master's degree in Business Administration, he writes in Salon that "if the United States were a company, it would be a troubled one," pointing to Bush's shortcomings in managing the national budget, its poor warfighting in Iraq and Afghanistan, and other crises.

Hellman concentrates on six acts of commission or omission by the president that would be grounds for firing of the president was Chief Executive Officer of a company: failing to be fiscally responsible; making poor strategic decisions; poorly executing those decisions; choosing poor personnel; poor research and development for the future; and, failure to adhere to the institution's charters and bylaws.


'There is a cloud over the White House;' Not just Libby, prosecutor accuses 'them'

While rebutting the closing argument by the defense at I. Lewis Libby's trial, special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald spoke of a "dark cloud over the White House," due to the alleged obstruction of justice by the former White House aide. At the Washington Post's website, columnist Dan Froomkin points out that for the first time, as many have speculated, the prosecutor wasn't just accusing Libby, he was also referring to "them."

According to Froomkin, Fitzgerald "at long last made it quite clear that the depth of Vice President Cheney's role in the leaking of the identity of a CIA operative is one of the central mysteries that Libby's alleged lies prevented investigators from resolving."

"There is a cloud over the vice president . . . And that cloud remains because this defendant obstructed justice," Fitzgerald said. "There is a cloud over the White House. Don't you think the FBI and the grand jury and the American people are entitled to straight answers?"

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Wednesday, February 21, 2007

CIA Leak Case Turned Over to Jury

WASHINGTON (AP) - Jurors began deliberating Wednesday in the perjury and obstruction trial of former White House aide I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby.

Libby, the former chief of staff to Vice President Dick Cheney, is charged with lying and obstructing the investigation into the 2003 leak of CIA operative Valerie Plame's identity.

Jurors heard about an hour of legal instructions from U.S. District Judge Reggie B. Walton on Wednesday morning before beginning deliberations shortly before 11:30 a.m. They heard a full day of closing arguments Tuesday after a monthlong trial.

The jury of eight women and four men must be unanimous before returning a verdict on the five charges against Libby. He faces up to 30 years in prison if convicted, though he'd likely get far less under federal sentencing guidelines.

Plame is married to former Ambassador Joseph Wilson, who emerged in mid-2003 as an outspoken critic of the Bush administration's case for the Iraq war. Special Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald says Libby learned about Plame from Cheney and other officials in June 2003 and relayed it to reporters.

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In Closing Pleas, Clashing Views on Libby’s Role

WASHINGTON, Feb. 20 — Defense lawyers and prosecutors in the perjury trial of I. Lewis Libby Jr. made their final summations on Tuesday, offering the jury two starkly different ways to evaluate the evidence presented over the last few weeks.

In their closing statements, the prosecutors presented a detailed and businesslike summing up of their case that Mr. Libby willfully lied to both a grand jury and F.B.I. agents investigating the leak in the summer of 2003 of the identity of a C.I.A. operative, Valerie Wilson.

Theodore V. Wells Jr., Mr. Libby’s chief defense lawyer, countered with an intensely emotional defense ending in a choked sob. He argued that Mr. Libby’s testimony to the grand jury and his interviews with the Federal Bureau of Investigation may have contained inaccuracies but that they were the result of innocent memory lapses explained by his pressing schedule of national security issues.

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Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Chief Libby trial blogger says she believes prosecutor 'wants Cheney,' 'won't rest on laurels'

This weekend, RAW STORY interviewed Marcy Wheeler, one of the blogosphere’s most tireless observers and analysts of the CIA leak investigation and the I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby Trial.

In the interview, she revealed that she believes that Special Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald will press forward with his investigation, and that his ultimate target is Vice President Dick Cheney: "I’m not entirely convinced that Fitzgerald’s done. I used to be conservative on that, believing that he was done. But there are little snippets of hints that he’s not."

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Blair 'to confirm Iraq timetable'

Prime Minister Tony Blair is expected to announce a timetable for the withdrawal of UK troops from Iraq.

Mr Blair is due to make a statement about the 7,000 British troops serving in Iraq at the Commons on Wednesday.

The BBC's James Landale said 1,500 troops were expected to return home in months, rising to 3,000 by Christmas.

Downing Street has not confirmed the reports but Whitehall sources have told the BBC the process could be slowed down if the situation in Iraq worsens.

A Downing Street spokesman said: "It is right that the prime minister should update Parliament first."

However, White House spokesman Gordon Johndroe confirmed that President George W Bush had spoken to Mr Blair on Tuesday. Mr Bush recently announced plans to send 21,500 more US troops to Iraq.


Shuster: 'Prosecutors still looking for ways to pursue Cheney'

According to MSNBC's David Shuster, legal sources say that if I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby is convicted for perjury and obstruction, prosecutors may try to get him to turn over evidence against the Vice President.

"Legal sources confirm to MSNBC tonight that if Libby is convicted, prosecutors are expected to attempt to revisit Libby’s vague testimony about Vice President Cheney," Shuster said. "The idea is that prosecutors would seek to flip Libby to get at suspicions about the Vice President."

"Prosecutors are still seeking to pursue Cheney in the overall investigation," he added.

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Libby Trial Closing Statements

From Firedoglake live blogging:

Peter Zeidenberg, of the Prosecution:

Morning ladies and gentlemen.
About a month ago, both sides gave opening statements. Fitz told you what he expected evidence to show. He told you govt would prove that this case about lying. Evidence would show that Libby lied to FBI and GJ how he learned about Valerie Wilson, who he talked to about it, and what he said when he discussed Wilson's wife with others.

Defense didn't have to give opening statement. On behalf of defense, Wells elected to give opening. He painted different picture, told you about WH conspiracy to scapegoat Libby. Effort to make LIbby into sacrificial lamb so that Karl Rove would go free.

You've heard witnesses testify, you've heard witness after witness, you've heard them testify about one or another conversation with Libby about Valerie Wilson during the time period that Libby claimed he had no memory of Wilson's wife.

You heard Russert testify, take an oath and say he never spoke to Libby about Wilson's wife. In direct contrast to what Libby claimed. Now did you hear any evidence about a conspiracy to scapegoat Libby? If you draw a blank, it's not because of a problem with your evidence. I bring that to your attention to remind you that evidence is what happened on witness stand and introduced as evidence. Unfulfilled promises from counsel do no constitute evidence.

Fitz told you this is case about lying, and I submit that is right. Not a case about bad memory or forgetting. Libby does claim he forgot 9 separate conversations over a 4 week period, but he also invents out of whole cloth, two conversations that never happened. His conversation with Cooper and his conversation with Russert. That's not a matter of forgetting or misremembering, it's lying. Talk to you about evidence and credibility of witnesses.

For more on this story go to... Firedoglake

Monday, February 19, 2007

McCain: Rumsfeld was one of the worst

BLUFFTON, S.C. - Republican presidential candidate John McCain (news, bio, voting record) said Monday the war in Iraq has been mismanaged for years and former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld will be remembered as one of the worst in history.

"We are paying a very heavy price for the mismanagement —that's the kindest word I can give you — of Donald Rumsfeld, of this war," the Arizona senator told an overflow crowd of more than 800 at a retirement community near Hilton Head Island, S.C. "The price is very, very heavy and I regret it enormously."

McCain, the ranking Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee, complained that Rumsfeld never put enough troops on the ground to succeed in Iraq.

"I think that Donald Rumsfeld will go down in history as one of the worst secretaries of defense in history," McCain said to applause.


The Libby-Cheney Connection

Libby Testimony Raises More Questions About Cheney's Role In The CIA Leak Case

In the fall of 2003, as a federal criminal probe was just getting underway to determine who leaked the identity of CIA officer Valerie Plame to the media, I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, the-then chief of staff to Vice President Dick Cheney, sought out Cheney to explain to his boss his side of the story.

The explanation that Libby offered Cheney that day was virtually identical to one that Libby later told the FBI and testified to before a federal grand jury: Libby said he had only passed along to reporters unsubstantiated gossip about Plame that he had heard from NBC bureau chief Tim Russert.

The grand jury concluded that the account was a cover story to conceal the role of Libby and other White House officials in leaking information about Plame to the press, and indicted him on five felony counts of making false statements, perjury, and obstruction of justice.

At the time that Libby offered his explanation to Cheney, the vice president already had reason to know that Libby's account to him was untrue, according to sources familiar with still-secret grand jury testimony and evidence in the CIA leak probe, as well as testimony made public during Libby's trial over the past three weeks in federal court.

Yet, according to Libby's own grand jury testimony, which was made public during his trial in federal court, Cheney did nothing to discourage Libby from telling that story to the FBI and the federal grand jury. Moreover, Cheney encouraged then-White House press secretary Scott McClellan to publicly defend Libby, according to other testimony and evidence made public during Libby's trial.

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Democrats vow to seek limits on Iraq war

WASHINGTON - Senate Democrats pledged renewed efforts Sunday to curtail the Iraq war, suggesting they will seek to limit a 2002 measure authorizing President Bush's use of force against Saddam Hussein.

The top Republican on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee said the proposal had little chance of succeeding. "I think the president would veto it and the veto would be upheld," said Sen. Richard Lugar (news, bio, voting record) of Indiana.

A day after Republicans foiled a Democratic bid to repudiate Bush's deployment of 21,500 additional combat troops to Iraq, Senate Democrats declined to embrace measures — being advanced in the House — that would attach conditions to additional funding for troops.

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Sunday, February 18, 2007

Times: What we learned from Libby trial about the secretive operation of Vice President Dick Cheney

Monday's New York Times contains an article which will tie together some of the revelations that resulted from testimony at the trial for former White House aide I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby. Libby was charged with obstruction of justice and lying to investigators probing the alleged leaking of a CIA operative's name to journalists, and his defense rested its case last week, without calling his former boss, Cheney, to the stand, as had been widely speculated. Libby didn't testify in his own behalf, either.


Reid: Iraq war 'worst foreign policy mistake' in U.S. history

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- After months of heated rhetoric slamming President Bush's Iraq policy, the Senate's top Democrat moved into new terrain by declaring the Iraq war a worse blunder than Vietnam.

"This war is a serious situation. It involves the worst foreign policy mistake in the history of this country," Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nevada, told CNN's "Late Edition with Wolf Blitzer."

"So we should take everything seriously. We find ourselves in a very deep hole and we need to find a way to dig out of it."

Asked whether he considers it a worse blunder than Vietnam, Reid responded, "Yes."

Comparisons to Vietnam are nothing new, but a "worse than" designation from a top lawmaker is.

Sen. Chuck Hagel, a Nebraska Republican who has been one of the war's most outspoken critics, told Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice in January that President Bush's plan to send 21,500 more troops to Iraq "represents the most dangerous foreign policy blunder in this country since Vietnam."

Reid's statement, in an interview recorded Saturday, came after he and fellow Democrats failed to force a vote on a nonbinding resolution condemning Bush's plan. They could not win enough Republican support to make the vote happen. (Full story)

The House, meanwhile, easily passed the resolution Friday.

White House spokesman Tony Snow told CNN he disagrees with Reid's characterization.

"In point of fact, it was important to get Saddam Hussein out of power," Snow told "Late Edition."

"Yeah, the war is tough. But the solution is not to get out. It is to provide the kinds of resources and reinforcements our forces need to get the job done, and at the same time say to the Iraqis, 'You guys gotta step up.'"

Democratic leaders have said they will make sure the troops currently in Iraq get the equipment they need.

In speeches leading up to November's midterm elections, President Bush argued against sending more troops to Iraq.

The elections gave Democrats control of both houses of Congress.

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At Least 55 Killed in Suicide Bomb Attacks

Twin Explosions in Busy Baghdad Market Injure 127 Others

BAGHDAD, Feb. 18 -- Two suicide bombers detonated explosives in a busy market in central Baghdad Sunday, killing more than 55 people and undermining Iraqi officials' claim that the Baghdad security plan is off to a "fabulous" start.

The bomb exploded in quick succession at approximately 3:30 p.m. in a busy commercial area in the New Baghdad neighborhood, sending a thick plume of smoke that darkened an otherwise splendid day in the capital.

It is the first large bombing since the security plan was launched on Wednesday.

American and Iraqi soldiers dashed to the scene and cordoned it off as dozens of injured people were taken to hospitals.

The Associated Press reported that at least 56 were killed and 127 injured, and attributed the information to police and other emergency response personnel. Iraqi security officials could not immediately be reached for comment.

The bombing comes a day after Iraqi officials lauded what they described as the prompt results of stiffened security measures taken earlier this week. On Saturday, the commander of the security plan held a press conference to announce what he said was an 85 percent drop in attacks since the new measures went into effect.

In addition, Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki suggested Friday that a lull in violence was a promising sign that the security plan was off to a good start. In a telephone conversation he assured President Bush that the plan "has achieved fabulous success," officials in the prime minister's office reported.

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A Man of Mystery- Richard Hohlt is the heavy hitter you've never heard of

Feb. 26, 2007 issue - Robert Novak, as usual, had a scoop to unload—only this time, it was from the witness stand. Testifying last week in the trial of Vice President Dick Cheney's former chief of staff, I. Lewis (Scooter) Libby, the conservative columnist gruffly described how he first learned from two top Bush administration officials that Valerie Plame, wife of Iraq war critic Joseph Wilson, was a CIA officer. But then Novak injected a new name into the drama—one that virtually nobody in the courtroom knew.

Asked by one of Libby's lawyers if he had talked about Plame with anybody else before outing her in his column, Novak said he'd discussed her with a lobbyist named Richard Hohlt. Who, the lawyer pressed, is Hohlt? "He's a very good source of mine" whom I talk to "every day," Novak replied. Indeed, Hohlt is such a good source that after Novak finished his column naming Plame, he testified, he did something most journalists rarely do: he gave the lobbyist an advance copy of his column. What Novak didn't tell the jury is what the lobbyist then did with it: Hohlt confirmed to NEWSWEEK that he faxed the forthcoming column to their mutual friend Karl Rove (one of Novak's sources for the Plame leak), thereby giving the White House a heads up on the bombshell to come.

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Saturday, February 17, 2007

Senate gridlocks on Iraq war resolution

WASHINGTON - The Senate gridlocked on the Iraq war in a sharply worded showdown Saturday as Republicans foiled a Democratic bid to repudiate President Bush's deployment of 21,500 additional combat troops.

The 56-34 vote fell four short of the 60 needed to advance a nonbinding measure identical to one the House passed Friday. Seven GOP senators broke ranks, compared with only two during an earlier test on the issue.

Democrats swiftly claimed victory. "A majority of the United States Senate is against the escalation in Iraq," said Majority Leader Harry Reid (news, bio, voting record) of Nevada. "As for the Republicans who chose once again to block further debate and protect President Bush, the American people now know they support the escalation" in troops.

Republicans blasted the Democratic leadership for refusing to allow a vote on an alternative that ruled out any reduction in money for troops in the field.

"There is no place for chicanery at a time of war," said Senate GOP leader Mitch McConnell (news, bio, voting record) of Kentucky. "Even some of the president's most strident opponents know that. They know that the only vote that truly matters in a vote on whether to fund the troops."

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McCain To Skip Iraq Vote

Republican presidential hopeful John McCain, a staunch supporter of sending more troops to Iraq, will skip a Senate vote on the war Saturday to campaign in Iowa while other candidates rearrange their schedules.

In control of the Senate, Democrats called the rare Saturday session for the procedural vote. They need 60 votes to advance a nonbinding resolution criticizing President Bush's plan to boost the number of U.S. forces in the nearly four-year-old war.

McCain, R-Ariz., has derided the Democratic move as political trickery. He backs Bush's plan, and his presence or absence would make no difference in the outcome of the vote. So, he plans to stick to his itinerary of three town hall meetings in Iowa, the early voting state in the primary process.

"It's nothing more than a partisan stunt and an evasion of our responsibilities," McCain told reporters Friday night before a speech in Chicago. "I think it's an insult to the public and our soldiers to pretend we're discharging our responsibilities to them when all we're doing is debating a meaningless, a meaningless resolution."

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Friday, February 16, 2007

Votes Are In: Congress Opposes Bush Iraq Plan

After four days of debate, the House of Representatives has passed a resolution opposing President Bush's plan to send 20,000 additional troops to Iraq.

The resolution, below, passed by 246 to 182.

Senate Democrats are holding an up or down vote on the resolution Saturday.

Text of the "Concurrent Resolution on the President's Escalation Plan:

This week the House of Representatives will be considering the following Concurrent Resolution.

Disapproving of the decision of the President announced on January 10, 2007, to deploy more than 20,000 additional United States combat troops to Iraq.

Resolved by the House of Representatives (the Senate concurring), That--

(1) Congress and the American people will continue to support and protect the members of the United States Armed Forces who are serving or who have served bravely and honorably in Iraq; and

(2) Congress disapproves of the decision of President George W. Bush announced on January 10, 2007, to deploy more than 20,000 additional United States combat troops to Iraq."


Democratic Leader Gambles That Weekend Detention Could End Senate’s Squabbling on Iraq

WASHINGTON, Feb. 15 — As the House prepared to pass a symbolic resolution denouncing President Bush’s war policy, Senate Democratic leaders on Thursday abruptly scheduled a weekend debate on Iraq in an effort to break a stalemate and avoid impressions that partisan bickering was weighing down deliberations over the war.

A steady line of Republicans and Democrats made their way to the House floor for a third straight day of debating Mr. Bush’s troop buildup plan before the matter comes to a vote Friday. The Senate, stung by its own failure so far to act, spent much of Thursday locked in a debate about debating until Senator Harry Reid, the majority leader, called the rare Saturday session.

“We demand an up-or-down vote on the resolution the House is debating as we speak,” said Mr. Reid, a Nevada Democrat. “We’re determined to give our troops and the American people the debate they deserve.”

But when they convene Saturday afternoon, senators will not debate the Iraq resolution itself. Instead, they will be taking up a procedural vote required under Senate rules to move forward to the actual debate.

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Libby's 'conspiracy theory' never took root in court

The "conspiracy theory" hinted at by former White House aide I. Lewis Libby's lawyers at the start of his trial "never really took root in court," notes an article in Friday's L.A. Times.

"In his opening statement three weeks ago in the federal perjury trial of I. Lewis 'Scooter' Libby, defense lawyer Theodore V. Wells Jr. dropped a bombshell," Richard B. Schmitt writes. "In dramatic tones, Wells declared that Libby had been the victim of a White House conspiracy to make Libby the fall guy for the CIA leak scandal."

Schmitt reports that "when the jury begins deliberating the fate of the former vice presidential aide next week, it will have seen virtually no evidence to back up the provocative claim."

"The difference between what Wells promised and delivered, and how it will play with the 12-member panel, is just one of the wild cards as the trial winds up," Schmitt continues.

"Endelivered promises" by defense attorneys may sometimes "backfire," because, as one former US Attorney tells the L.A. Times, it can potentially provide "the government an opportunity during closing arguments to cast doubt on the entire defense case."


Thursday, February 15, 2007

Auditors: Billions squandered in Iraq

WASHINGTON - About $10 billion has been squandered by the U.S. government on Iraq reconstruction aid because of contractor overcharges and unsupported expenses, and federal investigators warned Thursday that significantly more taxpayer money is at risk.

The three top auditors overseeing work in Iraq told a House committee their review of $57 billion in Iraq contracts found that Defense and State department officials condoned or allowed repeated work delays, bloated expenses and payments for shoddy work or work never done.

More than one in six dollars charged by U.S. contractors were questionable or unsupported, nearly triple the amount of waste the Government Accountability Office estimated last fall.

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Keeping Up With The Scooter Libby Trial...

From Firedoglake Live Blogging:

Bonamici: To the extent we were able to digest them (jury instructions) WRT elements instruction, govt concerned about summarization of false statements as part of elements instruction. We understand that the precise charge statements will be appended to the back. It was our understanding that the summaries of the false statements would only be provided at preliminary and that the false statements would be read for the final instructions.

Jeffress stands.

Bonamici: Is the perjury quoted as well.

Walton: Perjury is. I wouldn't be inclined to read all that, I would say it's going to get lost. I'd give a short statement about that and the jury will have an opportunity to read it.

Bonamici: We're of the view that the charged false statements are the core of the case.

Walton: I was only talking about the perjury.

Bonamici: They're shorter. I do see the distinction. We took from the first instruction that you were struggling with just reading them allowed.

Walton: As far as the false statements are, I thought I had indicated I would summarize what the false statements were.

Jeffress: [I think he says he was under the same understanding as Bonamici, too]

Bonamici: In the seventh circuit, the indictment goes back so it is never the practice to presesnt the false statement in the instructions.

Walton: I'm okay to have those portions of the indictment appended. I have a problem with the entire indictment going back bc there's a lot of stuff in there that should not be submitted to the jury.

Bonamici: That would be acceptable to the govt and would probably solve the problem.

Walton: I'm looking at the false statement instruction. I thought that was everything.

Bonamici: I don't, I don't. Have you figured out what page it's one.

Wells is up. Shows it to her. [Guess we have nice Ted today]

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Pelosi: Bush lacks power to invade Iran

WASHINGTON - House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (news, bio, voting record) said Thursday that President Bush lacks the authority to invade Iran without specific approval from Congress, a fresh challenge to the commander in chief on the eve of a symbolic vote critical of his troop buildup in Iraq.

Pelosi, D-Calif., noted that Bush consistently said he supports a diplomatic resolution to differences with Iran "and I take him at his word."

At the same time, she said, "I do believe that Congress should assert itself, though, and make it very clear that there is no previous authority for the president, any president, to go into Iran."

Pelosi spoke in an interview in the Capitol as the House moved through a third marathon day of debate on a nonbinding measure that disapproves of the military buildup in Iraq while expressing support for the troops.

Passage of the measure was expected Friday, and across the Capitol, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (news, bio, voting record) unexpectedly announced plans to hold a test vote Saturday.

Partisan bickering has prevented a Senate vote on the troop increase, with Republicans insisting on equal treatment for an alternative rules out the "elimination or reduction of funds for troops in the field."

Pelosi and other Democrats have said approval on the nonbinding measure would mark the first step in an effort by the new Democratic-controlled Congress to force Bush to change course in a war that has killed more than 3,100 U.S. troops.



Early on the morning of June 20, 2002, then-Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Bob Graham, D-Fla., received a telephone call at home from a highly agitated Dick Cheney. Graham, who was in the middle of shaving, held a razor in one hand as he took the phone in the other.

The vice president got right to the point: A story in his morning newspaper reported that telephone calls intercepted by the National Security Agency on September 10, 2001, apparently warned that Al Qaeda was about to launch a major attack against the United States, possibly the next day. But the intercepts were not translated until September 12, 2001, the story said, the day after the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.

Because someone had leaked the highly classified information from the NSA intercepts, Cheney warned Graham, the Bush administration was considering ending all cooperation with the joint inquiry by the Senate and House Intelligence committees on the government's failure to predict and prevent the September 11 attacks. Classified records would no longer be turned over to the Hill, the vice president threatened, and administration witnesses would not be available for interviews or testimony.

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Democratic Congressman: Rest assured that history, fact will not be kind to decision-makers of this war

Congressman Raul Grijalva (D-AZ) will say that "history and fact will not be kind to the decision-makers" during his House floor statement tonight concerning the Iraq War Resolution that will be voted on Friday, RAW STORY has learned.

"This head in the sand attitude, while politically expedient, denies reality and truth," Grijalva will say. "Rest assured that history and fact will not be kind to the decision-makers and deciders of this war."


Justice Official Bought Vacation Home With Oil Lobbyist

A senior Justice Department official who recently resigned her post bought a nearly $1 million vacation home with a lobbyist for ConocoPhillips months before approving consent decrees that would give the oil company more time to pay millions of dollars in fines and meet pollution-cleanup rules at some of its refineries.

Sue Ellen Wooldridge, former assistant attorney general in charge of environment and natural resources, bought a $980,000 home on Kiawah Island, S.C., last March with ConocoPhillips lobbyist Don R. Duncan. A third owner of the house is J. Steven Griles, a former deputy interior secretary, who has been informed he is a target in the federal investigation of Jack Abramoff's lobbying activities.

A spokeswoman for the Justice Department said yesterday that Wooldridge sought and received approval from a career ethics official in her office before buying the vacation property. Wooldridge's lawyer and officials at ConocoPhillips said that Duncan had no role in negotiating the consent decrees and never lobbied Wooldridge.

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11 more Republicans get behind Iraq rebuke

The lawmakers take to the House floor to show support, reflecting the rising anxiety within the GOP over the war.

WASHINGTON — In a striking display of dissension, a group of Republican lawmakers broke ranks with the White House on Wednesday and embraced a resolution opposing more U.S. troops in Iraq — airing their criticism even as President Bush publicly defended his plan.

Bush questioned the message that expected House approval of the nonbinding resolution would send, saying at a news conference: "People are watching what happens here in America. The enemy listens to what's happening. The Iraqi people listen to the words…. They're wondering about our commitment to this cause."

Undaunted, 11 GOP lawmakers, including normally staunch Bush allies who represent districts he carried in his presidential campaigns, took to the House floor to express their support for a Democratic-sponsored resolution renouncing Bush's decision to add 21,500 troops to the roughly 135,000 already in Iraq.

The Republicans complained that the U.S. military finds itself in the middle of a civil war, that the Iraqis haven't done enough to make their country safe and that a "surge" in diplomacy — not troops — is needed.

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Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Testimony Ends in CIA Leak Trial

WASHINGTON -- Attorneys for former White House aide I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby rested their case in the CIA leak trial Wednesday after a day of legal wrangling over classified information and whether additional witnesses could be presented.

Special Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald called no rebuttal witnesses, ending the testimony phase of the trial. Closing arguments are scheduled for Tuesday.

The final day of testimony in Libby's perjury and obstruction trial had been billed as a blockbuster. Attorneys said for months that Libby and his boss, Vice President Dick Cheney, would testify for the defense.

But Libby's attorneys reversed course Tuesday and said neither man would testify, leaving Wednesday to fight over whether NBC newsman Tim Russert could be called back to testify and how much evidence jurors would hear in Libby's absence.

The change in who would testify prompted U.S. District Judge Reggie B. Walton to reverse course, too. He told defense attorneys that if Libby didn't testify he would not allow some classified information to be presented to the jury as Libby's defense team had planned.

"My absolute understanding was that Mr. Libby was going to testify," Walton said, recalling why he had agreed months ago to allow some classified information into evidence. "My ruling was based on the fact that he was going to testify."

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Happy Valentine's Day!!

Bush will address Iraq, North Korea

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- President Bush will hold a brief news conference at 11 a.m. Wednesday at the White House in which he will talk about Iraq and North Korea and take questions, a senior administration official told CNN.

The president will also discuss the resolution being debated in the House this week that expresses disapproval of Bush's plan to send an additional 21,000 troops to Iraq, the official said.

Bush will have talked to his new commander on the ground in Iraq, Gen. David Petraeus, before Wednesday's news conference, the official said.


Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Cheney, Libby won't testify at CIA leak trial

Vice President Dick Cheney will not testify as expected in the trial of his former chief of staff I. Lewis 'Scooter' Libby, according to a report on MSNBC. CNN reports that Libby himself will not be testifying, either.

A snow storm shut down government agencies in Washington today, prompting the court to send the jury home early for the day. But before wrapping up all proceedings, Libby's lead counsel Theodore Wells announced that he had released the Vice President from being a witness.

Cheney’s testimony had been widely anticipated by followers of the trial.

Liveblogging the trial at Firedoglake, Marcy Wheeler, author of the recently published Anatomy of Deceit: How the Bush Administration Used the Media to Sell the Iraq War and Out a Spy (aka emptywheel) provides a "blogger's approximation" transcript.

"Prior to lunch I indicated to the court that I would be making recommendations to Libby with regards to the progress of his case," Wells told the courtroom, according to emptywheel. "Over the lunch hour Mr. Jeffress and I advised Cheney's lawyer."

"If we had called him he would have been available on Thursday," Wells reportedly continued. "We have released the vice president as a witness."

The two lawyers advised Libby to rest his case without testifying.


House members joust over Iraq war policy

WASHINGTON - House members fiercely debated Iraq war policy Tuesday in an emotional and historic floor faceoff over a conflict that Speaker Nancy Pelosi (news, bio, voting record) lambasted as a U.S. commitment with "no end in sight."

The confluence of arguments came as the war nears the four-year point with over 3,100 American deaths, billions spent and lawmakers grappling what position to take on President Bush's decision to send an additional 21,500 troops into battle.

"The American people have lost faith in President Bush's course of action in Iraq and they are demanding a new direction," said Pelosi, a California Democrat who became the first female House speaker after her party took control of both the House and Senate in the fall elections.

A resolution putting the House on record as against Bush's expansion of troop strength was expected to be approved by week's end. It was nonbinding, but nevertheless unmistakable in its message. "No more blank checks for President Bush on Iraq," Pelosi declared.

Countered White House press secretary Tony Snow: "Members of the House and members of the Senate have the freedom to go ahead and write their resolutions, and do what they want with them. The one thing we do expect is, we do expect those who say they're going to support the troops, to support them."

Republicans, now the minority party on the Hill for the time in 12 years, issued impassioned warnings of the consequences of undermining the president's policies in Iraq. "We will embolden terrorists in every corner in the world. We will give Iran free access to the Middle East," said Republican leader John Boehner (news, bio, voting record), R-Ohio. "And who doesn't believe the terrorists will just follow our troops home?"

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Foggo Indictment Expected; Dark Day for the CIA

Federal prosecutors in San Diego are expected today to announce indictments in a case that involves the former No. 3 official at the CIA, Kyle "Dusty" Foggo, officials tell ABC News.

Foggo, who served as the CIA's executive director, was accused last year by fellow CIA employees of steering contracts for the CIA station in Iraq to longtime friend Brent Wilkes, a defense contractor whose activities also led to the indictment of former Republican Congressman Duke Cunningham.

Officials said today's expected indictments will also include Wilkes.

At his home in suburban Washington, D.C., this morning, Foggo declined to comment to ABC News.

Wilkes' lawyer, Mark Geragos, also declined to comment.

If Foggo is indicted, it will represent a dark day for the CIA and is expected to lead to a full congressional investigation of how secret CIA contracts are awarded.

Foggo was promoted from a field logistics position to the powerful No. 3 position by Porter Goss when Goss took over the CIA. Goss resigned shortly after ABC News reported that Foggo was under criminal investigation, although officials say none of the allegations involve Goss.

At the time, officials close to Goss dismissed the investigation of Foggo "as existing only in the blogosphere" and tried to discourage ABC News from reporting the story.


Monday, February 12, 2007

GOP Expects Defections as House Debates Iraq Resolution

Three days of intense debate over the Iraq war begins in the House today, with Democrats planning to propose a narrowly worded rebuke of President Bush's troop buildup and Republicans girding for broad defections on their side.

Both parties will jockey for prime time before the C-SPAN cameras, with leaders claiming the best time slots and rank-and-file members trying to make the most of the five minutes each will be allotted. If all 435 House members use their five minutes, debate will last 36 hours. It is likely to begin by late morning and run until midnight tomorrow, Wednesday and Thursday. A vote is expected Friday.

After watching their counterparts in the Senate stall and sputter last week, unable to agree on ground rules for a debate on Iraq, House leaders are forging ahead, determined to send a statement to the White House to condemn a troop buildup.

Democrats will file a nonbinding resolution against the Bush plan while Republicans will try to broaden the dispute and seed doubt in the Democratic approach. Although Senate Republicans were able to block debate on a resolution condemning Bush's war policies last week, it will be much easier for Democrats in the House to bring a measure to the floor.

The GOP, whose members have conceded they are likely to lose, is treating the debate like a mini-political campaign, deploying a rapid-response team to counter Democrats' statements, aggressively trying to get its leaders on television and radio, and creating a "resource center" off the House floor where members can fill their arms with maps, research material, videos or other visual aids to use during their floor time.

"We may lose the vote, but we'll win the debate," said Kevin Smith, a spokesman for House Minority Leader John A. Boehner (R-Ohio).

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Media Figures May Be Reluctant Defense Witnesses in Libby Case

Defense Exhibit 1972, a tape-recorded interview from the "Imus in the Morning" radio show, is another of those revealing moments in the perjury trial of I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby.

"So . . . what happened?" radio host Don Imus asks NBC News correspondent Andrea Mitchell about her confusing reporting on an undercover CIA officer. "Were you drunk?"

"I obviously screwed up," Mitchell responds in the exchange, which Libby's defense hopes to play for the jury in coming days. "I guess I was drunk," she jokes.

Just when you thought it was impossible for more harm to come to the national news media's reputation, the defense in the trial of Vice President Cheney's former chief of staff is about to present its case.

Starting today, when Libby's attorneys try to show that he did not intentionally lie about his role in leaking the identity of CIA officer Valerie Plame, they will rely heavily on a string of journalists as witnesses. In several ways, those witnesses will be asked to raise doubts about the testimony and accuracy of other reporters, and some may end up tarnishing themselves or their sources.

Libby, 56, is charged with lying to investigators about his conversations with reporters about Plame in the summer of 2003, during what prosecutors allege was a White House campaign to discredit her husband, outspoken war critic Joseph C. Wilson IV. Days after Wilson accused the administration of twisting intelligence he gathered on a CIA-sponsored mission as it defended the invasion of Iraq, Plame's classified CIA role was revealed in a syndicated column by Robert D. Novak. Libby, who has pleaded not guilty, is not charged with the leak itself.

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Sunday, February 11, 2007

NYT: Cheney expected to make 'historic appearance' on witness stand at CIA leak trial

Vice President Dick Cheney is expected to make a "historic appearance" on the witness stand at the trial for his former aide, I. Lewis Libby, who is accused of obstructing justice and lying to officials investigating the Bush Administration's alleged "outing" of a CIA officer, Monday's New York Times reports.

"One witness has dominated the trial of I. Lewis Libby Jr. without even showing up in the courtroom," Scott Shane and Jim Rutenberg write for the Times.

The article continues, "Day after day, the jury has heard accounts of the actions of Vice President Dick Cheney, watched as his handwritten notes were displayed on a giant screen, heard how he directed leaks to the press and ordered the White House to publicly defend Libby, his top aide and close confidante."

"Now, as the defense phase of the perjury trial begins, Cheney is expected to make an historic appearance on the witness stand," the Times reports. "It is an act of loyalty that carries considerable risk for Cheney."

Law professor Peter Shane tells the Times that it could make "great theater," because whatever the vice president testifies to would then become "fair game" for the prosecution to use against him on cross-examination.

"If Cheney makes a statement that conflicts with the public record — and nearly every witness so far has done so at least once — it could prove embarrassing for him and for the administration," Shane and Rutenberg write.

A former federal prosecutor, described by the paper as one who "knows" Special Counsel Patrick J. Fitzgerald personally, says, "If Cheney said anything that's contradicted in the record, though I think that's unlikely, Pat will slam him." The Times' source adds that Fitzgerald will "do it respectfully, but I have no doubt he'll do it."

In addition, a sidebar story, written by David Johnson, is also slated to run in Monday's paper which will take "a look back at instances when presidents or vice presidents were called to testify."

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McCain criticizes Europe on Afghanistan

MUNICH, Germany (Reuters) - Senator John McCain, a Republican contender for the White House in 2008, chastised Europe on Saturday for failing to supply the troops and money to win in Afghanistan and said NATO's future was at stake.

In tough comments that singled out specific countries, McCain told NATO allies to move beyond the "false debate" over security and development priorities in Afghanistan -- a dispute that dominated a defense ministers' meeting earlier this week.

Instead, Europe should follow Washington's lead and put more forces and resources into the war effort.

"Military recommitment must begin with NATO countries providing an adequate number of troops for the fight," McCain told the Munich Security Conference of senior world politicians, including Russian President Vladimir Putin and Defense Secretary Robert Gates.

"... Yet the international community still falls far short in meeting its prior pledges and in committing the resources Afghanistan needs to avoid failure," he said in prepared remarks.

The senator's comments were more pointed in their criticism of Europe than other public statements from President George W. Bush's administration.

But they reflected growing frustration among some U.S. officials and others in Washington over what is seen as Europe's unwillingness to pay its fair share for involvement in Afghanistan.

Germany and Italy were singled out in McCain's speech. He said Germany must significantly increase police trainers in Afghanistan and Italy, responsible for judicial reform in the country, should raise more funds internationally for reform efforts he said were needed to curb government corruption.


Gates dismisses Putin remarks as blunt spy talk

MUNICH, Germany (Reuters) - Defense Secretary Robert Gates on Sunday dismissed an attack on U.S. foreign policy by Russian President Vladimir Putin as the blunt talk of an old spy and said it was vital to keep working with Moscow.

In a speech which one U.S. senator said smacked of Cold War rhetoric, Putin told a security conference in Munich on Saturday the United States was making the world a more dangerous place by pursuing policies aimed at making it the "one single master."

A White House spokesman said it was "surprised and disappointed" by the comments and some Europeans said it was a wake-up call from a tougher Russia, newly empowered by a sharp rise in the prices of its oil, gas and metals exports.

But despite their concerns, the White House and Gates underlined the need for cooperation with Moscow.

"Many of you have backgrounds in diplomacy or politics," Gates, a former CIA director, told the same Munich conference.

"I have, like your second speaker yesterday (Putin), a starkly different background -- a career in the spy business. And, I guess, old spies have a habit of blunt speaking.

Gates raised concerns about Russian arms transfers and its "temptation to use energy resources for political coercion" which he said could threaten international stability.

But he said: "We all face many common problems and challenges that must be addressed in partnership with other countries, including Russia."

"One Cold War was quite enough," he added.

Russian Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov, addressing the conference, also underlined the potential for cooperation between the old foes to fight the new threat of terrorism.

"We need to use all the efforts of the world community in countering terrorists and to concentrate our efforts at the most vulnerable spots," he said. He proposed cutting off militants' financial channels and preventing them recruiting.

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Saturday, February 10, 2007

CIA doubts didn't deter Feith's team

Intelligence agencies disagreed with many of its prewar findings.

WASHINGTON — As the Bush administration began assembling its case for war, analysts across the U.S. intelligence community were disturbed by the report of a secretive Pentagon team that concluded Iraq had significant ties to Al Qaeda.

Analysts from the CIA and other agencies "disagreed with more than 50%" of 26 findings the Pentagon team laid out in a controversial paper, according to testimony Friday from Thomas F. Gimble, acting inspector general of the Pentagon.

The dueling groups sat down at CIA headquarters in late August 2002 to try to work out their differences. But while the CIA agreed to minor modifications in some of its own reports, Gimble said, the Pentagon unit was utterly unbowed.

"They didn't make the changes that were talked about in that August 20th meeting," Gimble said, and instead went on to present their deeply flawed findings to senior officials at the White House.

The work of that special Pentagon unit — which was run by former Undersecretary of Defense Douglas J. Feith — is one of the lingering symbols of the intelligence failures leading up to the war in Iraq.

The Bush administration's primary justification for invading Iraq was always its assertion that Saddam Hussein possessed weapons of mass destruction. But Iraq's supposed ties to Al Qaeda — and therefore its connection to the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks — were an important secondary argument, and one that resonated with many Americans in the lead-up to the war with Iraq.

The CIA and many other intelligence agencies were wrong in their assessments of Iraq's weapons programs. But the agency was always deeply skeptical about the ties between Iraq and Al Qaeda.

Russia's Putin says US wants to dominate world

Russian President Vladimir Putin launched a full-frontal attack on the United States, saying it had broken from international law and made the world a more dangerous place.

Putin's denunciation of US policy, made at a high-level security conference in Munich, prompted dismay among senior officials and politicians from the United States and the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO).

The United States had disastrously "overstepped" its borders, said the Russian leader, who spearheaded international opposition to the 2003 US-led invasion of Iraq, which was also opposed by Germany and France.

"The United States has overstepped its borders in all spheres -- economic, political and humanitarian and has imposed itself on other states," Putin said at the annual Munich Conference on Security Policy.

What he called a "uni-polar" world dominated by the United States, "means in practice one thing: one centre of power, one centre of force, one centre of decision-making, a world of one master, one sovereign," Putin said.

Such a situation was "extremely dangerous. No one feels secure because no one can hide behind international law."

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Trial exposes White House crisis machine

WASHINGTON - David Addington, chief legal adviser to Vice President Dick Cheney, says he was taken aback when the White House started making public pronouncements about the CIA leak investigation.

In the fall of 2003, President Bush's press secretary was categorically denying that either Karl Rove or I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby was involved in exposing the identity of Valerie Plame, a CIA employee married to a critic of the war in Iraq.

"Why are you making these statements?" Addington asked White House communications director Dan Bartlett.

"Your boss is the one who wanted" them, Bartlett replied, referring to Cheney.

With that, "I shut up," Addington recalled recently for jurors in Libby's CIA leak trial, which begins its fourth week on Monday with Libby's lawyers calling their first witnesses.

So far, the testimony of Addington and other administration aides, along with documents and Libby's audiotaped grand jury testimony, have provided a rare glimpse of how the Bush White House scrambled to respond to a political crisis as it intersected a criminal investigation.

At the intersection was Cheney, along with Rove and Libby, who were working in the summer of 2003 to rebut claims by Plame's husband, former Ambassador Joseph Wilson, that Bush had misled the nation about prewar intelligence on Iraq.

The White House denials on behalf of Rove and Libby came just before Rove secretly began acknowledging to the FBI that he had confirmed Plame's identity for conservative columnist Bob Novak, who first published her name and relationship to Wilson.

About the same time, Libby came under suspicion because NBC News Washington bureau chief Tim Russert had talked to the FBI, contradicting Libby's version of a conversation between the two men that would become the heart of the perjury and obstruction charges against Libby.

Bush and Cheney made a common mistake in their public handling of the Plame affair, says presidential scholar and University of Texas government professor Bruce Buchanan, who has watched Bush's career since his days as Texas governor.

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Friday, February 09, 2007

Key House Democrat to hold hearings on recent firing of U.S. Attorneys

A key House Democrat is announcing her plan for hearings on the recent dismissal of U.S. Attorneys, according to a press release.

"Congresswoman Linda Sánchez, Chairwoman of the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Commercial and Administrative Law (CAL), today announced her intention to begin hearings on the Bush Administration's recent firing of seven U.S. Attorneys," the release states.

Sánchez' jurisdiction in her role on the subcommittee "includes oversight of certain federal agencies," one of them being the Office of the U.S. Attorneys, according to the release.

"I'm calling this hearing because we need to make sure that the selection of federal prosecutors is not being made for political reasons," Chairwoman Sánchez is quoted. "No presidential administration - now or in the future - should be allowed to dismantle the important constitutional set of checks and balances to achieve a political agenda."


Official's Key Report On Iraq Is Faulted

'Dubious' Intelligence Fueled Push for War

Intelligence provided by former undersecretary of defense Douglas J. Feith to buttress the White House case for invading Iraq included "reporting of dubious quality or reliability" that supported the political views of senior administration officials rather than the conclusions of the intelligence community, according to a report by the Pentagon's inspector general.

Feith's office "was predisposed to finding a significant relationship between Iraq and al Qaeda," according to portions of the report, released yesterday by Sen. Carl M. Levin (D-Mich.). The inspector general described Feith's activities as "an alternative intelligence assessment process."

An unclassified summary of the full document is scheduled for release today in a hearing of the Senate Armed Services Committee, which Levin chairs. In that summary, a copy of which was obtained from another source by The Washington Post, the inspector general concluded that Feith's assessment in 2002 that Iraq and al-Qaeda had a "mature symbiotic relationship" was not fully supported by available intelligence but was nonetheless used by policymakers.

At the time of Feith's reporting, the CIA had concluded only that there was an "evolving" association, "based on sources of varying reliability."

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Gonzales' sacking of US Attorneys like a 'coup de'tat'

A columnist at Salon has described Attorney General Alberto Gonzales' sacking of United States Attorneys involved in controversial prosecutions as an act that amounts to a 'coup d'etat.'

Joe Conason highlights the removal from office of Carol Lam, Bud Cummings, and John McKay, U.S. Attorneys in San Diego, Little Rock, and Seattle respectively, whose prosecutions ran against the partisan interests of the Bush White House. These acts, Conason writes, suggest that "the White House and the Justice Department have been exposed in a secretive attempt to expand executive power for partisan purposes."

The ability of the White House to swap out U.S. Attorneys with partisan appointees resulted when the staff of Senator Arlen Specter inserted a measure in the renewal of the USA Patriot Act that "permitted the White House to place its own appointees in vacant U.S. attorney positions permanently and without Senate confirmation." According to Conason, Specter says he was not aware of the action by a member of his staff.

The Senate Judiciary Committee is working to restore the US Attorney appointment system to its earlier nonpartisan status. Conason hopes that they will go further in their response.


Libby's lawyers may not call Cheney to testify

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby's lawyers are debating whether to call Libby's former boss, Vice President Dick Cheney, to the stand, a source with knowledge of the lawyers' discussions told CNN on Thursday.

Libby's lawyers also are debating whether Libby should testify, the source said.

Libby, Cheney's former chief of staff, is on trial in Washington on charges that he lied to investigators and a grand jury investigating the leak of the information that Valerie Plame was a covert CIA operative. Knowingly identifying a covert agent is illegal.

Libby is not charged with leaking the information.

The source said it does not seem a decision has been made about whether either will testify. (Watch why putting Cheney on the stand could harm the defense )

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Thursday, February 08, 2007

House Democrats Set Framework for Iraq Vote

WASHINGTON, Feb. 8 — House Democratic leaders said today that the Iraq war resolution scheduled to be debated next week would be limited to President Bush’s plan to dispatch more troops to Baghdad, leaving any controversial decisions over war spending for a later discussion.

Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Democrat of California, and other party leaders met with members of the Democratic caucus for more than an hour today to discuss the framework of the first major debate over Iraq since Democrats took control of Congress last month. The three-day debate is set to begin next Tuesday.

The leaders reassured Democrats that the nonbinding, symbolic vote against the troop buildup plan would be the first — not the final — expression of opposition to the war. A letter signed by 71 House Democrats urged the party’s leaders to take a stronger stance, including outlining a six-month troop withdrawal plan.

“There’s no doubt that everybody in the caucus understands that this is a first step — an important step for Congress to express their view of support or opposition to the escalation and the increase of troop levels,” said Representative Steny H. Hoyer of Maryland, the majority leader.

The Iraq resolution will allow lawmakers to voice their support for the troops, Mr. Hoyer said, even as they state their opposition to the Bush administration’s Iraq policy.


Chief counsel to committee that probed Nixon abuse of power wants similar Bush probe

Staffers to onetime committee voice mixed opinions

The chief counsel to the committee that investigated abuses of power by President Richard Nixon in the 1970s tells RAW STORY he’d like to see a similar inquiry into clandestine intelligence operations under President George W. Bush.

Frederick A.O. Schwarz, who presently works as Senior Counsel at the New York University School of Law’s Brennan Center for Social Justice, served as chief counsel to the Church Committee from 1975-1976. The committee drew its name from Senator Frank Church (D-ID) (in photo), who led the massive probe into abuses of power by US intelligence agencies.

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Tim Russert Contradicts Libby's Testimony

"Meet The Press" Anchor Tells Courtroom He Never Discussed CIA Operative With Former Cheney Aide

(CBS/AP) NBC newsman Tim Russert testified Wednesday he never discussed a CIA operative with vice presidential aide I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, contradicting Libby's version to a grand jury in the CIA leak investigation.

The testimony came as prosecutors prepared to rest their perjury case against Vice President Dick Cheney's former chief of staff.

The courtroom testimony so far has provided a rare view inside a White House under fire during the lead-up to the war in Iraq, reports CBS News correspondent Gloria Borger. It's not pretty: top advisers squabbling in the West Wing, leaked secrets and faulty memories — all part of a full-blown damage control operation apparently led by the vice president himself.

Russert, the host of "Meet the Press," testified about a July 2003 phone call in which Libby complained about a colleague's coverage. Libby has said that, at the end of the call, Russert brought up war critic Joseph Wilson and mentioned that Wilson's wife worked for the CIA.

"That would be impossible," Russert testified Wednesday. "I didn't know who that person was until several days later."

That discrepancy is at the heart of Libby's perjury and obstruction trial. He is accused of lying to investigators about his conversations with reporters regarding Wilson's wife, CIA operative Valerie Plame.

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