in Scooter Libby’s trial, according to a recent court filing by Patrick Fitzgerald.
ABC News reports:
The Speaker of the House of Representatives, Dennis Hastert, is under investigation by the FBI, which is seeking to determine his role in an ongoing public corruption probe into members of Congress, ABC News has learned from high level official sources.
Federal officials say the information implicating Hastert was developed from convicted lobbyists who are now cooperating with the government.
Part of the investigation involves a letter Hastert wrote three years ago, urging the Secretary of the Interior to block a casino on an Indian reservation that would have competed with other tribes.
ABC indicates that the investigation of Hastert is an extension of the ongoing Abramoff probe. Some details on Hastert’s ties to the criminal lobbyist:
CONTRIBUTIONS — HASTERT RECEIVED $100,000 FROM ABRAMOFF AND HIS CLIENTS: “Hastert ultimately collected more than $100,000 in donations from Abramoff’s firm and tribal clients between 2001 and 2004.” In Jan. 2006, Hastert pledged to give approximately $70,000 of the donations to charity. [AP, 11/17/05; CNN, 1/3/06]
Yesterday, President Bush told Americans that suicide bombers are the “main weapon of the enemy” in Iraq:
It is a difficult task to stop suicide bombers. That’s the — but that’s one of the main — that’s the main weapon of the enemy, the capacity to destroy innocent life with a suicider.
President Bush wants the American people to think that “suiciders” are causing all the violence in Iraq. Yet while suicide attacks do take place, it is the “galaxy of armed groups, each with its own loyalty and agenda, which are accelerating the country’s slide into chaos.”
According to the Brookings Institution’s Iraq Index, 56 percent of U.S troop deaths this month have been the result of Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs) – not suicide bombs. (In 2005, only 411 of all 34,131 insurgent attacks in Iraq involved suicide car bombs.)
The violence is systemic, and Bush is incorrect to say “suiciders” are the main cause of bloodshed. From today’s Washington Post:
Human rights in Iraq are being “severely undermined” by growing insecurity, violence and a “breakdown of law and order” caused by militias and criminal gangs, the U.N. mission here said Tuesday. …
Baghdad’s main morgue – which handles only the remains of victims of violent or suspicious deaths, not including bombing victims – issued 1,155 death certificates in April, the U.N. agency reported.
Threats to Iraqi security go beyond suicide bombers.
A good sign that Tom DeLay doesn’t have the facts on his side: the top source for his latest defense against his critics is Stephen Colbert.
The email features a “one-pager on the truth behind Liberal Hollywood’s the Big Buy,” and the lead item is Colbert’s interview with Greenwald on Comedy Central (where Colbert plays a faux-conservative, O’Reilly-esque character). The headline of the “fact sheet”:
DeLay thinks Colbert is so persuasive, he’s now featuring the full video of the interview at the top of the legal fund’s website. And why not? According to the email, Greenwald “crashed and burned” under the pressure of Colbert’s hard-hitting questions, like “Who hates America more, you or Michael Moore?”
Apparently the people at DeLay’s legal fund think that Colbert is actually a conservative. Or maybe they’re just that desperate for supporters.
capping gas prices for SUV drivers in Florida and California at $1.99 a gallon by offering monthly credits. Eligible cars include the Hummer H2, the Chevrolet Tahoe and the GMC Yukon — three vehicles that average 15 miles per gallon.
This week, six private citizens — including author Studs Terkel — joined the ACLU in a lawsuit against AT&T, claiming the company gave the NSA “sensitive information about massive numbers of domestic phone calls.”
But AT&T and the government may force the courts to shut down the case. With increasing frequency, the Bush administration is employing the state secrets privilege, “a once-rare tactic that essentially gives the government a blank check to kill civil suits.” (Verizon picked up the administration’s lead and invoked the privilege to shield itself from public scrutiny over the NSA surveillance program.)
A look at the government’s increasing abuse of the practice:
– A recent study found that the federal government “has successfully asserted the secrets privilege at least 60 times since the early 1950s and has been stymied five times.”
– “It was invoked only four times in the first 23 years after the U.S. Supreme Court created the privilege in 1953, but now the government is claiming the privilege to dismiss lawsuits at a rate of more than three a year.”
Kevin Drum has more.
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) has called on Rep. William Jefferson (D-LA) to resign his seat on the House Ways & Means Committee. Jefferson is currently under criminal investigation for allegedly accepting bribes to help a technology company win several contracts and business deals. Her letter is below:
Dear Congressman Jefferson:
In the interest of upholding the high ethical standard of the House Democratic Caucus, I am writing to request your immediate resignation from the Ways and Means Committee.
Pelosi recently took a major step towards breaking the 16-month ethics deadlock in the House when she called publicly for an ethics investigation of Jefferson, a member of her own caucus. Pelosi said the ethics committee “should investigate the Democrats and they should investigate the Republicans.” Pelosi’s statement helped end “more than a year of partisan deadlock that blocked any inquiries” in the ethics committee, which subsequently launched an investigation of Jefferson, Rep. Bob Ney (R-OH), and the activities of former Rep. Duke Cunningham (R-CA).
Despite the massive ethical problems within his own caucus, Speaker J. Dennis Hastert (R-IL) has not advocated any ethics investigations.
At a speech at the American Enterprise Institute on Monday, the White House Council on Environmental Quality Chairman Jim Connaughton distanced himself from his boss and advised the audience to go watch Gore’s film. According to E&E News (sub. req’d):
Connaughton also surprised some by praising Gore’s new film, “An Inconvenient Truth,” as well as the recent Advertising Council campaign sponsored by Environmental Defense and the Robertson Foundation. In both cases, Connaughton said the messages presented on both campaigns’ Web sites mirror the Bush administration’s themes of better consumer practices and development of new technologies.
“I encourage you to go to them,” Connaughton said. “They’re giving the same advice I’ve been giving for years.”
Gore’s advice in the film, which opens today in NYC and LA, is simple: “that the world is facing catastrophic climate change because of the negligence of mankind.” Politicians – including Bush – have failed to acknowledge the “inconvenient truth” that human activity is contributing to global warming.
Attorney General Alberto Gonzales won’t confirm that the federal government collected the phone records of millions of Americans, as reported on May 11 in USA Today. But yesterday, Gonzales claimed that doing so was perfectly legal. From the Washington Post:
Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales said yesterday that the government can obtain domestic telephone records without court approval under a 1979 Supreme Court ruling that authorized the collection of business records”¦Gonzales told reporters that, under the Smith v. Maryland ruling, “those kinds of records do not enjoy Fourth Amendment protection. There is no reasonable expectation of privacy in those kinds of records.”
This is a classic case of misdirection. The issue isn’t simply whether or not collecting domestic phone records is constitutional. The issue is whether it’s legal. If the USA Today story is accurate, the NSA program appears to be illegal, not because it violates the fourth amendment, but because it violates two statutes.
Significantly, Smith v. Maryland considers activities that occurred in 1976. Both of the statutes that prohibit the activity described by USA Today were enacted after that date:
1. The Stored Communications Act of 1986 (SCA). The law prohibits the telecommunications companies from handing over telephone records to the government without a court order. (18 USC 2702-3.) There are several exceptions, none of which apply in this circumstance. The SCA was enacted in response to Smith v. Maryland.
2. The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978 (FISA). The law allows this kind of domestic surveillance in two circumstances: 1) the government obtains a warrant from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, or 2) the government obtains a certification from the Attorney General that the program is legal under FISA. According to the USA Today article, neither action was taken.
The Washington Post story on Gonzales’ comments, however, doesn’t mention the Stored Communications Act or the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. For that matter, it doesn’t include any legal analysis from anyone other than Gonzales.