After Blackwater guards opened fire and killed 17 Iraqis in the Nisoor Square section of Baghdad on Sept. 17, in true Bushie fashion, the State Dept. unilaterally conferred limited immunity on the Blackwater personnel who were on the scene --- including apparently the guards who opened fire --- in exchange for their statements detailing the events.
According to an ABC report, of the 17 Blackwater guards at the scene of the incident, only five fired their weapons. And an investigation by the FBI reportedly has turned up evidence that only three of the 17 people shot had been involved in attacking the Blackwater detail.
Officials cautioned that the decision to begin a grand jury inquiry did not mean that prosecutors had decided to charge anyone with a crime in what they said was a legally complex case, The New York Times reported. Some government lawyers have expressed misgivings about whether a federal law exists that would apply to the actions Blackwater employees are accused of committing...
The limited immunity given to the Blackwater personnel presents another question: Would it prevent justice from being served if the grand jury finds evidence that the killing of the 14 apparently innocent Iraqis was unprovoked?
California Sec. of State Debra Bowen has announced a $15 million lawsuit against voting machine company ES&S for their use of uncertified AutoMARK voting systems in the state.
The BRAD BLOG initially reported on the likelihood of such a suit, in some detail, after Bowen's initial announcement of ES&S's violations of state law last August.
“ES&S ignored the law over and over and over again, and it got caught,” said Bowen in a press release just issued this evening. “California law is very clear on this issue. I am not going to stand on the sidelines and watch a voting system vendor come into this state, ignore the laws, and make millions of dollars from California’s taxpayers in the process.”
According to the release, ES&S seems to have simply lied about their use of the uncertified voting systems in the state of California. "The Secretary of State’s office held a public hearing on the matter on October 15, 2007. At that hearing, ES&S asserted the Secretary of State was notified about changes to the AutoMARK. However, ES&S provided no evidence before, during, or after the hearing to substantiate its claim."
Such deceptive practices are not uncommon for ES&S, as well as the other major e-voting machine companies. Diebold's touch-screen voting systems were decertified in the state in 2004, after it had been found that they had similarly deployed uncertified hardware and sofware, in violation of state law, in a number of counties in the state.
The complete press release from CA Sec. of State Debra Bowen's office follows below...
"I'd say what she has is far more explosive than the Pentagon Papers," Daniel Ellsberg told us in regard to former FBI translator turned whistleblower Sibel Edmonds.
"From what I understand, from what she has to tell, it has a major difference from the Pentagon Papers in that it deals directly with criminal activity and may involve impeachable offenses," Ellsberg explained. "And I don't necessarily mean the President or the Vice-President, though I wouldn't be surprised if the information reached up that high. But other members of the Executive Branch may be impeached as well. And she says similar about Congress."
The BRAD BLOG spoke recently with the legendary 1970's-era whistleblower in the wake of our recent exclusive, detailing Edmonds' announcement that she was prepared to risk prosecution to expose the entirety of the still-classified information that the Bush Administration has "gagged" her from revealing for the past five years under claims of the arcane "State Secrets Privilege."
Ellsberg, the former defense analyst and one-time State Department official, knows well the plight of whistleblowers. He himself was prepared to spend his life in prison for the exposure of some 7,000 pages of classified Department of Defense documents concerning Executive Branch manipulation of facts and outright lies leading the country into an extended war in Vietnam.
Ellsberg seemed hardly surprised that today's American mainstream broadcast media has so far failed to take Edmonds up on her offer, despite the blockbuster nature of her allegations.
As Edmonds has also noted, Ellsberg pointed to the New York Times, who "sat on the NSA spying story for over a year" when they "could have put it out before the 2004 election, which might have changed the outcome."
"There will be phone calls going out to the media saying 'don't even think of touching it, you will be prosecuted for violating national security,'" he told us.
"I have been receiving calls from the mainstream media all day," Edmonds recounted the day after we ran the story announcing that she was prepared to violate her gag-order to disclose all of the national security-related criminal allegations she has been kept from disclosing for the past five years.
"The media called from Japan and France and Belgium and Germany and Canada and from all over the world," she told The BRAD BLOG.
"But not from here?" we asked incredulously.
"I'm getting contact from all over the world, but not from here. Isn't that disgusting?" she shot back.
Howard Krongard, the inspector general (IG) for the Bush State Dept., has recused himself from a second major probe under his purview. The new recusal was announced yesterday and came at the "request" of House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Henry Waxman (D-CA).
This new development follows a dramatic moment during a hearing before Waxman's committee on Wednesday when Kronberg was forced to recuse himself from an investigation into Blackwater after it was revealed that, despite his earlier denials, his brother sits on an advisory board for the controversial paramilitary government security contractor. Making matters potentially worse for Krongard, his brother, Buzzy Krongard, issued a statement after the hearing contradicting Howard's testimony regarding the timing of when Howard learned that Buzzy had accepted a seat on the Blackwater board.
It is unclear at the moment whether Democrats on the committee will pursue perjury charges against the State Dept. IG.
Krongard's latest recusal stems from what appears to be obstruction of justice and witness tampering in a criminal probe by the Dept. of Justice into the way billions of dollars in contracts for the construction of the U.S. embassy complex in Baghdad were let by the State Dept.:
A report by the committee's majority staff referred to the Justice Department probe and also said that Krongard, against his staff's advice, met in August with someone implicated in "potential criminal activity" uncovered during a State Department audit of the embassy contract.
Then, the report said, Krongard met in September with someone else under investigation by the Justice Department. A source, speaking on the condition of anonymity, identified that person as [Mary French is the embassy project coordinator based in Baghdad]. When Krongard arrived in Baghdad, he was warned by his deputy that French had become a "subject of investigation" and that he should not meet with her, for fear of tainting the investigation. But, the report said, "Krongard went through with the meeting and spent several hours with this individual."
James L. Golden, an embassy project overseer who works on a contract basis for the State Dept. in Washington, and who is also said to be a subject of the DoJ probe, may be the other person of interest Krongard met with.
Sean McCormack, a State Dept. spokesman, said Krongard recused himself from the embassy contracts investigation at Chairman Waxman's request:
"That was at the request of Congressman Waxman's committee because they are doing their own inquiries into the new embassy compound," McCormack said. "Because of the reporting relationship between the IG and the Congress, of course, Howard honored that request."
Despite Krongard's removal from the two highest profile investigations by his office, McCormack says he still has the confidence of Sec. of State Condoleeza Rice.
The White House is probably busy right now dusting off a Medal of Freedom --- as well as complete and full pardon --- for Howard "Cookie" Krongard, their inspector general (IG) at the State Dept. It appears that in Krongard's testimony before the House Oversight and Government Reform yesterday, he made false statements under oath about the membership of his brother, Buzzy Krongard, on an advisory board for Blackwater, the controversial paramilitary security contractor based in North Carolina's Dismal Swamp.
Blackwater has close ties with Howard Krongard's bosses in the Bush administration, who have awarded over $100 million in contracts to the company since the invasion and occupation of Iraq began. The fact that the brother of the Bush State Dept.'s chief investigator into Blackwater's activities in Iraq is on Blackwater's payroll would appear to be a conflict of interest, to put it mildly.
Early in the hearings, Chairman Henry Waxman (D-CA) laid out a series of allegations from officials in the State and Justice departments that Krongard has been stonewalling investigations into corruption and illegal activities by Blackwater and other U.S. personnel and companies in Iraq.
Here is video of Waxman's questioning and Krongard's evasive responses:
Laters, Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-MD) asked Krongard if his brother was a member of the Blackwater advisory board:
Howard Krongard responded, under oath, with a flat denial:
"I can tell you very frankly, I am not aware of any financial interest or position [my brother] has with respect to Blackwater. It couldn’t possibly have affected anything I’ve done, because I don’t believe it. And when these ugly rumors started recently, I specifically asked him. I do not believe it is true that he is a member of the advisory board, as you stated, and that is something I think I need to say."
But during the break, Howard Krongard called his brother and found out that Buzzy did, indeed, sit on a Blackwater board:
Judith Regan, the tough-talking former book publisher and editor and television producer, has accused an executive at Rupert Murdoch's News Corporation of encouraging her to lie about her affair with Bernard Kerik, the former New York City police commissioner, in order to protect the presidential aspirations of Kerik's friend, Rudolph Giuliani:
Regan makes the charge at the start of a 70-page filing that seeks $100 million in damages for what she says was a campaign to smear and discredit her by her bosses at HarperCollins and its parent company, News Corporation, after her project to publish a book with O.J. Simpson [titled, "If I Did It"] was abandoned amid a storm of protest.
In the civil complaint filed in State Supreme Court in Manhattan, Ms. Regan says the company has long sought to promote Mr. Giuliani’s ambitions. But the lawsuit does not elaborate on that charge, identify the executive who she says pressured her to mislead investigators, or offer details to support her claim.
In fact, the allegation about the executive makes up a small part of a much broader array of claims concerning what she says was her improper removal from a job atop one of the more commercially successful book publishing operations.
This story quashes any doubt which candidate the folks at NewsCorp are rooting for in the next election. Not that the revelation is particularly surprising. Giuliani is a close friend of Roger Ailes, the CEO of Fox News, NewsCorp's loss-leading marquee cable channel. With Rudy in the Oval Office, FNC's conduit into and out of the White House propaganda shop would be assured for four more years.
On a much more salacious level, even in the continuum of recent revelations of GOP adulteries --- think Sens. Larry Craig and David Vitter, Rev. Ted Haggard and publisher Richard Mellon Scaife, who funded the Arkansas Project to dig up dirt on the Clintons' marriage --- Regan's affair with Kerik was particularly sordid. While Kerik was hooking up with Regan, he was simultaneously having an affair with another woman, all while his wife was pregnant:
In what may be one of his most ironic public statements to date, far-Right Fox "News" commentator Bill O'Reilly charged last night that Dallas Mavericks owner and media mogul Mark Cuban's "arrogance is horrifying."
He then went on to call the billionaire blogger Cuban "anti-American" and noted, approvingly, that "during WWII President Roosevelt might have incarcerated" him and "General Patton would have slapped the tar out of him."
Why? Because Cuban's cable television network, HDNet, is distributing Brian DePalma's new film Redacted, apparently.
After Cuban, the billionaire entrepreneur, had earlier noted in his address that while he might feel O'Reilly was "a moron," for the various attacks the news commentator had unleashed upon him, he had thought better than to blog that point, noting that the written word hangs around forever on the Internet.
When The BRAD BLOG, who was present at the speech, later asked him during the Q&A if he felt O'Reilly's attacks have been a "net plus or minus" in regard to Redacted, the amused Cuban said that he was "very grateful" to O'Reilly, who he called his "new best friend" for all the attention he'd brought to the otherwise small film release.
Last night on The O'Reilly Factor, the Fox "News" host shot back, promising still more publicity for the film, by calling for the public to show up outside theaters showing Redacted with signs reading "Support the Troops." O'Reilly claimed that he will personally be at theaters holding up such signs, charging that "Mark Cuban has a grudge against his country" and that he is somehow "putting our troops in danger."
At the end of the segment, O'Reilly promised that he would "have more information about what we're going to do and when we're going to do it...coming up."
His "Talking Points Memo" tirade (video below) charges that "subsequently the effort became extremely difficult," after opposition to the Iraq War was brought by "the far-left." He then went on to include a quick, out of context video clip from Cuban's BlogWorld address. He did not show the part in which Cuban said he was "very grateful" to O'Reilly, or that he considered him his "new best friend."
Here's O'Reilly's "outraged" comments from last night's The O'Reilly Factor on Fox "News," along with a discussion with a Republican and a "Democratic" analyst which follows. (Thanks to Alan Breslauer for the video!)...
UPDATE:Cuban blogs on the ridiculous O'Reilly situation, in a piece which begins "I've grown to love Bill OReilly. Seriously. If there is anyone who can publicize a political movie, it's Bill and I truly appreciate that about him."
A total of 64 percent of American voters say that George W. Bush has abused his powers as president. Of the 64 percent, 14 percent (9 percent of all voters) say the abuses are not serious enough to warrant impeachment, 33 percent (21 percent of all voters) say the abuses rise to the level of impeachable offenses, but he should not be impeached, and 53 percent (34 percent of all voters) say the abuses rise to the level of impeachable offenses and Mr. Bush should be impeached and removed from office.
Of all voters, 34 percent believe Bush should be impeached and removed from office, while another 21 percent believe Bush is guilty of impeachment-worthy offenses but nonetheless prefer to give him a pass. Thus 55 percent of all voters in the poll believe Bush is impeachable and yet, bizarre as it seems, a sizable minority (21 percent) of the folks who think Bush has committed high crimes and misdemeanors do not want the Congress to pursue impeachment.
A total of 70 percent of American voters say that Dick Cheney has abused his powers as vice president. Of the 70 percent, 26 percent (18 percent of all voters) say the abuses are not serious enough to warrant impeachment, 13 percent (9 percent of all voters) say the abuses rise to the level of impeachable offenses, but he should not be impeached, and 61 percent (43 percent of all voters) say the abuses rise to the level of impeachable offenses and Mr. Cheney should be impeached and removed from office.
Among all voters, 52 percent believe Cheney has committed impeachable offenses, and 43 percent believe he should be impeached and removed from office while only 9 percent believe he's guilty but should be allowed to complete his term.
In a ruling pursuant to lawsuits from two public interest groups in Washington, U.S. District Court Judge Henry H. Kennedy Jr. issued a temporary restraining order against the Bush White House today, ordering it to preserve backups of millions of emails the administration claims to have deleted:
"Defendants shall preserve media, no matter how described, presently in their possession or under their custody or control, that were created with the intention of preserving data in the event of its inadvertent destruction," wrote Kennedy in a Nov. 12 opinion in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia.
The lawsuits were brought separately by the National Security Archive, which is affiliated with George Washington University, and Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW), and have since been combined. The groups sued the White House after it claimed in April that 5 million emails that were generated between March 2003 and October 2005 were "missing." Topics of intra-office communication during that period would likely have included Hurricane Katrina and the 2004 presidential campaign.
In reality, email can require quite a bit of effort to destroy. Copies of individual emails --- even emails that users believe they have deleted --- are saved on the hard drives of the sender, the recipient and often on the various servers in the relay. On the other hand, in the ensuing seven months since it announced that the emails were missing, Bush operatives have had time to wipe clean hundreds of back-up drives and servers.
This fact was apparently contemplated in Judge Kennedy's ruling, in which he agreed with the recommendation of U.S. Magistrate Judge John M. Facciola last month that a restraining order should be issued. "Without such an order," Facciola wrote, "destruction of the backup media would be without consequence."
The U.S. command announced six new deaths Tuesday, making 2007 the bloodiest year for American troops in Iraq despite a recent decline in casualties and a sharp drop in roadside bombings. With nearly two months left in the year, the annual toll is now 853 --- three more than the previous worst of 850 in 2004.
Six U.S. troops were killed when insurgents ambushed their foot patrol in the high mountains of eastern Afghanistan, officials said Saturday. The attack, the most lethal against American forces this year, made 2007 the deadliest for U.S. troops in Afghanistan since the 2001 invasion.
US President George W. Bush had a shoot-out with the "bad guys" in Iraq on Thursday, playing a computer game with war veterans that simulates a firefight in Baghdad, the White House said. Bush tried his hand at the game with two soldiers during a visit to a rehabilitation center in Texas that treats veterans wounded in Iraq... Apart from the computer game session, Bush's visit with badly wounded soldiers was often emotional as he spoke with patients who had lost limbs or suffered severe burns in the Iraq war.
The Education Department's inspector general [IG] says he will review whether federal money is inappropriately being spent on programs by a company founded by Neil Bush, the president's brother.
Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington [CREW], a Washington-based watchdog group, called for the inquiry and released a letter this week from the department's inspector general, John Higgins Jr.
In it, Higgins said he would ask an assistant to examine the group's complaint.
CREW contends that the educational programs distributed by Ignite!, Neil Bush's company, are worthless, and that school districts who spend federal dollars on the programs are wasting taxpayers' money.
Ignite! president Ken Leonard said that that his company had not been contacted by anyone from the Education Dept. about the matter:
"Ignite! Learning has no knowledge of any customer that has procured our curriculum solutions through means which are other than completely ethical and in compliance with the typical guidelines of their various funding sources," Leonard said.
The program in question is "Curriculum on Wheels," which includes software for teaching math, social studies and science. Each program costs $3,800 each, not including subscription fees, according to the Associated Press.
As reported in full by David Swanson, in the wake of yesterday's wild ride (and game of chicken) on the House floor concerning the privileged resolution filed by Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-OH), calling for the Impeachment of Dick Cheney.
The following is from a letter sent to constituents today by Rep. Robert Wexler (D-FL), a member of the House Judiciary Committee, where the matter has been sent again. Wexler is calling for the committee "to schedule impeachment hearings immediately and not let this issue languish as it has over the last six months."...
I share your belief that Vice President Cheney must answer for his deceptive actions in office, particularly with regard to the preparations for the Iraq war and the revelation of the identity of covert agent Valerie Plame Wilson as part of political retribution against her husband. That is why I voted against the motion to table debate on H.Res. 333. Along with only 85 other Democrats, I opposed tabling the measure and supported beginning immediate debate and a vote on the Cheney impeachment resolution. The vote on tabling the Kucinich resolution was rejected, and the House subsequently voted to refer the matter to the Judiciary Committee.
The American people are served well with a legitimate and thorough impeachment inquiry. I will urge the Judiciary Committee to schedule impeachment hearings immediately and not let this issue languish as it has over the last six months. Only through hearings can we bring begin to correct the abuses of Dick Cheney and the Bush Administration; and, if it is determined in these hearings that Vice President Cheney has committed High Crimes and Misdemeanors, he should be impeached and removed from office.
Wasn't able to follow things live, as David Swanson did, so still trying to unravel what specifically happened today on the floor of the U.S. House, where Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-OH) used a "privileged resolution" to try and force a vote on his measure to begin Impeachment proceedings of Dick Cheney.
But as best as we can tell, and if we're reading this correctly, it seems the Republicans are playing a very interesting game of chicken here. From RAW:
Although the roll call vote had initially appeared to favor Hoyer's motion to table, Congressional Quarterly's Ed Epstein told CSPAN that Republicans had switched their votes at the last minute in an attempt to embarrass the Democratic leadership, who is not keen on seeing further action on the impeachment resolution.
"Midway through the vote, with instructions from the GOP leadership, Republicans one by one changed their votes from yes --- to kill the resolution --- to no, trying to force the chamber into a debate and an up-or-down vote on the proposal," reports the Washington Post.
At one point there were 290 votes to table. After the turnaround, the final vote was 251-162 against tabling, with 165 Republicans voting against it.
Democrats countered by offering a motion to refer the proposal to the House Judiciary Committee for further study, effectively preventing a debate on the House floor. That motion passed by a largely party-line vote of 218-194.
So, in trying to summarize: While the Democratic House Leadership had initially tried to table Kucinich's resolution to Impeach Dick Cheney, the Republicans voted against that, presumably after making some sort of calculation (an incorrect one, in our opinion, but it's just our opinion) that a debate on whether he should be Impeached would somehow benefit Republicans. They would seem to share that calculation with the Democratic House leadership.
The effort to table discussion of the matter thus failed. But Hoyer's next attempt to dispatch with the measure (for the moment) was his call for a vote to send the matter to Committee for further consideration, instead of debating it on the floor of the House.
Which, if we've got our analytics correct here, means the ball gets tossed over to HJC Chairman, John Conyers for now...
UPDATE: Statement just in from a U.S. House Judiciary Committee spokeswoman, in response to the referal of the Impeachment resolution to the committee...
"The Committee has a very busy agenda - over the next two weeks, we hope to pass a FISA bill, to vote on contempt of Congress citations, pass legislation on prisoner re-entry, court security and a variety of other very important items. We were surprised that the minority was so ready to move forward with consideration of a matter of such complexity as impeaching the Vice President. The Chairman will discuss today's vote with the Committee members but it would seem evident that the committee staff should continue to consider, as a preliminary matter, the many abuses of this Administration, including the Vice President."
***Update: House Judiciary Committee Files Contempt of Congress Report with House Clerk***
(Washington, DC)- Today, at approximately 2:45 p.m., the House Judiciary Committee filed its contempt of Congress report with the Clerk of the U.S. House of Representatives. The full text is available online here.
The report filed (as linked above) is an 842-page PDF file.
Earlier today RAW STORY reported the "one last chance" being offered to the White House by House Judiciary Chairman John Conyers (D-MI), that would lead to his committee dropping the contempt recommendation.
UPDATE: The report filed is for criminal contempt, versus inherent contempt. The former relies on any contempt citation being picked up by the U.S. Attorney from D.C. The latter is an option, rarely used, available to either house of Congress to hold their own hearings in the Capitol, in which the Sergeant-at-Arms could be instructed to jail those found guilty of such contempt. Unlike criminal contempt, inherent contempt would not rely on the DoJ's agreement to pursue the charges. Bush attorneys have already made clear that they would not allow attorneys in the Justice Dept. to do so.