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?
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:
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."
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.
Last week we reported that a CBS poll finds Al Gore trailing Hilary Clinton by just 5% in the Presidential Primary race and is ahead of all of the others, even though he's not officially on the ballot.
Last month we reported that a Zogby "blind bio" poll of Republicans found that some unknown guy --- Ward Casscells --- who's not even running, led the Republican candidate field among GOP voters when no names, just summarized resumes, were given for each candidate polled.
Yesterday, Zogby released the results of their Democratic "blind bio" poll, showing that Al Gore is, hands down, in front of the pack with 35% support. His closest rival was Hillary Clinton at 24%.
Also in the poll, 60% of Dem voters would consider voting for someone other than the current slate of candidates, based on dissatisfaction with the positions on the Iraq War by the current official crop. 65% said they'd be open to supporting a new candidate based on the current candidates' global climate change positions...
Zogby Poll: Al Gore Leads Top Tier Dems in 'Blind Bio' Poll
Survey finds most Democratic likely voters would consider a new candidate given the current field’s views on Iraq and global climate change
A Zogby International “blind bio” telephone poll shows that former Vice President Al Gore is favored over the current Democratic frontrunners by likely Democratic Party voters nationwide – particularly among liberal Democrats.
When Democratic likely voters were given brief biographical descriptions of the top three Democratic candidates – New York Sen. Hillary Clinton, Illinois Sen. Barack Obama, and former North Carolina Sen. John Edwards – along with the biography of Gore, the former Vice President won 35% support, while Clinton won 24%, Obama won 22%, and Edwards trailed with 10% support. Gore’s bio was the top choice of both men (39%) and women (31%), and also most favored by younger voters. Self-described liberal Democrats strongly favored Gore’s bio (43%) over Clinton (21%), Edwards (17%) and Obama (12%). The bio selections of moderate Democrats closely mirror the choices of likely Democratic voters overall, with 36% giving the greatest preference to Gore’s bio.
Given our previous vid, smashing up Dems, it seems only fair to offer another smashing up the Republicanists. We're nothing if not fair and balanced, after all. This one's pretty brilliant and hysterical...And you can even sing along!...
(Safe for work? We report, you decide...)
P.S. On the rare occassions these days when we see those magnetic "Support the Troops" ribbons on cars and/or SUVs in parking lots, we've frequently pondered (not saying we've actually done it or not) removing them and re-applying them on the same cars' gas tank covers. Might get the owners thinking. You might wish to ponder same. Just sayin'.
Feingold on the 5th anniversary of Bush's signing of Congressional authorization for use of military force in Iraq:
“I will not stand idly by while this mistaken war continues. I will continue working to end this war and bring our troops home, and I will continue looking in the days and weeks ahead for opportunities to debate and vote on ending the war – this year, and, if necessary, next as well. My colleagues may complain, they may be inconvenienced, they may prefer to focus on other matters. But this Congress has no greater priority than making right the mistake it made five years ago when it authorized this misguided war.”
Yes, her outing led to a still-classified CIA damage assessment and "serious" consequences" to other members of her CIA intelligence network.
No, despite Bush's promise, no one has ever been held accountable for leaking her identity in the first such outing of a covert CIA operative by agents of the U.S. Government itself.
No, Bush "is not a man of his word," as Valerie Plame Wilson told 60 Minutes tonight in her first broadcast network interview. Here's the video in two parts...
Some of what Plame is still not allowed to say, including details about "being taken hostage and subjected to torture for two days," is covered by her former CIA colleague, Larry Johnson, right here...
So what did the White House do about it? Johnson tells us...
When the White House learned of these threats they sprung into action. They beefed up Secret Service protection for Vice President Cheney and provided security protection to Karl Rove. But they declined to do anything for Valerie. That was a CIA problem.
Valerie contacted the office of Security at CIA and requested assistance. They told her too fucking bad and to go pound sand. They did not use those exact words, but they told her she was on her own.
Well now we're really confused. Over the last three days we've heard McCain and Rush and O'Reilly all reprimand us for not paying attention to how well the "new" strategy is working in Iraq and how things are finally beginning to get straightened out over there.
Yet 12 former U.S. Army captains who served in Iraq between '03 and '06, all indicate otherwise on today's usually-rightwing WaPo editorial page.
Criticizing "the surge" as not working, their comments begin: "Five years on, the Iraq war is as undermanned and under-resourced as it was from the start. And, five years on, Iraq is in shambles."
...And concluding thusly:
There is one way we might be able to succeed in Iraq. To continue an operation of this intensity and duration, we would have to abandon our volunteer military for compulsory service. Short of that, our best option is to leave Iraq immediately. A scaled withdrawal will not prevent a civil war, and it will spend more blood and treasure on a losing proposition.
America, it has been five years. It's time to make a choice.
Once again, we must ask: Why do the troops hate the troops? And when will the troops on the ground start listening to the troops on the ground?
Turns out, some 50 (mostly Republican) members of the Senate are in favor of attacking "the honor, integrity, and patriotism" of those who have served honorably in the U.S. Armed Forces.
We knew that already, and not only from the Republican filibuster of a bill that would have given members of the U.S. Armed Forces in Iraq as much time off as they were forced into serving in the field.
But a less-discussed vote in the Senate last week underscored just how much Republicans despise honorably serving members of our military, and how impotent Democrats seem to be at exploiting that fact...
Good lord. Looks like the "Straight Talk Express" has driven straight over the cliff. But nobody has managed to tell McCain yet. Not even McCain. And to think I might have once considered voting for this guy...
(On an unrelated note: Working on a number of things today, so posting has been light. Reading with interest, however, the outpouring of reaction and comments from BRAD BLOG readers to the Tasering Incident. Let's call those comments "recommend reading" for the moment, as most are quite thought provoking. I may have more of my own thoughts on it all later...)