Tag Archives: CIA

Goss Harmin’ Harman?

Since I’ve been offering one side of the Jane Harman story as the bits of intrigue trickle out in the media, I thought I’d explore the second option – that Bush-era officials at the CIA are using the Harman story as a warning shot against further investigation of their practices with torture and wiretapping, as well as pushing back against a thorn in the CIA’s side:

But the former intelligence official familiar with the matter noted that (ex-CIA Director Porter) Goss has given only one on-the-record interview on these CIA controversies since leaving the CIA director job. In the December 2007 interview, he said that Congressional leaders, including Representatives Pelosi and Goss himself, Sen. Bob Graham (D-FL) and Sen. Richard Shelby (R-AL), and later Rep. Harman, Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-WV) and Sen. Pat Roberts (R-KS), had been briefed on CIA waterboarding back in 2002 and 2003. “Among those being briefed, there was a pretty full understanding of what the CIA was doing,” Goss told the Washington Post. “And the reaction in the room was not just approval, but encouragement.”

Who was the lone lawmaker the article identified as objecting to the program?

Jane Harman.

“Harman, who replaced Pelosi as the [House intelligence] committee’s top Democrat in January 2003, disclosed Friday that she filed a classified letter to the CIA in February of that year as an official protest about the interrogation program,” the Post reported. “Harman said she had been prevented from publicly discussing the letter or the CIA’s program because of strict rules of secrecy. ‘When you serve on intelligence committee you sign a second oath — one of secrecy,’ she said. ‘I was briefed, but the information was closely held to just the Gang of Four. I was not free to disclose anything.'”

There is compelling evidence that Goss approved continuing the wiretap on the Israeli agent after seeing Harman’s involvement, and in fact tried to get a wiretap up on Harman herself.  The internecine battles between Goss and Harman go back a ways, so it’s not impossible.  We learned yesterday that the wiretap in question did not come from the NSA, and so CIA may have had some direct control over it, although the proper chain of command would have been the FBI.  Why was Goss so involved in this?

Of course, none of this changes the fact that Harman did, as has been confirmed by multiple sources, approach the Washington editor of the New York Times in 2004, before the Bush-Kerry election, to try and get them to spike the warrantless wiretapping story.  Nor does it change the fact that Harman, a full-throated supporter of wiretapping, now has become a civil liberties champion when denouncing the surveillance of her.  This must be why she’s hired Lanny Davis to do spin control (and surely he can do a better job than her disastrous efforts so far).

Finally, Jon Stewart skewers this story as only he could (on the flip).

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DiFi’s Problem With Panetta

It’s more than a little surprising to me that the choice for CIA Director of Leon Panetta, who I considered a card-carrying Villager if there ever was one, is ruffling such feathers inside official Washington, particularly official Democratic Washington.  At first blush this looked like whining about not being informed, but it seems like there’s more there.  Here’s the relevant section from the LA Times:

Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), who this week begins her tenure as the first female chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee, said today that she was not consulted on the choice and indicated she might oppose it.

“I was not informed about the selection of Leon Panetta to be the CIA director,” Feinstein said. “My position has consistently been that I believe the agency is best served by having an intelligence professional in charge at this time.” […]

A senior aide to Sen. John D. Rockefeller IV (D-W.Va.), outgoing chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, said that the senator “would have concerns” about a Panetta nomination.

Rockefeller “thinks very highly of Panetta,” the aide said. “But he’s puzzled by the selection. He has concerns because he has always believed that the director of CIA needs to be someone with significant operational intelligence experience, and someone outside the political realm.”

Most of the intelligence professionals at the top over the past eight years had plenty of “experience” and that didn’t work out too well.  The one who came from the political arena, Porter Goss (who was a former spy), wasn’t so objectionable to Dianne Feinstein – I mean she voted to confirm him, after all.  Of course, he was a Republican, which makes everything OK.  

But I don’t think this is about Panetta’s lack of experience; it’s his wealth of it, which presages a change in culture inside  the agency.

Panetta’s selection suggests that Obama intends to shake up the agency, which has had little public accounting of its role in detaining top terror suspects and transferring others to regimes known to use torture, a procedure known as extraordinary rendition.

The CIA, which denies subjecting detainees to torture, is part of a 16-agency intelligence community whose annual budget now exceeds $47.5 billion. The agency keeps its own budget and number of employees secret. Its successes, too, are mostly kept secret while some of its failures reach front pages.

Panetta has suggested that Obama could do much to signal a break with Bush administration policies by signing executive orders during his first 100 days that ban the use of torture in interrogations and close the Guantanamo Bay prison.

“Issuing executive orders on issues such as prohibiting torture or closing Guantanamo Bay would make clear that his administration will do things differently,” Panetta wrote Nov. 9 in a regular column he published in his local newspaper, the Monterey (Calif.) County Herald […]

“He will be an outsider and I think the president wants an outsider’s perspective on the CIA,” said Lee Hamilton, a former Indiana congressman and a former chairman of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence who heads the Woodrow Wilson Center in Washington. “The intelligence community has lost a lot of confidence with the American people and the Congress. I’m talking about 9/11, the Iraq war.”

It’s that he’s an outsider with enough institutional power to actually make changes, and the moral compass to make those decisions based not on burying the past but rooting it out.  THAT’S what has DiFi and Jello Jay spooked.  In fact, they wanted Michael Hayden’s right-hand man to take over (on the flip…)

NBC News has learned that Senate Democrats — including Dianne Feinstein and Jay Rockefeller, who are the incoming and outgoing Intelligence chairmen — have privately recommended a career CIA officer to head the agency.

Democratic sources indicate that both have recommended deputy CIA Director Steve Kappes, a veteran CIA intelligence officer who is widely credited with getting the Libyans to give up their nuclear program. Kappes also was former Moscow station chief […]

One potential downside for Kappes: Like former counter-terror chief John Brennan, some critics says he had line authority over controversial decisions involving interrogation and detention. Brennan was taken out of contention for the CIA job after criticism on the Web on that issue, even though he says he privately objected to the policies and was not in the chain of command at the time.

Panetta isn’t going to be sneaking through the Middle East collecting human intelligence; he’s going to be managing a large bureaucracy.  But moral lepers like DiFi value “experience” that will lock in the status quo over experience that will reveal the agency’s sins, and by extension her own.  They don’t want to risk any culpability on their part from becoming public, so they’d rather “keep it in the family.”  By the way, the resultant fight suggests that “liberal bloggers” were only the excuse for the Obama transition to disqualify John Brennan; in fact, they wanted a strong manager with a spine who would follow the rules.  That is distasteful to those Senate Dems who don’t want the family secrets spilling out.

And lest this become abstract, read today’s New York Times:

When Muhammad Saad Iqbal arrived home here in August after more than six years in American custody, including five at the military prison at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, he had difficulty walking, his left ear was severely infected, and he was dependent on a cocktail of antibiotics and antidepressants.

In November, a Pakistani surgeon operated on his ear, physical therapists were working on lower back problems and a psychiatrist was trying to wean him off the drugs he carried around in a white, plastic shopping bag.

The maladies, said Mr. Iqbal, 31, a professional reader of the Koran, are the result of a gantlet of torture, imprisonment and interrogation for which his Washington lawyer plans to sue the United States government […]

Mr. Iqbal was never convicted of any crime, or even charged with one. He was quietly released from Guantánamo with a routine explanation that he was no longer considered an enemy combatant, part of an effort by the Bush administration to reduce the prison’s population.

“I feel ashamed what the Americans did to me in this period,” Mr. Iqbal said, speaking for the first time at length about his ordeal during several hours of interviews with The New York Times, including one from his hospital bed in Lahore.

Mr. Iqbal was arrested early in 2002 in Jakarta, Indonesia, after boasting to members of an Islamic group that he knew how to make a shoe bomb, according to two senior American officials who were in Jakarta at the time.

Mr. Iqbal now denies ever having made the statement, but two days after his arrest, he said, the Central Intelligence Agency transferred him to Egypt. He was later shifted to the American prison at Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan, and ultimately to Guantánamo Bay.

Much of Mr. Iqbal’s account could not be independently corroborated. Two senior American officials confirmed that Mr. Iqbal had been “rendered” from Indonesia, but could not comment on, or confirm details of, how he was treated in custody. The Pentagon and C.I.A. deny using torture, and American diplomatic, military and intelligence officials agreed to talk about the case only on the condition of anonymity because the files are classified.

There are hundreds of human beings like this – at least the ones who are alive – who really don’t care if Dianne Feinstein or Jay Rockefeller will be “embarrassed”.  They were flown around the world, interrogated and tortured, and in the process, America not only created thousands of new terrorists while receiving no actionable intelligence, but lost its soul.  The road to restoration has nothing to do with the delicate sensibilities of Senate Democrats.

Leon Panetta Selected As CIA Director

I’m having some computer issues, but I have been able to notice that Leon Panetta, former White House Chief of Staff under Clinton, has been tapped for the CIA Director position.  Digby references this article from Panetta from this year:

Even though we now know that there were intelligence officials who questioned the assertion, few leaders were willing to challenge this argument for war because they knew it might undermine public support for the president’s decision to invade Iraq.

More recently, President Bush vetoed a law that would require the CIA and all the intelligence services to abide by the same rules on torture as contained in the U.S. Army Field Manual […]

all forms of torture have long been prohibited by American law and international treaties respected by Republican and Democratic presidents alike.

Our forefathers prohibited “cruel and unusual punishment” because that was how tyrants and despots ruled in the 1700s. They wanted an America that was better than that. Torture is illegal, immoral, dangerous and counterproductive. And yet, the president is using fear to trump the law.

I hope he gets cracking on putting the CIA under the Army Field Manual.  That would be a very good start.

As a side note, Panetta has been leading one of the most insufferable organizations in California’s history, a high Broderist effort called California Forward, which thinks the biggest problem in the state is that lawmakers from both sides don’t have drinks together anymore, or something.  At least Panetta’s influence on the state will be lessened.  He’s not my favorite guy by any stretch, but if he can manage to not have the CIA kidnapping and torturing anymore he can hold his head up high.

UPDATE by Robert: Apparently DiFi isn’t exactly wild about Panetta at CIA:

“I was not informed about the selection of Leon Panetta to be the CIA Director.  I know nothing about this, other than what I’ve read,” said Senator Feinstein, who will chair the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence in the 111th Congress.

“My position has consistently been that I believe the Agency is best-served by having an intelligence professional in charge at this time.”

Five Reasons To Support Bill Richardson

Bill Richardson is goal-oriented, assertive and confident.  He has served as a Congressman, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, Secretary of Energy and is in his second term as Governor of New Mexico after a landslide re-election victory in November 2006. 

Here are five of many reasons why I believe Richardson possesses the experience, vision and leadership skills to be a great President:

1.  A Bright Vision for America
2.  An Ironclad Promise to Promptly End the U.S. Occupation of Iraq
3.  A Bold Agenda To Address The Pressing Challenges Facing Our Nation and Planet
4.  The White House and A Landslide Victory for Democrats Nationwide in 2008
5.  Comprehensive Immigration Reform In Accordance With the Values Upon Which Our Country Was Founded

This was originally posted on MyDD as part of its candidate series.  I am not part of the Richardson campaign.

1. A Bright Vision for America

Richardson believes in using government to improve the lives of people and affect change in a positive way.  He takes a practical approach to governing, focusing on solutions to problems rather than ideology.  His vision for America is to be “a nation of opportunity and prosperity for all and guaranteeing real security for all our people.”

Earlier this year, in a speech to the Arab American Institute in April 2007, Richardson stated:

Here at home, we must adhere and protect the words, spirit and life of our Constitution for America is not just a country, it is a belief.  A belief in a right to freedom of speech and freedom of religion.  A belief that every man and woman has the right to elect their government and a belief in freedom, justice and equality.  America is the land of opportunity, but we have much to do to ensure that America is the land of equality of opportunity.

To get an insight into Richardson the person, I suggest you watch the following videos.  The first features the person who knows him best, Barbara Richardson, his wife of thirty-five years: 

The second is a profile of Richardson by Charles Gibson of ABC News:

2.  An Ironclad Promise to Promptly End the U.S. Occupation of Iraq

Rocky Anderson, human rights activist and the mayor of Salt Lake City, Utah, has endorsed Richardson.  In an essay in the Nation, Anderson states:

If ending the tragic, self-destructive occupation of Iraq is indeed a line-in-the-sand issue, only Bill Richardson stands out among the leading candidates as the choice for President.

While Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama and John Edwards refuse to pledge an end to the occupation, even by 2013, Bill Richardson commits clearly to pulling out all US troops. He recognizes that the occupation is widely despised, aiding in the recruitment of terrorists beyond Osama bin Laden’s wildest dreams.

Richardson’s consistent message on the necessity for a prompt and complete withdrawal from Iraq is resonating with Iowa voters.  This week STAR*PAC (Stop the Arms Race Political Action Committee of Iowa) endorsed Richardson.  Harold Wells, Chair of STAR*PAC, explained why:

Governor Richardson has consistently promised to get all the troops out of Iraq within one year and probably as soon as six months. He promises he will leave no residual troops behind.  And his message is the same wherever he speaks — to a military audience in Georgetown, a New Hampshire town meeting, in a rural Iowa community or at STAR*PAC’s candidate forum with the Governor in August. Three generals — General Volney Warner, General William Odom and Lt. General Robert Gard — support Richardson’s plans to get the troops out of Iraq.

Richardson observes that a complete withdrawal gives us the leverage we now lack to get the warring factions to compromise, while our presence fuels the insurgency.  In an Op Ed published in the Washington Post entitled “Why We Should Exit Iraq Now,” Richardson wrote:

So long as American troops are in Iraq, reconciliation among Iraqi factions is postponed. Leaving forces there enables the Iraqis to delay taking the necessary steps to end the violence. And it prevents us from using diplomacy to bring in other nations to help stabilize and rebuild the country.

The presence of American forces in Iraq weakens us in the war against al-Qaeda. It endows the anti-American propaganda of those who portray us as occupiers plundering Iraq’s oil and repressing Muslims. The day we leave, this myth collapses, and the Iraqis will drive foreign jihadists out of their country.

To hear Richardson explain his plan for Iraq, the imperative for all of our troops to leave Iraq as well as discussing the approach the U.S. should take on Iran through seeking common ground, listen to the following interview on News Hour with Jim Lehrer:

3.  A Bold Agenda To Address The Pressing Challenges Facing Our Nation and Planet

Being the sole Democratic candidate for President with executive branch experience, voters can evaluate Richardson from the unique stand point of an actual record of implementing policy on key issues, not merely the speeches he has given.  Each year, the Conservation Voters of New Mexico releases a Legislative Scorecard breaking down the votes on key bills impacting the environment. The CVNM also rates the Governor. This year, the CVNM gave Richardson an “A”.

Richardson recognizes that the threats to our environment extend beyond our borders:

A hungry world will also hunger for scapegoats. A thirsty world will thirst for revenge. A world in crisis will be a world of anger and violence and terrorism.

He has set forth a global agenda to address the welfare of the human race, linking climate change, poverty, international disease and war. 

On the critical issue of climate change, Richardson has offered the most aggressive plan of any candidate, proposing to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 90% by 2050.  In a book published this week, entitled In LEADING BY EXAMPLE: How We Can Inspire an Energy and Security Revolution, Richardson argues that the U.S. should start a ten-year program immediately to eliminate its dependence on overseas oil and address global warming. 

One reviewer of the book has stated,

Can you believe this? Bill Richardson has written a truly exciting book. This is the book we’ve been waiting for – the one that takes us from the stage of awareness that Al Gore produced two years ago to the society that takes control of destiny and begins to live in global wealth, health and security.

Richardson begins by describing the existing current lag in leadership. America needs to reposition its image in the spirit that it has long held. Sacrifice and inspiration are essential to that image. With the image and presence of a compassionate America, nations will succeed in lifting themselves from tyranny, depression, illness and tragedy. We cannot afford to confuse our image as a people – that image that produces inspiration through compassion – with one that will overrun other nations to satisfy an addiction for oil.

4.  The White House and A Landslide Victory for Democrats Nationwide in 2008

I written previously that Richardson will be Karl Rove’s worst nightmare.  With Richardson at the head of the Democratic ticket, no longer would the fate of the Democratic candidate rise or fall on the outcome of one state. 

We would start with the same states carried by Senator Kerry in 2004.  Add in Richardson’s Latino heritage and Western values as well as economic policies and stance on 2nd Amendment issues, Richardson becomes the ideal Democratic candidate to convert Red states to Blue.

University of Virginia political science professor Larry Sabato recently made the same argument in an interview:

He is unbeatable. It is amazing the Democrats haven’t recognized that.  Republicans will tell you privately that if the Democrats nominate Bill Richardson the election is over. They know they will lose to Bill Richardson. He is perfectly positioned.

Now contrast Richardson’s appeal with the current front runner and most well known Democratic politician in America. Even though opinion polls show most Americans believe our country is headed in the wrong direction and prefer a Democrat to succeed Bush, when Clinton is matched up against Giuliani the race is a dead heat.  Why?  More people rate Clinton negative on the quality of honesty than positive.  The Democrats will win in a landslide in 2008, if Richardson is at the top of the ticket.

5.  Comprehensive Immigration Reform In Accordance With the Values Upon Which Our Country Was Founded

Before the campaign commenced, Richardson called for comprehensive immigration reform that strengthens our borders while also providing a path to citizenship for the estimated 12 million illegal immigrants in the U.S. 

Last year, Biden, Clinton, Dodd and Obama caved into the anti-immigrant pressure groups in voting for a massive, 700-mile wall along the U.S.-Mexican border.  Richardson has repeatedly called the fence ineffective and a terrible symbol for America.  In his view, it also creates a disincentive for Mexico to cooperate with the U.S. – which is essential for stopping illegal immigration.

On the current hot issue of the day – drivers’ licenses for illegal immigrants – Dodd and Edwards are now talking like Republicans.  Edwards flip on this issue is especially revealing.  Here is a candidate that time and time again has proclaimed, “We are past the time for cautious, poll-driven politics.”  Yet, Edwards has seen the polls and changed his position to that which serves his short term political advantage.

Richardson doesn’t play the anti-immigrant card.  He signed legislation in New Mexico that gave licenses to all persons without proof of citizenship.  When this topic was raised in a recent interview, Richardson commented:

MATTHEWS:  Governor, what would you have said to that same question?  Were you on base with regard to whether we should give, at the state level, driver’s licenses to the people in the country illegally? 

RICHARDSON:  I would have said yes.  You know, four years ago, my legislature sent me a bill to give driver’s licenses to illegal immigrants.  I signed it, because my law enforcement people asked me to do it.  They said it was a matter of public safety, that we want safe drivers on the roads.  Insurance-uninsured drivers has gone down in New Mexico, from 33 percent to 11 percent, since I signed that bill.  It’s a matter of being safe on the highways and also knowing where they are.  I think Senator Clinton should have just said yes.  It sounded like she agreed with the governor.  She did fumble that.

To hear Richardson discuss his plan on immigration, listen to the above video clip, the interview on News Hour with Jim Lehrer.


Finally, I’d like to comment on the issue of the day – the confirmation vote on Michael Mukasey.  The vote on Mukasey was a vote the Dems in the Senate could have won if they showed a spine.  Mukasey needed 51 votes to be confirmed.  Biden, Dodd, Clinton and Obama were all missing in action.

Richardson spoke out first against Mukasey. On October 19th, prior to any statements by the other Presidential candidates, Richardson stepped forward and criticized Mukasey for refusing to say whether waterboarding is torture:

“Waterboarding is torture, and anyone who is unwilling to identify it as such is not qualified to be the chief legal officer of the United States of America. If I were in the U.S. Senate, I would vote against Mukasey unless he denounces such specific forms of torture.

“Torture does not work. Mistreatment backfires and destroys our international leadership, as we saw with Abu Ghraib. Torture also endangers our own troops. The standards we adopt may well be what our own troops are subjected to.

“Anytime one makes a person think he or she is being executed, the very nature of waterboarding, it obviously is a violation of the U.S. Constitution, international law, and basic human decency. . .

“If another nation engaged in waterboarding against American citizens, we would denounce that country and call the practice barbaric, and rightly so.

“We must stand against torture without equivocation, without compromise, and without exception. Torture is a violation of everything we stand for as Americans and as human beings.”

Shame on the Democrats that voted for Mukasey and those that didn’t show up at all.  This was not a vote on one person.  It was a vote on whether the U.S. government or agents acting for our government may commit torture in the name of national security. 

Persons without a moral compass should not hold political power.  And no surprise here – people under torture say what they believe their interrogators want them to say.  The result is we get false and misleading information when we practice torture. 

The results can be devastating.  We went to war with Iraq in part because of intelligence based on the torture.  I suggest everyone read Tim Weiner’s Legacy of Ashes.  It is a fascinating history of the CIA.  At page 487, he states:

[CIA Director George] Tenet provided his own grim warnings in a secret hearing before the Senate intelligence committee on September 17:  ‘Iraq provided al Qaeda with various kinds of training – combat, bomb-making, and chemical, biological, radiological and nucler.’  He based that statement on the confessions of a single source – Ibn al-Shakh al-Libi, a fringe player who had been beaten stuffed in a two-foot-square box for seventeen hours, and threatened with prolonged torture.  The prisoner had recanted after the threat of torture receded.  Tenet did not correct the record.

Harman Speaks to Westside Progressives in Los Angeles

My post about Jane Harman’s remarks at a town hall meeting yesterday about the secret “torture memos” revealed this week by the New York Times is up at Think Progress, submitted through their Blog Fellows Program, which I can’t recommend enough.  Let me contextualize those remarks a bit more, and add some of the other interesting things Rep. Harman had to say.

I asked the question to Harman about the secret memos.  Earlier this week, the White House claimed that all relevant members of Congress had been fully briefed on the classified program sanctioning harsh interrogation techniques by the CIA.  At the time of the memos, Harman was a member of the “Gang Of Eight” routinely briefed on intelligence matters.  Harman was shaking her head as I asked the question if she was fully briefed, chuckling almost in disbelief.  Her answer:

We were not fully briefed. We were told about operational details but not these memos. Jay Rockefeller said the same thing, and I associate myself with his remarks. And we want to see these memos.


Harman is now the third member of the Gang of Eight, joining Jay Rockefeller and Nancy Pelosi, to reject the White House’s claim that they were fully briefed about these memos.  The Administration is lying, again, and it is now incumbent upon Congress to make every effort to obtain those memos and to enshrine into law a full repudiation of the arguments therein described.  The follow-up question I wanted to ask Rep. Harman, but could not, was how she would go about pressuring the White House to get those documents.  Obviously the vehicle for this is through the confirmation of Attorney General nominee Michael Mukasey.  Considering that these memos came out of the Justice Department, there should simply be no movement on his confirmation without an exchange of the memos.

Let me add some additional information about the town hall.  I wrote in my Think Progress post this tidbit:

Harman later revealed that she was speaking with an unidentified Republican in her office, who told her that if President Bush were to attack Iran, then even he would vote for impeachment.

You have to understand the environment of this town hall meeting.  The audience included the hardcore progressives that made up the core of the Marcy Winograd primary challenge to Harman in 2006; in fact, Winograd was on a panel right before Harman’s arrival.  These people were SCREAMING for impeachment; the first two questions were about this issue.  And Harman could do nothing but reiterate that Nancy Pelosi, not her, had taken impeachment off the table.  She went on to describe her no votes against the Clinton impeachment and how MoveOn.org was born out of the impeachment debate (odd of her to approvingly cite MoveOn, considering she voted to condemn their remarks in the “General Betrayus” ad).  But when she brought up Iran, she said “this little anecdote should make you smile,” and mentioned the above exchange.

Here are some of the other notable tidbits in Harman’s meeting.

• She recommended Jack Goldsmith’s “The Terror Presidency” as the best source for understanding how the Bush Administration attempted to expand executive power through neutering the Office of Legal Counsel.  She had the book with her.

• She reiterated that “intelligence was politicized again” on the FISA bill, referring to the fake terror attack hyped by the White House designed to get wavering Democrats to sanction warrantless surveillance.  It was a cold-blooded tactic, and it should be heavily publicized.  I thanked Rep. Harman for speaking out on this, and I hope that she’ll continue as well as encourage other members to corroborate her allegations.  Harman said she is working to change the new FISA bill, which will “probably be introduced this week.”  The goals are that any surveillance must be done through the FISA court, with a warrant, and with minimization protocols if a US national is involved.

• Harman spoke about her legislation to close Guantanamo, restore habeas corpus, and end the use of national security letters outside their initial purpose.  She spoke glowingly about the vote this week to put Blackwater contractors under the auspices of US law, and thanked both Rep. Waxman and Rick Jacobs, who produced Iraq for Sale, with their efforts to get the word out about Blackwater’s numerous abuses and how they fell into the “legal black hole” regarding their activities.

• She recommended the Seymour Hersh article about developments with respect to Iran, and said that she has invited him to speak to the Congress.  Harman was adamant in saying that “targeted sanctions are working” with Iran, and that the government should “stop the saber rattling” that could lead us to another catastrophic war.

• She trumpeted her contribution to the House energy bill, a measure to retire the incandescent light bulb by 2012.

• On trade, she made a disappointing statement.  Despite voting against NAFTA and CAFTA and claiming that she was proven right on those votes, she said that some trade deals are admissable with proper labor and environmental standards as well as trade adjustment assistance, and referring to the current Peruvian Free Trade Agreement that will come up for vote in a couple weeks, she said that “It was approved by Charlie Rangel.”  Uh-oh.  We know that this bill, crafted in the dead of night to appease corporate interests, does not go nearly far enough to ensure labor and environmental standards, and would be nothing more than NAFTA-light.

• Someone asked Rep. Harman about the Walt-Mearshimer book “The Israel Lobby” and AIPAC’s support for endless war, including war with Iran.  Harman, who has been linked in the past to lobbies like AIPAC, said “I’m not a member of AIPAC… I support a two-state solution where Palestine can thrive economically with borders that are defensible to Israel.”  She pretty much dodged the question.

• On the still-unresolved EPA waiver that would allow California to make their own rules on tailpipe emissions that contribute to global warming, Harman said that she signed on to a letter protesting the slow-rolling from the EPA and the Department of Transportation, and she added that Gov. Schwarzenegger should work harder to get DoT to “back off” (they’ve been accused of lobbying lawmakers to pressure the EPA to block the California law).

• Finally, Harman asked for education activists to call her office and tell her about the reauthorization of No Child Left Behind.  While she said that Rep. Miller has claimed to her it has been improved, she said “I am prepared to oppose it” if the changes are not satisfactory.

Wilkes the “GOP’s ATM”

Newsweek finds out that Kyle “Dusty” Foggo and Brent Wilkes are friends.  Who knew?

It is a bit of a stretch. Most of the Wilkes’ bribes go to politicians, from guys like Randy Cunningham, up through more important Republicans such as Tom Delay, Jerry Lewis, Porter Goss, John Doolittle, and on right to the top of the party – George Bush. Yet, Foggo may be the thread that unravels Republican corruption all the way to the top.

But the agency’s problems may only get worse, and one reason is Foggo. Federal investigators are looking at the ties of the CIA’s “Ex Dir” to a congressional bribery scandal. Foggo was a high-school football teammate and college buddy of Brent Wilkes’s, a defense contractor who was identified as an unindicted co-conspirator when former San  Diego congressman and ex-Navy air ace Randy (Duke) Cunningham pleaded guilty. The CIA has acknowledged that its internal watchdog is investigating if Foggo helped steer any contracts to Wilkes. According to three sources who declined to be identified commenting on the details of a government probe, there are also indications that the Feds are interested in Foggo’s role in the wider Cunningham bribery scandal. Recent news reports have alleged that Wilkes (who has not been charged with any crime) sponsored poker parties at the Watergate and other expensive Washington hotels, and that he may have been involved in a scheme to provide prostitutes to the disgraced Cunningham.

More on the Repulican’s ATM follows.

Brent Wilkes is a bit more than “a defense contractor.”  Wilkes is a one man defense conglomerate, operating a dizzying array of companies that appear designed for a single purpose, to scam money from the defense and intelligence apparatus of the United States.

Wilkes apparently is big in the transportation industry as well.  At least in the transportation of Republican politicians.  Wilkes’ Group W Transportation operation appears to have been designed to allow Wilkes to ferry key Republican leaders around in the style to which his bribes and contribution had made them accustomed.

Yet Group W, owned by Poway defense contractor Brent Wilkes, has provided personal air transportation for some high-profile passengers — including House Majority Leader Tom DeLay and Rep. Randy “Duke” Cunningham, who has flown on the jet to such locations as Idaho for a hunting trip and Hawaii for a golf tournament.

Brent Wilkes is also a major financial contributor to Republican politicians. Aside from convicted felon Randy “Duke” Cunningham, Wilkes made substantial contributions to California Representatives John Doolittle (CA-4), Jerry Lewis (CA-41) and Duncan Hunter (CA-52).

But, wait there’s more Wilkes largess to politicians.  Wilkes it turns out is also a Bush/Cheney Pioneer – someone who raised at least $100,000 in contributions to the President’s 2004 campaign. In this, Wilkes is on a list of just 327 other dedicated fund raisers. In fact the first name on this list is Jack Abramoff. Distinguished company for Wilkes.

Wilkes is also a a key contributor to Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger. Schwarzenegger rewarded Wilkes with posting to two prestigious public boards. Postions that he asked Wilkes to give up when his involvement with Cunningham became public.

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, who received $77,400 from Wilkes and his wife, Regina Wilkes, has no such plans [to return the money], according to a spokesman.

Schwarzenegger, however, did ask Wilkes to resign from the Del Mar Fair Board and the State Race Track Leasing Commission the day after Cunningham pleaded guilty.

Schwarzenegger appointed Wilkes to both volunteer positions, continuing a tradition in which governors appoint contributors to such prestigious posts.

Cunningham was the most obvious and illegal of Wilkes bribery enterprises. In may turn out that Foggo will be as egregious and illegal a case as was Cunningham’s, but it is important to remember that Wilkes was what The Left Coaster called “An ATM for the GOP.” His largess was directed at anyone who could help him continue to loot the U.S Government and steal the money of American taxpayers.