Archive for June 26th, 2007
No, not Geo. W. Bush, but this recipe, which I’m making tomorrow. Will you join me?
They got the name wrong, but everything else is pretty much on target. Take a look.
And the summer is likely to be hot. Here are the tricks.
There’s been a lot of discussion of late about Vice President Cheney’s unwillingness to abide by the rules followed by the rest of the executive branch when it comes to safeguarding and handling classified material — particularly his claim that his office is, all appearances to the contrary, not part of the executive branch. And many have noted that the Libby case shows that the VP’s office has some serious deficiencies when it comes to handling classified data.
But this isn’t the only case.
It seems now largely to have been forgotten. But let’s not forget the case of Leandro Aragoncillo, the naturalized US citizen of Filipino descent who engaged in espionage on behalf of opposition leaders in his native country while working as a Marine security official in Vice President Cheney’s office. To the best of my knowledge this is the only known case of espionage taking place within the White House. And it happened in Cheney’s operation.
Perhaps even more revealing, Aragoncillo was originally tasked to the Veep’s office in 1999 when Vice President Gore was still in office. But he apparently only began snatching classified documents after Cheney showed up.
In any case, two observations. The first is that this isn’t a on-off affair. The Cheney OVP seems to have a serious issue safeguarding classified material — one so serious it has led to two felony convictions. So Bill Kristol may think it’s annoying to have government ‘bureaucrats’ checking on how classified material is being safeguarded. But the Cheney crew could really use the help.
Second, I think we see here a hint of a too-little noted pattern — the connected and mutually-reinforcing bonds of authoritarianism and incompetence. The Libby case (and the Plame case generally) is somewhat separate in that it was the intentional breaching of national security secrets. But is it a coincidence that the most paranoically secrecy obsessed office in the executive branch is the one that actually managed to have a spy working in its midst?
– Josh Marshall
How aggressively did the FBI look into which unknown and inebriated American official tipped Ahmed Chalabi to the fact that the US had broken a crucial Iranian code — a fact he reportedly then shared with the Iranians?
According to a November 7th 2005 article in the Journal by Scot Paltrow, the FBI never interviewed Chalabi for the probe when he made subsequent visits to the US. Never talked to the central player.
That’s telling and it fits a pattern. Remember, the FBI — notwithstanding a purported investigation into the Niger forgeries — never interviewed him either when he made two trips to the United States in 2004.
From my own reporting I know the FBI ‘probe’ into the Niger forgeries was a sham. Guess maybe the Chalabi one could be the same.
– Josh Marshall
The Washington Post’s four-part series on the inner workings of the Cheney administration is so chocked-full of interesting details that many of them are not getting the attention they deserve. This particular passage from Part One of the series is one of them:
Flanigan, with advice from Yoo, drafted the authorization for use of military force that Congress approved on Sept. 18. Yoo said they used the broadest possible language because “this war was so different, you can’t predict what might come up.”
In fact, the triumvirate knew very well what would come next: the interception — without a warrant — of communications to and from the United States. Forbidden by federal law since 1978, the surveillance would soon be justified, in secret, as “incident to” the authority Congress had just granted. Yoo was already working on that memo, completing it on Sept. 25.
We’ve known for some time that Yoo authored the memo that served as the legal basis for the NSA program, but this is the first time we’ve known the exact date. And it’s significant, for reasons I’ll explain momentarily.
First, though, it’s worth pointing out that Gellman and Becker leave out an important part of the story. Flanigan and Yoo did indeed attempt to use the “broadest possible language” in drafting the AUMF. Their initial draft sought to authorize the use of military force not only abroad, but also “within the United States.” That language was rejected by Congress (no doubt forcing Yoo to edit his memo).
Gellman and Becker continue:
It was an extraordinary step, bypassing Congress and the courts, and its authors kept it secret from officials who were likely to object. Among the excluded was John B. Bellinger III, a man for whom Cheney’s attorney had “open contempt,” according to a senior government lawyer who saw them often. The eavesdropping program was directly within Bellinger’s purview as ranking national security lawyer in the White House, reporting to Rice. Addington had no line responsibility. But he had Cheney’s proxy, and more than once he accused Bellinger, to his face, of selling out presidential authority for good “public relations” or bureaucratic consensus. . . .
On Oct. 25, 2001, the chairmen and ranking minority members of the intelligence committees were summoned to the White House for their first briefing on the eavesdropping and were told that it was one of the government’s most closely compartmented secrets.
This is the second important date, the date when the ranking members of the Intelligence Committees were first informed that the administration was conducting warrantless surveillance.
Why are these dates significant?
The Office of the Vice President has asserted that Dick Cheney “is not an entity within the Executive Branch” in order to thwart an investigation into his handling of classified material. But there was once a time when Cheney prevented investigations by claiming they interfered with the Executive Branch.
Dana Milbank reports today in the Washington Post:
Cheney has refused to comply with an order governing the care of classified documents; his office concluded that the order does not apply because he is not “an entity within the executive branch.”
That’s quite opposite the argument Cheney made in 2001, when he said that a congressional probe into the workings of his energy task force “would unconstitutionally interfere with the functioning of the executive branch.” Cheney has, in effect, declared himself to be neither fish nor fowl but an exotic, extraconstitutional beast who answers to no one.
Milbank is referring to an instance in 2001 when GAO chief David Walker sent a “demand letter” for information and documents related to Cheney’s energy task force meetings. In response, Cheney wrote a letter to Congress informing lawmakers “of certain actions undertaken by an agent of the Congress, Comptroller General David M. Walker, which exceed his lawful authority and which, if given effect, would unconstitutionally interfere with the functioning of the executive branch.”
Appearing on ABC’s Nightline on July 25, 2001, Cheney said, “This request that in fact we’re supposed to provide [Congress] with this information with respect to…those meetings in the Executive Branch between the Vice President and other individuals strikes me as inappropriate.”