They've got muck; we've got rakes. TPM Muckraker

Here's a story that bears revisiting -- with some urgency. Back in January, the AP reported that Halliburton was providing U.S. troops serving in Ramadi, Iraq, with dirty water. The soldiers bathed in it, washed their clothes in it, even made coffee with it. They got sick as a result.

On Jan. 23, Senate Democrats held a hearing on the matter. The story was picked up by hundreds of news outlets. Outrage ensued. The water quality at the Ramadi base improved.

But it's happened again -- this time at the Qayyarah Airfield, about 300 kilometers north of Baghdad. As an Army physician at the base wrote in a March 31 email to Senate investigators:

In January I noticed the water in our Showering facility was cloudy and had a foul odor. At the same time (over a 2 week period) I had a sudden increase in soldiers with bacterial infections presenting to me for treatment. All of these soldiers live in the same living area (PAD 103) and use the same water to shower. I had 4 cases of skin abcesses, 1 case of cellulitis, and one case of bacterial conjunctivitis.

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Tom DeLay, a.k.a. "Representative #2," bowed out Monday... So why is Rep. Bob Ney (R-OH), a.k.a. "Representative #1," still around?

Let's count the nails in his coffin.

He's been very clearly and damningly implicated in three separate guilty pleas (Michael Scanlon, Jack Abramoff, and Tony Rudy). Prosecutors have told him they're preparing a case against him. His former aide, Neil Volz, is also in prosecutors' sights, and it seems it's just a matter of time before he flips on his old boss. Polls in Ohio show him running behind the Democratic candidates. And he was brusquely forced from his chairmanship of the House Administration Committee when Republicans realized his end was near.

So why hasn't he realized that?

There seem to be two answers. Well, three, if you believe that he believes that he's innocent. But really two.

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Well, the blog Cincinnati Beacon has picked up the Grandma in Iraq story where we left off. Last we heard, the upbeat "Grandma in Iraq" blog -- written by an Army Public Affairs Officer, but hosted by the Cincinnati Enquirer newspaper's online division -- had new biodata identifying its author, Suzanne M. Fournier, as an Army flack.

A man identifying himself as Gil Fournier, Suzanne's husband, has written in to the Beacon with the backstory of how his wife started writing for the Enquirer:

I was interviewed by the Cincinnati Enquire [sic] about how I felt about my wife going to Iraq, etc. During the course of this interview, I mentioned to the reporter that she was thinking of writing a blog. The reporter asked me if she would consider writing it through the Enquire's blog section. I told him to ask her. He called her, and he asked her if she would allow her blog to be carried by the Enquire.

She told him she would check with her higher ups and get back to him, and that he should do the same. Supposedly, he got all the permission he needed, and told my wife, and me, that he did. At that time, he knew without the slightest doubt, that she was a public affairs officer with the Corps of Engineers in Cincinnati. If you had read your own paper, or wish to do now, before responding, you would know without a doubt who she was and who she worked for.

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Bush's Leak

The Washington Post gives the rundown on yesterday's revelation that Pres. Bush authorized the leaking of certain information from the classified National Intelligence Estimate. On the central question of whether Bush can do such a thing, R. Jeffrey Smith writes:

Legal scholars and analysts said yesterday that the president has the authority to selectively declassify intelligence reports But they also said it was highly unusual for senior officials at the White House to take such an action so stealthily, without notifying Cabinet officials or others in the administration, including the CIA authors of the National Intelligence Estimate.


The Post has another piece confirming the administration's logic on the leak that's not a leak:

A senior administration official, speaking on background because White House policy prohibits comment on an active investigation, said Bush sees a distinction between leaks and what he is alleged to have done. The official said Bush authorized the release of the classified information to assure the public of his rationale for war as it was coming under increasing scrutiny.


Other coverage: NYT, KR, AP.

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Nina Easton is the author of the seminal Gang of Five: Leaders at the Center of the Conservative Ascendacy, which told the story of five conservatives who played a major role shaping the modern conservative movement (they were the Weekly Standard's Bill Kristol, former Rep. David McIntosh (R-IN), Clint Bolick, Ralph Reed, and Grover Norquist). We talked with her last week about two of her gang, Ralph Reed and Grover Norquist, and their friend Jack Abramoff, who didn't make the cut.

TPMm: I wanted to start out talking about the work you did on the book. But most of all we at TPMmuckraker concentrate on Jack Abramoff, Grover Norquist and Ralph Reed. So I'd like to first ask you why you decided to pick the five you did for the book, and why Abramoff didn't make the cut.

NE: I chose the five for very specific reasons. The first was I wanted each of them to represent a different piece of the movement, so I chose Ralph Reed, for example, to represent the religious right, Grover Norquist as a tax activist, Bill Kristol as the neoconservative Straussian. Each one of them represents a different piece of the movement, and then they also had to be institution builders.

And this is why Jack Abramoff at the time, when I started the book in '96, he wasn't - he was a lobbyist, he wasn't a big movement-conservative-player at the time. So I chose movement-conservative-players who were institution builders, who looked like they would be on the scene for a long time. Like I said, he was a lobbyist.

TPMM: Do you think in retrospect he was more of an institution builder than he seemed like he was?

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Following up on recent revelations, Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA) has written to Pres. Bush, asking for a full accounting on the White House's "systematic abuse of the national security classification process for political purposes."

Read the letter here.

I've written more about sex predators in the last 24 hours than I ever wanted to in a lifetime. And really, the story of Homeland Security spokesman Brian Doyle's arrest two nights ago seems more like a personal tragedy than a political problem. But there's an unexamined angle to it that bears a closer take.

Rep. Peter King (R-NY) mentioned it when he announced that his Homeland Security committee would hold a hearing on hiring and security checks at DHS, prompted by Doyle's arrest: the issue isn't just that pedophiles shouldn't work in government because they're pathological and creepy. They are an inherent risk to the vast apparatus of classification and secrecy that is supposed to protect our national security.

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He just gets classier and classier.

Yesterday, Rep. Curt Weldon (R-PA) suggested that his opponent, Joe Sestak, was wrong to keep his daughter in a Washington, D.C. hospital during her cancer treatment - he should have brought her to a hospital in Pennsylvania, he said.

After a firestorm of criticism, Weldon's campaign chairman, Michael V. Puppio Jr., offered an explanation today... Joe Sestak tricked Weldon into talking about it:

But Puppio insisted that Weldon did not intend to make an issue of where Alexandra Sestak was treated.

"Any discussion of Mr. Sestak's daughter was initiated by the Sestak campaign," Puppio said.

Read the article - see how Weldon was so craftily and despicably lured in to seeming like a jerk.

Over at TPM, Josh asks whether President Bush's declassification of the Iraq National Intelligence Estimate was a one-off, a whim, rather than an official declassification.

Patrick Fitzgerald's characterization of Scooter Libby's testimony makes clear that this declassification was an inside deal that only Bush, V.P. Cheney, and Libby knew about:

According to defendant [Libby], at the time of his conversations with [Judith] Miller and [Matthew] Cooper, he understood that only three people - the President, the Vice President and defendant - knew that the key judgments of the [National Intelligence Estimate] had been declassified. Defendant testified in the grand jury that he understood that even in the days following his conversation with Ms. Miller, other key officials - including Cabinet level officials - were not made aware of the earlier declassification even as those officials were pressed to carry out a declassification of the NIE, the report about Wilson's trip and another classified document dated January 24, 2003.