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

Newsweek's Mark Hosenball has an interesting and important new article noting that the Pentagon is considering the merger of two security offices, raising fears that they are creating a "military secret police" with too much information and too much power.

But there's more to the story.

Hosenball reports that one of the outfits is CIFA -- Counterintelligence Field Activity -- which has gotten into hot water for spying on Americans engaged in political protests, among other things. MZM held numerous contracts with that operation, thanks to the earmarking efforts of Rep. Randy "Duke" Cunningham, who took $1.4 million in bribes from MZM's founder, admitted felon Mitchell Wade.

The other outfit is the Defense Security Service, which handles security clearances and sensitive personal information for 4.5 million defense and intelligence workers.

According to Newsweek, DSS has turned down several inappropriate requests from CIFA for sensitive information on individuals.

What Newsweek doesn't mention is that MZM had employees working at DSS as well as CIFA. In fact, the company continues to provide employees to DSS under its new name, Athena Innovative Solutions, according to news accounts and former employees.

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House Democrat Injured by Flying Hammer!

There are a number of different versions of that headline running all over - the AP goes with "Rep. Kennedy Hit in the Mouth by Hammer."

I'm not sure if it says more about me or Tom DeLay that I thought this referred to DeLay throwing a flying punch at Kennedy. But it seems it was just a plain ol' hammer.

In court filings last night, lawyers for former Cheney chief of staff Lewis "Scooter" Libby said that Libby contends neither President Bush nor Vice President Cheney authorized him to leak the identity of undercover CIA operative Valerie Plame.

They also complained that prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald was withholding documents they deserved to see.

What, they expect him to turn on a dime? (rim shot)

You can read the docs here. For blogosphere musings, check out TalkLeft (Cheney, Joe Wilson called as witnesses?), Anonymous Liberal (Libby thinks Bush never intended to fire leaker?), firedoglake.

Oh, irony of ironies.

Judge Reggie Walton, who's overseeing the Scooter Libby investigation, has warned the lawyers in the case that he might issue an order to stop them from leaking information to the press, adding that he will not "tolerate this case being tried in the media."

"Despite the Court's prior admonition," Judge Walton writes, "it appears that on several occasions information has been disseminated to the press by counsel, which has included not only public statements, but also the dissemination of material that had not been filed on the public docket."

Both sides have until April 21st to explain their role in the leaks.

You can read his order here.

Here's more grist for the prosecutors' mill, courtesy of the LA Times.

From his private lobby shop, Ed Buckham -- longtime confidante and aide to former House majority leader Tom DeLay (R-TX) -- used his Hill connections to win an earmark that benefited a company he partially owned.

DeLay isn't implicated in this scam, but his pal Dave Weldon (R-FL) is -- he's said to have inserted the earmark into a funding bill. A press release from his office cited by the Times appears to confirm that.

Another name crops up: Sen. Conrad Burns (R-MT). He's said to have pushed for a separate, $20-million deal that would have benefited Buckham's company. As Burns tries to disentangle himself from the Abramoff scandal, this is one more knot he doesn't need.

Buckham was tight with Abramoff -- he ran his sham charity, U.S. Family Network, which laundered money from Abramoff clients. Ed's expected to follow the lead of his chums Tony Rudy and Mike Scanlon and plea out at some point, although the lines are quiet about when that might happen.

Yesterday, I wondered why Rep. Charles Taylor (R-N.C.) wasn't feeling the heat for his shilling for Jack Abramoff.

Well, it looks like his primary and Democratic opponents have started to bring it.

Taylor is in for a very close race this fall... another Abramoff political casualty in the making?

In an effort to reform the U.S. intelligence community and avoid dangerous and embarrassing mistakes, Congress and the White House in 2004 created the Director of National Intelligence.

With the Bush administration facing another embarrassing intelligence scandal -- this time, it appears to have knowingly repeated false claims to the American people about Iraqi trailers -- it's a good reason to check in with the current DNI, John Negroponte, and see if he's making any improvements.

The short answer, USA Today tells us this morning, is no. The DNI's office "is not adding any value," the paper quotes House intelligence chair Pete Hoekstra (R-MI). "They're lengthening the time to make things happen."

Negroponte disputes that, of course. But others say he's already figured out the truth: his job is basically impossible. According to Congressional Quarterly, he's known to spend as long as three hours every workday at the University Club, an elite D.C. hangout, where he swims, gets massages, smokes cigars and reads the papers.

Now, it's hard to feel sorry for anybody who gets to spend so much time in the swank confines of the University Club. But with these latest revelations about the alleged WMD trailers, you gotta feel some sympathy for the guy: how can he reform an intelligence community when the guy above him -- the President of the United States -- keeps using it as a political tool?

DeLay's Third Act?

Josh Bolten, who's just been tapped to replace Andy Card as White House Chief of Staff, reportedly wants an outsider to replace him at the Office of Management and Budget. The necessary qualification? Well, you might say he needs an expert at moving money around. Let's see...

Sources said that he is considering former and current House members for the post. One associate even suggested that retiring Rep. Tom DeLay was being considered, though the most likely pick would be from a conservative budget association.

No word on whether DeLay would be allowed to fulfill his duties while sitting at the defense table during his trial in Texas.

(U.S. News)

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Yesterday, Ken Mehlman said that none of those 100-plus calls by phone-jamming conspirators to the White House Office of Political Affairs "involved discussion of the phone-jamming incident."

But, as Josh pointed out, James Tobin worked both for the Republican National Committee and National Republican Senatorial Committee at the time. Surely Mehlman, who's Chairman of the RNC, would be in a position to vouch for the similar innocence of his employees there. We wonder in particular about Terry Nelson, who made the government's witness list.

So I called the RNC, left a message, called and emailed the NRSC's press secretary, and called Terry Nelson's consulting firm, left a message. Radio silence all around. Chris Lacivita, who worked for the NRSC in 2002 and also made the government's witness list, is a hard man to track down. A call to DCI Group, where he is supposed to work, only elicited a promise that they'd look for his contact info - the woman who answered the phone wouldn't even admit that Lacivita actually worked there.

So it looks like we'll just have to keep asking.

Washington, D.C.-based watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington -- ah, the Quixotes among us -- are tilting at the House Ethics Committee again.

This time it's to goad the panel into investigating Rep. William Jefferson (D-LA), who appears to have engaged in legal and ethical violations large and small.

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