TPM News

The Bush Administration's chief of counterterrorism operations at the State Department is out the door, The Washington Post reported this morning. In the mold of the sudden resignation, he says he's leaving for "family reasons." But a recent news piece noted that he'd had trouble getting the ear of the administration.

Henry A. "Hank" Crumpton was a career CIA agent who led the CIA's campaign in Afghanistan after 9/11. He only came out of hiding last summer to take the helm at the State Department. By all accounts widely regarded, he, along with his deputy, have tried to push the Bush Administration toward a more expansive approach to the "War on Terror" - as documented extensively by George Packer in the current issue of The New Yorker. Packer, in his adulatory piece, profiles Crumpton's deputy David Kilcullen, a former captain in the Australian Army who's become Crumpton's chief strategist:

"You don't play to the enemy's global information strategy of making it all one fight," Kilcullen said. He pointedly avoided describing this as the Administration's approach [i.e. The War on Terror]. "You say, 'Actually, there are sixty different groups in sixty different countries who all have different objectives. Let's not talk about bin Laden's objectives-let's talk about your objectives. How do we solve that problem?' " In other words, the global ambitions of the enemy don't automatically demand a monolithic response.

Kilcullen's (and Crumpton's) "ideas have yet to penetrate the fortress that is the Bush White House," Packer notes.

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The Associated Press reporting:

WASHINGTON (AP) — Vice President Dick Cheney will be called as a defense witness in the CIA leak case, an attorney for Cheney's former chief of staff told a federal judge Tuesday.

"We're calling the vice president," attorney Ted Wells said in court. Wells represents defendant I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, who is charged with perjury and obstruction.

The trial is scheduled to begin next month. If he testifies, Cheney would be the first sitting vice president to do so.

Just another day in Iraq:

A once-prominent Iraqi American, jailed on corruption charges, was sprung from a Green Zone prison this weekend by U.S. security contractors he had hired, several Iraqi officials said.

Ayham Sameraei, a Chicago-area businessman, returned to Iraq after the 2003 U.S.-led invasion and assumed the position of electricity minister during the interim government of former Prime Minister Iyad Allawi....

There have been no suggestions that American officials had a role in Sameraei's escape Sunday afternoon. But the B-movie scenario of a rich businessman hiring armed muscle to bust himself out of jail from inside the fortress-like, U.S.-protected enclave could further contribute to Iraq's image of instability and lawlessness. The flamboyant former government minister's arrest and prosecution were held up by Iraqi and U.S. officials as a rare example of good government prevailing in the new Iraq....

According to Iraqi anticorruption officials, several sport utility vehicles arrived Sunday at Sameraei's Green Zone jailhouse. About 10 heavily armed men identified as Americans entered the single-story police station, which is usually guarded by three to five police officers.

Over at his new blog, ex-CNNer Eason Jordan raps the Pentagon for refusing to heed experts' advice and reform its reporting of violence in Iraq.

As the Iraq Study Group noted in its recent report, the Pentagon does not include incidents of sectarian violence in its reports. As the country falls into civil chaos, attacks by Iraqis against other non-military, non-official Iraqis are probably the fastest-growing type of violence in the country.

Yet in the Pentagon's newest report on the state of Iraq, that violence does not exist.

"Thus, the total number of attacks in Iraq remains much higher than is reflected in the U.S. military's qualified tally," Jordan finds.

Sen. Robert Menendez (D-NJ) joins the ranks of lawmakers spending campaign money on a criminal defense lawyer ($31,528).

Read our take on the investigation here.

It was only one battle among many between the government and civil liberties advocates. But in this round, at least, the ACLU won the day and even made the Justice Department look a little silly.

Yesterday, the Justice Department abruptly gave up its battle for a classified document, which they'd sought to confiscate from the ACLU through the unusual means of a criminal subpoena (which is usually used to obtain evidence, not confiscate all traces of it). Why'd they give up? Well, it appears they were going to lose anyway... and lose badly.

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Water is hardly a topic that holds one's attention for long, until you don't have any.

As it happens, Iraq is short on drinkable water. Although you might not pick up on that fact by reading the paltry two sentences on the topic in the Defense Department's new report on the country, "Measuring Stability and Security in Iraq."

"New projects have added capacity to provide access to potable water to approximately 5.2 million Iraqis—an increase of 1 million people since the August 2006 report," the document reports in a somewhat boosterish tone, giving no benchmark to compare those numbers to. The report acknowledges that "direct measurement of water actually delivered to Iraqis is not available."

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Abramoff to Represent Himself In New Lawsuits "After paying for a high-priced criminal defense by Chadbourne & Parke's Abbe Lowell in the government's corruption probe, former uber-lobbyist-turned-jailbird Jack Abramoff is taking a different approach in two lawsuits filed against him by Indian tribes.

"This time around, Abramoff is representing himself against former client Louisiana Coushatta Tribe and the Alabama-Coushatta Tribe of Texas.

"So far, Abramoff has piggybacked on motions filed by lawyers for former Christian Coalition head Ralph Reed and former Abramoff associate Michael Scanlon in the Texas case. Lowell did not return calls.

"Abramoff may be using the law library from the minimum-security federal prison in Cumberland, Md., where he is serving almost six years for a fraud conviction separate from the corruption probe." (Legal Times)

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When is a secret not a secret?

Last week, the Bush administration was prepared to break new legal ground in its quest to stifle the contents of a "secret" classified document. This week, it decided the document isn't so secret after all.

The Justice Department issued a subpoena to the ACLU last week for a classified document that had been leaked to the group. The subpoena, part of a broader investigation (into what, they wouldn't say), asked for "any and all copies" of the document. The ACLU kicked up a fuss, seeing the move as a new and creative way for the government to keep information under wraps (see below). As the New York Times noted, a subpoena "is typically a way to gather evidence, rather than to confiscate all traces of it."

Apparently the item wasn't so dangerous after all. The Justice Department abruptly notified the ACLU today that the document was no longer classified -- as of Friday.

So what was all the fuss about? An ACLU press release describes the newly-public document:

The document at issue, which the government has now said is declassified as of last Friday, is a December 2005 memorandum, marked "Secret," with the subject line: "The Permissibility of Photographing Enemy Prisoners of War and Detainees." The memorandum concludes that the news media and members of the Public Affairs Office are allowed to photograph detainees "so long as the photography is done in such a manner that cannot be interpreted as holding the EPWs and detainees up to public curiosity." U.S. soldiers, the memorandum says, are prohibited from photographing detainees and EPWs except as part of their official duties.

[ACLU Executive Director Anthony Romero] noted that the memorandum was issued more than a year after the infamous Abu Ghraib photos came to light. The documents, he said, "raise the question of whether the guidelines were in place prior to the Abu Ghraib scandal and if not, why it took more than a year after the scandal to issue a policy."

Why was this document ever classified? As Romero said last week, "It simply had nothing to do with national security. If anything, it might be mildly embarrassing to the government."

The promised Pentagon report on Iraq was released today. You can find it here. Surprise: I can't find the specific numbers in here that corresponded with the GAO's request.

However, the report notes that the months of September and October were the most violent so far:

"Attack levels—both overall and in all specific measurable categories—were the highest on record during this reporting period, due in part to what has become an annual cycle of increased violence during the Islamic holy month of Ramadan. . . .

"Country-wide, the average number of weekly attacks increased 22% from the previous reporting period (May 20, 2006 to August 11, 2006) to the current reporting period (August 12, 2006 through November 10, 2006). Attacks decreased slightly in August, but rebounded quickly and were the highest on record in September and October."