blogging around friday edition
I'm busy today with several things, and I'll be joining Musashi at GenCon later, so here's a brief rundown on some noticable items that caught my eye today and throughout the past week.
From the Washington Post: White House, CIA Kept Key Portions of Report Classified
President Bush was warned in a more specific way than previously known about intelligence suggesting that al Qaeda terrorists were seeking to attack the United States, a report on the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks indicated yesterday. Separately, the report cited one CIA memo that concluded there was "incontrovertible evidence" that Saudi individuals provided financial assistance to al Qaeda operatives in the United States.
These revelations are not the subject of the congressional report's narratives or findings, but are among the nuggets embedded in a story focused largely on the mid-level workings of the CIA, FBI and U.S. military.
Two intriguing -- and politically volatile -- questions surrounding the Sept. 11 plot have been how personally engaged Bush and his predecessor were in counterterrorism before the attacks, and what role some Saudi officials may have played in sustaining the 19 terrorists who commandeered four airplanes and flew three of them into the World Trade Center and Pentagon.
To varying degrees, the answers remain a mystery, despite an unprecedented seven-month effort by a joint House and Senate panel to fully understand how a group of Arab terrorists could have pulled off such a scheme. The CIA refused to permit publication of information potentially implicating Saudi officials on national security grounds, arguing that disclosure could upset relations with a key U.S. ally. Lawmakers complained it was merely to avoid embarrassment.
The White House, meanwhile, resisted efforts to pin down Bush's knowledge of al Qaeda threats and to catalogue the executive's pre-Sept. 11 strategy to fight terrorists. It was justified largely on legal grounds, but Democrats said the secrecy was meant to protect Bush from criticism.
Given the Administration's penchant for parsing its words into "technically true" but misleading statements, it's time to look at Administration claims that they had no specific warning -- that they didn't know the time or the place the 9/11 hijackers would strike (which is hardly an excuse, of course, but rather an admission of incompetence).
Speaking of which, in yet another revelation of intelligence that contradicted the Administration's case for war, Walter Pincus writes in the WaPo that the CIA estimated Saddam would pose a threat to the US only if the US launched an attack to oust him.
[D]eclassified portions of a still-secret National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) released Friday by the White House show that at the time of the president's speech the U.S. intelligence community judged that possibility to be unlikely. In fact, the NIE, which began circulating Oct. 2, shows the intelligence services were much more worried that Hussein might give weapons to al Qaeda terrorists if he were facing death or capture and his government was collapsing after a military attack by the United States.
"Saddam, if sufficiently desperate, might decide that only an organization such as al Qaeda, . . . already engaged in a life-or-death struggle against the United States, could perpetrate the type of terrorist attack that he would hope to conduct," one key judgment of the estimate said.
It went on to say that Hussein might decide to take the "extreme step" of assisting al Qaeda in a terrorist attack against the United States if it "would be his last chance to exact vengeance by taking a large number of victims with him."
The declassified sections of the NIE were offered by the White House to rebut allegations that the administration had twisted prewar intelligence on Iraq's nuclear weapons program. The result, however, could be to raise more questions about whether the administration misrepresented the judgments of the intelligence services on another basis for going to war: the threat posed by Hussein as a source of weapons for terrorists.
The NIE's findings also raise concerns about the dangers posed by Hussein, who is believed to be in hiding, and the failure to find any of his alleged stocks of chemical and biological weapons. If such stocks exist, a hotly debated proposition, this is precisely the kind of dangerous situation the CIA and other intelligence services warned about last fall, administration officials said.
Remember the 2002 Congressional elections, when Bush's political opponents were tarred as just itching to give Saddam biological weapons to provide to terrorists? Well, the Republican Senate just rejected a Democratic proposal to boost Homeland Security funding, in particular to "first responders." One wonders if the fact that major cities like New York and LA -- presumably prime terrorist targets -- are in "blue" states had anything to do with the decision. The GOP place partisan politics over the nation's security? Perish forbid!
Editor and Publisher reminds us that in general, media reports low-ball the number of US casualties in Iraq, especially since Bush's strutting "Mission Accomplished" speech, by only relaying reports of deaths in combat, and not accidents, suicides, or deaths of questionable cause. Reader responses indicated they wanted to know the full extent of casualties.
The Likely Story carries White House press flack Scott McClellan's lame response to accusations that two senior White House officials blew a CIA agent's cover as part of a political vendetta.
As I said yesterday, the fact that he doesn't seem interested in knowing just what happened is telling indeed. Needlenose pegs it with the perfect metaphor.
Via CalPundit, here's Jane Galt's excellent defense of the national telemarketing no-call list from the libertarian perspective. Personally, I don't see any need to defend it; the list is a Good Thing, and if you have to perform intricate mental gymnastics to reconcile a practical good in the real world with your philosophy, then maybe it's your philosophy that needs an overhaul, not the world. 'Nuff said.
CalPundit is also following the unfolding missing WMD and Valerie Plame scandals.
Daily Kos fact-checks Dick Cheney. Josh Marshall says that "in this administration, all roads lead to Cheney," and notes that Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz's recent admission that Administration plans for postwar Iraq were, ah, overly optimistic doesn't come close to covering it.
Talking Points Memo also catches Condi Rice in a lie. (Admit it, you aren't that surprised.)
Huster S. Thompson weighs in on the Administration's troubles (via The Sideshow).
Update: Although trying not to "to morph into a political blog," Byzantium's Shores has a thoughtful and well-reasoned post on why it was not okay for the Administration to sell some bogus WMD rationale because the public would never have bought the real reason (Aziz Poonawalla rightly points out, "People who argued along similar lines during the Clinton era were called 'apologists.'"). I have absolutely nothing to add to what Jaquandor said; go read it.
I also forgot to mention CalPundit's enlightening post on malrpactice tort reform: When people testifying before the Florida legislature on the high costs of frivolous lawsuits were brought back to speak under oath, all of a sudden their stories changed dramatically.
"The president of the state's largest malpractice-insurance company said no, insurers didn't need a cap on jury awards to be profitable. A state regulator said no, there hasn't been an explosion of frivolous lawsuits."