Smoking Gun scoop: the FBI stoolie who ignited baseball's steroid scandal

Harkavy before steroids Pictured above: Nobody who's in the story below. By the way, kids, don't try this at home without your parents' help.

In news fresh off the server that should set the Hot Stove League blazing, The Smoking Gun unravels the tale of one Mike Bogdan, allegedly the previously unnamed FBI informant who helped spark baseball's steroid scandal.

TSG's subhed for its "Major League Snitch" piece tells it all: "Unmasked: How a white-collar Baltimore swindler turned secret FBI informant and ignited a Major League Baseball steroid scandal."

The lengthy account reveals that newly named Middle East negotiator George Mitchell's 2007 probe of steroids got a fresh jolt when Bogdan was injected into the proceedings:

Mitchell's probe was shaping up as a colossal bust until Bogdan delivered [Kirk] Radomski (and by extension [Brian McNamee) to federal investigators, who required the duo to cooperate with Mitchell.


Blagojevich names Foghorn Leghorn to Obama's Senate seat

Comparing the coverage by the Times and Wall Street Journal.


Click above for a roundup of the best Blago jokes.

Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich will name former Illinois AG Roland Burris to fill Barack Obama's Senate seat.

Read the mid-afternoon versions of that breaking story in the New York Times and Wall Street Journal, and it's no contest.

The news is that Blago is naming some Foghorn Leghorn guy to the Senate. You gotta hand it to Gov.-not-for-long Blagojevich; he's cleverly playing the race card by replacing a black senator with another black senator. That should blunt some critics. Maybe.

The race angle is for another story. What's relevant here is the WSJ's third graf:

The choice is likely to face intense scrutiny because the governor faces federal corruption charges. The governor appears to be thumbing his nose at critics who have said the process allowing him to choose Mr. Obama's replacement should be circumvented.

Compare that with the New York Times's second graf:

Mr. Blagojevich, who faces federal corruption charges including allegations that he tried to sell Mr. Obama's former senate seat for a high-paying job or money, had not been expected to try to fill the seat. As recently as ten days ago, his lawyer, Edward Genson, said he would not attempt to make an appointment, since Senate leaders had indicated they would not accept anyone whom the beleaguered Mr. Blagojevich had appointed.

The snooty Times thumbs its nose at phrases like "thumbing his nose." The Journal consistently beats the Times at analyzing the facts and giving us the gist in colloquial — or at least lively — English that pols and other crooks use when privately figuring out ways to screw the public.

The WSJ is the best daily in the city, obviously for business news, but also for political news. That's because you don't have to read very far into its stories to get the real skinny. After all, its audience is largely those people who skirt the line between being crooks or just barely legal (according to their own lawyers) sharks.

But even if you're not a shark or otherwise scheming just to make money from money, the Journal's still a great read. Sound, detailed, lucid reporting, with plenty of human-interest angles and vivid descriptions, even of callow business people. The paper's a cheap subscription and has a well-tuned website. Besides, it offers a good way for Americans who can't afford million-dollar apartments to try to understand the nefarious activities of those who can.

Considering that the country is falling into a major depression, you commoners (who, after all, will feel the brunt of it) would be better off reading the Journal than the Times. At least you'll get a more accurate and readable measurement of how far you'll fall.

Both papers, incidentally, are likely to still be publishing a year from now. The same can't be said of other papers.

Daily Flog: Games -- Nuclear, Political, and/or Olympic

(Roy Edroso of Runnin' Scared here. Even gadflies have to rest their wings sometimes, so Ward Harkavy is on vacation and I'm filling in as best I can for a few days. )

New York Times: "In Nuclear Net’s Undoing, a Web of Shadowy Deals"

Switzerland has destroyed evidence pertaining to a "family of Swiss engineers suspected of helping smuggle nuclear technology to Libya and Iran." But our Government isn't upset about it -- it's pleased, because the CIA had been secretly working with the same family to feed damaged nuclear provender to the same countries. While the Democrats have been pushing for worldwide nuclear inspection and controls for years, Republicans seems to prefer handling things with cloak-and-dagger operations. Your call as to which approach is less likely to get us blown up.


Washington Post: " Experience Is Double-Edged Sword for The Ticket"

The Republicans think Joe Biden is a liability to the Democratic ticket. The VP candidate-designate and Obama have disagreed on some issues, particularly the war in Iraq, so the McCain campaign expects "a debate between Joe Biden and Barack Obama about whether Barack Obama has the judgment and experience to lead." Biden cannot be expected to agree, and we recall another Vice-Presidential candidate who called his future boss a practitioner of "voodoo economics," but hey, it got Republican spin on the front page of the WashPost. Not that that's hard.


Los Angeles Times: "Beijing's Olympic Triumph"

The 2008 Olympics "were a triumph for a people and a government determined to show their skill and confidence, as both athletes and organizers, to a world that once treated China as a weak, servile nation." And nothing spoiled the party: the protest pens were quiet, since the Chinese Government failed to license any protests for them, and anyone who tried to mount an unlicensed demo was swiftly arrested. Now some Chinese hope, per the Toronto Globe and Mail, that their country can "solve its economic and social problems, especially inflation, the slumping stock market and the environment." If they do, it won't be because citizens of the People's Republic, or of anywhere else, have anything to say about. Nor would we expect it to. And that's China's real triumph.

Daily Flog: Edwards, faux Rockefeller both screwed; Olympic preening; a gated NYC; Bush's pardons list; defense of high gas prices

Running down the press:

Post: 'ROCKE-FAUX-LER WED JUST TO GET GREEN CARD'

We've entered the rococo phase of headline-writing about Clark Rockefeller. More importantly, this guy is really in Deutsch now. Waste your time on the Post story if you want, but for details of the creepy murder case that may involve this weak-chinned schnook, go back to yesterday afternoon's Post or to this morning's mundane AP story: "LA authorities: 'Rockefeller' is wanted German."

Better still, see this morning's BBC story, "Child-snatch suspect is 'wanted.' "


Daily News: 'Enquire-ing minds want to know who fed Edwards tips'

Along with "Who's the daddy?" one big unanswered question in the John Edwards affair is: Who ratted him out to the National Enquirer?

Rielle Hunter's younger sister, Melissa, could not be reached Monday, but she earlier told ABC News that Hunter is "a good and honest person" who had nothing to do with tipping reporters to her secret Beverly Hills rendezvous with Edwards.

A non-story about a semi-non-story. Let yourself go, if you want. It's slightly less unhealthy than a pint of Ben & Jerry's.


Daily News: 'Fiends armed with badge of shame'

Good story from cops reporter Alison Gendar:

It's the dis-honor roll.

Accused murderer Darryl Littlejohn. Gunpoint robber Israel Suarez. Molester Darryl Rich.

Those are just some of the criminals who graduated from a bounty hunter school accused of aiding and abetting felons by putting fake NYPD and federal badges in their hands.

Students of U.S. Recovery Bureau schools paid $860 to learn how to wield a baton and subdue "fugitives" with pepper spray and cuffs.


Los Angeles Times: 'Michael Phelps' victory dance is innate, scientists say'

The best Olympics piece so far:

Chimps do it. Gorillas do it. Michael Phelps does it too."Chimps do it. Gorillas do it. Michael Phelps does it too.

The exuberant dance of victory -- arms thrust toward the sky and chest puffed out at a defeated opponent -- turns out to be an instinctive trait of all primates -- humans included, according to research released Monday. . . .

This display of human pride and exuberance -- witnessed by millions when swimmer Phelps and teammates won the men's 400-meter freestyle relay for the U.S. on Sunday -- closely resembles the dominance displays of chimps and monkeys, which also feature outstretched arms and exaggerated postures, researchers said.

The animal world is filled with inflated displays of superiority, noted Daniel M.T. Fessler, a UCLA anthropologist not involved in the research.


Newsday: 'A reminder of New York's GOP convention 4 years ago'

Weak headline, good story that actually applies historical context to a current event. More of a reminder than a scoop. Apparently unafraid to piss off those big bad NYPD officials, Rocco Parascandola plucks this one back from the memory hole:

The now infamous video footage that recently captured an NYPD rookie cop shoulder-checking a bicyclist to the ground during a Critical Mass bike rally recalls the prominence played by video footage at the Republican National Convention four years ago.

Largely because of videos that surfaced that sometimes differed with police accounts during those protests, the police department has paid out more than $1.6 million in damages won by those who sued the city.

At that rate, with 576 more suits pending, it could pay out $12 million more.

It's been four summers since the convention, four summers since Police Commissioner Ray Kelly called it the NYPD's "finest hour." Most of the 1,806 people arrested probably would disagree, and 1,555 of them have had their cases dismissed or adjourned to be dismissed later as long as they stayed out of trouble.


Times: 'Police Want Tight Security Zone at Ground Zero'

Via Charles V. Bagli's story:

Planners seeking to rebuild the World Trade Center have always envisioned that the 16-acre site would have a vibrant streetscape with distinctive buildings, shops and cultural institutions lining a newly restored street grid. From the destruction of Sept. 11, 2001, a new neighborhood teeming with life would be born.

But now, the Police Department's latest security proposal entails heavy restrictions.

According to a 36-page presentation given by top-ranking police officials in recent months, the entire area would be placed within a security zone, in which only specially screened taxis, limousines and cars would be allowed through "sally ports,” or barriers staffed by police officers, constructed at each of five entry points.

Disheartening, but is anybody really surprised by this?

Even if there had never been a 9/11, Mayor Mike Bloomberg, who purchased the mayoral job, would support making this gloriously disordered city a gated community. And the NYPD, the most massive and powerful police bureaucracy in the country, loves the idea of hiring more troops for these security zones.

Everybody's happy.

By the way, Bloomberg adds, put out that cigarette.


New Yorker: 'Changing Lanes'

Elizabeth Kolbert's piece blasts McCain for swerving away from integrity. That's not such a big deal for any candidate, but her story's intriguing because it defends high gas prices. An excerpt:

If the hard truth is that the federal government can't do much to lower gas prices, the really hard truth is that it shouldn't try to. With just five per cent of the world's population, America accounts for twenty-five per cent of its oil use. This disproportionate consumption is one of the main reasons that the United States—until this year, when China overtook it—was the world's largest emitter of greenhouse gases. (Every barrel of oil burned adds roughly a thousand pounds of carbon dioxide to the atmosphere.) No matter how many warnings about the consequences were issued—by NASA, by the United Nations, by Al Gore, by the Pope—Americans seemed unfazed. Even as the Arctic ice cap visibly melted away, they bought bigger and bigger cars and drove them more and more miles.

The impact of rising fuel prices, by contrast, has been swift and appreciable. According to the latest figures from the Federal Highway Administration, during the first five months of this year Americans drove thirty billion fewer miles than they did during the same period last year. This marks the first time in a generation that vehicle miles in this country have edged downward.


Slate: 'The Afterlife for Scientologists: What will happen to Isaac Hayes' legendary soul?'

Nina Shen Rastogi's "Explainer" confirms that, according to Scientology officials, Chef's soul will be "born again into the flesh of another body."

Dibs!


NY Observer: 'What's Doctoroff Saying to City? It's a Secret'

Nice dig by Eliot Brown on his attempted dig for info:

Ever since he left the city for Bloomberg LP in January, there's a fair bit of chatter among government and real estate types about former Deputy Mayor Dan Doctoroff's continued role in the Bloomberg administration — just how much does he say to current city officials, and what is he saying?

The answer to those questions, it turns out, is not public information.


NY Observer: 'Rangel on Immigration, Bad Guys'

Azi Paybarah points out a Charlie Rangel video performance in which the vet congressman does some shrewd truth-telling:

Rangel references the law enforcement agents and officials who arrest undocumented workers, saying that those sheriffs and mayors are "bad guys" who work in "little towns around the country."

"All they want to do is arrest somebody and get on TV,” Rangel said, adding that the local economies rely heavily on the immigrants.

"They're working against their interests," he said. "It's almost like a slaveholder saying, 'Get rid of the slave, but we want them to work.”


Times: 'Cost-Cutting in New York and London, a Boom in India'

Heather Timmons's story notes:

Wall Street's losses are fast becoming India's gain. After outsourcing much of their back-office work to India, banks are now exporting data-intensive jobs from higher up the food chain to cities that cost less than New York, London and Hong Kong, either at their own offices or to third parties.

Yeah, it's a "food chain." Ridiculously overused metaphor, but interesting story for what it accidentally reveals about corporate jargon and, more importantly, what passes for "entry-level" jobs on Wall Street:

Bank executives call this shift "knowledge process outsourcing,” "off-shoring” or "high-value outsourcing.” . . .

The jobs most affected so far are those with grueling hours, traditionally done by fresh-faced business school graduates — research associates and junior bankers on deal-making teams — paid in the low to mid six figures.

Cost-cutting in New York and London has already been brutal thus far this year, and there is more to come in the next few months. New York City financial firms expect to hand out some $18 billion less in pay and benefits this year than 2007, the largest one-year drop ever. Over all, United States banks will cut 200,000 employees by 2009, the banking consultancy Celent said in April.

B-school grads stepping into six-figure jobs. You don't have to be a radical to note with grim humor the astounding inequity of wages on Wall Street for bullshit money-moving jobs vs. wages for the rest of us around the country who do more vital work (myself not included).

If Wall Street is smart (and recent events don't support that), it will start pouring more money into the McCain campaign, because there's no doubt that Barack Obama is less sympathetic to those six-figure B-school grads and more in tune with the rest of us.

Whether Obama would actually do anything about this inequity is another matter altogether, but there would be zero chance of such change under McCain.


Los Angeles Times: 'Kuwait royal family member sentenced to death'

The story about royal drug trafficker Talal Nasser al Sabah, now sentenced to death, notes:

Now everyone is watching to see whether the authorities will follow through on the ruling by the independent-minded judiciary or grant Talal the immunity considered a right by royal families throughout the gulf region.

"The people of Kuwait are impressed with the independence of the judiciary and trust, in general, its rulings," said Naser Sane, a Kuwaiti lawmaker. "In other Arab gulf nations, you don't see a court sentencing in this way a member of a ruling family."

In other words, if he's executed, it will be a step toward democracy. Only in the Middle East — and the U.S.

Actually, the best move for this guy would be to flee to the U.S. Yes, we have the death penalty, but George W. Bush could add him to his list of pardons for the end of his term.

You can be sure that this president, despite his having been the hangingest governor in U.S. history, will have an extremely interesting list of pardons. That list probably includes convicted spy-for-Israel Jonathan Pollard and a host of financiopathological miscreants.


Wall Street Journal: 'McCain Bristles Over Russia's "Aggression" '

Careful, old guy, don't get yourself aggravated. The Journal — worth the piddling online-subscription money for its superior news stories and analyses — recognizes that McCain's bluster, which it calls "an increasingly hard line against Russia over its military operations in Georgia," is a ploy to separate himself from Obama by focusing on foreign policy.

But it also points out that McCain has always been a hardliner:

Sen. McCain's comments were consistent with his long-held, stance against Russia, including his calls to have the country ejected from the G8, the Group of Seven leading nations plus Russia. The senator has taken a relatively hard line on many foreign policy issues, including supporting further sanctions on -- and possible military action against -- Iran and a no-negotiating policy toward North Korea.

Monday's tough rhetoric reflects a strategy by the McCain campaign to keep Georgia and foreign policy, which is seen as the senator's strength, at the forefront of the debate.

Shrewd strategy. This provides an out for white voters in thrall to the Mandingo Complex but unwilling to say it aloud: They can tell themselves that it's not a racial thing, that they really do prefer McCain because of his foreign-policy stances — ignoring his bellicose stance on the Iraq Debacle, with which they don't agree.

They can tell themselves that McCain has much more foreign policy experience, even though most of his experience was as a prisoner of war.

White voters can't say it's race — that would be impolite or it would be speaking ill of themselves. (For more on that, see what I pointed out yesterday: New York magazine's package on the color-coded campaign.)

Some of this internal thought process is conscious; some of it takes place in the subconscious. Whatever the case, this presidential race is about race. Bear with me while I remind you of this about a thousand more times before November.

Daily Flog 7/31/08: Shoot for the cops before they shoot you

Running down the papers:

Post: 'DRAG 'NET: NYPD WELCOMES CRIME WEB VIDEO'

Terrific hed, and so's the story:

Call it BlueTube.

Witnesses with video or photos of criminal activity will soon be able to upload their evidence directly to the police.

Police Commissioner Ray Kelly yesterday urged citizens to eliminate the middleman — and the Internet — and share their footage with New York's Finest.

"Within the next two months, people will be able to send video and text straight to 911 to increase flow of information," Kelly said.

His appeal would include any evidence of alleged police misconduct, like the embarrassing videos that surfaced in the past week.

Only problem is that you send video to the NYPD, the cops open a file on you.

This is a clever P.R. move by the cops because the footage is going to be shot anyway, and maybe those who shoot it will hand it over to the cops first and won't immediately run with it to the press or post it themselves, thus reducing the risk to the NYPD of uncontrolled bad publicity and giving Kelly time to craft the right response to incriminating videos.


Times: 'McCain Tries to Define Obama as Out of Touch'

A full-throttled effort by the McCain campaign to create a negative narrative about Barack Obama is being coordinated by veterans of President Bush's 2004 bid.

Call that "news"? It's effective propaganda by the McCain campaign, at very little cost. The McCain/Bush "veterans" now don't have to do this at all, because the Times has already embedded the phrase "negative narrative about Barack Obama" in voters' brains.


Post: 'BARACK THE BIMBO': MAC ATTACK AD PAINTS OBAMA WITH BLOND BRUSH

Carl Campanile and the paper's headline writers show the Times how it's done:

John McCain launched a cheeky attack ad yesterday, mocking Barack Obama as the world's "biggest celebrity" who is as qualified to be president as blond bimbos Britney Spears and Paris Hilton.

Sources tell me that the word "bimbo" is not in the New York Times style guide.


Times: 'A New Generation of Republicans in Alaska'

William Yardley's below-average piece, inexplicably promoted as a "top story":

For the first time in four decades, politics in Alaska is a brand-new game for both Republicans and Democrats because of the indictment of Senator Ted Stevens, the state’s longtime Republican patriarch.

So friggin' what? Ted Stevens's scandalous stuff with an oil industry exec is interesting. But does this "new generation of Republicans in Alaska" have any impact on whether Alaska's wilderness will be further plundered by the oil industry? Not a peep about that issue in this story.


Post: 'PLAYTIME FOR JULIUS "SEIZER" '

Straining on the toilet of non-news news, the Post dumps this hed on us, after two straight days of brilliance about the "Rockefooler." Clever but forced, and it's based on this lede, which admittedly is pretty damn good on a relatively insubstantial piece of news:

Clark Rockefeller was a faker in every way possible.

The man of mystery, who's being sought for plucking his young daughter off a Boston street and disappearing with her in New York, masqueraded in real life as a blueblood Rockefeller - but in his spare time, he dabbled in the fantasy world of acting.

Rockefeller donned armor to portray Mars, the Roman god of war, in a 2005 performance in the town of Cornish, NH. Sword in one hand, shield in the other, he stole the show in The Masque of the Golden Bull, during which he was surrounded by a bevy of beautiful actresses.

Fresh angle, but flimsy. Yeah, this guy's an ersatz Rockefeller. Nelson Rockefeller showed what it takes: Word after his 1979 death at age 70 was that he died in the saddle with a 26-year-old chickie, though that's never been absolutely proven.

Now that was a real superman. This phony guy on the lam is just a Clark Went.


Daily News: 'Depressed during holidays, Clark Rockefeller spoke of kidnapping'

The Daily News shows the Post how not to do it:

Eccentric millionaire Clark Rockefeller was so crushed when his ex-wife moved overseas with his beloved 7-year-old daughter that he told pals last Christmas, "I may have to kidnap her."

Here's a grin, though. Above the hed, there's this line:

Do you know Clark Rockefeller? Have you seen him? Email us.


Post: '$25M SUIT: HO-LOVIN' HUBBY GAVE ME STDS'

Dareh Gregorian's lede:

A Manhattan woman has filed a $25 million lawsuit against her allegedly hooker-loving husband, charging he gave her sexually transmitted diseases that ruined her life.

Such an eloquent oral report.


Times: 'Democrats Call for Contempt Charges Against Rove'

Grossly understated headline. It implies some sort of press conference. No, it was an actual, formal vote by a powerful House committee:

Democrats on both sides of the Capitol assailed the administration’s handling of the Justice Department yet again on Wednesday, and a House committee recommended contempt charges against Karl Rove, who was President Bush’s top political adviser.

The House Judiciary Committee voted along party lines, 20 to 14, to cite Mr. Rove for defying its subpoena to testify in an inquiry into improper political meddling in the department.

It doesn't matter that it was strictly along party lines. That's a big step for the ordinarily lily-livered top Demo leadership to move beyond press conference whining to an actual vote.

On the other hand, what's kept them? I've been holding Rove in contempt for several years, and so have many others.

'Times': '04 Convention Slips Down the Memory Hole

Jim Yardley's dispatch from Beijing this morning in the New York Times, "China Sets Zones for Olympics Protests," notes that China's authoritarian rulers are setting up roadblocks, via permit requirements and the like, for protesters at the Olympics.

Bureaucratic obstacles? Designated areas for protesters? Monitoring of dissidents? Sound familiar? Here's part of Yardley's story:

Liu Shaowu, director of security for Beijing’s Olympics organizing committee, said Ritan Park, Beijing World Park and Purple Bamboo Park would be designated for protesters during the Games and that the approval process would be regulated by Beijing’s public security bureau.

“The police will safeguard the right to demonstrate as long as protesters have obtained prior approval and are in accordance with the law,” Mr. Liu said during a news conference.

For China, these plans represent a drastic loosening of its reins. Still, Beijing's Finest are acting the way New York's Finest did in 2004, and Liu Shaowu sounds like Mayor Mike Bloomberg. Remember the 2004 GOP Convention? The Times doesn't.

Don't blame Yardley. His editors should have at least put in some reference to how similar Beijing's restrictions for 2008 are to New York's for 2004, when protesters at the GOP convention were herded like cattle, faced insurmountable bureaucratic obstacles, and weren't even allowed to gather in Central Park.

Just a sentence or two in this morning's story to remind readers of the restrictions in New York City during a similarly large, politically charged event. Is that too much to ask? Yes.

Durham Bull

Spare us the comparisons between John Durham — the newly named special prosecutor of Interrogate, the CIA tapes scandal — and Plamegate prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald.

The Washington Post succumbs to this typical piece of journalist b.s., noting this morning:

Several courtroom adversaries compared Durham, a Roman Catholic reared in the Northeast, to Patrick J. Fitzgerald, the staid U.S. attorney in Chicago who served as special prosecutor in the investigation of the leaked identity of a CIA officer. "He's Fitzgerald with a sense of humor," said Hugh O'Keefe, a Connecticut criminal defense lawyer who has known Durham for 20 years.

That's the easiest trick in political journalism: Get a quote from someone who shares the small, local stage with Durham — and who doesn't know whether Durham can handle the big stage — and run with it, instead of doing some serious checking to see whether Durham has any frame of reference in dealing with national and international crimes, criminals, and cases. The Post does at least add that caveat:

But Durham has had little experience with national security issues and with cases involving executive authority that appear to be less than black-and-white. His probe may require calling lawyers and aides to Bush, Vice President Cheney, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and the CIA before a grand jury to testify about their knowledge of the tapes' destruction.

Durham made his bones by prosecuting GOP Connecticut governor John Rowland for sleazy business dealings. Rowland wound up exiting Hartford and entering prison for a short bid.

Fitzgerald, on the other hand, had vast experience in national and international cases before he tried to hound Scooter Libby. He prosecuted the plotters of the 1993 World Trade Center bombing.

The new attorney general, Mike Mukasey, knows the difference. He presided over that WTC case. But as Bill Kunstler pointed out at the time (read my earlier item here), Mukasey should have recused himself (because he's a fundamentalist Jew) from presiding over the case, which, after all, was against fundamentalist Muslims.

Unfortunately, Durham comes with the recommendation of Kevin O'Connor. Who he? Again from the Post:

Two former prosecutors and a Justice Department official said that Durham, 57, was recommended for his assignment by his former boss, Kevin J. O'Connor, who was the U.S. attorney in Connecticut until he became an assistant to Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales shortly before Gonzales resigned last year. O'Connor is awaiting confirmation as an associate attorney general.

Durham is supposedly a guy who's tough on violent criminals. That really sets him apart from other prosecutors. Dealing with White House schmucks is another matter altogether. And this is a monumental chore that requires some nuanced pressuring of true heavyweight schnooks. As this morning's New York Times story says:

The announcement is the first indication that investigators have concluded on a preliminary basis that C.I.A. officers, possibly along with other government officials, may have committed criminal acts in their handling of the tapes, which recorded the interrogations in 2002 of two operatives with Al Qaeda and were destroyed in 2005.

C.I.A. officials have for years feared becoming entangled in a criminal investigation involving alleged improprieties in secret counterterrorism programs. Now, the investigation and a probable grand jury inquiry will scrutinize the actions of some of the highest-ranking current and former officials at the agency.

The tapes were never provided to the courts or to the Sept. 11 commission, which had requested all C.I.A. documents related to Qaeda prisoners. The question of whether to destroy the tapes was for nearly three years the subject of deliberations among lawyers at the highest levels of the Bush administration.

Don't expect much, and don't expect it soon.

Hope for a Nuclear War Dims

NIE report on Iran puts Cheney's quest for a pre-emptive strike on hold.

The Bush-Cheney regime's war drums have fallen silent — at least temporarily — in the wake of the U.S. intelligence analysts' new "estimate" that Iran's nuclear-bomb program really doesn't exist.

The problem is that the intelligence on which this conclusion is based also doesn't exist. This was a political decision by the CIA, not an intelligent analysis based on intelligence.

You won't find that analysis in the major U.S. newspapers. Nor will you find any mention of either Pakistan or Israel, both of which have nuclear weapons. That context is important, because Pakistan is dangerously unstable right now, and any attack on its neighbor Iran could destroy the global oil economy and destabilize the entire planet.

Too far-fetched? Not really. The World Economic Forum analysts' worst-case scenario for the Persian Gulf posits a pre-emptive attack on Iran in 2009, as I noted previously.

West of Tehran, Israeli pols are still pursuing a strike on Iran, and now, with this new NIE report, Israel could well be the Cheney regime's surrogate for such a strike.

Back to the National Intelligence Estimate itself: Even the left-leaning Haaretz recognizes that the report is somewhat ludicrous. Take a look at "Iran Laughing at U.S. Lack of Nuclear Intelligence," Amir Oren's analysis in the Israeli paper. Here's Oren's take this morning:

The noise that was heard last night in Tehran, according to credible reports, was a hearty Persian laugh after looking at the U.S. intelligence service's website. The unclassified document that Director of National Intelligence, Adm. Mike McConnell published, titled "Iran: Nuclear Intentions and Capabilities," as a laundered version that faithfully represents the greatest secrets collected by the CIA and the other U.S. intelligence services, can appropriately be called "much evaluation on no intelligence."

The document's eight pages, which include embarrassing instructions on how to differentiate between different yet related terms ("it is possible," "it may be so," "one must not remove from the equation," and "it's reasonable to assume"), enable the ayatollahs' nuclear and operations officials and the heads of the Revolutionary Guards to reach this soothing conclusion — from their point of view: The Americans have no understanding of what is really happening in Iran's nuclear program. They have no solid information, they have no high-level agents and they have nothing more than a mix of guesswork and chatter. The dissemblance and concealment have succeeded, and the real dispute is not between Washington and Tehran, but within the U.S. administration itself.

Burned by the White House (and CIA director George Tenet) in the run-up to the unjustified invasion of Iraq, U.S. intelligence analysts are covering their asses this time by admitting that they have no evidence that Iran is currently building bombs.

There's still hope for Dick Cheney and Sen. Joe Lieberman (D-Israel) and other war hawks pushing for a pre-emptive strike. As Oren says:

The CIA is so angry with Bush, it seems, that it is ready to go to great lengths in order to help another president. Not Ahmadinejad, God forbid, but the next president in Washington. The result is likely to be the opposite: Higher Iranian militancy along with Bush and Cheney's determination to act — regardless of what the intelligence agencies say.

If you doubt Cheney's determination, go back and read Seymour Hersh's January 2005 New Yorker article, "The Coming Wars."

Shake Your Bhutto, Rock Your World

bhutto-prick399.jpg

Bad news on the global terror front: Unstable Pakistan will become even more shaky when its former leader (and Musharraf's enemy) returns home this week.

As Benazir Bhutto prepares to return to Pakistan later this week from her Dubai exile and becomes a target of strongman prick Pervez Musharraf's assassins, we can only recall how tragic it was for the U.S. to pull back from that volatile region more than five years ago.

Back in 2002, the Bush-Cheney regime abandoned the full-fledged hunt for Osama bin Laden and duped Congress and the country into invading Iraq.

Pakistan was where it was at. Bin Laden was hiding there and in neighboring Afghanistan. As the Soviets found out, you can't fight rebels in Afghanistan without somehow, some way also fighting them as they scurry across the border into Pakistan, where they have even government support.

Officials of Pakistan's spy agency, the ISI — widely credited with co-opting the Taliban and, along with the Saudis and Reagan administration, arming them — were sympathetic to bin Laden as long as he didn't destabilize their own country.

Recall that Porter Goss and Bob Graham, chairs of the House and Senate Intelligence committees, were having breakfast on the morning of 9/11 with Mahmood Ahmed, the Pakistani ISI official who later turned out to be hijacker Mohammed Atta's bagman. It was also Ahmed who had sent $100,000 to Atta on orders from the guy who later kidnapped Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl. You can't make this shit up.

Yes, we left Pakistan in 2002. Big mistake.

We invaded Iraq. Bigger mistake.

We inflamed the Shia-Sunni schism in Iraq, widening everywhere else that ancient rift between Islam's main sects. Take Pakistan. Unlike in Iraq, the Sunnis are the majority. Please remember that most of the 9/11 hijackers were Saudis, and despotic monarchy Saudi Arabia is ruled by Sunni fanatics.

There has long been sectarian violence in Pakistan — see this October 2004 BBC backgrounder. Add to that the return to the country of Benazir Bhutto, whose daddy, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, was Pakistan's prime minister in the '70s before he was executed by the country's military. Later, Benazir Bhutto — nearly a dead ringer for Andrea Martin/Edith Prickley's version of another South Asia strongwoman, Indira Ghandi — became prime minister, and then she was driven from Pakistan amid corruption charges.

Pakistan was a bigger threat to world stability after 9-11 than Iraq was. Yes, Iraq was a bigger threat to Israel and always a danger to Kuwait, but Pakistan's instability was a much more dangerous threat to the U.S., no matter what the Bush regime's propagandists have drummed into our heads.

Now's the perfect time to recall that the hunt by Musharraf and the ISI for bin Laden was half-hearted at best. Our reaction has been to step up arm sales to Musharraf, as I noted in April 2005.

Don't be surprised if that well-armed Pakistan government sends more Lockheed fighter jets swooping down on Bhutto than it sent to look for bin Laden.

Blackwater's 'Drug War' Bonanza

$15 billion of your money up in smoke for under-fire mercenary company, other defense contractors.

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Good year for Blackwater: The mercenary army, under fire in Iraq, just landed a huge drug-war contract and claims to be building this "remotely piloted airship vehicle (RPAV)."

While Blackwater's mercenaries beg for mercy for killing a baby and 19 other people in Baghdad on Sunday, they're already working on another lucrative government contract on yet another foreign adventure: the "war on drugs."

In a major new outsourcing deal reported by only a few outlets, including the Army Times, Blackwater will divvy up a $15 billion pot of government gold, along with four huge defense contractors: Raytheon, Northrop Grumman, Lockheed Martin, and Arinc.

Blackwater claims to be building remote-control spy airships. Purty darn good for an army based in a little North Carolina town — no, it's Currituck, not Mayberry.

Arinc, a Maryland-based major supplier of airplane surveillance and passenger-counting equipment, is particularly stoked about the deal, which it announced on the sixth anniversary of 9/11:

ARINC already has a wealth of hands-on experience supporting just this type of program. We now expect to play a key role developing and fielding new solutions at the cutting edge of drug interdiction.

Hang on, Arinc, you're getting ahead of yourselves. Here's how GovExec.com's Katherine McIntire Peters describes this other privatized war, which apparently is necessary because, even with the privatized war in Iraq, we still don't have enough troops to conduct all these wars:

The contract, worth up to $15 billion over the next five years, illustrates the extent to which the Defense Department is relying on contractors to perform critical missions while combat forces are stretched thin by operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.

In response to specific task orders issued under the indefinite delivery indefinite quantity contract, companies will develop and deploy new surveillance technologies, train and equip foreign security forces and provide key administrative, logistical and operational support to Defense and other agencies such as the Drug Enforcement Administration.

According to the work statement provided to bidders, the vast majority of the drive will be conducted overseas.

Blackwater clearly knows how to deal with foreigners. But how does a little ol' company get to share our wealth with such huge defense contractors? No doubt it's got low friends in high places.

It probably didn't hurt the mercenary army that, according to federal campaign records, its top execs gave $1,000 to Tom DeLay's campaign on December 14, 2004. Or that they contributed mostly to other openly God-fearing lawmakers, like Bono pal Rick Santorum, Kansas's Todd Tiahrt, and Indiana's Mike Pence — whose campaign-finance tool is the Principles Exalt a Nation PAC.

Praise the Lord and pass the ammo. Better make that a blunt.

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