May 2013 News Reports

Written by Andrew Kreig
Published on May 9, 2013

Featured Monthly Commentary

 


Petraeus had key role in Benghazi talking points

E-mails reveal the former CIA director had ordered detailed talking points that went far beyond a House panel’s request

By Scott Wilson and Karen DeYoung / The Washington Post

David Petraeus

The controversy over the Obama administration’s response to the Benghazi attack last year began at a meeting over coffee on Capitol Hill three days after the assault. It was at this informal session with the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence that the ranking Democrat asked David H. Petraeus, right, who was CIA director at the time, to ensure that committee members did not inadvertently disclose classified information when talking to the news media about the attack.

What Petraeus decided to do with that request is the pivotal moment in the controversy over the administration’s Benghazi talking points.

It was from his initial input that all else flowed, resulting in 48 hours of intensive editing that congressional Republicans cite as evidence of a White House coverup. A close reading of recently released government e-mails that were sent during the editing process, and interviews with senior officials from several government agencies, reveal Petraeus’s early role and ambitions in going well beyond the committee’s request, apparently to produce a set of talking points favorable to his image and his agency. The information Petraeus ordered up when he returned to his Langley office that morning included far more than the minimalist version that [a oongressman] had requested. It included early classified intelligence assessments of who might be responsible for the attack and an account of prior CIA warnings — information that put Petraeus at odds with the State Department, the FBI and senior officials within his own agency.

Update: David Petraeus To Head Private Equity Firm KKR's New Global Institute,

Read morehere

Editor's Choice: Click below to read the Justice Integrity Project's monthly archive of cutting-edge news excerpts for May 2013.

 

Other JIP Clips:

May 31

Washington Post, Stewing in his own juices, Dana Milbank, May 31, 2013. Eric Holder is in a mess of his own making. Now House Republicans are talking about perjury, and it would seem that they have, well, probable cause.  As a legal matter, this isn’t a worry for Holder. His Justice Department isn’t going to prosecute him for perjury, just as it didn’t prosecute him when lawmakers held him in contempt of Congress. But the controversy left Holder with a serious credibility problem at a time when many Republicans want him out and Democrats are not eager to defend the Obama administration’s intrusions into the First Amendment with its obsessive leak investigations. Holder managed to make the situation even worse this week when he arranged to have a series of meetings with news organizations but then decreed that the sessions would be off the record.

WhoWhatWhy, New York Times, Warning: Trust Authorities on Boston Bombing, or You’re Nuts, Russ Baker, May 31, 2013. A huge story can set off alarm bells everywhere, but somehow, with ever increasing frequency, we note the silence of the mainstream media. Having avoided doing its job, it then protects its flank by denigrating those who call for inquiries. A recent example is this Times article: “Why Rational People Buy Into Conspiracy Theories.”  The essay, by Times magazine columnist Maggie Koerth-Baker, implicitly suggests the public should immediately halt speculation once law enforcement officials “leak” information intended to shape our perceptions. No matter that these leaks are not the same thing as evidence presented at trial, that the leaks themselves serve an agenda, and that law enforcement has a long history of attempting to persuade the public of false narratives. No matter that the latter is a practice repeatedly, if often belatedly, chronicled by the Times itself. For example, when the Tsarnaevs were first identified by the public from video footage released by the FBI, the Bureau told us the Tsarnaevs were previously unknown to it. Then the Bureau was forced by the Russians to admit it had known the brothers for quite some time. In fact, the Russians had briefed the Bureau on its concerns several years ago, and at that time, in response to the Russian information, the FBI had begun interacting with the Tsarnaev clan.

Anyone who has ever written for outfits like the Times knows that sucking up to authority will always serve one well professionally. Consider the eagerly establishment-pleasing Koerth-Baker, a “science editor” who scrupulously follows the journalism-school rules of the road: She dredges up the perennial “academic” so that it appears that her reporting has no agenda—she’s just sharing what some “expert” thinks.

May 30

Wall Street Journal, Romney Planning to Rejoin National Dialogue, Neil King Jr., May 30, 2013. He Will Host Event in Utah for 200 Friends and Campaign Supporters, More than half a year after his election loss, Mitt Romney is putting a tentative foot back onto the public stage. As a first step, the former Republican presidential nominee plans to welcome 200 friends and supporters to a three-day summit next week that he will host at a Utah mountain resort. He is considering writing a book and a series of opinion pieces, and has plans to campaign for 2014 candidates. But he is wary of overdoing it. "I'm not going to be bothering the airwaves with a constant series of speeches," he told The Wall Street Journal, speaking from his home in La Jolla, Calif. The Utah event, six months in the making, will be splashy, expensive and closed to outsiders and the press. The meeting will be "forward looking," as Mr. Romney describes it, but also nostalgic for a race that slipped away. 

Atlantic, It Might Finally Be Time for the 'Nuclear Option' in the Senate, Abolishing filibusters for judicial nominees could be dangerous, but Republican obstructionists have left few alternatives, Norm Ornstein May 30 2013.  How could a move by a president simply to fill long-standing existing vacancies on federal courts be termed court packing? I also laughed because it brought back to me the long controversy over the so-called "nuclear option" to erase filibusters on judicial nominations that gripped the Senate from 2003 to 2005. Back then, Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, frustrated by Democrats' filibusters and threatened filibusters of Bush Appeals Court nominees Miguel Estrada and Priscilla Owen (and the fear of a filibuster on a potential Supreme Court nominee), threatened to change the Senate's rules in midstream by simple majority, declaring filibusters on judicial nominees as unconstitutional.

Legal Schnauzer, Alabama Isn't The Only State Where Crooked Judges Gather At Hunting Clubs To Commit Unlawful Acts, Roger Shuler, May 30, 2013. Alabama, it turns out, is not the only state where corrupt judges and lawyers gather at hunting clubs to commit unsavory acts. It also happens in western Illinois, just across the Mississippi River from Missouri. A courthouse drug scandal expanded Friday with charges alleging that a St. Clair County probation worker used cocaine repeatedly with two judges and provided the dose that killed one of them. James K. Fogarty, of the probation office’s investigative unit, told officials he bought cocaine and re-sold it to Associate Judge Joseph Christ and Circuit Judge Michael N. Cook the day before the two went to a hunting lodge where Christ died March 10. Fogarty, 45, was charged in U.S. District Court in East St. Louis with distribution and possession with intent to distribute cocaine. Earlier Friday, Cook, 43, appeared in the same courthouse to answer charges of being an unlawful user of a controlled substance in possession of a firearm, and a misdemeanor charge of possession of heroin. One judge dies from a cocaine overdose, and another is arrested for illegally possessing heroin and a firearm?

New York Times, The Drone War Is Far From Over, Akbar Ahmed, May 30, 2013. When people in Washington talk about shrinking the drone program, as President Obama promised to do last week, they are mostly concerned with placating Pakistan, where members of the newly elected government have vowed to end violations of the country’s sovereignty. But the drone war is alive and well in the remote corners of Pakistan where the strikes have caused the greatest and most lasting damage. 

Legal Schnauzer, Federal Lawsuit Claims AL Judge Robert Vance Jr. Favors Large Law Firm That Backs Him Financially, Roger Shuler, May 30, 2013. An Alabama judge is violating state laws that limit his ability to hear cases involving major campaign contributors, according to a pending federal lawsuit. Jefferson County Circuit Judge Robert Vance Jr. is hearing a state case, even though lawyers on one side are from a firm that contributed at least $3,600 to Vance's most recent campaign. The donations, from the Birmingham firm Maynard Cooper & Gale (MCG), exceed the $2,000 threshold set by Alabama law and require Vance's recusal, according to the federal complaint. Vance has refused to step aside in the underlying state case, styled William B. Cashion and Western Steel Inc. v. Steven Mark Hayden, et al (Case No. CV-2012-209), and issued four favorable rulings to MCG's clients. That prompted a federal lawsuit alleging that Vance acted without jurisdiction and outside his judicial capacity, causing substantial damages to a trust that was formed in Nevada.

Huffington Post, David Petraeus To Head Private Equity Firm KKR's New Global Institute, Tom Murphy, May 30, 2013. Retired Army Gen. David Petraeus will take a new job with investment firm Kohlberg Kravis Roberts & Co. L.P. as he attempts to rebuild his reputation after an extramarital affair with a biographer triggered his resignation as CIA director last fall. Petraeus, 60, will serve as chairman of the New York firm's newly created KKR Global Institute. He was CIA director from September 2011 until last November. Before that, Petraeus served more than 37 years in the U.S. Army, where he rose to the rank of four-star general. Petraeus served as commander of NATO forces in Afghanistan and also commanded forces in Iraq in 2007 and 2008, when violence in that country dropped following a surge in military forces.

AP via Chron.com, Chicago Sun-Times lays off photography staff, Carla Johnson, May 30, 2013. The Chicago Sun-Times laid off its entire full-time photography staff Thursday, including a Pulitzer Prize winner, in a move that the newspaper's management said resulted from a need to shift toward more online video. The Newspaper Guild said 28 employees lost their jobs.

May 29

New York Times, Obama To Pick James Comey As FBI Head, Michael S. Schmidt, May 29, 2013. President Obama plans to nominate James B. Comey, right, a former hedge fund executive who served as a senior Justice Department official under President George W. Bush, to replace Robert S. Mueller III, left, as the director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, according to two people with knowledge. By choosing Mr. Comey, a Republican, Mr. Obama made a strong statement about bipartisanship at a time when he faces renewed criticism from Republicans in Congress and has had difficulty winning confirmation of some important nominees. At the same time, Mr. Comey’s role in one of the most dramatic episodes of the Bush administration — in which he refused to acquiesce to White House aides and reauthorize a program for eavesdropping without warrants when he was serving as acting attorney general — should make him an acceptable choice to Democrats. It is not clear when Mr. Obama will announce the nomination. Senior F.B.I. officials have been concerned that if the president does not name a new director by the beginning of June, it will be difficult to get the nominee confirmed by the beginning of September, when Mr. Mueller by law must leave his post.

New York Times, Bush Terrorism Fight May Be Fodder in F.B.I. Confirmation, Jonathan Weisman and Sheryl Gay Stolberg, May 30, 2013. The pending nomination of James B. Comey to be director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation will probably shine a fresh light on some controversial chapters in George W. Bush’s war on terrorism, with Republicans more likely than Democrats to question his role in the Bush Justice Department. But senior Senate aides said no immediate red flags were raised on Capitol Hill to indicate a bruising confirmation fight when President Obama makes his choice official. The White House said nothing publicly about the nomination on Thursday, and according to officials, the F.B.I. had not begun a formal background check on Mr. Comey when news broke on Wednesday evening that Mr. Obama had settled on him as the nominee. Mr. Comey, 52, a Republican and former deputy attorney general in the Bush administration, received a muted response from Congress, since lawmakers are away for the Memorial Day recess. But there is little recent precedent for a confirmation battle. The five F.B.I. directors confirmed since J. Edgar Hoover’s death in 1972 all sailed through the Senate. (The very first nominee, L. Patrick Gray III, withdrew from consideration in 1973 amid concerns over Watergate.) As for Mr. Comey, many of the policy disputes in the years after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, had already faded by the end of Mr. Bush’s second term.

FireDogLake, Imprisoned CIA Torture Whistleblower John Kiriakou Pens “Letter from Loretto,” Brian Sonenstein, May 29, 2013. Former CIA agent John Kiriakou, who blew the whistle on the US government’s use of torture under the Bush administration, is currently serving a 30 month sentence at the Federal Correctional Institution in Loretto, Pennsylvania. Below is a letter he recently sent his attorney Jesselyn Radack, who shared it (with John’s permission) with Firedoglake based on a pre-existing arrangement. The letter details his life in prison, including an incident in which prison officials attempted setup a confrontation between Kiriakou and a Muslim prisoner, telling Kiriakou he was the uncle of the Times Square bomber, when in reality the imam was in prison for refusing to testify in the Lackawanna Six case. Prison officials also lied to the Muslim prisoner, telling him that Kiriakou had called Washington after they met and had been ordered to kill him. This letter is the first part in a series inspired by dinner table discussions between Jane Hamsher, Jesselyn Radack and John Kiriakou (and others) before he went to prison. John wanted to have his letters published so that he could still communicate and share his story with the outside world.

May 28

AlterNet, Scam Alert! Press Sleeps Through the Great Post Office Fire Sale, Gray Brechin, May 28, 2013. How much of our public domain will turn into private fortunes? In 1906, surveyor Stephen Puter wrote a tell-all book from prison, Looters of the Public Domain, which details how Puter transferred thousands of acres of prime timberlands in Oregon and Washington from public to private owners. How times have changed as we now watch the U.S. Postal Service (USPS) looted like prime timberland. A venerable institution that helped build the country is being gutted. This is not, as the mainstream media slothfully claims, because the Internet has rendered it obsolete, but because it represents lumber ripe for the taking while what’s left of the press takes an extended holiday from curiosity. Last July, the USPS succeeded in uniting a famously fractious town when it announced plans to sell Berkeley’s century-old downtown post office. Berkeley has, ever since, proved a public relations migraine for USPS management. USPS occasionally meets its legal obligation to take public comment on pending sales, and it did so in Berkeley on February 26 at a meeting where USPS representatives endured hours of abuse and outrage from an overflow crowd at the old City Hall.

New York Daily News, Former NYPD boss Bernard Kerik released from federal prison, heads home to N.J., Barry Paddock, Greg B. Smith and Larry Mcshane, May 28, 2013. The former top cop was sentenced to four years in 2010. He may serve out the rest of his sentence under an unusual home-confinement arrangement. See background also in: Justice Integrity Project, Court Slams Kerik Appeal….But Seeing Is Believing, Andrew Kreig, April 5, 2011. New York's federal appeals court last week rejected former New York City Police Commissioner Bernard Kerik’s claims of unfairness when his judge sentenced him to four years in prison for tax and related charges. But I was an eye-witness to the unfairness to Kerik during his sentencing in New York on Feb. 18, 2010.

Sparrow Project, Jeremy Hammond Pleads Guilty to Stratfor Leak, Faces Harsh Sentence for Online Protest, Administrator, May 28, 2013. In New York federal court, Internet activist Jeremy Hammond pleaded guilty to publicizing internal emails from the private intelligence firm Stratfor through Wikileaks. Icelandic Parliamentarian Birgitta Jonsdottir reads a m essage of solidarity to Jeremy Hammond outside of the Metropolitan Correctional Center in New York City. Hammond pleaded guilty as part of a non-cooperating plea agreement to one violation of the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (CFAA), which carries up to ten years in prison.  A sentencing hearing has been scheduled for September 6, 2013.  He has been jailed for 15 months without bail at the Manhattan Correctional Center in New York City, has been denied family visits, and held for weeks in solitary confinement. “Jeremy has taken responsibility for what he’s done, but he should not face such a harsh sentence for an act of protest from which he did not personally benefit,” said Hammond’s twin brother, Jason Hammond. “I’m glad he’s moved one step closer to freedom but today I’m asking for the judge to consider a sentence appropriate to what is nothing other than a non-violent political protest.” Jason Hammond is circulating an online petition calling for Jeremy to be sentenced to time served and released.  The Stratfor leak was carried out by the online activist group LulzSec, an off-shoot of Anonymous, with the participation of an FBI informant.

May 27

Guardian, Obama's terrorism speech: seeing what you want to see, Glenn Greenwald, May 27, 2013. Some eager-to-believe progressives heralded the speech as a momentous change, but Obama's actions are often quite different than his rhetoric. What Obama has specialized in from the beginning of his presidency is putting pretty packaging on ugly and discredited policies. The cosmopolitan, intellectualized flavor of his advocacy makes coastal elites and blue state progressives instinctively confident in the Goodness of whatever he's selling, much as George W. Bush's swaggering, evangelical cowboy routine did for red state conservatives. The CIA presciently recognized this as a valuable asset back in 2008 when they correctly predicted that Obama's election would stem the tide of growing antiwar sentiment in western Europe by becoming the new, more attractive face of war, thereby converting hordes of his admirers from war opponents into war supporters. This dynamic has repeated itself over and over in other contexts, and has indeed been of great value to the guardians of the status quo in placating growing public discontent about their economic insecurity and increasingly unequal distribution of power and wealth.

Huffington Post, Bob Schieffer: Obama Press Policy 'Hurting His Credibility And Shortchanging The Public' (VIDEO), Rebecca Shapiro, May 27, 2013. CBS News' Bob Schieffer tore into President Obama on Sunday's "Face The Nation," arguing that the administration's stringent communications policy was "hurting [the president's] credibility and shortchanging the public." In light of two government scandals involving the Department of Justice secretly monitoring the Associated Press and Fox News reporter James Rosen, Schieffer commented on additional ways the Obama administration's communications policy impacted journalism. He said:

It's reached the point that if I want to interview anyone in the administration on camera, from the lowest-level worker to a top White House official, I have to go through the White House press office.
If their chosen spokesman turns out to have no direct connection to the story of the moment, as was the case when U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice was sent out to explain the Benghazi episode, then that's what we (and you, the taxpayer) get. And it usually isn't much.

Schieffer added that he was glad Obama asked Attorney General Eric Holder to review the guidelines for Justice Department investigations that involve journalists. However, the CBS anchor argued against the president's requesting Holder as the person heading the review since the attorney general's department was so "deeply involved." Schieffer said, "That makes no sense to me."

Washington Post, Some tea-party groups examined by the IRS indeed crossed the line, Jamell Bouie, May 27, 2013.  The more information that comes out about the scandal at the Internal Revenue Service, the harder it is to say employees there erred completely in putting more scrutiny on particular groups seeking tax-exempt status. According to the New York Times, for example, several of the tea party groups targeted by the IRS were engaged in overt political activity.

Washington Post, A knee-jerk circling of the media wagons, Walter Pincus, May 27, 2013. When will journalists take responsibility for what they do without circling the wagons and shouting that the First Amendment is under attack? I’m talking about the case of Fox News correspondent James Rosen.
 
Washington Post, The Republican Party's big squeeze, Ezra Klein, May 27, 2013. The range of policies you can hold and still be part of the GOP is much narrower than it was not long ago.

Washington Post, The end of the ‘war on terror,’ Eugene Robinson, May 27, 2013. President Obama wisely avoided the phrase “mission accomplished” in his major speech last week about the “war on terror,” but columnists aren’t obliged to be so circumspect: It is time to declare victory and get on with our lives. Obama could never say this, of course, because there will surely be future terrorist attacks that kill Americans both at home and abroad. But he came close when he said that “the scale of this threat closely resembles the types of attacks we faced before 9/11” — in other words, before we rashly declared war on a tactic rather than an enemy.

May 26

Washington Post, Political intelligence firms set up investor meetings at White House, May 26, 2013. Wall Street investors hungry for advance information on upcoming federal health-care decisions repeatedly held private discussions with Obama administration officials, including a top White House adviser helping to implement the Affordable Care Act. The private conversations show that the increasingly urgent race to acquire“political intelligence” goes beyond the communications with congressional staffers that have become the focus of heightened scrutiny in recent weeks. White House records show that Elizabeth Fowler, then a top ­health-policy adviser to President Obama, met with executives from half a dozen investment firms in 2011 and 2012. Among them was Kris Jenner, a stock picker with T. Rowe Price Investment Services who managed its $6 billion Health Sciences Fund.

Huffington Post, Carmen Reinhart, Kenneth Rogoff Lash Out Against Paul Krugman Over Austerity Criticism, Alana Horowitz, May 26, 2013. The researchers behind a much-disputed paper on austerity are lashing out against Paul Krugman over his criticisms of the data. In a letter posted to Carmen Reinhart's website, she and co-author Kenneth Rogoff accuse the New York Times columnist of "uncivil behavior."  The Harvard professors go on to defend their work and explain why they believe Krugman's criticisms are without merit.

FireDogLake, Obama Justice Department: Criminalizing the Press Like the Bush Administration, Kevin Gosztola Sunday May 26, 2013. Attorney General Eric Holder has claimed he has never been involved in the “potential prosecution of the press for the disclosure of material,” but the Justice Department under President Barack Obama has been more than willing to criminalize the press in order to enable or enhance the ability of the department to pursue leak investigations. Unsealed documents in the investigation into an alleged leak of “national defense information” on North Korea from State Department employee Stephen Kim to Fox News Reporter James Rosen in 2009 show the lengths the Justice Department has been willing to go. The government wanted to be able to read communications Rosen had with people in addition to Kim.

May 25

Washington Post, Dismantling CIA drone program could be difficult, Greg Miller, May 25, 2013. As President Obama plans to shift most drone operations to the military, some officials voice concern about gap in capabilities between Pentagon and CIA. In a major speech Thursday, Obama talked of the seductive appeal of a weapon whose precision and secrecy offer a shield from accountability, saying it can “lead a president and his team to view drone strikes as a cure-all for terrorism.” Turning to Pentagon drones was described as a way to move the campaign out of the shadows of covert operation. But even those who agree with the decision said it may prove more difficult for Obama to dismantle the CIA’s drone program than it was to shutter its secret prisons, because of the agency’s expertise as well as circumstances that at times enable the CIA to operate in places off-limits to the Defense Department.
 
Huffington Post, Michael Hastings Rips Obama Drone Speech (VIDEO), Melissa Jeltsen, May 25, 2013. Journalist Michael Hastings had very harsh words for President Barack Obama on Saturday morning. Appearing on MSNBC's "Up with Steve Kornacki," Hastings ripped Obama's recent foreign policy comments, saying the president had bought into the Bush administration's neoconservative worldview.  On Thursday, Obama gave a major national security speech in which he defended the use of drone strikes as a key counterterrorism tool. Hastings said the speech marked a reversal in Obama's thinking.  "If you compare this speech to the speech he gave in Cairo, in 2009 or his Nobel Prize speech, you see almost a total rejection of the civil rights tradition that President Obama supposedly came out of... and just an embrace of total militarism," Hastings said.

May 24

BuzzFeed, Exclusive: The Tragic Imprisonment Of John McTiernan, Hollywood Icon, Michael Hastings, May 24, 2013. The legendary director of Die Hard and The Hunt for Red October is serving a year in federal prison thanks to a Hollywood wannabe prosecutor, a remake of Rollerball, and a rogue private eye. In an exclusive interview, McTiernan’s wife Gail says, “I don’t know if he’s going to make it.”

See also June news report on the death of Michael Hastings in a car crash: Rolling Stone, Michael Hastings, 'Rolling Stone' Contributor, Dead at 33, Tim Dickinson, June 18, 2013. The bold journalist died in a car accident in Los Angeles. Michael Hastings, the fearless journalist whose reporting brought down the career of General Stanley McChrystal, has died in a car accident in Los Angeles, Rolling Stone has learned. He was 33. Hastings' unvarnished 2010 profile of McChrystal in the pages of Rolling Stone, "The Runaway General," captured the then-supreme commander of the U.S.-led war effort in Afghanistan openly mocking his civilian commanders in the White House.

Talking Points Memo, In Memo To Employees, Ailes Blasts Obama Admin’s ‘Attempt To Intimidate Fox News,’ Tom Kludt, May 24, 2013. In a memo circulated to employees and posted Thursday on the network's website, Fox News chairman Roger Ailes, right, excoriated the Obama administration's aggressive pursuit of leaks, saying it's created "a climate of press intimidation, unseen since the McCarthy era." But the memo was largely a call to action. Issuing a sharp rebuke of the government's surveillance of Fox reporter James Rosen, Ailes said that the Obama administration's "attempt to intimidate Fox News and its employees will not succeed and their excuses will stand neither the test of law, the test of decency, nor the test of time."

Washington Post, Where money talks, Dana Milbank, May 24, 2013. On Thursday, senators held a confirmation hearing for Obama’s nominee to be commerce secretary: a billionaire who benefits from offshore tax havens, whose family owned a failed savings and loan and who is accused by unions of mistreating workers. Turns out the wealthy didn’t lose the 2012 election; rather, the Republican rich lost to the Democratic rich. This is not to question the qualifications of Penny Pritzker, the Hyatt hotels heiress and Democratic mega-donor Obama nominated. But her confirmation hearing was a reminder of how wealth is power in Washington. A multimillionaire president nominated a billionaire who raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for his campaigns, and he sent her to be confirmed by the millionaires’ club that is the U.S. Senate. About half the members of Congress have a net worth of more than $1 million, the center found — about 15 times the worth of the typical American household. And it’s a bipartisan club, from Republican committee chairmen Darrell Issa ($480 million) and Michael McCaul ($500 million) to Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi ($94 million). The Senate’s wealthiest member was John Kerry ($236 million), but he left to join an even more exclusive club.

Huffington Post, CNN's Carol Costello To Medea Benjamin: People Think You're 'Rude' And 'Crazy' For Interrupting Obama (VIDEO), Jack Mirkinson, May 24, 2013. Medea Benjamin, the activist who interrupted President Obama's drone speech on Thursday, got a chilly reception from CNN's Carol Costello when she appeared on the network on Friday morning. Things got awkward right off the bat, as Benjamin—who managed to sneak her way into the speech and disrupt Obama for a surprisingly long amount of time—objected to being called a "heckler," as Costello and the network had been doing. "I actually had an invitation to get in and I felt compelled to speak out," she said. Costello said Obama seemed to be doing exactly what Benjamin wanted to hear; Benjamin disagreed. Costello then returned to her criticism of Benjamin's actions.

Huffington Post, Press Freedom Groups Protest DOJ's Actions In Letter To Eric Holder, Staff report, May 24, 2013. More than sixty organizations signed a letter to Attorney General Eric Holder on Friday, demanding a "full, transparent" explanation for the Justice Department's secret probe into journalists. The Obama administration has come under fire in recent weeks over revelations that the DOJ secretly obtained months of phone records at the Associated Press, and targeted Fox News reporter James Rosen's email account. Rosen was furthermore labeled a "co-conspirator" in leaking classified information — a move that risks criminalizing journalism.  Free Press, a media reform advocacy group, and other organizations — including the American Civil Liberties Union, the Committee to Protect Journalists, National Association of Black Journalists and Writers Guild of America, East — blasted the DOJ for setting "a dangerous precedent" in a letter to Holder.

May 23

Washington Post, Leonard Downie: Obama’s war on leaks undermines investigative journalism, Leonard Downie, Jr., left, May 23, 2103. Leonard Downie Jr. is a vice president at large of the Washington Post, where he served as executive editor from 1991 to 2008. He is professor of journalism at Arizona State University and a board member of the nonprofit Investigative Reporters and Editors. For the past five years, beginning with his first presidential campaign, Barack Obama has promised that his government would be the most open and transparent in American history.  But the Obama administration’s steadily escalating war on leaks, the most militant I have seen since the Nixon administration, has disregarded the First Amendment and intimidated a growing number of government sources of information — most of which would not be classified — that is vital for journalists to hold leaders accountable. The White House has tightened its control over officials’ contacts with the news media, and federal agencies have increasingly denied Freedom of Information Act requests on the grounds of national security or protection of internal deliberations. The secret and far-reaching subpoena and seizure of two months of records for 20 Associated Press phone lines and switchboards — used by more than 100 AP reporters in three news bureaus and the House of Representatives — is especially chilling for journalists and their sources.

Huffington Post, Eric Holder Signed Off On Search Warrant For James Rosen Emails: NBC News, Jack Mirkinson, May 23, 2013. Attorney General Eric Holder personally signed off on the warrant that allowed the Justice Department to search Fox News reporter James Rosen's personal email, NBC News' Michael Isikoff reported Thursday. The report places Holder at the center of one of the most controversial clashes between the press and the government in recent memory. The warrant he approved named Rosen as a "co-conspirator" in a leak investigation, causing many to warn that the Justice Department was potentially criminalizing journalism. The warrant also approved the tracking of Rosen's movements in and out of the State Department, as well as his communications with his source, Stephen Kim. The Justice Department later said that it did not intend to press any charges against Rosen. The attorney general is usually required to approve requests to search journalists' materials, but that rule does not extend to email records. Holder recused himself from the investigation into the Associated Press, meaning that he absolved himself of that responsibility. Holder has previously said that he was not sure how many times he had authorized the search of journalists' records.

Washington Post, Obama calls for review of rules on subpoenas to the media Sari Horwitz, May 23, 2013. President Obama instructed Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. on Thursday to review Justice Department guidelines for leak investigations, meet with media organizations and report back to him by mid-July. In a speech to the National Defense University, Obama addressed the uproar over his administration’s numerous leak investigations, saying he is “troubled” that the inquiries might “chill” investigative journalism. But he also emphasized that certain information must remain secret to protect national security.

Daily Howler, Greta Van Susteren and Lindsey Graham just keep deceiving the public! Bob Somerby, May 23, 2013. In an earlier post, we documented Greta Van Susteren’s ongoing grisly misconduct. Greta keeps playing her viewers for fools, several million at a time. Greta keeps saying she has no idea where Susan Rice got that crazy tale about the spontaneous protest and the YouTube video. Last night, she played this same card when she spoke with Lindsey Graham (right), who began embellishing facts as soon as he opened his mouth. Where did Rice get that crazy account, with which she completely misrepresented the facts? Susan Rice was simply repeating the CIA’s basic account of the Benghazi attack. Obviously, Greta and Graham know where Rice got that account. That said, they can also feel sure that Fox viewers don’t know.

FireDogLake, Penny Pritzker’s Financial Disclosure Off $80 Million, DSWright, May 23, 2013. President Obama’s nomination of Penny Pritzker for Commerce Secretary was already problematic. Pritkzer, at left with the president, is the epitome of the 1% – obscenely rich off of inherited wealth, hostile to workers, and someone who has advanced in politics by giving people money. She was a major campaign contributor and fundraiser for Obama, which clearly played a role in her being nominated for Commerce Secretary and would have likely lead to her having been nominated sooner for a post if not for her involvement in a protracted labor dispute. Pritzker has a lot of tax abnormalities involving offshore accounts. She inadvertently understated a portion of her income by at least $80 million in a disclosure form required for her nomination to be U.S. Commerce secretary and has amended the document. Pritzker earned additional income for consulting work on hundreds of trusts, including family trusts. Pritzker, whose family founded Hyatt Hotels Corp, earned $54 million in consulting fees last year for a similar restructuring of trusts based in the Bahamas, also over 10 years. Just what we need in a Commerce Secretary, someone who knows how to help companies offshore their profits to avoid tax liabilities.

Washington Post, ‘The Wolf and the Watchman: A Father, a Son, and the CIA’ by Scott C. Johnson, Jeff Stein, May 23, 2013. There comes a time in many a CIA family when a child has to be sat down and told the facts of life. No, not the birds and the bees: It’s that Dad or Mom is a spy. That no, they don’t really work for the State Department (or an oil company or an import-export firm). Those are pretend, or cover, jobs. They work for the CIA’s operations arm. And so it went with Scott C. Johnson, author of the memoir “The Wolf and the Watchman.” When Johnson was 14, in 1987, Dad pulled to a stop in the parking lot of a suburban Detroit shopping mall, turned off the engine and said, “I need to tell you something.”

May 22

Washington Post, On IRS issue, senior White House aides were focused on shielding Obama, Philip Rucker and Juliet Eilperin, May 22, 2013. As soon as White House counsel Kathryn Ruemmler heard about an upcoming inspector general’s report on the Internal Revenue Service, she knew she had a problem. This account of how the White House tried to deal with the IRS inquiry — based on documents, public statements and interviews with multiple senior officials, including one directly involved in the discussions — shows how carefully Obama’s top aides were trying to shield him from any second-term scandal that might swamp his agenda or, worse, jeopardize his presidency.

Washington Post, Lois Lerner: ‘I have not done anything wrong,’ Video report, May 22, 2013. At a hearing of the House Oversight Committee Wednesday, IRS Director of exempt organizations Lois Lerner invoked her fifth amendment rights, saying she was innocent of any wrong doing.

Washington Post, Man tied to Boston bombing suspect killed by FBI in confrontation, Sari Horwitz, May 22, 2013. A Chechen man who was friends with one of the Boston bombing suspects was shot and killed by an FBI agent in Orlando early Wednesday when an interview erupted into a confrontation, the FBI said. The victim was identified as Ibragim Todashev, who knew one of the Boston suspects, Tamerlan Tsarnaev, left,  through the world of martial arts, according to news reports. He was killed in a residential area near Universal Studios. The FBI has been conducting interviews across the United States and in Russia with associates of Tsarnaev and his brother, Dzhokhar, over the past month to learn whether anyone else was associated with the April 15 Boston Marathon bombing, which killed three people and wounded more than 260. The interviews have focused heavily on people from the northern Caucasus area of Russia, where Tamerlan Tsarnaev spent six months in 2012. The Tsarnaev family has roots in Chechnya, part of the restive region, and the FBI suspects he might have had contact with Islamic militants there last year.

Associated Press via Washington Post, Man killed in Fla. by FBI shares similar background to deceased Boston bombing suspect, Staff report, May 22, 2013. A Chechen immigrant shot to death in central Florida after an altercation with an FBI agent had several ties to one of the Boston Marathon bombing suspects who authorities were questioning him about at the time. Ibragim Todashev’s Chechen roots and mixed martial arts background mirror that of Tamerlan Tsarnaev, the Boston bombing suspect killed in a shootout with police last month. The two also had lived in the Boston area.

Washington Post, Obama approves drone briefings for Congress, Karen DeYoung and Peter Finn, May 22, 2013. President has approved classified briefings for Congress on overall policy and is scheduled today to speak about how counterterrorism standards will be more transparent.

Wayne Madsen, “Obama uses national security excuse to cover up embarrassing information,” Wayne Madsen Report, May 22, 2013 (Subscription only).

Daily Howler, Petraeus, king of the self-promoters! Bob Somerby, May  22, 2013.  In this morning’s Washington Post, Scott Wilson and Karen DeYoung present an important front-page report. In the wake of the Benghazi attack, some of the capital’s decent people wanted to behave in a responsible way. Not everyone in DC is crazy. 

Huffington Post, The 1 Chart That Reveals Just How Grossly Unfair The U.S. Tax System Has Become, Mark Gongloff, May 22, 2013.Apple CEO Tim Cook waved a magic wand in front of America on Tuesday, vanishing our outrage over how shamelessly companies avoid paying taxes, leaving the rest of us to foot the bill. As a public service to you, here is a chart that should enrage you about corporate tax rates all over again!

Legal Schnauzer, Schnauzer Climbs Out Of Rubble In Oklahoma City To Represent The Fight For Survival Amid Tragedy, Roger Shuler, Wednesday, May 22, 2013. (Video). A miniature schnauzer climbs from the rubble in Oklahoma City. When we started this blog in June 2007, the title was meant to honor Murphy Abigail Shuler, a wonderful miniature schnauzer who enriched our lives for 11 years--and helped us survive the early years of our legal woes.

New York Times, Obama, in a Shift, to Limit Targets of Drone Strikes, Charlie Savage and Peter Baker, May 22, 2013. President Obama plans to open a new phase in the nation’s long struggle with terrorism on Thursday by restricting the use of unmanned drone strikes that have been at the heart of his national security strategy and shifting control of them away from the C.I.A. to the military.

May 21

Huffington Post, Freedom of the Press and Criminal Solicitation, Geoffrey R. Stone, right, May 21, 2013. Several years ago, the FBI obtained a search warrant authorizing it to review two days' worth of Fox News reporter James Rosen's emails after demonstrating to a judge it had probable cause to believe that Rosen had committed a crime by soliciting the disclosure of classified information from a government official. The government official was later indicted for leaking classified information. Since this development came to light, members of the media have insisted that the assertion that Rosen violated the law by soliciting the disclosure of classified information is wholly incompatible with the First Amendment. It is more complicated than that.

At the outset, it is worth noting that two facets of this situation are clear. First, as a general rule, the First Amendment does not give government employees a constitutional right to disclose to reporters properly classified information. Second, except in truly extraordinary circumstances, the First Amendment does give the press a constitutional right to publish even properly classified information when that information comes into its hands through no wrongdoing of its own. In general, it is unlawful for one person to solicit another to commit a criminal act. But is Rosen, as a reporter, exempt from the ordinary law of criminal solicitation? Does the First Amendment give a reporter a constitutional right to do what other citizens have no right to do? The government in this situation has not filed any criminal charges against James Rosen, or suggested in any way that it plans to do so. It merely stated, quite accurately I suspect, that under current law he committed a crime.

Washington Post, Attorney Glenn C. Lewis disbarred by Virginia for numerous violations, Tom Jackman, May 21, 2013. Former president of the Virginia Bar Association committed numerous rules violations, Virginia State Bar says Glenn C. Lewis, once one of the Washington area’s highest-paid and most-respected divorce lawyers and a former president of the Virginia Bar Association, has been disbarred for dishonesty, mismanaging clients’ funds and failing to fulfill his legal obligations, according to a state bar ruling. The decision by a Virginia State Bar disciplinary council was issued late Friday after a hearing before four lawyers and one non-lawyer in Richmond. Lewis did not testify during the hearing, but he did address the panel before his punishment was pronounced, said Alexandria lawyer Ben DiMuro, who was a witness in the case. Lewis can appeal the ruling. . Lewis, 60, and his attorney, Michael Rigsby, were preparing a statement, Rigsby said. Lewis once said in an interview that he was the most expensive lawyer in the region, charging $850 an hour for his services in divorce, custody and other matters.

Mother Jones, Looking For a Benghazi Talking Points Villain? It Was David Petraeus, Not Barack Obama, Kevin Drum, May 21, 2013. After reading through the Benghazi "talking points" emails and doing some additional reporting, Scott Wilson and Karen DeYoung confirm what's been pretty obvious for a while now. The House committee that originally asked for the talking points wanted only some basic facts so that no one would mistakenly disclose classified information to the press, but CIA Director David Petraeus — "a master of the craft of media cultivation"—understood the reputational stakes immediately and acted accordingly. In the end, as Wilson and Young point out, "The only government entity that did not object to the detailed talking points produced with Petraeus’s input was the White House, which played the role of mediator in the bureaucratic fight that at various points included the CIA’s top lawyer and the agency’s deputy director expressing opposition to what the director wanted." This entire controversy has been much ado about nothing from the beginning, but if you absolutely insist on singling out a villain, the choice is now pretty obvious. David Petraeus was the Machiavellian manipulator of the narrative here, not Barack Obama.

Washington Post, IRS scandal focus of Senate hearing, Ed O'Keefe and William Branigin, May 21, 2013. The outgoing acting commissioner of the Internal Revenue Service and his predecessor denied Tuesday that they misled Congress about the targeting of conservative groups seeking tax-exempt status, telling a Senate panel that they were not aware of the practice when it started. Appearing before the Senate Finance Committee, Steven T. Miller, the acting commissioner who submitted his resignation under pressure last week, and Douglas Shulman, a George W. Bush appointee who headed the IRS from March 2008 to November 2012, also rejected the idea that political partisanship played a role in singling out conservative nonprofits for heightened scrutiny.

BuzzFeed, Liberal Super PAC Had Secret Bain Ties, Ben Smith and Evan McMorris-Santoro, May 20, 2013. American Bridge’s top fundraiser told the group not to attack Mitt Romney’s firm — and threatened to quit if it did,“Could Mary Pat be OK with this?” A top liberal SuperPAC in the 2012 election had undisclosed financial ties to the private equity firm Bain Capital — something that some people close to the group say interfered with its core mission of attacking Bain veteran Mitt Romney’s business record.

May 20

Boston Globe, Seasoned defender for Marathon bombing suspect; Milton J. Valencia, May 20, 2013. The lawyer heading the defense for the alleged Boston Marathon bomber in federal court in Boston is well-versed in capital cases and the long, emotionally charged process that would come if federal prosecutors seek the death penalty, according to legal observers and her own colleagues. Judy Clarke, a former public defender now working as a private lawyer in San Diego, has been tapped to represent Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, the 19-year-old from Cambridge charged in the bombings that killed three people and injured more than 260. Three other public defenders from Boston have also been assigned to the case, including one who speaks Tsarnaev’s native Russian. Cases involving the death penalty allow for the appointment of an outside lawyer “learned in the law applicable to capital cases,” according to court records, and Clarke has been at the center of some of the most high-profile cases that the country has seen in recent times — cases that often include emotionally charged public calls for the death penalty. Clarke most recently defended Jared Loughner, the man behind the Tucson shooting rampage in 2011 that killed six people and injured a dozen others, including Representative Gabrielle Giffords, his target. She defended Theodore John “Ted” Kaczynski, known as the Unabomber, for the nationwide bombing campaign that killed three people. She also represented Atlanta Olympic bomber Eric Rudolph and Susan Smith, the South Carolina woman who murdered her three children.

Guardian, Obama DOJ formally accuses journalist in leak case of committing crimes, Glenn Greenwald, May 20, 2013. Yet another serious escalation of the Obama administration's attacks on press freedoms emerges It is now well known that the Obama justice department has prosecuted more government leakers under the 1917 Espionage Actthan all prior administrations combined -- in fact, double the number of all such prior prosecutions. But as last week's controversy over the DOJ's pursuit of the phone records of AP reporters illustrated, this obsessive fixation in defense of secrecy also targets, and severely damages, journalists specifically and the newsgathering process in general. New revelations emerged yesterday in the Washington Post that are perhaps the most extreme yet when it comes to the DOJ's attacks on press freedoms. It involves the prosecution of State Department adviser Stephen Kim, a naturalized citizen from South Korea who was indicted in 2009 for allegedly telling Fox News' chief Washington correspondent, James Rosen, that US intelligence believed North Korea would respond to additional UN sanctions with more nuclear tests -- something Rosen then reported. Kim did not obtain unauthorized access to classified information, nor steal documents, nor sell secrets, nor pass them to an enemy of the US. Instead, the DOJ alleges that he merely communicated this innocuous information to a journalist - something done every day in Washington -- and, for that, this arms expert and long-time government employee faces more than a decade in prison for "espionage."

FireDogLake, AP Says Government Seizure Was Unconstitutional And Has Terrified Sources, DSWright, May 20, 2013. The CEO of the Associated Press said the government’s unprecedented actions to seize phone records of reporters from the news organization was both unconstitutional and has had a chilling effect on sources. The president and chief executive officer of The Associated Press on Sunday called the government’s secret seizure of two months of reporters’ phone records “unconstitutional” and said the news cooperative had not ruled out legal action against the Justice Department. Gary Pruitt, in his first television interviews since it was revealed the Justice Department subpoenaed phone records of AP reporters and editors, said the move already has had a chilling effect on journalism. Pruitt said the seizure has made sources less willing to talk to AP journalists and, in the long term, could limit Americans’ information from all news outlets. Was the point to terrify journalists and sources? Yes.  Mr. Pruitt identifies the ultimate goal of using state power to intimidate the press. Pruitt told CBS’ ”Face the Nation” that the government has no business monitoring the AP’s newsgathering activities.

Washington Post, White House knew findings on IRS’s targeting of conservatives earlier, Zachary A. Goldfarb and Juliet Eilperin, May 20, 2013. Obama was unaware, aides maintain in new account that goes beyond what had been said.

Washington Post, Fine Print: The press and national security, Walter Pincus, May 20, 2013. Whoever provided the initial leak to the Associated Press in April 2012 not only broke the law but caused the abrupt end to a secret, joint U.S./Saudi/British operation in Yemen that offered valuable intelligence against al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula. One goal was to get AQAP’s operational head, Fahd Mohammed Ahmed al-Quso. That happened one day before the AP story appeared. A second goal was to find and possibly kill AQAP bombmaker Ibrahim Hassan al-Asiri, whose first underwear device almost killed Prince Mohammed bin Nayef, Saudi Arabia’s anti-terrorism chief. Soon after, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab used such a device in a failed Christmas Day bombing attempt as his Northwest Airlines flight was landing in Detroit.

Veterans Today, Graham Fuller, Uncle Ruslan, the CIA and the Boston Bombings, F. William Engdahl, May 20, 2013. One of the many unexplained (at least not officially) anomalies of the persons claimed to have carried out the Boston Marathon bombings is the presence of  key CIA figure in the direct family of the accused brothers. Ruslan Tsarnaev, the outspoken uncle of the brothers was married to Samantha A. Fuller until 2004. Samantha’s father is Graham Fuller, the senior CIA person who architected the Afghan Islamic fundamentalist Mujahideen war against the Soviets. He is also implicated in creating a global jihad network, presumably acting on behalf of CIA interests.

May 19

Washington Post, A rare peek into a Justice Department leak probe, Ann E. Marimow, May 19, 2013. When the Justice Department began investigating possible leaks of classified information about North Korea in 2009, investigators did more than obtain telephone records of a working journalist suspected of receiving the secret material. They used security badge access records to track the reporter’s comings and goings from the State Department, according to a newly obtained court affidavit.They traced the timing of his calls with a State Department security adviser suspected of sharing the classified report. They obtained a search warrant for the reporter’s personal e-mails. The case of Stephen Jin-Woo Kim, the government adviser, and James Rosen, the chief Washington correspondent for Fox News, bears striking similarities to a sweeping leaks investigation disclosed last week in which federal investigators obtained records over two months of more than 20 telephone lines assigned to the Associated Press.

FireDogLake, FDL Book Salon Welcomes James C. Goodale, author of 'Fighting For The Press: The Inside Story of the Pentagon Papers and Other Battles,' Author interview by Kevin Gosztola, May 19, 2013. “If in fact he goes ahead and prosecutes Julian Assange, he will pass Nixon. He’s close to Nixon now,” the former general counsel for the New York Times, James Goodale, said of President Barack Obama on “Democracy Now!” The Justice Department’s seizure of the Associated Press’ phone records is a “good example of something that Obama has done but Nixon never did. So I have him presently in second place, behind Nixon and ahead of Bush II,” he added. Goodale led the legal team that made the case in the courts in 1971 that the Times had the right to publish the Pentagon Papers, top secret Defense Department documents that exposed US policies around the Vietnam War and were provided to the news organization by Daniel Ellsberg. “And if they restrict that apparatus … the people of the United States will only know what the government wants them to know and that’s not what the framers of the Constitution had in mind when they wrote the First Amendment,” he said The seizure was part of the Obama Administration’s Orwellian War On Leakers where government secrecy and opacity is paramount and citizen privacy is held in contempt. Of course, the war is really on unapproved leakers, the government leaks things all the time to help spin the press. No prosecutions forthcoming.

May 18

Washington Post, Five myths about Benghazi, Michael Hirsh, May 18 (print edition, May 16 online), 2013. The events surrounding the deaths of Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens and three other Americans in Benghazi, Libya, on Sept. 11, 2012, look dramatically different depending on your politics. Republicans tend to see a cover-up and a scandal. Democrats see an attempt to damage President Obama and former secretary of state Hillary Rodham Clinton. A Pew poll suggests that the public is divided as well, with 40 percent saying the administration has been dishonest, 37 percent saying it has told the truth, and 23 percent saying they’re not sure. Let’s assess what we do and don’t know: Myth No. 1. U.N. Ambassador Susan E. Rice, right, gave a deliberately false account of the attack.

Washington Post, Justice didn’t follow its own rules in AP case, Editorial Board, May 18, 2013. The Obama administration remains on the defensive over the Justice Department’s decision to seize a wide range of the Associated Press’s phone records without prior notice to the news agency. Media organizations — this one included — denounced the apparent prosecutorial overreach in pursuit of alleged leakers of classified information about a successful CIA anti-terrorism operation. Many Americans who don’t make their living in journalism were justifiably concerned.

Washington Post, The Benghazi e-mails’ backside-covering, David Ignatius, May 17, 2013. The hundred pages of Benghazi e-mails released this week tell us almost nothing about how four Americans came to die so tragically in that Libyan city. But they are a case study in why nothing works in Washington. Rather than reading these messages for their substance on Benghazi (on which officials were still basically clueless three days after the attack), try perusing them as an illustration of how the bureaucracy responds to crisis — especially when officials know they will be under the media spotlight. What you find is a 100-page novella of turf-battling and backside-covering. By the end, the original product is so shredded and pre-chewed that it has lost most of its meaning. All the relevant agencies have had their say, and there’s little left for the public.  No wonder that then-CIA Director David H. Petraeus, who began the exercise when he met with House intelligence committee members for coffee on the morning of Friday, Sept. 14, was unhappy with the effort. He complained that “this is certainly not what . . . [the committee] was hoping to get for unclas. use” and growled: “Frankly, I’d just as soon not use this.”

Huffington Post, Alleged 'PayPal 14' Hackers Seek Deal To Stay Out Of Prison After Nearly 2 Years In Limbo, Ryan J. Reilly, May 18, 2013. Before he was charged in July 2011 with aiding the hacker group Anonymous, Josh Covelli lived what he considered the life of an ordinary 26-year-old. He spent countless hours on the Internet. He had a girlfriend. He was a student and employee at Devry University in Dayton, Ohio. But after federal authorities accused him and 13 other people of helping launch a cyberattack against the online payment service PayPal, Covelli faced potentially 15 years in prison, and his life began to unravel. (Government photos of defendants at right via Huffington Post.)

Huffington Post, James Cole Authorized AP Subpoenas, Eric Holder Confirms, Ryan J. Reilly, May 15, 2013. Attorney General Eric Holder confirmed Wednesday that Deputy Attorney General James Cole, a longtime friend of Holder's and the number two official at the Justice Department, signed off on subpoenaing a wide range of Associated Press phone records.

Purning Shears via FireDogLake, Washington press corps catches up to 2002, discovers surveillance state, Danps, May 18, 2013. We’ve had three big stories this week, each showing how the right plays the scandal game better than the left. Of the three, one is a non-scandal (Benghazi), one is a minor scandal with the potential to turn into more (IRS),1 and one is an honest-to-God scandal right now (AP). Republicans don’t bother with such fine distinctions though, and that’s why they are better at playing it than Democrats: when they get something they can run with, they do. The targeting of Tea Party groups by the IRS is a good example.2 It was wrong of the IRS to target them, but at the end of the day what it all amounted to was more paperwork and delay. It’s much less onerous – and much less overtly political – than the actual audit the IRS did of the NAACP when it was critical of George Bush. Yet the Democrats basically sat on their hands for that, and the best they can muster now is a weaksauce “oh yeah? Well why weren’t you outraged back then, GOP?” Republicans stand up for their allies in real time – they don’t sit back and watch them get pummeled.

May 17

Washington Post, The Benghazi e-mails’ backside-covering, David Ignatius, May 17, 2013. The hundred pages of Benghazi e-mails released this week tell us almost nothing about how four Americans came to die so tragically in that Libyan city. But they are a case study in why nothing works in Washington. Rather than reading these messages for their substance on Benghazi (on which officials were still basically clueless three days after the attack), try perusing them as an illustration of how the bureaucracy responds to crisis — especially when officials know they will be under the media spotlight. What you find is a 100-page novella of turf-battling and backside-covering. By the end, the original product is so shredded and pre-chewed that it has lost most of its meaning. All the relevant agencies have had their say, and there’s little left for the public.  No wonder that then-CIA Director David H. Petraeus, who began the exercise when he met with House intelligence committee members for coffee on the morning of Friday, Sept. 14, was unhappy with the effort. He complained that “this is certainly not what . . . [the committee] was hoping to get for unclas. use” and growled: “Frankly, I’d just as soon not use this.”

Washington Post, Conspiracy of the unproductive, Dana Milbank, May 17, 2013. At the end of a truly dismal week in his presidency, President Obama remains lucky in one crucial category: his opposition. It has been only a few days since two administration scandals — the IRS harassment of conservative groups and the Justice Department’s seizure of Associated Press phone records — dropped into the Republicans’ lap. But instead of turning public outrage to their advantage, Republicans have already begun overreaching, turning legitimate areas of inquiry into just some more partisan food fights. Consider Thursday morning’s circus on the east lawn of the Capitol, where Republican lawmakers gathered with tea party leaders to declare their thoughts on the IRS scandal.

AP via Huffington Post, Treasury Officials Told Of IRS Probe In June 2012, Stephen Ohlemacher, May 17, 2013. Senior Treasury officials were made aware in June 2012 that investigators were looking into complaints from tea party groups that they were being harassed by the Internal Revenue Service, a Treasury inspector general said Friday, disclosing that Obama administration officials knew there was a probe during the heat of the presidential campaign.

Judicial Watch, Obama IRS Scandal Will Go Down in Infamy, Tom Fitton, right, May 17, 2013. In my experience, the term "BOLO" is a law enforcement term short for "be on the lookout" for criminals and suspects on the run.  But for the Obama IRS, BOLO meant, literally, "be on the lookout" for citizen groups who might be opposed to the Obama agenda. Here are the facts as we know them today.

Democracy Now! Obama Worse Than Nixon? Pentagon Papers Attorney Decries AP Phone Probe, Julian Assange Prosecution, Juan González, May 17, 2013. Author James Goodale, the general counsel of the New York Times during the Pentagon Papers crackdown, is a leading legal expert on the First Amendment and has just published a new book, Fighting for the Press: The Inside Story of the Pentagon Papers and Other Battles. Goodale said he wrote the book in part because of the work of Julian Assange of the whistleblowing website WikiLeaks, and how he is likely being targeted by the U.S. government in an ongoing grand jury probe. "My book is meant to be a clarion call to the journalist community: Wake up! There’s danger out there," Goodale says. "You may not like Assange, but wake up! The First Amendment is really going to be damaged. If Obama goes forward and succeeds, he will have succeeded where Nixon failed."

Sparrow Project, UK Hacktivists Face 15-Month Prison Terms While Us Co-Defendant Faces 42-Year Sentence, Andy Stepanian, May 17, 2013. Three English co-defendants who plead guilty to being members of the Lulzsec hacktivist group were sentenced yesterday by a UK court. Ryan Acroyd, the most technically experienced of the three, received the longest sentence – he will spend 15 months in prison. By contrast, their American co-defendant Jeremy Hammond has already spent 14 months awaiting trial in a federal case that carries charges that could result in up to 42 years of prison time – a virtual life sentence for the 28 year old. Hammond has been denied bail or access to family members.

May 16

Leak Probe of Associated Press

Washington Post, He is not a crook, Editorial Board, May 16, 2013. Comparing Barack Obama to Richard Nixon is silly, but the misdeeds are far from trivial.GOP focus on phony issues misses needed reforms

Legal Schnauzer, Was AG Holder Mistaken Or Intentionally Misleading In His Answers To Congress About Siegelman Case? Roger Shuler, May 16, 2013.  U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder yesterday said it's his understanding that former Alabama Governor Don Siegelman has an active appeal and therefore is not eligible to have his sentence commuted. If Siegelman has an active appeal, it has escaped my attention. And that raises this question: Is Eric Holder mistaken or did he intentionally make a misleading statement to Congress and the American people? I have sent queries to Siegelman's legal team, seeking clarification about any appeals, plus their response to Holder's statements. We will update this post as new information becomes available.

FireDogLake, We Just Have to Take Holder’s Word That He Recused Himself From AP Case, Jon Walker, May 16, 2013. One of the biggest developments from Attorney General Eric Holder’s grilling yesterday is that he apparently only orally recused himself from the controversial case involving the AP phone records. While Holder claims he believes he recused himself around June, during examination he admitted he never did so in writing with an explanation for his action. He doesn’t even remember the exact day. I will leave it to others with more expertise to determine if he may have technically broken any laws or allowed his subordinates to break the las by assuming the powers of the AG without documentation officially giving that authority. What I do know is that this is a shocking violation of the principles of both good governance and basic management. The point of a bureaucratic hierarchy is to have clear lines of responsibility. It is to know where the buck stops. It is to know who should and should not be held accountable if something goes wrong.

Benghazi

Huffington Post, Republicans Altered Benghazi Emails, CBS News Report Claims, Chris Gentilviso, May 16, 2013. One day after The White House released 100 pages of Benghazi emails, a report has surfaced alleging that Republicans released a set with altered text. CBS News reported Thursday that leaked versions sent out by the GOP last Friday had visible differences than Wednesday's official batch. Two correspondences that were singled out in the report came from National Security Adviser Ben Rhodes and State Department Spokeswoman Victoria Nuland.

Washington Post, Five myths about Benghazi, Michael Hirsh, May 16, 2013. The events surrounding the deaths of Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens and three other Americans in Benghazi, Libya, on Sept. 11, 2012, look dramatically different depending on your politics. Republicans tend to see a cover-up and a scandal. Democrats see an attempt to damage President Obama and former secretary of state Hillary Rodham Clinton. A Pew poll suggests that the public is divided as well, with 40 percent saying the administration has been dishonest, 37 percent saying it has told the truth, and 23 percent saying they’re not sure. Let’s assess what we do and don’t know. , 1. U.N. Ambassador Susan E. Rice gave a deliberately false account of the attack.

Daily Howler, Tommy Vietor gets it right on the Benghazi attack!, Bob Somerby, May 16, 2013. Yesterday, the White House released a pile of the e-mails which created the talking-points on Benghazi. Also yesterday, Tommy Vietor published his thoughts about the whole talking points flap. Until recently, Vietor was spokesman for the National Security Council. Yesterday’s events have made a few blindingly obvious points just that much more clear. First important fact: The CIA was the source for the claim that the Benghazi attack was “spontaneously inspired by the protests at the U.S. Embassy in Cairo.”  

Washington Post, Redacted truth, subjunctive outrage, Charles Krauthammer, May 16, 2013. Note to GOP re Benghazi: Stop calling it Watergate, Iran-contra, bigger than both, etc. First, it might well be, but we don’t know. History will judge. Second, overhyping will only diminish the importance of the scandal if it doesn’t meet presidency-breaking standards. Third, focusing on the political effects simply plays into the hands of Democrats desperately claiming that this is nothing but partisan politics.

Washington Post, The GOP’s phony Benghazi focus, Editorial Board, May 16, 2013. Republicans and conservative media obsessed with what they regard as the Obama administration’s scandalous coverup of the nature of the attack on the U.S. mission in Benghazi, Libya, last Sept. 11 have offered a shifting series of allegations. First they charged that U.N. Ambassador Susan E. Rice “willfully or incompetently misled the American public” when she appeared on news programs Sept. 16 and described the attack as having emerged from a spontaneous demonstration against an anti-Muslim video.

Boston Marathon Bombing

CBS News, Boston Bombing Suspect Left Note In Boat He Hid In, Sources Say, John Miller, May 16, 2013. Boston bombings suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev left note in boat he hid in, sources say (CBS News) Boston bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev left claiming responsibility for the April 13 attack on the Boston Marathon, reports CBS News senior correspondent John Miller. Sources tell Miller that Tsarnaev wrote the note in the boat he was hiding in as police pursued him, and as he bled from gunshot wounds sustained in an earlier shootout between police and his older brother, Tamerlan Tsarnaev. The note, scrawled with a pen on the interior wall of the cabin, said the bombings were retribution for U.S. military action in Afghanistan and Iraq, and called the Boston victims collateral damage in the same way Muslims have been in the American-led wars. "When you attack one Muslim, you attack all Muslims," the note added.

IRS Scrutiny for Conservative Groups Seeking Tax Exemption

AP via Huffington Post, Joseph Grant, IRS Official, Retiring Amid Tea Party Controversy, Stephen Ohlemacher, May 16, 2013. A second top Internal Revenue Service official has announced plans to leave the agency amid the controversy over the targeting of tea party groups. An internal IRS memo says Joseph Grant, commissioner of the agency's tax exempt and government entities division, will retire June 3. Grant joins Steven Miller, who was forced to resign as acting IRS commissioner on Wednesday. As part of his duties, Grant oversaw the IRS division that targeted tea party groups for additional scrutiny when they applied for tax-exempt status. Grant joined the IRS in 2005.

Politico, Inadequate IRS rules helped create scandal, Fred Wertheimeer, May 16, 2013. The current firestorm over the wrongful targeting of conservative groups by the Internal Revenue Service is one part of a picture that shows the existing rules to determine the eligibility of groups to qualify as section 501(c)(4) tax-exempt “social welfare” organizations are woefully inadequate. The other part of the picture is the failure of the IRS to pursue blatant abuses of the tax laws by groups that have improperly claimed section 501(c)(4) tax status in order to hide from the American people the donors who are financing their campaign expenditures. In fact, both of these IRS scandals stem directly from flawed IRS rules that are contrary to the statute creating section 501(c)(4) “social welfare” organizations and to court interpretations of the statute. 

Wall Street Journal, This Is No Ordinary Scandal, Peggy Noonan, May 16, 2013. Top Political abuse of the IRS threatens the basic integrity of our government. We are in the midst of the worst Washington scandal since Watergate. The reputation of the Obama White House has, among conservatives, gone from sketchy to sinister, and, among liberals, from unsatisfying to dangerous. No one likes what they're seeing. The Justice Department assault on the Associated Press and the ugly politicization of the Internal Revenue Service have left the administration's credibility deeply, probably irretrievably damaged. They don't look jerky now, they look dirty. The patina of high-mindedness the president enjoyed is gone. Something big has shifted. The standing of the administration has changed. As always it comes down to trust. Do you trust the president's answers when he's pressed on an uncomfortable story? Do you trust his people to be sober and fair-minded as they go about their work? Do you trust the IRS and the Justice Department? You do not. The president, as usual, acts as if all of this is totally unconnected to him. He's shocked, it's unacceptable, he'll get to the bottom of it. He read about it in the papers, just like you.

Wall Street Journal, The IRS Scandal Started at the Top, Kimberley A. Strassel, May 16, 2013. The bureaucrats at the Internal Revenue Service did exactly what the president said was the right and honorable thing to do. Was  involved in the IRS's targeting of conservatives? No investigation needed to answer that one. Of course it was. President Obama and Co. are in full deniability mode, noting that the IRS is an "independent" agency and that they knew nothing about its abuse. The media and Congress are sleuthing for some hint that Mr. Obama picked up the phone and sicced the tax dogs on his enemies.  But that's not how things work in post-Watergate Washington. Mr. Obama didn't need to pick up the phone. All he needed to do was exactly what he did do, in full view, for three years: Publicly suggest that conservative political groups were engaged in nefarious deeds; publicly call out by name political opponents whom he'd like to see harassed; and publicly have his party pressure the IRS to take action.

ABC, IRS Official in Charge During Tea Party Targeting Now Runs Health Care Office, John Parkinson and Steven Portnoy, May 16, 2013. The Internal Revenue Service official in charge of the tax-exempt organizations at the time when the unit targeted tea party groups now runs the IRS office responsible for the health care legislation. Sarah Hall Ingram served as commissioner of the office responsible for tax-exempt organizations between 2009 and 2012. But Ingram has since left that part of the IRS and is now the director of the IRS’ Affordable Care Act office, the IRS confirmed to ABC News today. Her successor, Joseph Grant, is taking the fall for misdeeds at the scandal-plagued unit between 2010 and 2012. During at least part of that time, Grant served as deputy commissioner of the tax-exempt unit.

Other May 16 News

FireDogLake, Drone Pilots Expose Politicians’ Lies, David Swanson, May 16, 2013. U.S. Air Force Lt. Gen. Robin Rand, 12th Air Force commander, observes two Airmen with the 6th Reconnaissance Squadron as they demonstrate the Remotely Piloted Aircraft (RPA) Field Training Unit simulators at Holloman Air Force Base, N.M. Our elected and unelected officials tell us that drone strikes target top level enemies of the United States who are imminent threats to us, and that killing innocent people is avoided altogether or minimized. Congressional hearings, with a couple of excellent exceptions, question outside academics about the legality of this purported strategy. The Obama administration declines to send any witnesses. But drone pilots have begun talking to the media.  And they describe policies that bear a lot closer resemblance to reporting from the areas where the missiles strike.  These pilots should be brought before Congress.

May 15

IRS Scrutiny for Conservative Groups Seeking Tax Exemption

Huffington Post, IRS Commissioner Learned Of Tea Party Targeting In May 2012, Stephen Ohlemacher, May 15, 2013. Acting Internal Revenue Service Commissioner Steven T. Miller repeatedly failed to tell Congress that tea party groups were being inappropriately targeted, even after he had been briefed on the matter. The IRS said Monday that Miller was first informed on May, 3, 2012, that applications for tax-exempt status by tea party groups were inappropriately singled out for extra, sometimes burdensome scrutiny. At least twice after the briefing, Miller wrote letters to members of Congress to explain the process of reviewing applications for tax-exempt status without revealing that tea party groups had been targeted.

Washington Post, Groups that sought tax-exempt status say IRS dealings were a nightmare, Josh Hicks and Kimberly Kindy, May 15, 2013. The Common Sense Campaign, a self-described constitutionalist group based in Montgomery, Ala., aspired to be a smaller version of the National Rifle Association — powerful and influential, without having to pay federal income taxes. “We wanted to have a voice too,” said the group’s chairman, Pete Riehm. “The biggest difference between us and them is money.” But Common Sense never reached the nonprofit stage. The organization gave up seeking tax-exempt status after two years of Internal Revenue Service demands for everything from the group’s blog posts to the names of “anyone who gave you so much as a dollar,” according to its officials. Not only did IRS employees improperly target groups based on politics, but they also improperly demanded a host of details about the groups’ activities, according to a report on the abuses by a Treasury Department inspector general.

Washington Post, IRS unit described as bureaucratic mess in report, Juliet Eilperin and Zachary A. Goldfarb, May 14, 2013. Federal authorities have opened a criminal investigation of whether Internal Revenue Service employees broke the law when they targeted conservative groups seeking tax-exempt status — the latest setback for an agency that is the subject of withering bipartisan criticism and multiple congressional inquiries. Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. said Tuesday that the Justice Department and the FBI began the probe after the IRS acknowledged that it selected conservative groups with the words “tea party” and “patriot” in their names for special reviews.

Washington Post, Crossroads GPS and Priorities USA were created for the purpose of hiding donors,’ Dylan Matthews, May 15, 2013. Fred Wertheimer is the founder and president of Democracy 21, a leading campaign finance reform organization. He worked for Common Cause for 24 years, serving as a lobbyist for the Watergate reforms and as a counsel for the organization in the landmark Buckley v. Valeo case before the Supreme Court and as president from 1981 to 1995. He has been involved in the passage of numerous reform measures, including the Federal Election Campaign Act and its amendments, the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act (aka McCain-Feingold), and the Honest Leadership and Open Government Act. We spoke on the phone Tuesday afternoon; a lightly edited transcript follows.

Huffington Post, The IRS Was Dead Right To Scrutinize Tea Party, Peter S. Goodman, May 16, 2013. Lost in the latest political scandal is a simple fact: The Internal Revenue Service was acting in the public interest when it opted to train its auditing power on the Tea Party and affiliated groups. In castigating government as the root of all evil while portraying taxation as a form of tyranny, the Tea Party is no less than a mass celebration of the evasion of the basic responsibilities of American citizenship. Common sense alone tells you that people drawn to its ranks may feel extra temptation to find ways to limit what they surrender to the rogue federal bureaucrats who have supposedly seized the nation. The cover-up is the bad part here, as in nearly all Washington scandals. It's not the act itself that delivered the real trouble.

DOJ Surveillance of the Associated Press

FireDogLake, Attorney General Eric Holder Testifies Before the House Judiciary Committee (Live Updates), Kevin Gosztola, May 15, 2013. Rep. Darrell Issa naturally puts on a good show. Holder cautions against calling deputy attorney general, Jim Cole, who signed off on seizure of AP phone records, to testify before House Judiciary Committee because he is overseeing an “ongoing investigation.” So, nobody in Justice Department has to answer for decisions around records seizure right now. Holder’s statement indicates that he is championing the same aspects of the Justice Department’s civil liberties record which he championed in his news conference yesterday. He highlights the administration’s aggressive record on civil rights, one Republicans on the committee will no doubt force him to defend because this probably what they consider “politicizing” the Justice Department.

Huffington Post, James Cole Authorized AP Subpoenas, Eric Holder Confirms, Ryan J. Reilly, May 15, 2013. Attorney General Eric Holder confirmed Wednesday that Deputy Attorney General James Cole, a longtime friend of Holder's and the number two official at the Justice Department, signed off on subpoenaing a wide range of Associated Press phone records.

Huffington Post, Eric Holder Says He's 'Not Sure' How Many Times DOJ Sought Journalists' Records, Luke Johnson, May 15, 2013. Amid an unprecedented effort by the Obama administration to crack down on leaks of classified information, Attorney General Eric Holder on Tuesday said he was unsure how many times he'd signed off on subpoenas to seize reporter records. "I'm not sure how many of those cases that I have actually signed off on," Holder told NPR's Carrie Johnson. "I take them very seriously. I know that I have refused to sign a few, pushed a few back for modifications."

New York Times, Spying on The Associated Press, Editorial Board, May 14, 2013. The Obama administration, which has a chilling zeal for investigating leaks and prosecuting leakers, has failed to offer a credible justification for secretly combing through the phone records of reporters and editors at the Associated Press in what looks like a fishing expedition for sources and an effort to frighten off whistle-blowers. On Friday, Justice Department officials revealed that they had been going through The A.P.’s records for months. The dragnet covered work, home and cellphone records used by almost 100 people at one of the oldest and most reputable news organizations. James Cole, a deputy attorney general, offered no further explanation on Tuesday, saying only that it was part of a “criminal investigation involving highly classified material” from early 2012.

Holder Grilled on Siegelman Case, Other Rights Violations

Locust Fork News-Journal, Memphis Congressman Asks Justice Department to Review Don Siegelman’s Case, Glynn Wilson, May 15, 2013.Watch this video to see Steve Cohen, left, a Democrat from Memphis, Tennessee, ask Attorney General Eric Holder to look into the political prosecution of former Alabama Governor Don Siegelman. Read more about the case in our comprehensive news archive of every development in the case. Don Siegelman on Trial Cohen also calls for a presidential pardon. And he pressures the attorney general to stop taking peoples’ liberty for possession of marijuana since a majority of the American people now say it should be legal.

C-SPAN, Rep Cohen, D-TN, confronts AG Holder on Don Siegelman's case, (Clipped from:Justice Department Oversight Hearing), May 15, 2013.

SFGate, Eric Holder has a bad memory on pardons, Debra J. Saunders, May 15,12013. At Wednesday’s House Judiciary Committee hearing, Rep. Steve Cohen, D-Tenn., asked Attorney General Eric Holder if he would push for a presidential pardon for former Alabama Gov. Don Siegelman. “The president could pardon him now,” said Cohen as he pressed Holder. Is your Pardon Attorney Ron Rodgers under investigation for withholding information? Cohen asked, referring to an Inspector General probe. The individual’s name — and Holder should know it – is Clarence Aaron, who outrageously was sentenced to life without parole for a first-time nonviolent drug offense. And Holder should be outraged that Pardon Attorney Ronald Rodgers withheld vital information on Aaron’s case. The only corrective measure that can prevent a repeat would be to remove Rodgers from a position for which he tempermentally is unsuited. 

Huffington Post, Wireless Carriers Privacy Failure Revealed In Associated Press Phone Record Controversy, Matt Sledge, May 15, 2013. Verizon Wireless turned over personal cellphone records for Associated Press journalists without giving them a chance to challenge subpoenas as part of an extraordinary Department of Justice national security leak investigation, the New York Times reported on Tuesday. But there was nothing extraordinary about what Verizon Wireless apparently did. Hundreds of thousands of times every year, cellphone companies turn over personal call records to law enforcement with neither a warning nor a judge's involvement. Privacy activists said it's no way for carriers to treat paying customers. They said they hope the AP controversy will force the big cell companies to change their ways. "This is the phone companies putting the interest of law enforcement before their customers, and that's wrong," said Christopher Soghoian, principal technologist for the American Civil Liberties Union. "None of them tell users. They all suck."

Benghazi

Washington Post, Obama administration releases e-mails detailing agencies’ debate over Benghazi, Scott Wilson and Karen DeYoung, May 15, 2013. The Obama administration released 100 pages of e-mails Wednesday that reveal differences between intelligence analysts and State Department officials over how to initially describe the Sept. 11, 2012, attack on the U.S. mission in Benghazi, Libya. The internal debate did not include political interference from the White House, according to the e-mails, which were provided to congressional intelligence committees several months ago.

White House, Annotated Benghazi-related emails, via Washington Post, May 15, 2013. The White House released e-mails relating to talking points about the Sept. 11, 2012, attacks on an American facility in Benghazi, Libya, on May 15. Click the links below to view key sections annotated by Washington Post reporters. Example: E-mail sent by then-CIA Director David Petraeus to Morrell and other agency officials on Sept. 15, 2012. Petraeus appears frustrated in this e-mail over the fact that the final talking points do not mention that the CIA warned that there had been previous attacks against Western interests in the Benghazi area, among other details. The State Department objected to including that information, worried that doing so would look the CIA look good at State's expense.

Mediaite, Kirsten Powers To O’Reilly: Obama Is Lying, ‘Playing Word Games’ In Trying To Rewrite What He Said On Benghazi, Josh Feldman, May 15, 2013. Bill O’Reilly noticed tonight how public reaction is slowly but surely going against the White House following the scandal trifecta it’s been hit with this week, with even high-ranking Democrats raising serious questions. Kirsten Powers felt no qualms about calling Obama a liar for trying to claim he immediately referred to Benghazi as an act of terrorism last September, saying that he’s just “playing word games” in trying to create revisionist history. Powers agreed with O’Reilly that someone needs to call out Jay Carney for refusing to comment on these stories and past others simply by stating there is an ongoing investigation into the matter. O’Reilly said the White House could still give out general information anyway, even if there really was an investigation in the first place.

Other May 15 News

Washington Post, Hagel orders retraining of sex-assault prevention officers; Army sergeant investigated, Craig Whitlock, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel on Tuesday evening ordered the armed services to immediately “re-train, re-credential and re-screen” tens of thousands of military recruiters and sexual-assault prevention officers as the revelation of another sex-crime scandal rocked the Pentagon. Hagel’s order came in response to the Army’s disclosure Tuesday that a sergeant first class responsible for handling sexual-assault cases at Fort Hood, Tex., had been placed under criminal investigation over allegations of abusive sexual contact and other related matters. Investigators are also scrutinizing allegations that the sergeant may have forced a subordinate into prostitution, according to a U.S. official familiar with the case.

Daily Howler, The congressman gives the yahoo the slip! Bob Somerby, May 15, 2013. In yesterday’s New York Times, Mark Landler describes the congressional fact-finding trip which allegedly inspired the GOP’s obsession with Benghazi. Landler records one striking statement by the Republican congressman in question. And he completely fails to explore his story’s main point.

Daily Howler, The fuller transcript of what Brokaw said! Bob Somerby, May 15, 2013. Tom Brokaw made a gruesome appearance on Morning Joe. Four days earlier, ABC News had released twelve versions of the talking points which guided Susan Rice on the Sunday programs of September 16, 2012. Thanks to ABC’s release, it was now perfectly clear why Rice said some of the things she said on those now-famous programs.  No one had to speculate about where her statements came from. But on Morning Joe, it was abundantly clear that Brokaw didn’t have the slightest idea what those various talking-points said. He also didn’t seem to know what Rice had said on those Sunday programs. Why was Brokaw still so clueless as of Monday morning? Easy! People like Brokaw rarely work from facts!  According to this familiar novel, Rice said it wasn’t a terrorist attack—and the CIA’s accurate claims were changed by politicized agencies. Broken knew the novel by heart; he just didn’t seem to know any facts. He didn’t know what Rice had said in her basic presentation. He didn’t know what Rice had said when Schieffer asked about al Qaeda.

May 14

DOJ Surveillance of the Associated Press

Huffington Post, AP To DOJ: Explanation For Secret Probe 'Does Not Adequately Address Our Concerns,' Jack Mirkinson, May 14, 2013. The Associated Press issued a sharp rebuke on Tuesday to the Justice Department's contention that it was careful and measured in its secret probe of the news agency. Deputy Attorney General James M. Cole, left, the man who oversaw the investigation into the AP, told the wire service in a letter Tuesday that, contrary to its claims that it had been the victim of a "massive and unprecedented intrusion," the probe had been very targeted. Cole said that the secret subpoenas of phone records were "limited in both time and scope," and that the DOJ had taken every available measure to avoid having to obtain the records. In his reply, AP CEO Gary Pruitt said Cole's explanation was simply not good enough. "We appreciate the DOJ’s prompt response, but it does not adequately address our concerns," he wrote. Pruitt wondered how an investigation that targeted up to 100 journalists could be defined as "narrowly drawn." He also said he failed to see how a less narrow investigation would have compromised the DOJ's mission. In a press conference on Tuesday, Attorney General Eric Holder—who has recused himself from the investigation—said that the DOJ probe occurred in response to one of the most serious and dangerous national security leaks he had ever seen.

Washington Post, Justice Department, IRS scandals challenge Obama’s civil liberties credibility, Scott Wilson, May 14, 2013. President Obama, a former constitutional law lecturer who came to office pledging renewed respect for civil liberties, is today running an administration at odds with his résuméand preelection promises. The Justice Department’s collection of journalists’ phone records and the Internal Revenue Service’s targeting of conservative groups have challenged Obama’s credibility as a champion of civil liberties — and as a president who would heal the country from damage done by his predecessor. Atttorney General Eric Holder says the Justice Department decided to subpoena phone records of AP citing one of the "most serious leaks" he's ever encountered. Holder says he removed himself from the decision to subpoena the records. Attorney General Eric Holder says the Justice Department decided to subpoena phone records of AP citing one of the "most serious leaks" he's ever encountered. Holder says he removed himself from the decision to subpoena the records. For any president, the most cutting political problems emerge when the administration shows signs of faltering in areas where it is supposed to excel. Obama asked to be measured by competence and his commitment to what he called foundational American values — two areas where rights advocates say he has not met the standards he set.

Washington Post, Attorney General Eric Holder back in crossfire after Justice Dept. obtains AP phone records, Sari Horwitz and Carol D. Leonnig, May 14, 2013. In President Obama’s first term, Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. was a lightning rod for congressional Republicans who criticized the administration’s handling of law enforcement issues. But for the past several months, the nation’s top law enforcement official has been virtually invisible from the national stage, granting few interviews and successfully avoiding the kinds of controversies that have plagued the Justice Department in recent years. The AP phone records story has put the attorney general back in a familiar spot: Caught in the political crossfire. Attorney General Eric Holder took the action after he was interviewed by the FBI in connection with the case. His respite now appears to be over. Holder was thrust back into the spotlight Tuesday after the revelation that his department had secretly obtained a large cache of telephone records of journalists working for the Associated Press. The phone records were seized as part of a year-long investigation into the disclosure of classified information about a failed al-Qaeda plot.

The Blaze, Obama Administration Under Siege From 3 Huge Scandals: Here’s Why It Could All Come Crashing Down, Buck Sexton, May 14, 2013. In just one week, President Barack Obama’s political machine has switched from endless campaign to survival mode. And for the first time in Obama’s presidency, the damage to his regime may be permanent. Three revelations have come together like an avalanche. First, there was a Benghazi hearing that proved beyond any reasonable doubt that this administration is feckless, dishonest, and cravenly politicized. But in its aftermath on Friday, an executive branch information dump dropped another bombshell: the IRS does indeed target and intimidate conservative groups. This appalling admission from a senior IRS official was obviously meant to slide into the news cycle and dissipate over the weekend. This unseemly public relations gambit has become a hallmark of the Obama approach to all issues, regardless of their importance to the nation. Deny or delay, spin and win. And, to the discredit of our electorate, it has worked—until perhaps now. As the country was still reeling from the gut-wrenching testimony of three Benghazi whistleblowers and the IRS mea culpa, yet another log was thrown onto the bonfire of the Obama administration’s credibility. Yesterday the Associated Press broke a news story that Obama’s Justice Department collected phone data on dozens of AP reporters as part of a national security leak investigation.

Guardian via OpEd News, Justice Department's Pursuit Of AP's Phone Records Is Both Extreme And Dangerous, Glenn Greenwald, May 14, 2013. The claimed legal basis for these actions is unknown, but the threats they pose to a free press and the newsgathering process are clear. Numerous media reports convincingly speculated that the DOJ's actions arise out of a 2012 AP article that contained leaked information about CIA activity in Yemen, and the DOJ is motivated, in part, by a desire to uncover the identity of AP's sources. That 2012 AP story revealed that the CIA was able to "thwart" a planned bombing by the al-Qaida "affiliate" in that country of a US jetliner. AP had learned of the CIA actions a week earlier but "agreed to White House and CIA requests not to publish it immediately because the sensitive intelligence operation was still under way."

Washington Post, Justice Department subpoena increases tension between White House and news media, Paul Farhi, May 14, 2013. The Justice Department’s revelation that it secretly subpoenaed the Associated Press’s phone records in order to hunt down the source of a national security leak has elicited nearly unanimous criticism and condemnation of the department’s action from news organizations. The media’s unusual united front was spelled out in a letter Tuesday to Attorney General Eric H.Holder Jr. by the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, a group that includes the major television networks, magazine publishers and newspapers, including the Washington Post. It called the government’s subpoena of the AP records, “an overreaching dragnet” by the department and demanded the return of phone logs taken from four AP bureaus and reporters’ personal phones.

Online News Association, Letter: DOJ overstepped bounds in AP subpoena, Jim Brady, May 14, 2013. Today we joined with the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press and 50 other media organizations in issuing a letter to the Department of Justice (DOJ) regarding its subpoenaing of telephone records belonging to The Associated Press. The DOJ’s actions — gathering two months of records for more than 20 telephone lines, both from major AP bureaus and the home and cell phones of individual AP journalists — is a startling and potentially dangerous overreach of its powers, powers that are strictly limited under the DOJ’s own guidelines for issuing subpoenas to the news media for testimony and evidence. The range of media organizations that have signed on to the letter and the speed with which we have reacted gives some sense of how strongly ONA — and the journalism community at large — feels about the DOJ’s intrusion and its potential impact on our work in the service of the public. As outlined in the letter, we have requested a swift response from the DOJ on a variety of related issues, and we’ll keep you updated.

FireDogLake, The Justice Department’s Seizing of AP Phone Records: A Continuation of Attacks on Freedom of the Press, Kevin Gosztola, May 14, 2013.The US Justice Department’s secret seizure of phone records of reporters and editors at the Associated Press is nothing less than a continuation of attacks on freedom of the press that have been ongoing under the administration of President Barack Obama. Carl Bernstein, famed investigative journalist who broke the story on the Watergate scandal with Bob Woodward, appeared on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” and declared this is a “matter of policy.” It goes right up to the president and the people who surround him, the very officials who have waged an unprecedented war on whistleblowers and leaks. He also explained, “The object of it is to try and intimidate people who talk to reporters, especially on national security matters. National security is always the false claim of administrations trying to hide information that people ought to know.”

IRS Scrutiny for Conservative Groups Seeking Tax Exemption

Procedures for Washington Post, IG report: ‘Inappropriate criteria’ stalled IRS approvals of conservative groups, Juliet Eilperin and Zachary A. Goldfarb, May 14, 2013. Federal authorities have opened a criminal investigation of whether Internal Revenue Service employees broke the law when they targeted conservative groups seeking tax-exempt status — the latest setback for an agency that is the subject of withering bipartisan criticism and multiple congressional inquiries. Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. said Tuesday that the Justice Department and the FBI began the probe after the IRS acknowledged that it selected conservative groups with the words “tea party” and “patriot” in their names for special reviews.

Center for Public Integrity, IRS nonprofit division overloaded, understaffed; 2012 banner year for nonprofit applications, Dave Levinthal, May 14, 2013. Amid withering accusations the Internal Revenue Service targeted tea party and other conservative groups with enhanced scrutiny, the agency faces another problem: it’s drowning in paperwork. The IRS’ Exempt Organizations Division, which finds itself at the scandal’s epicenter, processed significantly more tax exemption applications in fiscal year 2012 by so-called 501(c)(4) “social welfare” organizations  — 2,774 — than it has since at least the late 1990s, according to an analysis of IRS records by the Center for Public Integrity. Compare that to 1,777 applications in 2011 and 1,741 in 2010, federal records show. Not since 2002, when officials processed 2,402 applications, have so many been received. Meanwhile, Exempt Organizations Division staffing slid from 910 employees during fiscal year 2009 to 876 during fiscal year 2012, agency personnel documents indicate.

Daily Beast, IRS Scandal’s Central Figure, Lois Lerner, Described as ‘Apolitical,’ Caitlin Dickson, May 14, 2013. Lois Lerner is in the eye of the IRS–Tea Party firestorm. Caitlin Dickson reports on the ‘apolitical’ director of the IRS’s Exempt Organizations Division—and whether she could have averted the scandal. One woman sits at the center of the developing—and utterly confusing—Internal Revenue Service scandal. It was Lois Lerner, director of the IRS’s Exempt Organizations Division, who let slip at an American Bar Association meeting on Friday that, between 2010 and 2012, conservative nonprofit groups were improperly scrutinized by the IRS. And it is Lerner who has since become the target of a number of accusations and conspiracy theories, lobbed from both ends of the political spectrum.

Washington Post, IRS has been too lax on tax-exempt status, Ruth Marcus, May 14, 2013. In order to qualify for nonprofit, tax-exempt status under Section 501(c)(4) of the tax code, groups must be “operated exclusively for the promotion of social welfare,” defined as activities “promoting in some way the common good and general welfare of the community.” However, the IRS has long interpreted “exclusively” to mean “primarily” and allowed 501(c)(4) groups to engage in partisan activity as long as it constitutes less than half their operations. The problem exploded after the Supreme Court’s 2010 ruling in Citizens United, when the number and explicit political involvement of such groups mushroomed. This was a bipartisan outrage, although a lopsided one: Republicans were far more active on the nonprofit front than Democrats. Still, groups backing candidates from both parties abused the system by spending millions on political campaigns without revealing the identities of their donors. Meanwhile, a passive IRS stood idly by as the groups made a mockery of campaign disclosure rules.

Los Angeles Times, The real IRS scandal: Allowing so many 'social welfare' groups to enjoy tax-exempt status while participating in politics must stop. The IRS is obligated to scrutinize applicants, 'tea party' or no, Michael Hiltzik, May 14, 2013. It's strange how "scandal" gets defined these days in Washington. At the moment, everyone is screaming about the "scandal" of the Internal Revenue Service scrutinizing conservative nonprofits before granting them tax-exempt status. Here are the genuine scandals in this affair: Political organizations are being allowed to masquerade as charities to avoid taxes and keep their donors secret, and the IRS has allowed them to do this for years. The bottom line first: The IRS hasn't done nearly enough over the years to rein in the subversion of the tax law by political groups claiming a tax exemption that is not legally permitted for campaign activity. Nor has it enforced rules requiring that donors to those groups pay gift tax on their donations.

Washington Post, Crossroads GPS and Priorities USA were created for the purpose of hiding donors, Dylan Matthews, May 15, 2013. Fred Wertheimer is the founder and president of Democracy 21, a leading campaign finance reform organization. He worked for Common Cause for 24 years, serving as a lobbyist for the Watergate reforms and as a counsel for the organization in the landmark Buckley v. Valeo case before the Supreme Court and as president from 1981 to 1995. He has been involved in the passage of numerous reform measures, including the Federal Election Campaign Act and its amendments, the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act (aka McCain-Feingold), and the Honest Leadership and Open Government Act. We spoke on the phone Tuesday afternoon; a lightly edited transcript follows.

Huffington Post, IRS Tea Party Scandal: White House Did Not Drive Investigation, Inspector General Says, Jon Ward and Sam Stein, May 14, 2013. The IRS Inspector General said Tuesday that incompetence, not malice, was behind the tax agency’s heavy scrutiny of conservative groups applying for tax-exempt status in the lead-up to the 2012 elections. A 48-page IG report explicitly stated that the IRS behavior was “not politically biased,” that it was due to lower-level staff who did not understand their jobs and sometimes acted  subordinately, and that it was not driven by the White House. The findings come just days after it was revealed that the IRS had singled out groups with words like "Tea Party" in their names -- a politically explosive revelation that raised concerns over government discrimination against political opponents.  All IRS officials interviewed, however, told the IG that the scrutiny of such groups was “not influenced by any individual or organization outside the IRS.” Rather than a scandal, the IG said, the Tea Party probes had merely given “the appearance that the IRS is not impartial in conducting its mission.”

Legal Schnauzer, The President Paints Himself Into An Ethical Corner By Voicing Outrage Over Evolving Scandal At The IRS, Roger Shuler, May 14, 2013. When Barack Obama said in January 2009 that he planned to "look forward as opposed to looking backwards" at the apparent crimes of the George W. Bush administration, reasonable observers knew that comment would come back to bite the president-elect some day. That moment came yesterday when President Obama told reporters at a White House press conference that he was outraged over disclosures that the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) had singled out conservative groups for special scrutiny. Obama went so far as to say that he would not tolerate a government agency that targets individuals and groups based on political affiliations. But those words ring hollow when you realize that Obama has tolerated exactly such behavior from the outset of his administration.

Boston Marathon Bombing

WhoWhatWhy, WHO in Boston: Bombing Story Mysteries, Russ Baker on May 14, 2013. Most of the national and international media have left Boston—and essentially moved on from the Marathon bombing story. But at WhoWhatWhy, we’re just getting started. Why? Because we see a lot of problems with what we’ve been told so far. We’ve been disappointed that the media have failed to demonstrate healthy skepticism while passing along, unchallenged, the (self-serving) assertions of “the authorities.” It is the job of journalism not only to report what authorities say, but also to confirm their claims, and address anomalies, errors, inconsistencies, outright lies, and cover-ups, large and small.

May 13

Washington Post, Washington IRS officials probed conservatives, Juliet Eilperin and Zachary A. Goldfarb, May 13, 2013.  Effort scrutinizing groups not limited to Cincinnati branch, as first suggested; Democrats, Republicans alike decry actions as an abuse of power.  

Washington Post, The face of the IRS scandal, David A. Fahrenthold, May 13, 2013. Lois Lerner preached caution but still finds herself at the center of controversy over targeting conservative groups.

AP, Gov't obtains wide AP phone records in probe, Mark Sherman, May 13, 2013. The Justice Department secretly obtained two months of telephone records of reporters and editors for The Associated Press in what the news cooperative's top executive called a "massive and unprecedented intrusion" into how news organizations gather the news. The records obtained by the Justice Department listed outgoing calls for the work and personal phone numbers of individual reporters, for general AP office numbers in New York, Washington and Hartford, Conn., and for the main number for the AP in the House of Representatives press gallery, according to attorneys for the AP. It was not clear if the records also included incoming calls or the duration of the calls. In all, the government seized the records for more than 20 separate telephone lines assigned to AP and its journalists in April and May of 2012. The exact number of journalists who used the phone lines during that period is unknown, but more than 100 journalists work in the offices where phone records were targeted, on a wide array of stories about government and other matters.  In a letter of protest sent to Attorney General Eric Holder, right, on Monday, AP President and Chief Executive Officer Gary Pruitt said the government sought and obtained information far beyond anything that could be justified by any specific investigation. He demanded the return of the phone records and destruction of all copies.

May 12

Huffington Post, Robert Gates Defends Obama Military Response To Benghazi, Amanda Terkel, May 12, 2013. Former Defense Secretary Robert Gates, left, defended the Obama administration's response to the Sept. 11, 2012, terrorist attack in Benghazi on Sunday, saying he would not have done anything different militarily if he had still been at the Pentagon. "Frankly had I been in the job at the time, I think my decisions would have been just as theirs were," said Gates on CBS's "Face the Nation," referring to the role of then-Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Martin Dempsey.

AP/Huffington Post, Thomas Pickering: Benghazi Call Did Not Come From Hillary Clinton, Philip Elliott, May 12, 2013. The seasoned diplomat who penned a highly critical report on security at a U.S. outpost in Benghazi, Libya, defended his scathing assessment but absolved then-Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton. "We knew where the responsibility rested," Thomas Pickering, whose career spans four decades, said Sunday. "They've tried to point a finger at people more senior than where we found the decisions were made," Pickering said of Clinton's critics.

Lawfare, Eric Holder Comments on Civilian Justice System, Benjamin Wittes, May 12, 2013. Attorney General Eric Holder yesterday made these remarks at the University of California Berkeley School of Law’s Commencement. In addition to the normal graduation-speech fare, he said the following: "In the wake of the Boston Marathon bombings, many of these tired and meritless political arguments – and renewed calls to abandon the use of civilian courts in dealing with terrorism-related activity – are being made once again.   And once again, every legal professional, every aspiring leader, and every graduate in this crowd today must renew your commitment to standing firm – in the face of manufactured controversy and overheated partisan rhetoric – to uphold our most sacred values."

StormCloudsGathering via YouTube, The Odessa Massacre -- What REALLY Happened, May 12, 2014 (video: 10:58 min.). Contrary to what the mainstream media has tried to convince you, it's not at all a mystery how the fire started in Odessa, Ukraine and it's not at all a mystery who started it. We owe it to the victims to expose what really happened. On that page you will have links to the images in question, but we won't assault you with them by surprise.

May 11

Huffington Post, Guns Allowed In Some Pennsylvania State Schools Amid Review, Michael Rubinkam, May 11, 2003. At least five Pennsylvania state-owned universities are now allowing guns on campus after the state's lawyers concluded that an outright ban on weapons was likely unconstitutional. Kutztown, Shippensburg, Edinboro, Slippery Rock and Millersville universities have all quietly changed their policies over the past year to reflect the advice of lawyers in the governor's office and the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education. Students in those schools are now allowed to have weapons on campus, though they are still generally banned from school buildings and athletic events. Students with concealed-carry permits had questioned the constitutionality of blanket weapons bans at state-owned universities, prompting a legal review that found such bans were vulnerable to court challenge. Pennsylvania is among 23 states that allow individual colleges or universities to decide if they'll ban concealed weapons on campus, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. Twenty-two states ban concealed weapons and five – Colorado, Mississippi, Oregon, Utah and Wisconsin – allow firearms on public university campuses.

May 10

Associated Press / Bloomberg Business Week, Court Denies Government's Motion to Stay Order that Morning-After Pill Be Made Available Without Restrictions, Larry Neumeister, May 10, 2013. A judge on Friday refused to delay enforcement of his decision giving women of all ages broad access to morning-after birth control, calling the government's appeal frivolous, a "silly argument" and an insult to the intelligence of women. U.S. District Judge Edward Korman in Brooklyn did agree to postpone implementation of his month-old decision until Monday to give the government time to appeal to the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Manhattan. "Indeed, in my view, the defendants' appeal is frivolous and is taken for the purpose of delay," Korman wrote. He called the government's reasoning "largely an insult to the intelligence of women." The government had warned that "substantial market confusion" could result if Korman's ruling was enforced while appeals are pending. The judge dismissed the reasoning as a "silly argument." He blamed the government for any market uncertainty, saying it was responsible for appeals "taken solely to vindicate the improper conduct" of Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, left, "and possibly for the purpose of further delaying greater access to emergency contraceptives for purely political reasons."

May 9

Legal Schnauzer, Victim of Sexual Harassment Under Gov. Bob Riley Was Forced To Leave Her Job In Settlement Deal, Roger Shuler, May 9, 2013.The State of Alabama paid $53,000 to settle a sexual-harassment complaint against a prominent aide to former Republican Governor Bob Riley. The victim wound up having to leave her job as part of a settlement agreement. Melissa C. George, who worked in Riley's proclamations office, filed the complaint against communications director David Azbell, according to a report yesterday from Bill Britt at Alabama Political Reporter (APR). Ms. George since has married, and now is Melissa George Bowman.

Huffington Post, Mark Udall 'Extremely Concerned' About Warrantless Email Searches, Matt Sledge, May 9, 2013. Sen. Mark Udall (D-Colo.), right, said Thursday he was "extremely concerned" over revelations that the FBI continues to believe it can conduct warrantless email searches despite a federal appeals court's ruling that they are unconstitutional. Using a public records request, the American Civil Liberties Union received a set of FBI documents Wednesday. An internal June 2012 department guide included among the documents shows that the FBI believes it can obtain the contents of emails without a warrant if the email was sent or received through a third-party service. In at least one case before that guide was written, however, a federal court disagreed: In a 2010 decision, the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals found that emailers using cloud services have a reasonable expectation of privacy and are protected by the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution's warrant requirement.

FireDogLake, Hostage Taking Is an All or Nothing Game, Jon Walker, May 9, 2013. House Republicans have a problem. They have trapped themselves in a no man’s land of political hostage taking. The GOP leadership has basically admitted they can’t really play chicken with the debt limit again, but at the same time many in the rank and file refuse to give up on the idea that voting on the limit somehow gives them leverage. You can’t try to take a huge hostage and only demand a modest ransom, it shows everyone you are not serious. Your only options in legislative fights are asking for either a huge demand or sneaking in a small token, but nothing in between.

May 8

Time, Exclusive: Dagestani Relative of Tamerlan Tsarnaev Is a Prominent Islamist, Simon Shuster, May 8, 2013. Last year, when Tamerlan Tsarnaev, left, spent six months in the Russian region of Dagestan, he had a guide with an unusually deep knowledge of the local Islamist community: a distant cousin named Magomed Kartashov. Six years older than Tsarnaev, Kartashov is a former police officer and freestyle wrestler—and one of the region’s most prominent Islamists.

Wall Street Journal, Diplomat Airs Benghazi Attack Details In Riveting Account of Libya Raid, Official Knocks Administration Response, Siobhan Hughes and Adam Entous May 8, 2013. A high-ranking American diplomat delivered an emotional reconstruction Wednesday of the Sept. 11, 2012, attacks on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya, providing the first detailed public account from an American official who was on the ground in Libya. Gregory Hicks told a House hearing of the harrowing attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi. The testimony from Gregory Hicks, the No. 2 U.S. official in Libya at the time, before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee also drew new attention to key questions about the attacks, and how the administration handled the aftermath.

Legal Schnauzer, Richard Scrushy Shines Spotlight On Siegelman Case With Insightful Live Interview At Huffington Post, Roger Shuler, May 8, 2013. Former HealthSouth CEO Richard Scrushy last night called on President Obama to pardon former Alabama Governor Don Siegelman and for Attorney General Eric Holder to investigate  prosecutorial and judicial misconduct in the case.  "I don’t understand Eric Holder not cleaning this mess up, if he’s any kind of man at all," Scrushy told Alyona Minkovski on HuffPost Live. "All you have to do is read the e-mails between the prosecutors. If the president of the United States would look at those e-mails, he would pardon the governor and let him out immediately. I can’t believe he would let it go another day, with the corruption that is in this case."

The Smoking Gun, "Sex And The City" Author, Members Of Council On Foreign Relations Join List Of "Guccifer" Hacking Victims, Staff report, May 8, 2013. Days after breaching online accounts of members of the Council on Foreign Relations, the hacker “Guccifer” this week broke into the e-mail and Twitter accounts of “Sex and the City” author Candace Bushnell, The Smoking Gun has learned. After illegally accessing Bushnell’s Earthlink account yesterday, “Guccifer” rooted through it and located an e-mail the 54-year-old writer sent last week to her editor at Grand Central Publishing. The correspondence included a Word attachment containing the first 37,000 words of Bushnell’s next novel. The Bushnell hack came several days after “Guccifer” broke into various online accounts of two members of the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR), economist Adam Posen and Karen Johnson, a former Federal Reserve Board official. The hacker also broke into accounts of Posen’s wife, Jennifer Sosin, a Washington, D.C. research strategist. “Guccifer” has previously claimed that his hacking interest revolves around exposing members of the Illuminati, Bush administrations, CFR, Rockefellers, Bohemian Grove, etc. Background: FastCompany, Now PayPal Goes for Cryptome, Suspends Account, Addy Dugdale, March 8, 2010. Two weeks after Cryptome.com had the plug pulled temporarily on it by host Network Solutions, it seems the site has run into more problems--only this time, with someone else.

May 7

Roll Call, Air Force Sex Assault Arrest Highlight’s Filmmakers’ Quest, Jason Dick, May 6, 2013. A key point in last year’s Academy Award nominated documentary The Invisible War was that the military was structurally incapable of adequately policing sexual assault in the armed services. As if to bolster the filmmakers’ case, the Air Force officer in charge of its Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Branch has been arrested and charged with sexual battery. 

FireDogLake, Documents Reveal Zero Dark Thirty Had CIA Script Rewrite, DSWright, May 7, 2013. A Freedom of Information Act request by Gawker reveals that the CIA pushed through changes to the script of the film Zero Dark Thirty

FireDogLake, Why Isn’t the Name of the New Director of CIA’s National Clandestine Service Being Made Public? Kevin Gosztola, May 7, 2013. CIA director John Brennan has appointed someone to fill the position of National Clandestine Service (NCS) director. The individual, however, is apparently going to keep his undercover status.

Reason, Terrorism and Radiation: Understanding the Real Threat To Our Cities, Jon Basil Utley, May 7, 2013. The importance of understanding the real levels of radiation risk. The Boston Marathon attack has drawn new attention to the risk of radiation poisoning from a dirty bomb detonated in a heavily-populated urban area. Bostonians were inconvenienced by the shutting down of their city for a day; imagine if it had been a dirty bomb and a quarter million people had been ordered to evacuate their homes and offices, because of false fears about the amount of radiation which is actually dangerous. A recent New York Times report, “U.S. Rethinks How to Respond to Nuclear Disaster,” offers a helpful reminder that the greatest threat from terrorism is often what Washington does in response, such as launching unnecessary foreign wars or clamping down on civil liberties. Every crisis can become an excuse for Congress to loot the American treasury, impose new taxes, and grow the power and intrusiveness of government. Nuclear radiation, fanned by media-generated panic and ignorance, is always at the top of the list of most feared events and is therefore an area particularly open to government overreaction.

May 6

FireDogLake, The Real Rogoff-Reinhart Problem Was Not the Mistakes, It Was the Lack of Basic Transparency, Jon Walker, May 6, 2013. Larry Summers has decided to rush into the fray to defend his “colleagues and friends” Carmen Reinhart and Ken Rogoff. Unfortunately, the only way for Summers to defend his friends is by trying to rewrite history. Summer tried to pretend the problem was simply a matter of making some errors.  The issue was not that they made mistakes, it’s that they actively hid their mistakes. If Rogoff and Reinhart had released their data earlier, like many economists asked them to, their obvious “errors” would have been found out right away. As a result, their incredibly inaccurate claims would not have had a big policy impact. Instead they refused to release their data even as many claimed they were unable to reproduce it.

May 5

Associated Press / MSN, Uncle arranging Boston bomb suspect's burial rites, Denise Lavoie, May 5, 2013. The uncle of the Boston Marathon bombing suspect killed in a gunbattle with police arrived at a funeral home Sunday to arrange for his burial. Ruslan Tsarni of Montgomery Village, Md., and three other men met with Worcester funeral home director Peter Stefan. The men who accompanied Tsarni plan to wash and perform Muslim burial rites on the body of 26-year-old Tamerlan Tsarnaev, Stefan said. Tsarnaev, who had appeared in surveillance photos wearing a black cap and was identified as Suspect No. 1, died days after the bombing April 15 at the marathon finish line, which killed three people and wounded more than 260 others.

Huffington Post, Benghazi Attack Appeared 'A Terrorist Attack From The Get-Go,' Says Official, Dave Jamieson, May 5, 2013. Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif), right, chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, revealed an interview on Sunday with a high-ranking U.S. diplomat in Libya who contradicted the White House's initial version of events after the attack on the U.S. diplomatic mission in Benghazi in September.

FireDogLake, Over 55, out of work more than six months? Headhunters say you’re screwed, Pam Spaulding, May 5, 2013. I came across this story and it took my breath away. Not because any of this is particularly shocking, given the general information about how hard it has been for the long-term unemployed to get work, and the battle over extensions of unemployment benefits. What made me unravel was the prospect that for some of this demographic — and the Baby Boomer bulge falls squarely in here — being seen as that 47% — you know, the leeches on the government that Mittens gleefully cooed about with disdain in the now-infamous undercover video.

OpEdNews, The Financial Press -- A Disinformation Machine, Paul Craig Roberts, left, May 5, 2013. Dave Kranzler of Golden Returns Capital declares the April payroll jobs report that was released on May 3 by the Bureau of Labor Statistics to be "fictitious." Statistician John Williams (shadowstats.com) says both the jobs report and unemployment rate are "nonsense." I agree with both. But don't expect the financial press to report the facts. Let's take a walk through the BLS report and you can arrive at your own conclusion. The BLS report says that the private sector created 185,000 service jobs in April. Even if this report were true, it would have negligible effect on the unemployment rate as about 127,000 new jobs are needed each month just to stay even with population growth and current unemployment rate. But is the BLS report true? The 7.5 percent reported rate is not the product of new jobs generated by a recovering economy. It is the result of discouraged workers who, unable to find jobs, give up looking and, thus, cease being counted in the work force.

May 4

Washington Post, Baltimore jail case depicts a corrupt culture driven by drugs, money, sex, Theresa Vargas, Ann E. Marimow and Annys Shin, May 4, 2013.  Theresa Vargas, Ann E. Marimow and Annys Shin, May 4, 2013. Why did 13 female corrections officers allegedly do the bidding of an inmate known as “Bulldog”?' during his three years at the state-run detention center, White, 36, was allegedly a figure who commanded respect, not only from fellow inmates in jumpsuits but also from many of the women in blue collared shirts and pressed slacks guarding him. Thirteen of them allegedly smuggled cellphones and drugs inside their hair, lunches and underwear for the man they called “Bulldog” or “Tay.” One tattooed his name on her neck, another on her wrist. Four have carried his children.

Washington Post, Boston case highlights limitations  of U.S. counterterror network, Greg Miller and Sari Horwitz, May 4, 2013. Even when defenses function as designed, they can be undermined by factors such as timing and luck. It has been more than a decade since the United States began building its massive counterterrorism infrastructure, an apparatus that has been reconfigured several times in recent years after a series of near-miss attacks. The strike in Boston marked the first time that a terrorist bomb plot slipped past those elaborate defenses and ended in casualties in the United States. Whether that outcome represents an intelligence failure is already the focus of a multi-agency review as well as a heated political debate. The details that have emerged so far suggest there are still institutional gaps that could be fixed to bolster the nation’s counterterrorism system. But the bombings also exposed a less-reassuring reality: Even when defenses function as designed, they can be undermined by factors beyond their control.

Washington Post, Karzai acknowledges CIA payments, Kevin Sieff, May 4, 2013. Afghan President Hamid Karzai acknowledged Saturday that he has frequently received money from the CIA and that he had been promised the agency would continue making such payments. At a news conference, Karzai said the payments amounted to “a government institution helping another government institution, and we appreciate all this assistance and help.”

Washington Post, Bottleneck of would-be nominees for State Department could impede Kerry’s progress, Anne Gearan, May 4, 2013. Secretary of State John F. Kerry, right, is off to a fast start in a job he has long coveted — traveling extensively and tackling nearly every big, thorny foreign policy problem at once. In an around-the-world odyssey last month, he veered from the crisis in Syria to Middle East peace talks to missile-tipped diplomacy with North Korea. Back in Washington, though, the pace has been glacial. Most senior posts in the State Department remain vacant more than three months into President Obama’s second term; a bottleneck of would-be nominees await approval by the White House.  The contrast between Kerry’s ambitious agenda and the slow changes he has brought to the State Department raises questions about whether he has the political muscle to accomplish what he has started. It also feeds perceptions that the Obama White House has extended control over the department since the departure of Kerry’s predecessor, Hillary Rodham Clinton....Top policy jobs such as the assistant secretaries responsible for Asia and Africa are vacant, and others are occupied by first-term holdovers who had expected to move on to other jobs by now.

Salem-New.com, Drones Against Boston? Will House, May 4, 2013. John W. Whitehead, president of The Rutherford Institute, is calling on Congress to be proactive in adopting safeguards to protect Americans against the domestic use of weaponized surveillance drones.  In his written testimony to the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee, Whitehead pointed out that there has been no public discussion whatever of the issue -- of the dangers or the numerous risks, and "warned against any government use of drones without appropriate civil liberties protections ..." Those includes prohibitions on drones being outfitted with anti-personnel devices, tasers, tear gas

Desmog Blog, Obama's Former Communications Director's Firm Does PR For Keystone XL Pipeline, Tar Sands Rail Transport, Sreve Horn, May 3, 2013. Double-dipping is a "no go" in the real world of eating chips and salsa with a circle of friends but an everyday reality in the world of lobbyists and PR professionals. Anita Dunn, former White House Communications Director for President Barack Obama, now runs the firm SKDKnickerbocker (Squier Knapp Dunn), a firm that "brings unparalleled strategic communications experience to Fortune 500 companies, political groups and candidates, non-profits, and labor organizations." She is shown at left in a photo via Wikipedia. Dip one: TransCanada Corporation, which SKDK does public relations work for, as revealed in an Oct. 2012 New York Times investigation. TransCanada is the multinational corporation currently building the contentious southern half of the Keystone XL (KXL) tar sands pipeline, following the dictates of a March 2012 Obama Administration Executive Order. Within months, the fate of the border-crossing Alberta to Port Arthur, TX KXL export pipeline will also likely be decided by the U.S. State Department. Dip two: Another SKDKnickerbocker client is the Association of American Railroads (AAR), the American Petroleum Institute trade association equivalent for the freight rail industry. Even without KXL -- as covered previously on DeSmogBlog - tar sands crude can be moved to targeted markets via freight rail (coupled with pipeline capacity increases of other tubes and potential barging along Lake Superior). Beneficiaries of tar sands transport via rail include AAR dues-paying member Burlington Northern Santa Fe (BNSF), owned by major Obama donor Warren Buffett via his holding company, Berkshire Hathaway. Shell Oil -- a major Alberta tar sands extractor -- also pays AAR member dues, which indicates Big Oil understands the strategic importance of rail transport. Dunn's firm, in short, stands to gain from tar sands extraction with or without a KXL northern half, a classic case of double-dipping. Dunn has maximized her White House insider access status since leaving the Administration in 2009 and starting SKDK. "Dunn regularly attends closed-door political strategy briefings with top Obama aides; White House records show she has visited more than 100 times since leaving her communications job," the Oct. 2012 New York Times piece explained. "She is now serving as a paid adviser to the Democratic National Committee." Dunn's husband Robert "Bob" Bauer also maintains extremely close ties to the Obama Administration, serving as Obama's personal and political attorney.

Huffington Post, Niall Ferguson: Keynesian Economics Flawed Because Keynes Was Gay, Childless, Meredith Bennett-Smith, May 4, 2013. Harvard historian Niall Ferguson has apologized for remarks claiming John Maynard Keynes' theory of economics was doomed to failure because Keynes himself was gay and childless. Financial writer Tom Kostigen, the editor at large of Private Wealth and Financial Advisor magazines, reported Ferguson's comments Friday on the Financial Advisor website: Harvard Professor and author Niall Ferguson says John Maynard Keynes' economic philosophy was flawed and he didn't care about future generations because he was gay and didn't have children. Kostigen writes that Ferguson, speaking in front of hundreds of financial advisers and investors at the Tenth Annual Altegris Conference in Carlsbad, Calif., broached the subject in response to a question comparing Keynes' theories and Edmund Burke's. Burke had many children, Keynes had none, Ferguson reportedly said. And thus, Burke believed in a "social contract" that would endure for generations, while the childless, gay Keynes believed in a philosophy of self-interest. Ferguson, "says it's only logical that Keynes would take this selfish worldview because he was an 'effete' member of society," Kostigen wrote. "Apparently, in Ferguson's world, if you are gay or childless, you cannot care about future generations nor society."

Washington Post, Shift to a service-driven economy delays job recovery, Jim Tankersley, May 3, 2013  It feels like it’s taking forever for the U.S. economy to add back the jobs it lost in the Great Recession. In historical terms, that’s true, and new research suggests it’s partly because of a half-century shift from manufacturing to services as the engine of the economy. Even with the relatively good news Friday that the economy added 165,000 net jobs in April, the United States is 2.5 million jobs short of where it was when the recession officially began in December 2007. It has been 45 months since the recession ended. The recession was the deepest one since the Great Depression. But slow job recoveries have become a defining trend of the past three recessions. It took the economy 37 months from the end of the 2001 recession to add back the jobs it lost. For the recession before that, which ended in 1991, it took 23 months. Yet about two decades earlier, it took just nine months to regain the jobs lost in the recession that ended in 1975 and six months for the one that ended in 1970. New research by economists Martha Olney, at the University of California at Berkeley, and Aaron Pacitti, at Siena College, suggests that the economy is slower to recover jobs today because it has grown far more dependent on people doing things as opposed to making things.

BuzzFeed, CUNY Students Not Excited For David Petraeus To Join Faculty, Rosie Gray, May 3, 2013. Students and professors in the City University of New York are angrily opposing the appointment of disgraced former CIA director David Petraeus to their faculty, and are circulating a satirical flyer about Petraeus. Petraeus, who will be a Visiting Professor of Public Policy, may be in for an awkward time. The CUNY schools, which include eleven colleges and several professional schools, have become increasingly characterized by liberal activism and organizing in the last few years, especially during the height of the Occupy movement in New York. The same students and professors who protested tuition hikes and unilateral decisions by the school system’s chancellor Matthew Goldstein are now up in arms about Petraeus, who is in the midst of a full-scale comeback attempt helmed by Washington lawyer Robert Barnett. Petraeus has also accepted another teaching job at the University of Southern California.

May 2

FireDoglake, Obama Nominates Major Campaign Contributor Penny Pritzker for Commerce Secretary, DS Wright, May 2, 2013. Has the mask finally come off the Obama presidency? After a campaign in 2008 that won him Marketer of the Year in which Obama hurled progressive rhetoric while having Goldman Sachs as his biggest campaign contributor and then having a presidency marked by antagonism to progressive reforms, it seems Obama is finally dropping the hope and change act and giving away government offices to his financial benefactors. President Obama plans to nominate Chicago business executive Penny Pritzker, a longtime political supporter and heavyweight fundraiser, as his new Commerce secretary this morning. With a personal fortune estimated at $1.85 billion, Pritzker is listed by Forbes magazine among the 300 wealthiest Americans. Clearly the 1% need more of a voice in government, especially 1%ers who have some issues with unions and proper banking practices. Who better to be the Commerce Secretary? Someone who is at odds with labor unions and has problems complying with bank regulations should really understand American commerce today.

National Press Club, National Press Club marks 20th year of World Press Freedom Day, May 3, John M. Donnelly, May 2, 2013. The National Press Club commemorated the 20th anniversary of World Press Freedom Day today with a sober reminder of how unfree the press is in most of the world and a pledge to keep working to change that. Created in 1993 by the United Nations General Assembly, World Press Freedom Day is celebrated on May 3 each year and has three goals. The first is to evaluate the state of press freedom. The second is to defend the press from attacks on its independence. And the third is to honor those who have sacrificed, sometimes with their lives, to bring the public the news. Since 1992, at least 982 journalists have been killed worldwide, and 594 of those murders are unsolved, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists. An estimated 232 journalists are imprisoned today, the group says.

Politico, Daily Beast drops Howard Kurtz, Dylan Byers, May 2, 2013. The Daily Beast is dropping Howard Kurtz, the veteran media critic who made headlines this week for his erroneous report about NBA star Jason Collins. The decision comes after Kurtz published a blog post that falsely asserted that Collins, who announced he was gay in an article for Sports Illustrated, had neglected to mention his previous engagement to a woman. In fact, Collins mentioned that engagement in the article and in a subsequent interview with ABC News. The Daily Beast retracted that post on Thursday morning. But sources at The Daily Beast also tell Politico that Kurtz was dropped in part because he had ben dedicating much of his time to other ventures, including The Daily Download, a media criticism site. Kurtz also hosts a weekend media criticism show on CNN called "Reliable Sources."

AP via Politico, David Petraeus takes USC teaching post, Staff report, May 2, 2013. The University of Southern California announced Thursday that the retired general and former CIA director is joining the faculty to teach classes and mentor ROTC members. Petraeus, who has a doctorate from Princeton University, says in a statement that USC is "a great university that prizes academic excellence." It's the second teaching appointment for the hero of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. It was announced last month that he'll be a visiting professor at the City University of New York.

May 1

FireDogLake, In First Amendment Case Over Afghan War Memoir, Justice Department Asks Judge to End Lawsuit, Kevin Gosztola, May 1, 2013.The Justice Department has asked a federal judge to conclude that a former Defense Intelligence Agency officer “has no First Amendment right to publish the information at issue” in a memoir he penned at on his service in the war in Afghanistan. They maintain information the officer wants to publish is “properly classified” and the government is “entitled to substantial deference” that its publication would result in harm from disclosure. The case involves Lt. Col. Anthony Shaffer, right, an officer with twenty-five years of field experience, who wrote Operation Dark Heart: Spycraft and Special Ops on the Frontlines of Afghanistan and the Path to Victory

BLT/Legal Times, Breaking Tradition, Obama Taps Non-Lawyer to Head FCC, David Brown, May 1, 2013. There's something a bit different about Tom Wheeler, nominated today by President Barack Obama to head the Federal Communications Commission. It’s not his work as a lobbyist or venture capitalist - rather, it's that unlike practically every other chairman in the agency's 79-year history, Wheeler is not a lawyer. To be sure, Wheeler by all accounts knows the industry well, heading two major trade groups for years. As Obama put it today in remarks at the White House, "Tom is the only member of both the cable television and the wireless industry hall of fame. So he’s like the Jim Brown of telecom… Tom knows this stuff inside and out."

Huffington Post, Howard Kurtz Indignantly Accuses Jason Collins Of Not Disclosing Thing He Actually Totally Disclosed, Jason Linkins, May 1, 2013.  

Paul Craig Roberts.org / Institute for Political Economy, You Are The Hope, May 1, 2013. Dear Readers: If there is hope, you are it. You are motivated to find truth. You can think outside the box. You can see through propaganda. You are the remnant with the common sense that once was a common American virtue.

Where today is moral awareness as Washington bombs civilian populations around the globe? Where is the moral conscience of the the civil rights movement as the First Black President, the first member of the oppressed class to sit in the Oval Office, validates the Bush Regime’s assertion of the right of the unaccountable executive to ignore habeas corpus and due process? Not satisfied with this crime, Obama asserted the right of the executive branch to murder any citizen suspected, without proof being offered to a court, of undefined “support of terrorism.” Today all Americans have fewer rights than blacks had prior to the Civil Rights Act. Anything, including a column critical of war and the police state, can be declared to be “in support of terrorism.” As the tyrant Bush put it: “You are with us, or you are against us.” The print and TV media and many Internet sites got the message: Serve Washington’s agenda, and will you will prosper. Advertisers and the CIA will pump money into your coffers. Challenge us and you will be demonized.

Truthout, Guantanamo Attorney Found Dead in Apparent Suicide, Jason Leopold, May 1, 2013. An attorney who represented prisoners detained at Guantanamo Bay was found dead last week in what sources said was a suicide. Andy P. Hart, 38, a federal public defender in Toledo, Ohio, apparently died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound. Hart left behind a suicide note and a thumb drive, believed to contain his case files. It is unknown where Hart died, what the suicide note said or whether an autopsy was performed. Hart’s death comes amid escalating chaos that has engulfed Guantanamo over the past three months—from a mass hunger strike to military commissions and renewed pressure on the White House to shut down the prison facility. Hart was one of three-dozen Guantanamo attorneys who signed a letter in March urging Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel to take immediate action and bring about an end to the hunger strike.

 

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