January 31, 2012

How to fake sexual violence rates and produce scary numbers

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently released a study suggesting that rates of sexual violence in the United States are comparable to those in the war-stricken Congo. How is that possible?

The CDC’s National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey found that, in the United States in 2010, approximately 1.3 million women were raped and an additional 12.6 million women and men were victims of sexual violence. It reported, “More than 1 in 3 women and 1 in 4 men have experienced rape, physical violence and/or stalking by an intimate partner in their lifetime.”

Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius hailed the report for giving “a clear picture of the devastating impact these violent acts have on the lives of millions of Americans.”

In fact, what the study reveals is the devastating impact that careless advocacy research can have on truth. The report proposes an array of ambitious government-sponsored “prevention strategies” and recommends “multi-disciplinary service centers” offering survivors psychological and legal counseling as well as housing and economic assistance. But survivors of sexual violence would be better served by good research and sober estimates — not inflated statistics and sensationalism.

The agency’s figures are wildly at odds with official crime statistics. The FBI found that 84,767 rapes were reported to law enforcement authorities in 2010. The Bureau of Justice Statistics’ National Crime Victimization Survey, the gold standard in crime research, reports 188,380 rapes and sexual assaults on females and males in 2010. Granted, not all assaults are reported to authorities. But where did the CDC find 13.7 million victims of sexual crimes that the criminologists had overlooked?

It found them by defining sexual violence in impossibly elastic ways and then letting the surveyors, rather than subjects, determine what counted as an assault. Consider: In a telephone survey with a 30 percent response rate, interviewers did not ask participants whether they had been raped. Instead of such straightforward questions, the CDC researchers described a series of sexual encounters and then they determined whether the responses indicated sexual violation. A sample of 9,086 women was asked, for example, “When you were drunk, high, drugged, or passed out and unable to consent, how many people ever had vaginal sex with you?” A majority of the 1.3 million women (61.5 percent) the CDC projected as rape victims in 2010 experienced this sort of “alcohol or drug facilitated penetration.”

What does that mean? If a woman was unconscious or severely incapacitated, everyone would call it rape. But what about sex while inebriated? Few people would say that intoxicated sex alone constitutes rape — indeed, a nontrivial percentage of all customary sexual intercourse, including marital intercourse, probably falls under that definition (and is therefore criminal according to the CDC).

Other survey questions were equally ambiguous. Participants were asked if they had ever had sex because someone pressured them by “telling you lies, making promises about the future they knew were untrue?” All affirmative answers were counted as “sexual violence.” Anyone who consented to sex because a suitor wore her or him down by “repeatedly asking” or “showing they were unhappy” was similarly classified as a victim of violence. The CDC effectively set a stage where each step of physical intimacy required a notarized testament of sober consent.

The report also called for more research on “sexism” and urged “collective action” against media messages that “objectify and degrade women.” In the familiar jargon of feminist theory, the CDC said: “It is important to continue addressing the beliefs, attitudes and messages that are deeply embedded in our social structures.”

Why is the CDC using methods of advocacy research that are anathema to genuine social science? The answer is suggested by a posting on the White House Web site this month by Lynn Rosenthal, a presidential adviser on violence against women:

“Early in the Administration, the Vice President convened federal agencies to assess trends and identify gaps in our response to violence and abuse. We identified data collection as one of the biggest challenges we face in understanding and combatting these crime. Thanks to the hard work of [Attorney General Eric] Holder, the FBI, law enforcement leaders, and the women’s organizations who have long advocated for this change, we are one step further towards meeting that challenge.”

While that passage referred to the FBI’s recently revised definition of rape — and not the CDC survey — it shows how the study fits into the administration’s effort to apply the advocacy agenda of the women’s lobby to rape research. That would explain how feminist theory found its way into the report. But why would CDC officials, who are experienced in resisting political pressure, cooperate?

Perhaps they felt the study would draw needed attention to the genuine problem of sexual violence. That is an understandable but recklessly misguided conclusion. Faulty studies send scarce resources in the wrong directions; more programs on sexism, stereotypes and social structures, for example, are unlikely to help victims of violence. Defining sexual violence down obscures the gradations in culpability that are essential to effective criminal law, and it holds up a false mirror on our society. The CDC should recall this study.

January 30, 2012

DOJ dodges, won’t say if Holder knew ‘Fast and Furious’ gun killed border guard

A document the Department of Justice sent to Congress Friday shows that Eric Holder’s deputy chief of staff was made aware on the day of U.S. border Patrol Agent Brian Terry’s murder that a weapon traced back to Operation Fast and Furious killed him. But when asked Sunday, a Justice spokesperson would not would not answer The Daily Caller’s question about whether Attorney General Eric Holder himself was informed of the connection.

The documents sent from the DOJ to congressional officials Friday night included a series of emails between former Arizona U.S. Attorney Dennis Burke and Holder’s then-deputy chief of staff Monty Wilkinson. Those emails show Wilkinson, a senior Holder aide, knew on December 15, 2010 – the day Terry was killed — that the weapons used to murder him were provided to a Mexican gang by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.

On that day, records show, Burke wrote to Wilkinson that “[t]he guns found in the desert near the murder[ed] BP officer connect back to the investigation we were going to talk about — they were AK-47s purchased at a Phoenix gun store.”

The emails also show that Wilkinson “alerted” Holder of Terry’s death on that day. They do not, however, show whether he told Holder that Operation Fast and Furious had provided Terry’s killer with the means to murder him.

Reached by The Daily Caller on Sunday, DOJ spokeswoman Tracy Schmaler would not give a yes-or-no answer to the question of whether Wilkinson told Holder, his superior, about the connection between the gunwalking scheme and Terry’s murder.

Instead, Schmaler pointed to a letter Assistant Attorney General Ronald Weich sent to Congress Friday with the documents. In that letter, Weich wrote only that Wilkinson “does not recall” whether or not he informed Holder. Weich added that the DOJ has been “advised” that Burke similarly has “no recollection” of discussing these details with Wilkinson in the first place.

Over the course of an email conversation Sunday lasting more than two hours, Schmaler declined to answer whether Holder was informed. She did, however, agree that it’s “absolutely not unreasonable to ask” that question of Holder.

Iowa Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley, who has led the congressional investigation into Operation Fast and Furious along with House oversight committee chairman Rep. Darrell Issa, said in a tweet Saturday that the documents DOJ released Friday “clearly show Holder[']s people knew” about the gunwalking initiative before Grassley opened his investigation — and that the DOJ “lied” to Congress.

January 29, 2012

Burke of Fast and Furious had anti-gun history

The career path of former U.S. Attorney Dennis Burke can be charted through an ascending string of jobs from Arizona's Supreme Court to the U.S. Senate, White House, Department of Homeland Security and Justice Department.

It is a resume that spans more than two decades in three branches of government.

Then, suddenly, it nose-dives on Aug. 30, 2011, when Burke resigned as U.S. attorney amid a scandal over a gun-smuggling case known as Operation Fast and Furious.

Since that day, the gregarious public servant has gone silent, and nearly invisible, except that his name appears prominently in Justice Department documents, congressional hearings and news reports.

Burke's political downfall may have been shocking, but an Arizona Republic analysis of his career suggests that the cause -- firearm politics -- has been a pet theme through most of his 23 years in government.

The end came after federal records and testimony revealed that Burke last year pressed colleagues and superiors to deny that the Justice Department knowingly allowed guns to be smuggled into Mexico under his watch, and that two of those weapons wound up at the murder scene of a U.S. Border Patrol agent.

In e-mail exchanges with DOJ officials, Burke incorrectly described allegations about Fast and Furious by Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, as "categorically false." He also reviled congressional investigators as "stooges" for gun-rights zealots.

Burke finally quit his post after testifying in secret to congressional investigators about the case.

He was not the only federal official to suffer fallout. At the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, national Director Kenneth Melson was reassigned and Arizona's top agent, William Newell, was transferred. On Capitol Hill, Grassley called for the removal of Lanny Breuer, second in command of the Justice Department, and many in Congress have said Attorney General Eric Holder should be fired.

But, of all the officials caught up in America's so-called "gun-walking" scandal, Dennis Kiernan Burke is the only one to lose his job.

A resignation letter to President Barack Obama said simply, "It is the right time to move on to pursue other aspects of my career and my life."

The question: Has he hit bottom yet, and can he rise again?

'A stand-up guy'

Since leaving his skyscraper office in downtown Phoenix, Burke has turned down all interview requests, leaving his lawyers to describe him as a "stand-up guy" who didn't intentionally mislead Congress or the public.

An inspector general probe is still under way, as well as congressional investigations.

Friends say Burke, who had been touted as a possible candidate for governor or Congress, is lying low, volunteering full time with a rape-crisis network and playing golf. All of them speak of him with glowing adjectives: articulate, positive, hardworking, decent, funny, loyal.

"He doesn't have enemies," said Robbie Aiken, a longtime friend and vice president for federal affairs with Pinnacle West Capital Corp. "All the things he's done, yet I've never really heard anybody say anything negative about him."

But there are critics, especially among staunch Second Amendment advocates, who paint Burke as a liberal apparatchik who was willing to let criminals move weapons to Mexican cartels if it would help justify new firearms restrictions.

"It's no coincidence that Dennis Burke, a longtime anti-gun policy person, was made U.S. Attorney in mid-2009 ... the same month (sic) that Fast and Furious begins," said Mike Vanderboegh, a gun-rights blogger. "They picked precisely the right guy to run a clandestine program." (The operation began a month after Burke's appointment was confirmed.)

Curiously, the supporters and detractors agree on one point: They say Burke became a scapegoat to protect higher officials in the Justice Department or White House. Dave Workman, a gun-rights blogger, described Burke as "the chief sacrificial lamb."

Sen. Grassley, in an October statement, said: "Mr. Burke is to be commended, to some extent, for being the only person to resign and take responsibility for the failed operation. Of course, I do not believe he should feel obligated to be the only fall guy."

Phoenix attorney Andy Gordon, a close friend for nearly two decades, said Burke may be loyal to a fault, protecting higher-ups in the Justice Department. "DOJ threw him under the bus. That's my view," Gordon said.

Another friend, attorney Tim Nelson, said: "I don't know the workings of the Obama administration, whether they were looking for a fall guy or what. But it certainly looks that way."

Whether those evaluations are valid or not, associates agree Burke was devastated to lose a dream job and see his reputation tainted by scandal.

Kevin Burke, an older brother who serves as a county judge in Minnesota, said Dennis is focused on defending himself as investigations continue.

"He's certainly bummed," Judge Burke said. "You want people to understand what you did and why you did it." Asked if Dennis privately admits to making mistakes, Kevin answered, "I can categorically deny that. The idea that he is going around saying, 'Boy, I really screwed up'? He's never told me that."

Strong work ethic and ambition

Since Dennis Burke got his law degree at the University of Arizona in 1988, he has flourished in high-profile government jobs, handling politicians, journalists, lobbyists and lawyers with aplomb.

Born in 1962 in Chicago, the last of five children in an Irish-Catholic home, Burke once credited his immigrant grandfather with instilling a work ethic to match ambitions. When Dennis was just a boy, the family moved to Phoenix, where he attended Catholic schools. (As an adult, he once said his life motto was "Love your neighbor as you do yourself" because "several nuns beat that into my head in grade school.")

After graduation from Brophy College Preparatory, Burke earned a bachelor's degree at Georgetown University and got an early taste of national politics by serving as an intern for U.S. Rep. Martin Sabo, D-Minn.

"He was kind of bitten by the Hill bug," said Kevin Burke, who is president of the American Judges Association.

Former Sen. Dennis DeConcini, D-Ariz., who hired Burke from law school as a congressional intern, said the student stood out for legal smarts and people skills. "Just really bright," DeConcini said, "and he was good with Republicans."

Fresh out of law school, Burke won a coveted position as clerk with the Arizona Supreme Court under Justice James Moeller.

Then, in 1989, he was hired as a low-level staff lawyer at the U.S. Senate. Within a year -- at age 27 -- Burke was assigned to the Judiciary Committee, eventually playing a behind-the-scenes role in confirmation proceedings for three Supreme Court justices.

And he began working on gun control. DeConcini said Burke helped draft the Anti-Drug Assault Weapons Limitation Act of 1989. A five-year battle ensued, ending with President Bill Clinton signing the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994, which made it a federal offense to possess certain semiautomatic rifles manufactured after the law's passage.

DeConcini said Burke fostered the measure in concert with a key figure in the White House, policy analyst Rahm Emanuel, who years later would become chief of staff for President Obama. Emanuel now is mayor of Chicago.

"Dennis was the one who worked with everyone on the Judiciary Committee to line up these members and votes," DeConcini said. "Dennis had all these pictures of these guns -- the Streetsweepers and the AK-47s. And it passed by one vote. A lot of it was not my eloquence on the bill, it was stuff that Dennis had done."

The law was adopted shortly before Burke left his Senate job for a position in the Clinton White House as a senior policy analyst for law enforcement and drug issues, again working with Emanuel.

According to preserved e-mails, Burke continued handling firearm issues, discussing whether executive orders could be used to extend the Brady Handgun Violence Protection Act requirement for background checks.

In 1997, Burke became a federal prosecutor under U.S. Attorney Janet Napolitano, getting firsthand experience with Mexican syndicates that were smuggling narcotics and firearms. In an interview that year with the Arizona Business Gazette, he identified earlier gun-regulation efforts as the most fulfilling professional assignment he'd undertaken.

Over the next decade, he served as a chief deputy to Napolitano as she became Arizona attorney general, governor and then director of Homeland Security, where he again dealt with gun-running into Mexico.

Fast and Furious launched

On July 10, 2009, President Obama named Burke as his nominee for U.S. attorney for Arizona. He was confirmed by unanimous consent in the Senate on Sept. 15 of that year.

From the beginning, there were huge controversies: Senate Bill 1070, Arizona's anti-immigration law, was under challenge in court. The Maricopa County Sheriff's Office was being investigated for alleged civil-rights violations. Border security had become a political firefight, with Arizona as a funnel point for smuggling amid growing fear that Mexican violence would spill onto U.S. soil.

Authorities in both nations were blaming liberal U.S. gun laws for arming the cartels. The assault-weapons law had expired in 2004. Restoration of the statute had been on Obama's platform, and Burke was among the public adherents.

During a news conference in 2010, Burke complained that scores of guns from Arizona were being recovered in Mexico. "We have a huge problem here. We have now become the gun locker of the Mexican drug cartels." What Burke did not mention was that his prosecutors had allegedly instructed ATF agents to let some of those weapons "walk" across the border.

In fact, just one month after Burke's appointment as U.S. attorney was confirmed by the Senate, Operation Fast and Furious was secretly launched in Arizona.

According to congressional testimony and DOJ records, the idea was to follow the firearms south so that drug lords who received them could be identified and prosecuted. Over a two-year period, smugglers moved as many as 1,400 weapons across the border. The problem: Those AK-47s and .50-caliber rifles were being used for mayhem in Mexico, and U.S. investigators had not devised a successful way to track them.

Agent Terry's death

Burke's supporters question whether he understood that the ATF strategy knowingly let guns into Mexico, but critics say e-mails and other Justice Department records indicate he knew exactly what was going on.

For example, an ATF memo in January 2010 says Burke was briefed in detail on Fast and Furious and expressed "full agreement" with a strategy allowing "the transfer of firearms to continue to take place ... in order to further the investigation and allow for the identification of additional co-conspirators."

In an April 2010 e-mail to a colleague, Burke predicted that the operation would have a huge public impact: "It's going to bring a lot of attention to straw purchasers of assault weapons," he wrote. "Some of these weapons bought by these clowns in Arizona have been directly traced to murders of elected officials in Mexico by the cartels, so Katie-bar-the-door when we unveil this baby."

However, available Justice Department documents do not include any record where Burke explicitly acknowledged an awareness of the gun-walking strategy, and it is unclear whether he believed a furor would result because of the investigative tactic, or because so many U.S. firearms were responsible for Mexico's cartel bloodshed.

At least some ATF agents bristled at the ATF operation, warning of potentially fatal consequences. Those predictions proved true on Dec. 14, 2010, when Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry was killed in a midnight shootout with bandits near Nogales. Within hours, Burke was notified that two guns found at the scene were linked to Fast and Furious.

A man, who bought them 11 months earlier at a Glendale firearms store, was promptly arrested on suspicion of illegal-weapons purchases, along with other gun-buy suspects. Yet, at a news conference announcing the busts, federal officials failed to reveal the link with Terry's death and denied that guns had been allowed to "walk" as part of the case.

ATF agents, horrified at what happened, became whistle-blowers, leaking information to Congress. Last January, Sen. Grassley sent letters to ATF, alleging that the bureau had knowingly allowed guns into the hands of Mexican criminals and that two of those weapons were tied to Terry's murder. Burke reacted by sending e-mails to DOJ colleagues denouncing the senator's assertions as "categorical falsehoods."

In early messages to DOJ superiors, he incorrectly claimed weapons found at the murder scene were purchased before Fast and Furious started. Later, he clarified that although Fast and Furious was under way, the buyer was not being surveilled at the time he bought them.

Bitter denunciations

On Feb. 1,The Republic published the first mainstream news story on the gun-running scandal and about a congressional inquiry into Fast and Furious.

Burke e-mailed a top Justice Department official, complaining about the bad publicity and about Grassley's letter. "They (ATF) got smoked today in the Arizona Republic. Just smoked," he wrote. "They punted going on the record to deny completely fabricated assertions that cut at the heart of their agency and the mission of law enforcement."

ATF and Justice officials spent three days arguing over language for a rebuttal to Grassley's letter. Burke, who wanted a hard-line denial, complained bitterly to colleagues: "What is so offensive about this whole project is that Grassley's staff, acting as willing stooges for the Gun Lobby, have attempted to distract from the incredible success in dismantling SWB (Southwest Border) gun trafficking operations," he wrote. "Not uttering one word of rightful praise or thanks to ATF -- but, instead, lobbing this reckless, despicable accusation that ATF is complicit in the murder of a federal law enforcement officer."

In another missive, Burke wrote, "I am so personally outraged by Senator Grassley's falsehoods. It is one of the lowest acts I have ever seen in politics."

DOJ eventually issued a letter denouncing Grassley's allegations about Fast and Furious as "false."

Holder has since acknowledged that the senator's assertions were true, and that Fast and Furious was a flawed operation. Spurred by those admissions, congressional investigators redoubled their efforts, digging up more records and questioning witnesses under oath. This past summer, Burke was called before congressional investigators for two closed-door interviews.

According to subsequently released excerpts, Burke acknowledged mistakes and accepted blame. "It should not have been done the way it was done," he said, "and I want to take responsibility for that. And I'm not falling on my sword or trying to cover for anyone else."

Motives debated

Attorneys Lee Stein and Chuck Rosenberg, who represent Burke, said their client did not intentionally provide false information to colleagues and superiors in the Justice Department.

"Dennis has cooperated with congressional investigators and the (Justice) Department's inquiry into this matter," Stein said. "He takes his public service seriously."

Critics say the constellation of facts points to Burke as a ramrod behind Fast and Furious, working to provide political powder for more firearm regulations.

In a Dec. 18 post, Second Amendment blogger John Richardson wrote: "Looking at Burke's background and his attitude towards gun rights and those who support them, I see this as even further confirmation that the intent of Operation Fast and Furious from the very beginning was to build support for another so-called assault-weapons ban. I just don't think it was coincidental that Operation Fast and Furious was centered in Arizona."

DeConcini, who has sought to help Burke behind the scenes with members of Congress, said such inferences are "totally unfair," and he insisted that Burke did not learn of the gun-walking strategy until after Brian Terry's death.

Kevin Burke said it is absurd to suggest that his brother came up with some "Machiavellian plan" to justify gun-control measures. He said Dennis was dedicated to stopping firearm deaths -- not adding to them -- and he would never have risked lives or his career on such a gambit.

David Steele, a political consultant and friend, agreed: "The Dennis Burke I know doesn't engage in that kind of political triangulation," he said. "The whole notion that he did this as a conspiracy for gun control is laughable."


Investigations by Congress and the inspector general are ongoing.

Guns from Fast and Furious continue to surface at crimes scenes in Mexico and the United States.

The case against those accused of killing Brian Terry is sealed in federal court.

And Dennis Burke remains under a cloud.

His attorney Stein said the experience has been "sobering," but Burke keeps busy volunteering with a rape-crisis network. "He's really been using this time to reconnect with family and friends, and to try to get through all this and decide what he'll do with the rest of his life," Stein said.

Other friends say he understands how scandals work in the nation's capital. "It's a tough town," said Aiken, who worked in the Reagan administration. "Dennis knows that. He's a tough guy. And I suspect he'll come out of this A-OK. (But) I don't think he was treated altogether fairly."

January 28, 2012

House: DOE sought federal contracts for Solyndra

House investigators say that one Department of Energy (DOE) official tried to aid Solyndra in procuring government contracts that could support the then-ailing company, while President Obama's campaign bundler -- and major Solyndra investor -- suggested that military contracts might be a "win win win" for DOE.

The House Energy and Commerce Committee summarized the push to prop up Solyndra in two letters to Obama Administration officials. "Documents produced to the Committee show that Jonathan Silver, the Executive Director of the DOE Loan Programs Office, contacted the General Services Administration (GSA) in July 2010 about scheduling a meeting with Solyndra to discuss a contract for Solyndra to provide solar panels for government buildings," Chairman Fred Upton, R-Mich., and Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigation Chair Cliff Stearns, R-Fla., wrote to GSA Administrator Martha Johnson. The investigators asked Johnson for all GSA documents related to Solyndra.

The same month that Silver was connecting Solyndra to the GSA, George Kaiser -- a fundraiser for Obama with a massive stake in Solyndra -- and his adjuncts were game-planning how to get military contracts from the Defense Department that could solve Solyndra's financial problems. "What about DOD (and other governmental entity) sales efforts? Do the DOE people focus at all on how a Buy American plan could be a win win win for them and do they have any influence?" Kaiser emailed to some executives in his investment firm, Argonaut Private Equity, according to the House Committee.

Following that email, Steve Mitchell -- an Argonaut executive on the Solyndra board -- emailed a colleague suggesting that they push for a law that would, in effect, cause the Defense Department to buy Solyndra solar panels. "Get them to buy our panels," Mitchell wrote. "All they have to do is do some US content type of requirements for DOD procurement."

Upton and Stearns requested documents from Defense Secretary Leon Panetta about Solyndra lobbying for DOD contracts. "[W]e understand that one of Solyndra's in-house lobbyists had an ongoing dialogue with an official in the Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Operational Energy Plans and Programs," the lawmakers wrote. They requested all DOD documents pertaining to Solyndra "in order to understand . . . whether individuals within the Obama Administration assisted in these efforts."

January 27, 2012

Senate to take up insider-trading bill

The Senate plans to take up legislation next week that would ban lawmakers from profiting on inside information obtained in the halls of Congress.

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) tweeted Thursday that the full Senate will vote on the bill, which she co-sponsored with Sen. Scott Brown (R-Mass.).

“Thrilled the Senate will take up my #STOCKAct bill next wk to end insider trading by members of Congress,” she wrote. “Time to restore trust in our govt!”

Measures to explicitly prohibit members of Congress and their staff from personally profiting by using inside information obtained in their offical duties have gained steam since a “60 Minutes” report suggested that several top members had done just that. House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and House Financial Services Committee Chairman Spencer Bachus (R-Ala.) were all singled out in the November report. All three have denied the claims made in the report, but members have been eager to get a law on the books clarifying that such behavior is against the law.

President Obama has urged Congress to get moving on such a bill, saying during Tuesday’s State of the Union address that he wants to fix the “corrosive influence of money in politics.”

“Send me a bill that bans insider trading by members of Congress, and I will sign it tomorrow,” he said to a standing ovation in the House chamber.

Members of Congress are subject to insider-trading laws just as everyone els is, but no lawmaker has ever been prosecuted for violating such a law, leaving the issue in a legal gray area. As a result, members have been pushing to get a law on the books that explicitly prohibits the practice among federal legislators.

“We need to send a strong message making absolutely clear that members of Congress and their staff are not exempt,” Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) said in December at a committee markup of the bill. “The simpler and more direct we can be, the better.”

The question still remains, however, of what will happen to similar legislation in the House. Bachus, eager to clear his name, initially said he wished to fast-track such a bill through his committee, but was told to slow down by House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.).

Cantor told “60 Minutes” in a follow-up report that he wishes to advance the bill in 2012 and expand it to cover not only stock trades, but such transactions as real estate deals as well.

Cantor's office reiterated those plans Thursday, but did not offer a more specific timeframe.

"Leader Cantor plans to move an expanded version of the STOCK Act through the House to make it clear that those in Congress are subject to the same laws as everyone else," said a Cantor aide. "He strongly supports increased disclosure to prevent any sense of impropriety and ensure the public’s confidence and trust in our elected officials.”

January 26, 2012

A shallow promise of justice in housing scandal

Before they proceed with their latest housing crisis task force, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder and New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman ought to sit down with Jose Rodriguez.

That would require that Holder and Schneiderman leave Washington and New York, and spend time in the unglamorous city of Stockton, which competes with Las Vegas for having the highest foreclosure rate in the nation.

"Never," Rodriguez answered when I asked if he had ever seen anything like it. For 16 years, Rodriguez has led El Concilio, a nonprofit in downtown Stockton, which counsels families facing crises including foreclosure. "I have never seen so many people without hope, without an expectation that things will get better."

Rodriguez watched Tuesday as President Barack Obama delivered his State of the Union address in which he announced that he had directed Holder to create "a special unit of federal prosecutors and leading state attorneys general to expand our investigations into the abusive lending and packaging of risky mortgages that led to the housing crisis."

On Wednesday, the White House said Schneiderman would represent states on the task force.

The housing crisis began in 2007. It careened out of control in 2008. The president took office in 2009. More than 3 million homes have been repossessed since 2007; the number could double by next year, according to RealtyTrac Inc.

The president did create a task force in 2009, the Financial Fraud Enforcement Task Force. Top officials including Holder issued press releases about it. They held press conferences in Nevada, Fresno and Los Angeles. They promised justice.

The other day, Reuters news service reported that before becoming attorney general, Holder was a partner at the blue chip law firm Covington & Burling, which represents a variety of industries including banking in its law practice and its Washington lobbying operation.

Covington's Washington lobbyists represent the American Banking Association, among others, and have billed lobby clients $28.5 million since the start of the Obama administration in 2009, the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics discloses.

"Our (lobby) practice is politically balanced and enjoys respect in the House and Senate and in both political parties," the firm says on its website. "Capitol Hill policymakers frequently turn to us for help based on our expertise and professionalism."

On behalf of the American Bankers Association, Covington lobbyists helped shape the federal Dodd-Frank Act, the 2010 legislation that seeks to regulate financial institutions, the firm boasts.

There's no evidence that Covington asked anything of Holder. Partners at the firm wouldn't be that stupid, and Holder probably wouldn't listen. But they don't need a discussion. That's how the Washington-Wall Street connection works.

Speaking of the Wall Street-Washington connection, Schneiderman's appointment came as the Obama administration pressures states to join a nationwide settlement of the so-called robo-signing scandal in which mortgage servicers signed mortgage documents without reading them or verifying their accuracy.

Schneiderman had walked away from the talks last year, contending that other states were giving up too much. Now, that he's inside the Justice Department's tent, my guess is that he will be OK with the deal.

On behalf of the Obama administration, Shaun Donovan, head of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, convened a meeting in Chicago on Monday of state attorneys general and their representatives to sell the deal.

California Attorney General Kamala Harris didn't attend, though she sent a representative. She, too, broke away from the robo-signing negotiations and faces pressure to rejoin. Unlike Holder or Schneiderman, however, she drove to Stockton last week to meet Rodriguez.

He introduced her to a husband and wife in their 40s who are losing their home after his construction work dried up. Another couple took a mortgage that was beyond their means based on a promise that they could refinance. A third couple in their 60s could no longer work and lost their home when they couldn't get their mortgage payments modified.

"The reality," he said, "is that for some of these folks, it is not going to get better. The number of people we see crying, I have never seen anything like this."

In his speech, the president declared that the new unit will "hold accountable those who broke the law, speed assistance to homeowners." But years have passed since the crisis began. Evidence needed to gain convictions will be more difficult to obtain than it would have been in 2009.

We are in 2012. Obama's Justice Department hasn't brought any criminal cases against major banks or Wall Street executives related to the housing crisis. In Stockton, people will continue to come to El Concilio looking for help. Rodriguez will do what he can. But he shouldn't hold out much hope for justice.

January 25, 2012

Rick Santorum's wife once pro-choice, lived with abortion practitioner

As political scandals go, it's a doozy — and it lands just as Rick Santorum is attempting to rally South Carolina's evangelicals and social conservatives in advance of the state's crucial Republican primary on Saturday.

Newsweek magazine is reporting that the pro-life Santorum's wife, Karen Garver Santorum, once lived with an abortion provider 40 years her senior. Tom Allen claims his one-time lover had no problem with his chosen profession while they lived together for six years in the 1980s.

The story features an interview with Allen, a longtime Pittsburgh obstetrician and gynecologist who actually delivered Karen Garver in 1960. It includes a photograph of him cuddling with his former girlfriend, the daughter of a friend and business associate.

Allen, now 92, told Newsweek reporter Nancy Hass that his ex was "a lovely girl, very intelligent and sweet."

But there was no sign in the 1980s of the passionate pro-life crusader she would become in later years, he added.

"Karen had no problems with what I did for a living," he said.

It's not the first time the story has been reported. In a lengthy 2005 profile in a Philadelphia newspaper, Allen divulged his past out-of-wedlock love affair while dropping a bombshell that raised questions about Santorum's commitment to the pro-life cause.

"When she moved out to go be with Rick, she told me I'd like him, that he was pro-choice and a humanist," he said at the time. "But I don't think there's a humanist bone in that man's body."

The story's resurrection seven years later couldn't have come at a more inopportune time for the former Pennsylvania senator.

Santorum is duking it out with Ron Paul in a tie for third place in polls of South Carolina primary voters, according to a daily roundup of surveys by the Real Clear Politics website. Newt Gingrich is in second place and Mitt Romney is ahead of him by several percentage points.

Spouses matter to American voters, who often judge a candidate's character by his choice of marital partner. Jackie Kennedy and Laura Bush were widely regarded as having elevated their husbands in the eyes of some voters; spouses like Kitty Dukakis, Marcus Bachmann and Joan Kennedy weren't so lucky.

Spouses should matter, Santorum himself once said.

"When you look at someone to determine whether they'd be the right person for public office, look at who they lay down with at night and what they believe," he said on a campaign stop last year.

Indeed, when the country's leading evangelicals threw their support behind Santorum's candidacy over the weekend, some of them even pointed to Karen Santorum as a selling point.

James Dobson, founder of Focus on the Family, reportedly praised Karen Santorum for her decision to give up her career to raise a family; he expressed reservations, meantime, about Callista Gingrich. Participants say Dobson asked the group to consider whether Gingrich's third wife would make a suitable first lady.

In the end, the evangelicals snubbed Gingrich in favour of the man they believe represents their last, best hope to prevent Romney from winning the party's nomination — and at least partly because of Karen Santorum.

In the Newsweek article, however, those who were friendly with the former Karen Garver and her older boyfriend when they were a couple backed up the doctor's insistence that she was unconcerned about his work as an abortion practitioner and a keen advocate of reproductive rights.

One friend of the couple, Mary Greenberg, said Karen Santorum even offered to accompany her to a Pittsburgh abortion clinic in 1983.

"She told me it wasn't that bad, that I shouldn't be worried," Greenberg told Newsweek. "She was very supportive."

The couple broke up amicably in 1988 because Karen Garver wanted to have children and Allen, in his early 60s at the time and the father of adult children, had no interest in starting again. She married Santorum in 1990.

In recent remarks on abortion, her husband said he would "advocate that any doctor that performs an abortion should be criminally charged for doing so."

On the campaign trail in South Carolina late last week, however, Santorum was on the hot seat when he was asked about subsidizing abortion and Planned Parenthood, the largest provider of abortions in the United States.

"There is nobody that's been a stronger pro-life leader in the United States Congress than I was," he replied.

Karen Santorum whispered in her husband's ear soon after, reminding him about Ron Paul's opposition to anti-abortion bills in Congress.

Nonetheless, Myra Gutin, a communications professor at New Jersey's Rider University who studies first ladies, predicts Karen Santorum can easily explain away the apparent transgressions of her youth.

"He may end up expending some of his political capital trying to explain her actions, but my guess is that she says: 'You know, I was in my 20s and I grew up and I had children of my own and today, I don't feel that way anymore,'" she said Tuesday.

"It was a long time ago, and that defence would probably do the trick for her."

January 24, 2012

Ex-C.I.A. Officer Charged in Information Leak

The Justice Department on Monday charged a former Central Intelligence Agency officer with disclosing classified information to journalists about the capture and brutal interrogation of a suspected member of Al Qaeda, Abu Zubaydah — adding another chapter to the Obama administration’s crackdown on leaks.

In a criminal complaint filed on Monday, the Federal Bureau of Investigation accused John Kiriakou, the former C.I.A. officer, of disclosing the identity of a C.I.A. analyst who worked on a 2002 operation that located and interrogated Abu Zubaydah. The journalists included a New York Times reporter, it alleged.

“Safeguarding classified information, including the identities of C.I.A. officers involved in sensitive operations, is critical to keeping our intelligence officers safe and protecting our national security,” said Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr., in a statement.

At the same time, the department on Monday cleared of wrongdoing a legal defense team for inmates at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, for its efforts to identify officials involved in the coercive interrogations of “high value” suspects. The effort was a project by the American Civil Liberties Union and the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers to bolster the representation of detainees facing death sentences in military commissions.

Mr. Kiriakou, who was released on a $250,000 bond after appearing in federal court in Alexandria, Va., on Monday, was a leader of the team that captured Abu Zubaydah, and he came to public attention in late 2007 when he gave an interview to ABC News portraying the suffocation technique called waterboarding as torture, but calling it necessary. (It later emerged that he significantly understated the C.I.A.’s use of the technique.) His lawyer did not return a call for comment on Monday.

The prosecution of Mr. Kiriakou is the sixth criminal case brought under President Obama against current or former government officials accused of providing classified information to the media, more such cases than all previous presidents combined. The crackdown, long sought by the C.I.A. and other agencies, has won the administration some credit with security officials angered by the president’s earlier decision to release classified legal opinions on the agency’s interrogation program.

Officials have said the administration’s campaign against leaks has resulted from a belief among the intelligence agencies and members of both parties in Congress that unauthorized disclosures by government employees holding security clearances were out of control. But Mr. Obama entered office pledging unprecedented transparency for government operations, and his record has drawn fire from civil libertarians and groups supporting whistle-blowers and press freedoms.

Among other things, the F.B.I. complaint accuses Mr. Kiriakou of being a source for a June 2008 front-page Times article, written by reporter Scott Shane. It identified a C.I.A. employee, Deuce Martinez, who played a major role interrogation of Abu Zubaydah, believed to have handled logistics for Al Qaeda, and Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, the self-described mastermind of the Sept. 11 attacks.

Robert Christie, a spokesman for The Times, declined to comment.

The case is the second against a former C.I.A. officer for allegedly disclosing classified information to reporters within the past year. In 2011, Jeffrey Sterling, a former agency employee, was charged with leaking information allegedly used by James Risen, a Times reporter, in his 2006 book, “State of War.” (That case may be collapsing due to a judge’s ruling barring two witnesses from testifying; the prosecution has appealed.)

In a statement on Monday warning C.I.A. employees not to leak information, the C.I.A. director, David H. Petraeus, took note of both cases, saying that the agency “fully supported the investigation from the beginning and will continue to do so.”

The agency had initially pressed for an investigation of the Guantánamo detainee lawyers — not of its own former employee. The inquiry traces back to the spring of 2009, after government officials learned that Guantánamo defense lawyers were trying to identify C.I.A. interrogators — including the discovery of 32 pages of photographs in the cells of several Guantánamo detainees. The photos were a line-up of random people and suspected interrogators; the attorneys were trying to identify potential witnesses who could testify about abusive treatment, as mitigating evidence against death sentences.

That discovery led to an uproar within the C.I.A., where critics feared the move could put officials involved in the interrogation program at risk. The agency pressed for a criminal investigation, and Mr. Holder eventually appointed Patrick J. Fitzgerald, a United States attorney who led a high-profile C.I.A. leak investigation during the Bush administration, to handle it.

The investigation, in turn, led to Mr. Kiriakou. Citing e-mails, the complaint said he had disclosed the name of a different C.I.A. officer involved in the Zubaydah operation to another journalist, who in turn had supplied it to the a defense team investigator; it ended up in a classified court filing by defense attorneys in January 2009. (The investigator did not photograph the officer because his identity was covert, the complaint said, and no one has published his name.)

The F.B.I. also discovered other messages that it claimed showed Mr. Kiriakou was a source for The New York Times article about the interrogator. While his identity was not covert, The Times was criticized for publishing his name — including by Mr. Kiriakou.

Investigators, the complaint said, also found e-mails in which Mr. Kiriakou allegedly bragged to the co-author of his 2010 memoir, “The Reluctant Spy,” about misleading a C.I.A. review board about a classified technique for tracking cellphones, used in hunting Abu Zubaydah, so that they would not censor it. A reference to such a device also appeared in The Times article.

But, F.B.I. agent Joseph Capitano wrote in court documents, investigators cleared the defense team representing the detainees: “No law or military commission order expressly prohibited defense counsel from providing their clients with the photographic spreads in question under these circumstances.”

Anthony Romero, the executive director of the A.C.L.U., said the organization was “relieved” but criticized the opening of the investigation, saying it — and the Obama-era leak investigations more broadly — had had a “chilling effect on defense counsel, government whistle-blowers, and journalists.”

January 23, 2012

A Good Candidate Is Hard to Find

THERE are 300 million people in the United States of America. There are millions of political activists, volunteers, organizers and would-be officeholders. There are hundreds of thousands of elected officials. Yet somehow, out of all this multitude, the Republican Party has been unable to find a candidate for the White House in 2012 who inspires anything but weary resignation from its voters.

What’s remarkable is how often this seems to happen. As weak as this year’s Republican field has proved, it’s not that much weaker than a number of recent presidential vintages, from the Democrats’ lineups in 1988 and 2004 to the Republican field in 1996. In presidential politics, the great talents (a Clinton, a Reagan) seem to be the exception; a march of Dole-Dukakis-Mondale mediocrity is closer to the rule.

The problem, perhaps, is that a successful presidential campaign calls on a trio of talents that only rarely overlap. Being a master politician in a mass democracy, in this sense, is a bit like being a brilliant filmmaker who’s somehow also a great economist, or a Nobel-winning scientist who writes best-selling novels on the side.

First, a great politician needs the gift of management. A would-be president has to be the C.E.O. of his or her campaign, with a flair for fund-raising, an eye for talent, and a keen sense of when to micromanage and when to delegate. This is the arm-twisting, organization-building, endorsement-corralling side of presidential politics, and not surprisingly it tends to favor insiders and deal-makers and old Washington hands.

But successful insiders and deal-makers are rarely comfortable with the more public, rhetorical, self-advertising side of politics. The great manager is unlikely to be a great persuader, capable of seducing undecided voters with his empathy, or inspiring them with what George H. W. Bush (who lacked it) called “the vision thing.” He’s also unlikely to be a great demagogue, capable of demonizing his enemies and convincing his supporters that they stand at Armageddon and battle for the Lord. The manager can play these roles, but there will always be a hint of irony, a touch of phoniness, a sense that he’d much rather get back to the inside game.

Nor do the gifts of persuasion necessarily overlap with the gifts of demagoguery. Quite the reverse: The politician who’s good at reaching out to the unconverted is usually mistrusted by his own base, and the politician whose us-versus-them rhetoric inspires devotion among ideologues rarely finds it easy to pivot to a more transcendent, unifying style. If Jon Huntsman had a little more Sarah Palin in him, for instance, or Palin a bit more Huntsman, one of them might have been the 2012 Republican nominee. But their respective gifts are rarely shared in a single personality.

When a politician somehow hits the manager-persuader-demagogue trifecta, he can seem unstoppable. (See Roosevelt, Franklin, and his four terms in office.) But just going two for three is usually enough to create an immensely formidable candidate.

Both Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton, for instance, were great persuaders and great demagogues — they could woo with high-minded appeals one moment and twist the partisan knife the next — and that combination more than compensated for their weaknesses as managers. Dwight Eisenhower wasn’t much of a demagogue, but he excelled at playing the unifier in public and at organizational hardball behind closed doors. Richard Nixon’s appeal to voters’ better angels always felt forced, but he could out-organize and out-demonize just about anyone — at least until his paranoia infected his management style, and undid everything he’d built.

The losers of our presidential history, on the other hand, usually have only one gift out of three. They’re good managers, more often than not, whose organizations outlast demagogues and persuaders in the primaries but who can neither rally the base nor inspire the center in the general election. Thus Walter Mondale, victorious over Jesse Jackson and Gary Hart but crushed by Reagan; thus Bob Dole and Michael Dukakis; thus John Kerry in 2004.

This is the path that Mitt Romney, managerial to his core, seems to be treading in 2012. The question is what kind of opponent he’ll find waiting in November. In 2008, Barack Obama seemed to have almost F.D.R.-like gifts: He out-managed, out-inspired and out-demagogued both Hillary Clinton and John McCain.

But the presidency, unexpectedly, has exposed his limits as a communicator. Now when Obama demonizes, it seems clumsy; when he tries to persuade, it falls on deaf ears. Unlike Reagan and Clinton, the two masters, he seems unable to either bully or inspire.

What Obama has left, though, is the same capable, even ruthless organization that helped him over the top last time around. Maybe he’ll rediscover the old 2008 magic as well. But if not, the 2012 election is shaping up to be the most wearying sort of American presidential campaign: a clash of two managers, slogging their way toward a prize that a stronger candidate might have taken in a walk.

January 22, 2012

Obama gets failing grade on government transparency

An incredible claim was made recently by the Obama White House, namely that the president has "reaped a great deal of praise for transforming the White House into one of the most transparent in modern times."
The truth is President Obama and members of his administration have made public relations feints towards more transparency, but no serious transparency or media outlet has heaped any "great deal of praise" for dishonest public relations moves. In fact, it has been quite the opposite.

I testified three times last year before Congress on Obama administration secrecy. Testifying with me were representatives from groups from across the ideological spectrum. Every single one of us expressed frustration and criticism of the Obama transparency gamesmanship.

Judicial Watch is the most active requestor of records through the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) in the country. And since this administration stonewalls us on even the most basic requests about what the government is up to, we're the most active FOIA litigator as well.

And after nearly 18 years of battling government secrecy through three presidential administrations, we are in a unique position to assess the relative transparency policies of each of them.

The Obama administration is less transparent than was the George W. Bush administration, which was supposedly the pinnacle of government secrecy.

Yes, I'm aware that Obama promised to make transparency a "cornerstone" of his administration. But there is a gap a mile wide between this rhetoric and the reality in the Obama administration.

Judicial Watch has filed over 830 FOIA requests with the Obama administration so far. And we have filed more than 60 FOIA lawsuits in federal court against this administration. This number grows by the day. We'd file more, but we only have so many lawyers.

True, the Bush and Clinton administrations were tough and tricky. But the Obama administration is tougher and trickier.

Administratively, agencies have built additional hurdles and have stonewalled even the most basic FOIA requests. And once we're forced to go to federal court, the Obama administration continues to fight us tooth and nail.

Here are two examples to make my point.

Judicial Watch has been digging hard into the scandals behind the collapse of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac and their role in helping trigger the global financial and related housing crises.

A key component of this investigation involves the role political corruption played in the failure of adequate congressional oversight and the catastrophic collapse of these "government-sponsored enterprises" in 2008.

That is why we filed a FOIA lawsuit against the Obama administration to obtain documents related to Fannie's and Freddie's campaign contributions over the last several election cycles (of which then-Sen. Barack Obama was a chief beneficiary).

Since American taxpayers are on the hook for trillions of dollars, including already as much as $153 billion for Fannie and Freddie, Americans deserve to know how and why this financial collapse occurred and who in Washington, D.C., is responsible.

Unfortunately the Obama administration disagrees. In 2010, the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA), the agency responsible for Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, responded to our FOIA lawsuit by telling us that the requested documents are "not 'agency records' subject to disclosure." That means you might get records from the CIA under FOIA but never from Fannie and Freddie!

Never mind the fact that political corruption led to Fannie and Freddie's downfall. Never mind the fact that the downfall of these agencies tipped the economy into chaos, triggering massive federal bailouts of the private sector.

And never mind that the FHFA seized control of Fannie and Freddie and currently has full custody and control over their records. To any request for these records, the Obama administration still says "none of your business."

(This Obama secrecy is also shielding documents that could shed light about Newt Gingrich's consulting contract with Freddie Mac.)

In addition to the problem of walling off from public accountability FHFA's control of our nation's mortgage market through Fannie and Freddie, the Obama Treasury Department has been seemingly incapable of disclosing even basic information on the various government bailouts.

So I can't quite fathom how this administration can laud a new era of transparency, while over $1 trillion in government bailout spending has been shielded from practical oversight and scrutiny by the American people.

And what of the White House's repeated trumpeting of the release of Secret Service White House visitor logs?

In point of fact, the Obama administration is refusing to release hundreds of thousands of visitor logs while repeating a Bush administration last-ditch legal position that the visitor logs are not subject to the Freedom of Information Act.

So while the Obama administration attempts to take the "high ground" in the debate by releasing a select number of visitor logs, visitor records continue to be withheld in defiance of FOIA law.

In the fall of 2009, Judicial Watch staff visited with senior White House official Norm Eisen, then-special counsel to the president for ethics and government, to discuss Judicial Watch's pursuit of the White House visitor logs. Eisen encouraged us to praise the Obama administration's commitment to transparency publicly, saying it would be good for them and good for us.

However, the Obama team refused to abandon their legally indefensible contention that Secret Service White House visitor logs are not subject to disclosure under FOIA law. So we filed a lawsuit to ask the court to enforce the law.

As with Fannie and Freddie, the Obama administration attempted to advance its ridiculous and bogus claim that the visitor logs "are not agency records subject to the FOIA."

However, a federal court judge saw right through these shenanigans last summer. In a historic and embarrassing defeat for the Obama White House, the court ruled on August 17, 2011, that Secret Service White House visitor logs are agency records that are subject to disclosure under the Freedom of Information Act.

Now the Obama administration will have to release all records of all visitors to the White House - or explain why White House visits should be kept secret under the law.

To delay the inevitable, the "most transparent administration in history" has appealed the White House visitor logs ruling. There is no way that the Obama White House will want transparency in an election year.

Indeed the appeal of visitor logs ruling will likely delay any release of records until after election.

Transparency laws ensure government accountability. A president who doesn't want you to know who is visiting him in the White House or why he got big money from Fannie Mac is a president who doesn't want to be accountable to the American people.

January 21, 2012

Fast and Furious: Arizona official to plead Fifth

The top criminal prosecutor at the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Phoenix is refusing to testify before congressional investigators about an Arizona gunrunning scandal, asserting his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination.

Patrick Cunningham, chief of the Criminal Division, told the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee on Friday through his attorney that he will not respond to questions during a deposition planned next week.

Cunningham was unavailable for comment. Washington, D.C., attorney, Tobin Romero, who represents Cunningham, told USA Today that his client is innocent but has been “ensnared by the unfortunate circumstances in which he now stands between two branches of government.”

The congressional inquiry focuses on Operation Fast and Furious, a federal gun-trafficking case in Arizona that allowed an estimated 1,400 guns into the hands of cartel criminals in Mexico. Although Justice Department officials have said the objective was to track guns to drug lords, a wealth of criticism arose because the weapons helped fuel narco warfare that has claimed thousands of lives south of the border. At least two guns from the probe also were recovered in December 2010 at a crime scene near Nogales, where U.S. Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry was killed.

Cunningham recently tendered his resignation and was planning to leave Jan. 27. Former U.S. Attorney Dennis Burke resigned last August after testifying before House investigators about Fast and Furious.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office in Phoenix referred questions about Cunningham’s status to Justice Department officials in Washington, D.C., who declined comment.

Cunningham had been scheduled to testify voluntarily last week, but declined at the last minute, prompting the issuance of a subpoena requiring his appearance Tuesday.

In a news release Friday, Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, said Cunningham could have only one valid reason for using the Fifth Amendment: fears that testimony could aid in his own criminal prosecution.

“The assertion of the Fifth Amendment by a senior Justice official is a significant indictment of the department’s integrity in Operation Fast and Furious,” Issa said. “This is the first time anyone has asserted their Fifth Amendment right in this investigation and heightens concerns that the Justice Department’s motivation for refusing to hand over subpoenaed materials is a desire to shield responsible officials from criminal charges and other embarrassment.”

Last week, in a letter informing Cunningham of the subpoena, Issa said he believed the Arizona prosecutor played an “outsized role” in Fast and Furious. “Senior Justice Department officials have recently told the Committee that you relayed inaccurate and misleading information to the Department in preparation for its initial response to Congress,” Issa wrote. “These officials told us that even after Congress began investigating Fast and Furious, you continued to insist that no unacceptable tactics were used.”

In interviews last year with The Republic, Cunningham denied his office let guns flow into Mexico. Instead, he said, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives agents repeatedly assured prosecutors that firearms were not being allowed to cross the border.

On Friday, a number of legal experts said the Fifth Amendment defense appears to be unprecedented for a high-level Justice Department lawyer who serves as an officer of the court.

“I’ve never heard of it,” said Peter Tague, a law professor at Georgetown University who specializes in criminal procedure.

David Chesnoff, a prominent Las Vegas attorney, stressed that all citizens have a right to constitutional protections. He said any perception Cunningham has done wrong because he exercised his Fifth Amendment right would be unfair, because clients may take that position based on fears of being falsely accused of a crime.

Chesnoff and others noted that the Fast and Furious case is politically volatile, with some in Congress calling for the firing of Attorney General Eric Holder. As for Cunningham’s stand, he said, “I don’t think that’s unusual when you have a bunch of politicians screaming bloody murder. All it means is: Give him immunity. If they’re interested in getting to the truth, they should think about that.”

Michael Black, a Phoenix attorney, agreed that Cunningham might be compelled to testify if granted immunity; however, he said Congress is loath to offer that option because it can interfere with subsequent prosecution efforts.

Black said he’s bewildered by events because he has known Cunningham for 20 years as a “bright, honorable, energetic prosecutor” with a “sterling reputation.”

Cunningham joined the U.S. Attorney’s Office in 2010. As criminal chief, he oversees about 100 employees handling federal felony cases as well as victim and witness services statewide. Cunningham was deputy director of the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality from 2003 until 2010, and worked 12 years at the Attorney General’s Office before that, according to information in a U.S. Attorney’s report.

January 20, 2012

Early co-sponsor of SOPA recants, declares: ‘It’s time to scrap the bill’

Tennessee Republican Rep. Marsha Blackburn, an early co-sponsor of the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA), delivered a statement Thursday evening on Facebook renouncing her support of the bill in its current form.

SOPA, and its counterpart in the Senate, the Protect IP Act (PIPA), caused an uproar in the Internet community, which inspired a day of protests by prominent websites Wednesday.

SOPA and PIPA would allow the Attorney General to target foreign websites that facilitate and profit from online piracy. Supporters argue that strong legislation is needed to protect American intellectual property, opponents fear that the legislation would give the DOJ broad powers to police the Internet.

“It’s clear that online piracy legislation in its current form is not workable,” said Blackburn. “It’s time to scrap the bill and start over. I will continue to work with my colleagues to find the best possible solution to ensure the constitutionally guaranteed property rights of our nation’s innovators are protected.”

Blackburn is the latest members of Congress on a long list of Republicans and several Democrats that have reversed their original position on the bills. The bills’ sponsors are Texas Republican Rep. Lamar Smith in the House and Vermont Democratic Sen. Patrick Leahy in the Senate.

Hacktivist collective Anonymous, furious over Thursday’s Justice Department takedown of MegaUpload — a popular file-sharing network — initiated all-out retaliation against the websites of the DOJ, the Motion Picture Association of America, the Recording Industry Association of America and the FBI.

January 19, 2012

Regime Change, Inc.

Almost three years ago, Richard Perle, also known as “Prince of Darkness,” brazenly attempted to deny his own existence as a leading pro-Israel architect of the Iraq war, when he stated, “There is no such thing as a neoconservative foreign policy.” Now, the “nonviolent” manifestation of that regime change agenda appears to be following suit.

On January 4, Bloomberg Markets magazine noted Peter Ackerman’s efforts to apply his longstanding “passion for grass-roots democracy” around the world to the American political scene in a surprisingly critical report entitled “Internet Picks Presidential Candidate If Ackerman Gets His Way.” In the article, Kambiz Foroohar explains:

Ackerman, 65, who made more than $300 million working alongside Michael Milken at Drexel Burnham Lambert Inc.’s Beverly Hills, California, offices in the 1980s, is Americans Elect’s chairman and top donor. He wants to circumvent U.S. politics-as-usual by letting voters choose a presidential candidate via the Internet who, with a running mate from a different political party, will appear on every state ballot for the 2012 election ….

Foroohar goes on to highlight what appears to be the multi-millionaire businessman’s primary enterprise:

Ackerman focused more on non-business pursuits than his companies, says former Emak CEO Jim Holbrooke.

“He is training dissidents to overthrow dictatorships, and I’m doing cheese-spread advertising for Kraft,’’ he says, referring to food company Kraft Foods Inc. (KFT)

Clearly displeased with the negative publicity, Ackerman’s external “democracy promotion” vehicle issued a number of “Corrections” to the Bloomberg report in its “Setting the Record Straight” section:

This article creates the false impression that the International Center on Nonviolent Conflict (ICNC) may be “training dissidents to overthrow dictatorships,” in the words of a businessman it quotes who has had no contact with the Center. In fact, ICNC does not now “train dissidents” and has not supported workshops abroad for nonviolent activists since 2009.

The article also claims that ICNC’s founding chair, Peter Ackerman, “has funded workshops for dissidents from Central Asia, Iran, Iraq and North Korea,” and leaves the impression that ICNC may have supported “civil resistance training” for “members of Egypt’s April 6 movement” through the Center for Applied Nonviolent Action and Strategies (CANVAS) in Belgrade. None of this is accurate.

However, a February 16, 2011 New York Times report seems to contradict this disavowal. Writes Sheryl Gay Stolberg:

When Egypt’s April 6 Youth Movement was struggling to recover from a failed effort in 2005, its leaders tossed around “crazy ideas” about bringing down the government, said Ahmed Maher, a leading strategist. They stumbled on Mr. Sharp while examining the Serbian movement Otpor, which he had influenced.

When the nonpartisan International Center on Nonviolent Conflict, which trains democracy activists, slipped into Cairo several years ago to conduct a workshop, among the papers it distributed was Mr. Sharp’s “198 Methods of Nonviolent Action,” a list of tactics that range from hunger strikes to “protest disrobing” to “disclosing identities of secret agents.”

Dalia Ziada, an Egyptian blogger and activist who attended the workshop and later organized similar sessions on her own, said trainees were active in both the Tunisia and Egypt revolts. She said that some activists translated excerpts of Mr. Sharp’s work into Arabic, and that his message of “attacking weaknesses of dictators” stuck with them.

Peter Ackerman, a onetime student of Mr. Sharp who founded the nonviolence center and ran the Cairo workshop, cites his former mentor as proof that “ideas have power.”

Continuing its attempt to set the record straight, the ICNC explains what it does:

We furnish a wide range of educational materials and information to educators, journalists, international institutions, civil society groups, and people involved in campaigns or movements for rights and justice, who request that information. It does this work primarily through seminars at universities, presentations and briefings, graduate and undergraduate curricula, online learning platforms, and webinars, as well as direct and indirect dissemination of books, reports, articles, audio files, films, videos and a video game, “People Power: The Game of Civil Resistance.”

Presumably, disseminating “People Power: The Game of Civil Resistance” has absolutely nothing to do with “training dissidents to overthrow dictatorships.”

Yet in an April 2005 profile of Peter Ackerman in The New Republic, aptly entitled “Regime Change, Inc.,” a leader of Georgia’s “Rose Revolution” testifies to the efficacy of “Bringing Down a Dictator,” a documentary film (also available in Arabic) that “originated” with Ackerman:

“Most important was the film. All the demonstrators knew the tactics of the revolution in Belgrade by heart because they showed [the film]…. Everyone knew what to do.”

Moreover, as Professor William I. Robinson, author of Promoting Polyarchy: Globalization, U.S. Intervention, and Hegemony, has written:

That Ackerman is a part of the U.S. foreign policy elite and integral to the new modalities of intervention under the rubric of “democracy promotion,” etc., is beyond question. There is nothing controversial about that and anyone who believes otherwise is clearly seriously misinformed or just ignorant.

We eagerly await the International Center on Nonviolent Conflict’s “correction” of this piece. It wouldn’t be the first time that Ackerman’s “independent, non-profit educational foundation” took issue with something this writer has written about the ICNC’s “educational” work. Hopefully, they won’t again resort to smearing my work (based on a calculated misrepresentation of one tangentially related article) in a transparent attempt to deflect attention from a critique of their own.

January 18, 2012

Social Security: Gateway Drug to Tyranny

Social Security remains the most popular, and therefore politically untouchable, program even instituted by the United States government. Just last year, 79 percent of respondents to a CNN/ORC poll rated Social Security “good for the country.” In the same survey, an astonishing 73 percent agreed that “Social Security is something that the U.S. Constitution allows the federal government to do.”

Clearly, support for the program cuts across the political spectrum. Even many of the Tea Partiers who have marched with fervor against Obamacare are doubtless collecting Social Security, and would doubtless be loath to give it up.

This is sad, because as I have been arguing ad nauseum for several years now, Social Security is every bit as offensive to liberty and fiscal sanity as Obamacare: In fact, you could not have had the latter without the former. Social Security has been conditioning Americans since F.D.R that it is the proper role for government to 1) extract resources from some citizens, and to 2) provide income subsidy for others. To care for some at the expense of many.

Once our body politic accepted this fundamental role of government, Medicare, food stamps, welfare, Obamacare (or something very like it), and all the rest of the entitlement state were all but inevitable. Obamacare will put us over the edge, to be sure, but make no mistake: It was Social Security that first put us on the road to fiscal disaster and moral lethargy.

Think about it: Social Security, via its requirement that every citizen have a government-issued identification number, opened the door to a mind-boggling amount of federal control over our lives. In a very interesting piece at The American Spectator, Eric Peters puts it in stark terms, calling a Social Security number, “….the government-issued ear tag every calf (oops,citizen) is issued at birth.” Peters continues:

The SS number… is the number the government uses to make sure you pay your taxes, to keep track of where you work (and how much you earn), where you bank (and how much you have in the bank), where you live, whom you marry, whether you have children (each of them to be issued their own ear tag in turn) and so on…

F.D.R. and his New Deal coalition were smart fellows; they knew exactly what they were doing. Taking advantage of the country’s terrible, Depression-induced economic insecurity, the federal government began drugging the nation with a little tyranny in exchange for the illusion of security. Americans happily made the trade in the 20th century, and now wail and cry when this corrupt bargain extinguishes liberty in the 21st.

If we were a serious people, we would not be wondering if the Supreme Court will save us from Obamacare. We would be pulling out the entitlement state by its pernicious roots, starting with Social Security, in order to save our nation from insolvency and decay.

But seniors can rest easy — we are not a serious people, and getting less serious by the hour.

January 17, 2012

Jarrett’s partisan pulpit speech may have violated IRS church-state rules

Valerie Jarrett’s partisan speech at Atlanta’s Ebenezer Baptist Church may have violated the IRS tax rules for churches’ political activities, said a prominent free speech attorney.

“It is problematic under current regulations,” said Erik Stanley, a senior legal counsel with the Alliance Defense Fund, which is campaigning to roll back IRS curbs on believers’ speech.

But if the IRS concludes that the church violated the IRS code, the ADF “will represent the church, just as it would represent any church for what is said from the pulpit,” he said.

“We believe in pulpit freedom,” he said.

On Sunday President Barack Obama’s controversial aide, Valerie Jarrett, used the Ebenezer pulpit to tell the congregation that the jobs of teachers, police and firefighters “are now in jeopardy because Congress — well, let me be specific — because [of] the Republicans in Congress.”

Jarrett is a longtime aide to Obama, and worked with him in Chicago. She’s deeply unpopular among White House staff, but remains influential with the president.

Shortly after the religious service, the church hosted a voter registration drive for its mostly African-American congregation. In 2008, more than 95 percent of African-Americans voted for Obama. His 2012 campaign managers are now funding registration drives and other efforts to repeat that level of support this November.

This church’s hosting of partisan statements and technically non-partisan activities threatens its tax-exempt status, according to rules posted on the IRS’ website.

“Voter education or registration activities with evidence of bias that (a) would favor one candidate over another; (b) oppose a candidate in some manner; or (c) have the effect of favoring a candidate or group of candidates, will constitute prohibited participation or intervention,” according to the IRS website.

The IRS has suspended the tax-exempt status of 501(c)3 churches and religious organizations following verified episodes where their officials have violated the IRS’ rules. On each occasion, the organization had to pay expensive legal fees and annual taxes to the IRS for the period when their tax-free status was suspended.

The church’s pastor, Rev. Raphael Warnock, also used the same service to criticize former House Speaker Next Gingrich, whose own criticism of federal welfare policies has recently sparked angry complaints by Democrats. “Mr. Gingrich, let there be welfare reform, and let it begin with you,” said Warnock, who donated $250 to Obama’s 2012 campaign in May 2011.

After the service, Warnock told a CBS News reporter that Gingrich “is counting on the old logic of scapegoating and race-baiting” to help him win the GOP primary race in southern states.

The full video or text of Jarrett’s and Warnock’s sermons are not available.

The tone at the church event was political, according to Will Frampton, the CBS TV reporter who attended the event. “There were times during the service when it really felt like a political rally, perhaps even an early campaign stop, as much as it was a church service,” he hold his viewers Sunday night.

However, the IRS’ enforcement of its rules are skewed, said Stanley.

‘The IRS’ record of enforcement against churches has been atrocious, uneven, discriminatory and arbitrary,” he said. “Usually more liberal churches and more African-American churches have been [engaged in political activities] for years… whether it is legal or not,” said Stanley, who wants to persuade the Supreme Court to invalidate IRS curbs on clerics’ speech.

In 2010 the IRS halted investigations of churches’ suspect activities following a court’s declaration that IRS investigation procedures violated a 1984 religious freedom law.

The IRS is drafting new procedures, but likely won’t implement them until after the 2012 election, Stanley said.

The ADF is trying to defend free speech by religious figures, whether liberal or conservative, pro-Republicans or pro-Democratic, he said.

“The IRS has no business sticking its nose into any church… What we’re talking about here is the freedom of the church to be engaged in the cultural and social processes, like elections,” Stanley said.

January 16, 2012

From 'Cash McCall' to Gordon Gekko

Acouple of years ago I decided to get out of the business end of partisan politics, of managing and advising campaigns and candidates and officeholders. And although my bank account has suffered a bit, on the whole I’d have to say I’m thrilled with the results of my decision.

Going from political insider to onlooker is kind of like getting a divorce. You discover in no time who your real friends are and who has just been blowing smoke up your ballot. And that’s always a good thing to know.
There is clarity in distance, as well. Just as any divorced person can, after a time, look back on a failed marriage and objectively assign responsibility, separation from the partisan wars eventually offers a similar lucidity, most especially for me in observing the Washington blame game over our lingering recession, caused in large measure by the subprime mortgage fiasco.

There is clarity in distance, as well. Just as any divorced person can, after a time, look back on a failed marriage and objectively assign responsibility, separation from the partisan wars eventually offers a similar lucidity, most especially for me in observing the Washington blame game over our lingering recession, caused in large measure by the subprime mortgage fiasco.
Democrats blame Wall Street as the originator of the financial failure; Republicans blame Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. The fact that neither could have pulled off this devastating scam without the other seems to occur to no one. And it matters little that both entities pile cash upon both parties. Instead, Republicans and Democrats demand that we choose sides and assign unilateral blame. Makes for a better sound bite.

While Republicans continue to uncover Fannie/Freddie chicanery, despite scant attention paid by the media, Wall Street has become firmly entrenched as the Democrats’ number 1 whipping boy. Not that the Street has not earned the attention, most especially the gangsters over at the independent nation of Goldman Sachs, suppliers of recent government gurus Robert Rubin, Henry Paulsen, Jon Corzine and little Timmy Geithner. They are Democrats all, by the way, but no matter.

Wall Street has emerged as Public Enemy No. 1, with virtually all media attention lavished upon the seamier side of the Street. Hollywood continues to weigh in with resounding thuds to the left, as has long been its habit. Contemporary films favor riches-to-rags stories when it comes to the portrayal of the honchos of American enterprise. But the new nastiness keeps them from portraying the perpetrators as in any way redeemable.

The fictional Gordon Gekko became synonymous with Wall Street greed, following the 1987 release of the film, “Wall Street”, and the masterful portrayal by Michael Douglas, including his signature line, “Greed is good.” But “Wall Street” the movie was nothing more than a thinly veiled remake of the 1960 hit, “Cash McCall”, starring the irascible James Garner in the Gekko role of cruel corporate raider.

The themes of the two films are mirror images: cold-hearted moneybags guy forces his way into ownership of troubled companies, strips them clean of salvageable assets, destroying jobs in the process, and slithers on toward his next victim, precisely the image Newt Gingrich, Barack Obama, and scores of others want you to have of current Republican presidential frontrunner Mitt Romney.

But there is one major difference between “Wall Street” and “Cash McCall” that crystallizes the difference between the fashionable propaganda of then and now. Gordon Gekko remains unrepentant, and is dragged kicking and screaming to conviction for his crimes. He goes off to jail, there to sit awaiting the 2010 release of the sequel, in which he will again be defined by greed. Translation: there is no redemption for the greedy.

“Cash McCall”, on the other hand, concludes with the transformation of the cold-hearted James Garner character from steely-eyed corporate raider into compassionate company builder, making money while preserving jobs. Its conclusion is one of inspirational optimism, a rare business image commodity today.

For the next 11 months, Democrats will try to convince us that Mitt Romney is Gordon Gekko, while the Republicans will portray him as Cash McCall. That will contrast with dueling partisan images of Barack Obama as either Gandhi or Karl Marx, reincarnate.

We the people will be driven further apart in the process. But we’ll make the choice, as always, and then live with it. I suspect little will change, regardless.

January 15, 2012

Obama Administration Responds to We the People Petitions on SOPA and Online Piracy

The White House has responded to two petitions about legislative approaches to combat online piracy. In their response, Victoria Espinel, Intellectual Property Enforcement Coordinator at Office of Management and Budget, Aneesh Chopra, U.S. Chief Technology Officer, and Howard Schmidt, Special Assistant to the President and Cybersecurity Coordinator for National Security Staff stress that the important task of protecting intellectual property online must not threaten an open and innovative internet.

Combating Online Piracy while Protecting an Open and Innovative Internet
By Victoria Espinel, Aneesh Chopra, and Howard Schmidt

Thanks for taking the time to sign this petition. Both your words and actions illustrate the importance of maintaining an open and democratic Internet.

Right now, Congress is debating a few pieces of legislation concerning the very real issue of online piracy, including the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA), the PROTECT IP Act, and the Online Protection and Digital ENforcement Act (OPEN). We want to take this opportunity to tell you what the Administration will support—and what we will not support. Any effective legislation should reflect a wide range of stakeholders, including everyone from content creators to the engineers that build and maintain the infrastructure of the Internet.

While we believe that online piracy by foreign websites is a serious problem that requires a serious legislative response, we will not support legislation that reduces freedom of expression, increases cybersecurity risk, or undermines the dynamic, innovative global Internet.

Any effort to combat online piracy must guard against the risk of online censorship of lawful activity and must not inhibit innovation by our dynamic businesses large and small. Across the globe, the openness of the Internet is increasingly central to innovation in business, government, and society and it must be protected. To minimize this risk, new legislation must be narrowly targeted only at sites beyond the reach of current U.S. law, cover activity clearly prohibited under existing U.S. laws, and be effectively tailored, with strong due process and focused on criminal activity. Any provision covering Internet intermediaries such as online advertising networks, payment processors, or search engines must be transparent and designed to prevent overly broad private rights of action that could encourage unjustified litigation that could discourage startup businesses and innovative firms from growing.

We must avoid creating new cybersecurity risks or disrupting the underlying architecture of the Internet. Proposed laws must not tamper with the technical architecture of the Internet through manipulation of the Domain Name System (DNS), a foundation of Internet security. Our analysis of the DNS filtering provisions in some proposed legislation suggests that they pose a real risk to cybersecurity and yet leave contraband goods and services accessible online. We must avoid legislation that drives users to dangerous, unreliable DNS servers and puts next-generation security policies, such as the deployment of DNSSEC, at risk.

Let us be clear—online piracy is a real problem that harms the American economy, threatens jobs for significant numbers of middle class workers and hurts some of our nation's most creative and innovative companies and entrepreneurs. It harms everyone from struggling artists to production crews, and from startup social media companies to large movie studios. While we are strongly committed to the vigorous enforcement of intellectual property rights, existing tools are not strong enough to root out the worst online pirates beyond our borders. That is why the Administration calls on all sides to work together to pass sound legislation this year that provides prosecutors and rights holders new legal tools to combat online piracy originating beyond U.S. borders while staying true to the principles outlined above in this response. We should never let criminals hide behind a hollow embrace of legitimate American values.

This is not just a matter for legislation. We expect and encourage all private parties, including both content creators and Internet platform providers working together, to adopt voluntary measures and best practices to reduce online piracy.

So, rather than just look at how legislation can be stopped, ask yourself: Where do we go from here? Don’t limit your opinion to what’s the wrong thing to do, ask yourself what’s right. Already, many members of Congress are asking for public input around the issue. We are paying close attention to those opportunities, as well as to public input to the Administration. The organizer of this petition and a random sample of the signers will be invited to a conference call to discuss this issue further with Administration officials and soon after that, we will host an online event to get more input and answer your questions. Details on that will follow in the coming days.

Washington needs to hear your best ideas about how to clamp down on rogue websites and other criminals who make money off the creative efforts of American artists and rights holders. We should all be committed to working with all interested constituencies to develop new legal tools to protect global intellectual property rights without jeopardizing the openness of the Internet. Our hope is that you will bring enthusiasm and know-how to this important challenge.

Moving forward, we will continue to work with Congress on a bipartisan basis on legislation that provides new tools needed in the global fight against piracy and counterfeiting, while vigorously defending an open Internet based on the values of free expression, privacy, security and innovation. Again, thank you for taking the time to participate in this important process. We hope you’ll continue to be part of it.

January 14, 2012

False Flag

Buried deep in the archives of America's intelligence services are a series of memos, written during the last years of President George W. Bush's administration, that describe how Israeli Mossad officers recruited operatives belonging to the terrorist group Jundallah by passing themselves off as American agents. According to two U.S. intelligence officials, the Israelis, flush with American dollars and toting U.S. passports, posed as CIA officers in recruiting Jundallah operatives -- what is commonly referred to as a "false flag" operation.

The memos, as described by the sources, one of whom has read them and another who is intimately familiar with the case, investigated and debunked reports from 2007 and 2008 accusing the CIA, at the direction of the White House, of covertly supporting Jundallah -- a Pakistan-based Sunni extremist organization. Jundallah, according to the U.S. government and published reports, is responsible for assassinating Iranian government officials and killing Iranian women and children.

But while the memos show that the United States had barred even the most incidental contact with Jundallah, according to both intelligence officers, the same was not true for Israel's Mossad. The memos also detail CIA field reports saying that Israel's recruiting activities occurred under the nose of U.S. intelligence officers, most notably in London, the capital of one of Israel's ostensible allies, where Mossad officers posing as CIA operatives met with Jundallah officials.

The officials did not know whether the Israeli program to recruit and use Jundallah is ongoing. Nevertheless, they were stunned by the brazenness of the Mossad's efforts.

"It's amazing what the Israelis thought they could get away with," the intelligence officer said. "Their recruitment activities were nearly in the open. They apparently didn't give a damn what we thought."

Interviews with six currently serving or recently retired intelligence officers over the last 18 months have helped to fill in the blanks of the Israeli false-flag operation. In addition to the two currently serving U.S. intelligence officers, the existence of the Israeli false-flag operation was confirmed to me by four retired intelligence officers who have served in the CIA or have monitored Israeli intelligence operations from senior positions inside the U.S. government.

The CIA and the White House were both asked for comment on this story. By the time this story went to press, they had not responded. The Israeli intelligence services -- the Mossad -- were also contacted, in writing and by telephone, but failed to respond. As a policy, Israel does not confirm or deny its involvement in intelligence operations.

There is no denying that there is a covert, bloody, and ongoing campaign aimed at stopping Iran's nuclear program, though no evidence has emerged connecting recent acts of sabotage and killings inside Iran to Jundallah. Many reports have cited Israel as the architect of this covert campaign, which claimed its latest victim on Jan. 11 when a motorcyclist in Tehran slipped a magnetic explosive device under the car of Mostafa Ahmadi Roshan, a young Iranian nuclear scientist. The explosion killed Roshan, making him the fourth scientist assassinated in the past two years. The United States adamantly denies it is behind these killings.

According to one retired CIA officer, information about the false-flag operation was reported up the U.S. intelligence chain of command. It reached CIA Director of Operations Stephen Kappes, his deputy Michael Sulick, and the head of the Counterintelligence Center. All three of these officials are now retired. The Counterintelligence Center, according to its website, is tasked with investigating "threats posed by foreign intelligence services."

The report then made its way to the White House, according to the currently serving U.S. intelligence officer. The officer said that Bush "went absolutely ballistic" when briefed on its contents.

"The report sparked White House concerns that Israel's program was putting Americans at risk," the intelligence officer told me. "There's no question that the U.S. has cooperated with Israel in intelligence-gathering operations against the Iranians, but this was different. No matter what anyone thinks, we're not in the business of assassinating Iranian officials or killing Iranian civilians."

Israel's relationship with Jundallah continued to roil the Bush administration until the day it left office, this same intelligence officer noted. Israel's activities jeopardized the administration's fragile relationship with Pakistan, which was coming under intense pressure from Iran to crack down on Jundallah. It also undermined U.S. claims that it would never fight terror with terror, and invited attacks in kind on U.S. personnel.

"It's easy to understand why Bush was so angry," a former intelligence officer said. "After all, it's hard to engage with a foreign government if they're convinced you're killing their people. Once you start doing that, they feel they can do the same."

A senior administration official vowed to "take the gloves off" with Israel, according to a U.S. intelligence officer. But the United States did nothing -- a result that the officer attributed to "political and bureaucratic inertia."

"In the end," the officer noted, "it was just easier to do nothing than to, you know, rock the boat." Even so, at least for a short time, this same officer noted, the Mossad operation sparked a divisive debate among Bush's national security team, pitting those who wondered "just whose side these guys [in Israel] are on" against those who argued that "the enemy of my enemy is my friend."

The debate over Jundallah was resolved only after Bush left office when, within his first weeks as president, Barack Obama drastically scaled back joint U.S.-Israel intelligence programs targeting Iran, according to multiple serving and retired officers.

The decision was controversial inside the CIA, where officials were forced to shut down "some key intelligence-gathering operations," a recently retired CIA officer confirmed. This action was followed in November 2010 by the State Department's addition of Jundallah to its list of foreign terrorist organizations -- a decision that one former CIA officer called "an absolute no-brainer."

Since Obama's initial order, U.S. intelligence services have received clearance to cooperate with Israel on a number of classified intelligence-gathering operations focused on Iran's nuclear program, according to a currently serving officer. These operations are highly technical in nature and do not involve covert actions targeting Iran's infrastructure or political or military leadership.

"We don't do bang and boom," a recently retired intelligence officer said. "And we don't do political assassinations."

Israel regularly proposes conducting covert operations targeting Iranians, but is just as regularly shut down, according to retired and current intelligence officers. "They come into the room and spread out their plans, and we just shake our heads," one highly placed intelligence source said, "and we say to them -- 'Don't even go there. The answer is no.'"

Unlike the Mujahedin-e Khalq, the controversial exiled Iranian terrorist group that seeks the overthrow of the Tehran regime and is supported by former leading U.S. policymakers, Jundallah is relatively unknown -- but just as violent. In May 2009, a Jundallah suicide bomber blew himself up inside a mosque in Zahedan, the capital of Iran's southeastern Sistan-Baluchistan province bordering Pakistan, during a Shiite religious festival. The bombing killed 25 Iranians and wounded scores of others.

The attack enraged Tehran, which traced the perpetrators to a cell operating in Pakistan. The Iranian government notified the Pakistanis of the Jundallah threat and urged them to break up the movement's bases along the Iranian-Pakistani border. The Pakistanis reacted sluggishly in the border areas, feeding Tehran's suspicions that Jundallah was protected by Pakistan's intelligence services.

The 2009 attack was just one in a long line of terrorist attacks attributed to the organization. In August 2007, Jundallah kidnapped 21 Iranian truck drivers. In December 2008, it captured and executed 16 Iranian border guards -- the gruesome killings were filmed, in a stark echo of the decapitation of American businessman Nick Berg in Iraq at the hands of al Qaeda's Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. In July 2010, Jundallah conducted a twin suicide bombing in Zahedan outside a mosque, killing dozens of people, including members of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps.

The State Department aggressively denies that the U.S. government had or has any ties to Jundallah. "We have repeatedly stated, and reiterate again that the United States has not provided support to Jundallah," a spokesman wrote in an email to the Wall Street Journal, following Jundallah's designation as a terrorist organization. "The United States does not sponsor any form of terrorism. We will continue to work with the international community to curtail support for terrorist organizations and prevent violence against innocent civilians. We have also encouraged other governments to take comparable actions against Jundallah."

A spate of stories in 2007 and 2008, including a report by ABC News and a New Yorker article, suggested that the United States was offering covert support to Jundallah. The issue has now returned to the spotlight with the string of assassinations of Iranian nuclear scientists and has outraged serving and retired intelligence officers who fear that Israeli operations are endangering American lives.

"This certainly isn't the first time this has happened, though it's the worst case I've heard of," former Centcom chief and retired Gen. Joe Hoar said of the Israeli operation upon being informed of it. "But while false-flag operations are hardly new, they're extremely dangerous. You're basically using your friendship with an ally for your own purposes. Israel is playing with fire. It gets us involved in their covert war, whether we want to be involved or not."

The Israeli operation left a number of recently retired CIA officers sputtering in frustration. "It's going to be pretty hard for the U.S. to distance itself from an Israeli attack on Iran with this kind of thing going on," one of them told me.

Jundallah head Abdolmalek Rigi was captured by Iran in February 2010. Although initial reports claimed that he was captured by the Iranians after taking a flight from Dubai to Kyrgyzstan, a retired intelligence officer with knowledge of the incident told me that Rigi was detained by Pakistani intelligence officers in Pakistan. The officer said that Rigi was turned over to the Iranians after the Pakistani government informed the United States that it planned to do so. The United States, this officer said, did not raise objections to the Pakistani decision.

Iran, meanwhile, has consistently claimed that Rigi was snatched from under the eyes of the CIA, which it alleges supported him. "It doesn't matter," the former intelligence officer said of Iran's charges. "It doesn't matter what they say. They know the truth."

Rigi was interrogated, tried, and convicted by the Iranians and hanged on June 20, 2010. Prior to his execution, Rigi claimed in an interview with Iranian media -- which has to be assumed was under duress -- that he had doubts about U.S. sponsorship of Jundallah. He recounted an alleged meeting with "NATO officials" in Morocco in 2007 that raised his suspicions. "When we thought about it we came to the conclusion that they are either Americans acting under NATO cover or Israelis," he said.

While many of the details of Israel's involvement with Jundallah are now known, many others still remain a mystery -- and are likely to remain so. The CIA memos of the incident have been "blue bordered," meaning that they were circulated to senior levels of the broader U.S. intelligence community as well as senior State Department officials.

What has become crystal clear, however, is the level of anger among senior intelligence officials about Israel's actions. "This was stupid and dangerous," the intelligence official who first told me about the operation said. "Israel is supposed to be working with us, not against us. If they want to shed blood, it would help a lot if it was their blood and not ours. You know, they're supposed to be a strategic asset. Well, guess what? There are a lot of people now, important people, who just don't think that's true."