Thursday, April 26, 2007

$44 billion annually for US Spying

Published: April 26, 2007

WASHINGTON, April 25 — Concerned about the growing dependence of the nation’s spy agencies on private contractors, top intelligence officials have spent months determining just how many contractors work at the C.I.A., D.I.A., F.B.I., N.S.A. and the rest of the spook alphabet soup.

Now they have an answer. But they cannot reveal it, they say, because America’s enemies might be listening.

Ronald P. Sanders, chief human capital officer for the director of national intelligence, said that because personnel numbers and agency budgets were classified, he could not reveal the contractor count.

“I can’t give you anything that would allow you to impute the size of the I.C. civilian work force,” Mr. Sanders said, using shorthand for “intelligence community” in a telephone briefing that covered everything about the contractor survey except its core findings.

Mr. Sanders said the study did find that about 25 percent of the intelligence work now contracted out resulted from personnel ceilings imposed by Congress. But 25 percent of what, he said he could not disclose.

Steven Aftergood of the Project on Government Secrecy at the Federation of American Scientists, said the decision not to reveal the numbers was a sign of dysfunctional policies.

“It reveals how confused the government is about what is really sensitive and what is not,” Mr. Aftergood said. “What would Osama bin Laden do with the fraction of intelligence workers who are contractors? Absolutely nothing.”

The government’s use of contractors has accelerated greatly during the Bush administration. Nowhere has the increase been more striking than in the spy agencies, like Central Intelligence, Defense Intelligence and National Security, whose budgets were cut sharply in the 1990s and then faced huge new demands after the 2001 terrorist attacks....

... The agencies have long fought efforts to make public their budgets and work force numbers. But not all officials have been punctilious about keeping the secrets. At a conference in 2005, Mary Margaret Graham, a deputy director of national intelligence, let slip that the annual spy budget was $44 billion. Last year, John D. Negroponte, then the intelligence director, said in a speech “almost 100,000 patriotic, talented and hard-working Americans” work for the agencies.

Monday, April 23, 2007

Cardinal Egan: "My We Knows" in the Age of IAO (Knowledge is Power)

From today's New York Times:

Cardinal Edward M. Egan submitted his letter of retirement on the occasion of his 75th birthday.

He has shuttered half-empty churches, faced down disgruntled parishioners and retired an unsightly $20 million deficit, all in the name of putting the Archdiocese of New York on sturdy fiscal legs.

So the question for Cardinal Edward M. Egan arises: Will this white-haired prince of the Roman Catholic Church follow the lead of other large dioceses and release the archdiocese’s financial reports to the public?

Cardinal Egan considers the idea for a second or two, and offers a smile more suggestive of steel than humor. Wall Street titans sit on his finance council and study his ledgers. The cardinal sees no point in public inspection.

“I am transparent to the best possible people,” he said in a rare interview in his 20th floor office on First Avenue in Manhattan. “So when you say, ‘We don’t know,’ well, my ‘we’ knows.”...

... Appointed archbishop seven years ago, Cardinal Egan reasoned that his greatest immediate challenge was to straighten out the financial problems that afflicted the archdiocese. He tended quickly to his listing ship, paring budgets, closing parishes, installing nine finance directors to oversee the archdiocese’s 10 counties, and working with wealthy laity to raise the many millions of dollars needed to keep this vast machine of churches, schools and charities running.

But to this day, it is difficult to draw the precise measure of his accomplishments. Before Cardinal Egan arrived, the archdiocese had run an annual $20 million operating deficit, which it was financing partly by borrowing internally. Church officials declined to give details on the nature of this borrowing, other than to acknowledge that it created a new mountain of debt, totaling more than $40 million.

Cardinal Egan says — without offering a look at any ledger sheets — that he wiped out the operating deficit within two years. As for the $40 million worth of internal debt, last week church officials said they were paying it off at a rate of $3 million per year.

But on Friday, a spokesman for the archdiocese, Joseph Zwilling, said the archdiocese would retire that internal debt by midsummer. He offered few details about this sudden turn.

“Money we had has been put aside and invested and is now sufficient to pay off the debt,” Mr. Zwilling said. “We had some surpluses and fund-raising, although I don’t have a breakdown.”

An accomplished fund-raiser, the Cardinal also declines to talk about his work in that realm, save to describe himself a “a beggar” at the doorstep of wealthy benefactors. And he has refused to release even a bare-boned accounting of the archdiocese’s finances, although four of the five largest dioceses in the nation — Los Angeles, Chicago, Boston and Brooklyn — have done so.

He raises a forefinger in caution. He’s quite clear about his mistrust of the press.

“Do we want to leave ourselves open?” Cardinal Egan asked, referring to public disclosure of church finances. He rolled his eyes. “Oh, what fun people could have!” ...

... Last fall Cardinal Egan repelled two small rebellions, one by priests (which I wrote about here) who accused him of being arrogant and of failing to attend to the spiritual needs of the faithful, and another by parishioners who challenged his closing of churches. He replied to his priestly critics by writing an angry letter accusing them of a “vicious attack” intended to smear him. These unhappy few, he argued, were upset only because he had cracked down on child-abusing priests. (He also expressed his displeasure to the 42-member Presbyteral Council, a consultative priests’ “senate,” which then passed a resolution of support for him.)

Parishioners have actually protested the Roman Catholic Church hierarchy closing and planned DEMOLITION of various church structures, within Egan's jurisdiction and elsewhere.

The Committee to Save St. Brigid Church

This contrasts with the situation in Washington, D.C.'s South Capitol Street (overview) that I have written about previously, in my South Capitol Street Frederick Douglass Mall blog.

This just proves how morally bankrupt the Catholic Church really is.

Too bad the politicians waited till the buildling was half wrecked to do anything. And the Hibernians too.

Posted by: JW [TypeKey Profile Page] at August 26, 2006 5:16 PM

"Why not spend the money and take care of the people at home?"

You know the answer as well as I do, Clayton; the Church doesn't care about individuals, all it wants is to have the most individuals following their word.

Posted by: Frank Language at August 26, 2006 10:43 PM

Egan and his cronies are willing to destroy history to get some silver-just Like Judas Iscariot. Then they dare wonder why so many Catholics are leaving the church?

Posted by: Patrick Reilly at March 18, 2007 2:01 PM

Schumer: Rove Must Testify

Harriet Miers: Backs Bush-Gonzales, Resigns

Harriet Miers and George Walker Bush
Miers: Gonzales shouldn't lose job because of firings

Former White House counsel's role in incident not clear

08:46 AM CDT on Thursday, April 19, 2007
TODD J. GILLMAN / The Dallas Morning News

WASHINGTON – Harriet Miers, who recently left her job as White House counsel and returned to Dallas, said Wednesday that Attorney General Al Gonzales should keep his job despite allegations he bungled the firing of eight U.S. attorneys.

"I certainly think the attorney general should continue to serve," she said in a rare interview on the day she announced her next career move, a return to partnership at the law firm Locke Liddell & Sapp.

Mr. Gonzales will testify today to the Senate Judiciary Committee. He will try to dispel complaints that he was less than candid to lawmakers about the firings and that prosecutors were removed to make way for Bush loyalists or because of pressure stemming from politically tinged investigations.

"I'm sure the attorney general is prepared and equipped to respond fully to questions he'll be asked," Ms. Miers said.

Her role in the firings remains murky. As White House counsel, she initially suggested that Mr. Bush replace all 93 U.S. attorneys after his re-election, and she received copies of correspondence from Mr. Gonzales' underlings as the list was narrowed. But she hasn't spoken publicly about her input. And the White House is resisting demands for her testimony from Democratic-controlled congressional panels, citing executive privilege.

"Talk to the White House about those issues," she said.

In addition to a return to law practice, Ms. Miers wouldn't rule out a role running the Bush presidential library; Southern Methodist University – alma mater of Ms. Miers, the first lady and many others in the president's circle – is finalizing a deal with former Commerce Secretary Don Evans.

"I'll leave that to Don Evans and others that are working with the [library] foundation. ... I'm obviously a big fan and supporter of the president and Mrs. Bush and am very willing to serve if there's issues where I can be helpful," she said.

Harriet Miers returns to Texas law firm

Published: April 20, 2007 at 12:14 PM

DALLAS April 20 (UPI) -- Harriet Miers, former White House counsel and U.S. Supreme Court nominee, is returning to the Texas law firm she left for Washington six years ago.

Miers rejoins Locke Liddell & Sapp as a partner on May 1, associated with the firm's public policy and litigation group. She will be based in Washington, Dallas and Austin, the Fort Worth Star-Telegram reported Friday.

Jerry Clements, the current managing partner, said the firm is not concerned about possible political fallout from Miers' work at the White House or as a Supreme Court nominee when conservatives questioned her credentials.

Clements said that was viewed as "nothing more than politics

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Rove's Fingerprints and the Gonzales Fiasco

From U.S. News & World Report, April 20, 2007:
In the pitiful performance by Attorney General Alberto Gonzales in an attempt to save his job, the undercurrent of Karl Rove's role is obvious.

Rove has been behind about every act of political chicanery in President Bush's tenure and while Bush was governor of Texas.

How else can you explain Rove's missing E-mails that you can bet were incriminating to his part in the firings of eight federal prosecutors? Rove's fingerprints are all over this sorry episode.

He has orchestrated attacks on Democrats opposed to the war in Iraq. His message seems to be: Don't say they are unpatriotic but give strong hints of it. He has made no secret of his master plan to keep the GOP majority in place with whatever it takes.

That scheme took a nose dive last November, and this war could shatter Rove's dream for a long time.

Politics ain't beanbag, as one wag put it long ago. Some Democratic consultants can play hardball too. But Rove likes to go beyond the rough stuff.

Go back to Rove's early days in judgeship races in Alabama. One opponent said Rovewasn't just satisfied with your defeat. He wanted to destroy you in the process....

... If any Republican wants a consultant and strategist without a conscience, I've got your man.

Posted at 04:35 PM by John W. Mashek

Friday, April 20, 2007

Gonzales: Just A Link in a Chain

From today's New York Times:

If Attorney General Alberto Gonzales had gone to the Senate yesterday to convince the world that he ought to be fired, it’s hard to imagine how he could have done a better job, short of simply admitting the obvious: that the firing of eight United States attorneys was a partisan purge.

Mr. Gonzales came across as a dull-witted apparatchik incapable of running one of the most important departments in the executive branch.

He had no trouble remembering complaints from his bosses and Republican lawmakers about federal prosecutors who were not playing ball with the Republican Party’s efforts to drum up election fraud charges against Democratic politicians and Democratic voters. But he had no idea whether any of the 93 United States attorneys working for him — let alone the ones he fired — were doing a good job prosecuting real crimes.

He delegated responsibility for purging their ranks to an inexperienced and incompetent assistant who, if that’s possible, was even more of a plodding apparatchik. Mr. Gonzales failed to create the most rudimentary standards for judging the prosecutors’ work, except for political fealty. And when it came time to explain his inept decision making to the public, he gave a false account that was instantly and repeatedly contradicted by sworn testimony.

Even the most loyal Republicans on the Senate Judiciary Committee found it impossible to throw Mr. Gonzales a lifeline. The best Orrin Hatch of Utah could do was to mutter that “I think that you’ll agree that this was poorly handled” and to suggest that Mr. Gonzales should just be forgiven. Senator Sam Brownback led Mr. Gonzales through the names of the fired attorneys, evidently hoping he would offer cogent reasons for their dismissal.

Some of his answers were merely laughable. Mr. Gonzales said one prosecutor deserved to be fired because he wrote a letter that annoyed the deputy attorney general. Another prosecutor had the gall to ask Mr. Gonzales to reconsider a decision to seek the death penalty. (Mr. Gonzales, of course, is famous for never reconsidering a death penalty case, no matter how powerful the arguments are.)

Mr. Gonzales criticized other fired prosecutors for “poor management,” for losing the confidence of career prosecutors and for “not having total control of the office.” With those criticisms, Mr. Gonzales was really describing his own record: he has been a poor manager who has had no control over his department and has lost the confidence of his professional staff and all Americans.

Mr. Gonzales was even unable to say who compiled the list of federal attorneys slated for firing. The man he appointed to conduct the purge, Kyle Sampson, said he had not created the list. The former head of the office that supervises the federal prosecutors, Michael Battle, said he didn’t do it, as did William Mercer, the acting associate attorney general.

Mr. Gonzales said he did not know why the eight had been on the list when it was given to him, that it had not been accompanied by any written analysis and that he had just assumed it reflected a consensus of the senior leaders of his department. At one point, Mr. Gonzales even claimed that he could not remember how the Justice Department had come to submit an amendment to the Patriot Act that allowed him to fire United States attorneys and replace them without Senate confirmation. The Senate voted to revoke that power after the current scandal broke.

At the end of the day, we were left wondering why the nation’s chief law-enforcement officer would paint himself as a bumbling fool. Perhaps it’s because the alternative is that he is not telling the truth. There is strong evidence that this purge was directed from the White House, and that Karl Rove, Mr. Bush’s top political adviser, and Harriet Miers, the former White House counsel, were deeply involved.

Yesterday, Mr. Gonzales admitted that he had not been surprised by five of the names on the list because he had heard complaints about them — from Republican senators and Mr. Rove.

In another telling moment, Mr. Gonzales was asked when he had lost confidence in David Iglesias, who was fired as federal prosecutor in New Mexico. His answer was an inadvertent slip of truth.

“Mr. Iglesias lost the confidence of Senator Domenici, as I recall, in the fall of 2005,” Mr. Gonzales said. It was Senator Pete Domenici of New Mexico, of course, who made a wildly inappropriate phone call to Mr. Iglesias in 2006, not 2005, to ask whether charges would be filed before the election in a corruption inquiry focused on Democrats. When Mr. Iglesias said he did not think so, Mr. Domenici hung up and complained to the White House. Shortly after, Mr. Iglesias’s name was added to the firing list.

We don’t yet know whether Mr. Gonzales is merely so incompetent that he should be fired immediately, or whether he is covering something up.

But if we believe the testimony that neither he nor any other senior Justice Department official was calling the shots on the purge, then the public needs to know who was. That is why the Judiciary Committee must stick to its insistence that Mr. Rove, Ms. Miers and other White House officials testify in public and under oath and that all documents be turned over to Congress, including e-mail messages by Mr. Rove that the Republican Party has yet to produce.