Saturday, November 19, 2005

Happy Birthday!

My wife woke me up at 4 a.m. on Thursday because she was starting to have contractions. Fortunately, we were planning to go to the hospital at 5 a.m. anyway for her scheduled c-section, so we just went in an hour early.
Everything went fine with the delivery and mother and baby are doing well.

Isabel Grace Thomas was born at 7:30 a.m. weighing 7 lbs. and 2.7 oz. and was 19 3/4 inches long.

Blogging will be light for the next few days as we adjust to the new addition to our family.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

More bad news for Bush

I bet the Bush administration just hates getting out of bed these days. Everyday it seems they get hit with a flood of more bad news for Bush and his team.
The latest polling has Bush at an all-time low of 37 percent approval rating. The remarkable thing about that is that they can still find that many people who say that Bush is doing a good job.

Yesterday the Senate rebuffed the administration over its Iraq policy by demanding more oversight and passing a resolution saying that there should be a drastic reduction in U.S. forces in Iraq in 2006. It is clear that the Republicans have lost control of their agenda in the Congress and are now being forced to put up watered-down Democratic proposals to try and make it look like they are still in charge of things.

The New York Times is reporting a new torture scandal in Iraq.

173 detainees American troops discovered over the weekend in the basement of an Interior Ministry building in a Baghdad suburb had been tortured by their Iraqi captors. A senior Iraqi official who visited the detainees said two appeared paralyzed and others had some of the skin peeled off their bodies by their abusers.

Hopefully, the new Iraqi government will deal with this promptly and decisively rather than trying to cover it up and stonewalling it like their political benefactors are apt to do.

But the big news today is in the Washington Post where we finally get hard evidence about which oil companies met with Vice President Cheney’s secret task force that devised our current energy policies. Apparently, oil company executives were still lying to Congress about those meetings as recently as last week.
Sen. Ted Stevens, the Alaska Republican who chairs the Commerce Committee, may have been privvy to that deception because he conveniently (over Democratic objections) refused to put the oil execs under oath when they testified before his committee and swore they were not involved in any secret task force meetings. That effectively shielded them from any perjury charges, but it is still supposed to be a crime to lie to Congress anyway.

And finally, the Washington Post has the bombshell story about Bob Woodward of Watergate fame testifying to the grand jury investigating the CIA Leak scandal. It turns out that someone in the Bush administration had blabbed about Valerie Plame to Woodward more than two months before her identity was exposed to the world in Bob Novak’s column. What does this mean?
It means that Patrick Fitzgerald’s investigation is alive and well and continuing to overturn more rocks in this seedy look at the underbelly of power politics in Washington.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Manipulation by omission

Kevin Drum has compiled a list of misleading claims made by the Bush administration prior to the invasion of Iraq along with details of the dissenting opinions in the intelligence community that were kept hidden from the public. Click through to the original post to access all the links to the supporting material.

1. The Claim: Ibn al-Shaykh al-Libi, an al-Qaeda prisoner captured in 2001, was the source of intelligence that Saddam Hussein had trained al-Qaeda members to use biological and chemical weapons. This information was used extensively by Colin Powell in his February 2003 speech to the UN.

What We Know Now: As early as February 2002, the Defense Intelligence Agency circulated a report, labeled DITSUM No. 044-02, saying that it was "likely this individual is intentionally misleading the debriefers." Link. This assessment was hidden from the public until after the war.

2. The Claim: An Iraqi defector codenamed "Curveball" was the source of reporting that Saddam Hussein had built a fleet of mobile biowarfare labs. Curveball's claims of mobile bio labs were repeated by many administration figures during the runup to war.

What We Know Now: The only American agent to actually meet with Curveball before the war warned that he appeared to be an alcoholic and was unreliable. However, his superior in the CIA told him it was best to keep quiet about this: "Let's keep in mind the fact that this war's going to happen regardless of what Curveball said or didn't say, and the powers that be probably aren't terribly interested in whether Curveball knows what he's talking about." Link. This dissent was not made public until 2004, in a response to the SSCI report that was written by Senator Dianne Feinstein. Link.

3. The Claim: Iraq had purchased thousands of aluminum tubes to act as centrifuges for the creation of bomb grade uranium. Dick Cheney said they were "irrefutable evidence" of an Iraqi nuclear program and George Bush cited them in his 2003 State of the Union address.

What We Know Now: Centrifuge experts at the Oak Ridge Office of the Department of Energy had concluded long before the war that the tubes were unsuitable for centrifuge work and were probably meant for use in artillery rockets. The State Department concurred. Link. Both of these dissents were omitted from the CIA's declassified National Intelligence Estimate, released on October 4, 2002. Link. They were subsequently made public after the war, on July 18, 2003. Link.

4. The Claim: Saddam Hussein attempted to purchase uranium yellowcake from Africa as part of his attempt to reconstitute his nuclear program. President Bush cited this publicly in his 2003 State of the Union address.

What We Know Now: The primary piece of evidence for this claim was a document showing that Iraq had signed a contract to buy yellowcake from Niger. However, the CIA specifically told the White House in October 2002 that the "reporting was weak" and that they disagreed with the British about the reliability of this intelligence. Link. At the same time, the State Department wrote that the documents were "completely implausible." Link.

Three months later, in January 2003, Alan Foley, head of the CIA's counterproliferation effort, tried to persuade the White House not to include the claim in the SOTU because the information wasn't solid enough, but was overruled. Link. Five weeks later, the documents were conclusively shown to be forgeries. Link. In July 2003, after the war had ended, CIA Director George Tenet admitted publicly that that the claim should never have been made. Link.

5. The Claim: Saddam Hussein was developing long range aerial drones capable of attacking the continental United States with chemical or biological weapons. President Bush made this claim in a speech in October 2002 and Colin Powell repeated it during his speech to the UN in February 2003.

What We Know Now: The Iraqi drones had nowhere near the range to reach the United States, and Air Force experts also doubted that they were designed to deliver WMD. However, their dissent was left out of the October 2002 NIE and wasn't made public until July 2003. Link.

As Kevin notes today in a follow-up post, this was a clear abuse of power by the Bush administration for which they should rightfully be held accountable.

And all these protestations noting that Democrats shared Republican concerns about the threat posed by Hussein’s regime completely miss the point that the argument was about how to respond to that threat, not whether or not the threat existed. I don’t blame Bush because there were no WMDs in Iraq. I blame him for blowing that threat all out of proportion and making it the overriding concern of our military when we should have been more concerned with tracking and countering al-Qaeda operations.