Daniel Schulman

Senior Editor

Based in DC, Dan covers politics and national security. His work has appeared in the Boston Globe Magazine, the Village Voice, the Columbia Journalism Review, and other publications. He is the author of the new Koch brothers biography, Sons of Wichita (Grand Central Publishing). Email him at dschulman (at) motherjones.com.

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OPR: "Not a Routine Investigation"

| Fri Feb. 19, 2010 7:55 PM EST

The Office of Professional Responsibility report on the Bush administration's torture memos—released at long last this evening, completely bollixing this reporter's plans for after work cocktails—is remarkable on a number of levels, not least the duration it took to put together. The report was almost five years in the making. What took so damn long? "This was not a routine investigation," the report notes, going on to detail a laundry list of complications. One was the deletion of the email records of Office of Legal Counsel officials John Yoo and Patrick Philbin. (Sound familiar?)

The report elaborates in a footnote:

OLC initially provided us with a relatively small number of emails, files, and draft documents. After it became apparent, during the course of our review, that relevant documents were missing, we requested and were given direct access to the email and computer records of [REDACTED], Yoo, Philbin, [Assistant Attorney General Jay] Bybee, and [Assistant Attorney General Jack] Goldsmith. However, we were told that most of Yoo's email records had been deleted and were not recoverable. Philbin's email records from July 2002 through August 5, 2002—the time period in which the Bybee Memo was completed and the Classified Bybee Memo...was created—had also been deleted and were reportedly not recoverable.

Blackwater's Staff Hooker?

| Thu Feb. 11, 2010 10:05 AM EST

Compared to allegations that Blackwater founder Erik Prince orchestrated hits on informants planning to spill dirt on his company or that executives ran a sex and wife-swapping ring out of Blackwater's Moyock, North Carolina headquarters, the latest charges against the firm are a bit more mild. A lawsuit, filed by a married couple who worked for Blackwater, accuses the company of keeping a Fillipino prostitute on its payroll in connection with one of its State Department contracts in Afghanistan and chalking her salary up to "Morale Welfare Recreation" expenses. The couple, Brad and Melan Davis, allege that Blackwater (since renamed Xe) and its executives engaged in "systematic" fraud, including falsifying invoices and double-billing (in part through one of Blackwater's sister companies, Greystone). The suit was filed under the False Claims Act, which entitles whistleblowers who come forward with allegations of fraud to a percentage of any money the government is able to recoup. The Justice Department ultimately decided not to join the Davis' in the suit, originally filed in 2008, which resulted in the unsealing of records in the case.

As it stands, this case is really the last of Blackwater's worries. The Justice Department is investigating whether Blackwater execs attempted to bribe Iraqi officials in the wake of the Nisour Square shootings in an effort to ensure the company could continue operating in the country. On top of that, the agency is expected to appeal a federal judge's decision to dismiss the charges against five ex-Blackwater guards implicated in the shootings. (The Washington Post's Del Quentin Wilber has a good piece today outlining how the agency bungled the case.) In a separate case, the Justice Department is pursuing charges against two contractors working for a Blackwater affiliated company, Paravant, for the alleged murder of two Afghan civilians. 

In other Blackwater news: Iraq's interior minister, Jawad Bolani, announced yesterday that as many as 250 former Blackwater contractors, who were employed by the company at the time of the Nisour Square episode but have gone on to work for other firms, have been ordered to leave the country within the next week. According to the Post, this decision is largely seen as political posturing by Bolani ahead of Iraq's parliamentary elections. Even so, if an anti-Blackwater platform has the power to get candidates elected in Iraq, that raises serious questions about whether the government's continued reliance on Prince's security empire is worth the price.

Snowpocalypse: Take That Al Gore!

| Wed Feb. 10, 2010 1:47 PM EST

The Snowpocalypse is an inconvenient truth for Al Gore and all those scheming scientists who claim global warming is imperiling our planet, right? I mean look at the epic amounts of snow blanketing the mid-Atlantic! It's not warm at all! This is essentially the argument some GOPers are making to suggest that climate change doesn't exist. Kate noted this phenomenon on Friday, when the Virginia GOP ran ads targeting Reps. Rick Boucher and Tom Periello.

The ads mock Boucher and Periello because they "think global warming is a serious problem for Virginia"—so serious they voted to "kill tens of thousands of Virginia jobs just to stop it." The ad features images of falling snow, stuck cars, and weathermen, and urges viewers to call the congressmen "and tell them how much global warming you get this weekend. Maybe they'll come help you shovel."

Politico reports today that conservatives from Mitch McConnell to Sean Hannity to Newt Gingrich have seized upon the "Gore-easter" to slam the climate conscious ex-Veep.

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