Blogs

Government Secrecy Guru Reflects on Agee's Death

| Wed Jan. 9, 2008 1:36 PM EST

Steve Aftergood runs the Project on Government Secrecy at the Federation of American Scientists (FAS). From that perch, he has documented the shrinking of government transparency and civil liberties, including just in recent months, Cheney's office famously declaring itself exempt from both the executive and legislative branches for the purposes of refusing to submit itself to any form of oversight and security office procedures, as well as the National Archives secretly removing declassified documents from its shelves. He's sued the CIA for years to ask for the disclosure of the intelligence budget, published taxpayer-funded non-secret Congressional Research Service reports which Congress otherwise won't make available, and closely followed press coverage of well, the more secretive government agencies for years. As a long time close CIA watcher, I asked Aftergood to comment on controversial former CIA officer Philip Agee's death, and he obliged:

He was a man of his time, and his time was the 1970s. His public persona was shaped by anger at the U.S. Government and the CIA in particular over what he saw as its immoral, imperialist tendencies. He chose to break the rules of non-disclosure, and he paid a price in terms of exile, public opprobrium, etc. I doubt that the "celebrity" he enjoyed was much of a compensation.

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So Much Porn, So Little Time--For Accounting

| Wed Jan. 9, 2008 1:03 PM EST

sunrisephoto.jpgLast year, the SEC opened an investigation into accounting irregularities at Sunrise Senior Living, one of the nation's largest chains of retirement communities and assisted-living facilities, after the company restated its earnings by some $130 million. If anyone was wondering how the company might have misplaced so much money, it might look to former CFO Bradley Rush, who apparently was using his office computer to check out a lot more than the company's finances.

After Sunrise sacked Rush last year, he sued for wrongful termination, arguing that he was rooting out fraud at the time he was fired. However, during the litigation, the Washington Post reports that Sunrise disclosed that it had found some 25,000 unique pornographic images on Rush's laptop, including movies, after he left the firm. With his hard drive so crowded with T&A, it's hard to imagine there was much room there for Sunrise spreadsheets.

All Praise Jesus' General

| Wed Jan. 9, 2008 12:55 PM EST

Sometimes, the blogosphere does something the mainstream media would never dare to do. And it is awesome.

Mothers, Don't Let Your Sons Grow Up To Be...

| Wed Jan. 9, 2008 12:40 PM EST

Contractor%20Children%27s%20Book.jpg

...military contractors. Yep, the acceptance of the modern-day rent-a-soldier (never call them mercenaries; they hate that!) has finally filtered through the culture, right down to the realm of children's books. Hot off the press, you can now encourage your kids to join the ever-thickening ranks of the private military industry with the purchase of a new book. Targeting the 9-to-12 year-old set (and written at a fifth grade reading level), Jared Meyer's Working in a War Zone: Military Contractors includes 64 pages of text, accompanied by full color photographs of contractors doing their thing. (Meyer, a self-described author, consultant, and speaker—see his personal website here—has also penned such sundry titles as Frequently Asked Questions About Being an Immigrant Teen and Occupation Nation: How to Treat Your Health Like It's a Full-Time Job). According to the book's promotional blurb on its publisher's website:

People rarely think about the workers who provide products and services to the military and rebuild war-torn areas. The people who do these jobs, military contractors, have as important and exciting a career as anyone else in the military. This book brings readers right into the thick of the action. A variety of military contractor careers are profiled and brought to life. Readers learn about the daily dangers experienced by these professionals, and the importance of the work they accomplish.

And hey, if you like this one, there's more! Rosen Publishing's "Extreme Careers" series includes other jobs that would surely be a great fit for your 10-year old, including hostage rescue, disaster relief, frontline combat, and homeland security, among others.

Consider it a sign of the times.

CounterSpy: Rogue CIA Officer Philip Agee Dies

| Wed Jan. 9, 2008 11:29 AM EST

The AP reports that former CIA offcer turned rogue agent Philip Agee has died in Cuba. He was 72. From the AP obit:

Agee quit the CIA in 1969 after 12 years working mostly in Latin America at a time when leftist movements were gaining prominence and sympathizers. His 1975 book ''Inside the Company: CIA Diary,'' cited alleged CIA misdeeds against leftists in the region and included a 22-page list of purported agency operatives.

I encountered the Agee story up close when I was working last year on a biographical afterword about outted former CIA officer Valerie Plame Wilson. Plame had served her first foreign tour in Greece, several years after the killing of the Athens CIA station chief Richad Welch by a Greek terrorist group, N17. While it turned out that contrary to initial belief, it was not Agee's writings but local Greek press revelations of Welch's identity and address that exposed him to his assassins, Welch's murder and Agee's acts prompted Congress to pass the law, the Intelligence Identities Protection Act, that was mulled again after the outting of Plame, as my colleague David Corn first reported.

After Her Big Win, Status Quo or Change at Clinton HQ?

| Wed Jan. 9, 2008 9:13 AM EST

Last night--that is, at 1:30 in the morning--I ran into a top Hillary Clinton adviser at the bar in the Radisson Hotel in Manchester, New Hampshire. She was beaming. Earlier in the day, she had said to me, "I'm just praying the spread is 9.9 percent"--meaning she was hoping that Barack Obama would not win by double digits. Well, that was then. Joking, I said that I could imagine Clinton sending Mark Penn, her chief strategist, a telegram that said, "Stop. Come back. Stop. All is forgiven. Stop." Her eye opened wide and she exclaimed, "Oh, I hope not." Clinton's narrow victory in New Hampshire, she said, was not a vindication, but a warning. "We still need to retool," she explained. "This is not over." Clinton would have to change plenty from here on: be more open to the media, not be so over-handled. New Hampshire, she added, had been a near-death experience for Hillary Clinton. "We need to learn from our mistakes," she said. This aide was hoping for big changes within the Clinton campaign. Will that come? I asked. "You never know, politics can be unpredictable," she said with a smile.

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Hillary Rising: Experience and Conventional Politics Triumph in NH

| Wed Jan. 9, 2008 12:35 AM EST

hillary-wins-nh.jpg NASHUA, NH — The empire strikes back.

Throughout the morning, afternoon, and early evening of Election Day in New Hampshire, Hillary Clinton aides looked grim and gloomily moaned about a campaign that appeared to have been derailed, if not defeated. Expecting to lose by as much as 10 points, they wondered aloud what could be done to stop Barack Obama, the self-proclaimed "hope-monger," who only days earlier had seemingly rewritten modern American politics. Then the actual results started coming in, and Clinton was reborn. After being trounced in Iowa, the wife of the "comeback kid" of 1992 had managed a resurrection far more impressive than her spouse had achieved sixteen years earlier. He had merely overcome news of an extramarital affair; she had beaten back a new brand of politics.

Her surprising win—based partly on a strong performance among women and working-class voters—came after she had spent days decrying Obama's lack of experience (a legitimate point) and denouncing him as a hypocrite (not a legitimate point). With Clinton's victory, the main question of the Democratic race returns to what it had been prior to Iowa: can he beat her? But the small 3-percent margin in her favor suggested that the battle between her conventional politics and his unconventional politics has not been definitively resolved.

Throughout the campaign, Obama and Clinton have been operating on two different levels. Her playbook has been by-the-numbers: bash the Bush administration, offer red-meat policy proposals, sell her experience, talents, and strength—and, of course, raise tons of money and assemble a powerhouse organization. Obama has done all of that but within a different context. At the start, he and his advisers took one big step back and tried to envision what the electorate would be yearning for in 2008—not just the Democrats but also independents and those Republicans who did not fancy the taste of the Bush-Cheney Kool-Aid.

Clinton was practicing standard supply-side politics: push the candidate. Obama was looking at the demand side. He and his aides believed there was a desire for a break from politics as usual. After all, there had been a decade and a half of bitter politics, as well as several years of governmental incompetence (and worse), care of the Bush administration. Opinion polls suggested deep popular dissatisfaction with the state and future of the country. The Iraq War—and its unending fallout—had soured many independents and some Republicans. And the current regime was not doing much for anyone worried about economic security, health care, or global warming. So for many Americans, the government wasn't working, and the political system was broken. They wanted change. For a potential national candidate, what was the answer? A candidacy that offered solutions and leadership that would transcend the same-old/same-old. That was Obama's theory: give 'em both a platform and, yes, hope.

In Iowa, it worked. Obama attracted newcomers to politics. He persuaded people that he had character, root principles, and the desire (if not the ability) to rise above the bickering of Washington to accomplish grand goals—that by electing him the voters themselves could be implementers of profound change. (A President Obama certainly would represent more change than a second President Clinton.) He offered them not merely a choice but the chance to be part of a cause.

In New Hampshire, his crusade crashed into prosaic political reality. Though the state—with its high percentage of upscale and well-educated voters—seemed ready-made for another Obama triumph, the Clintons had deep roots there (which was not the case in Iowa). And after being upset in Iowa, the Clinton campaign focused on its core supporters. "At Clinton headquarters, it was all women all the time," said one Democratic official. And exit polls showed that women made up 57 percent of the Democratic vote and broke dramatically for Clinton.

John McCain Takes Victory Momentum and Heads... Where?

| Wed Jan. 9, 2008 12:24 AM EST

mccain-wins-nh.jpg MANCHESTER, NH — Everyone knows independents love John McCain. It turns out, Republicans love him too.

In all exit polling, John McCain dominated amongst the registered independents in New Hampshire who decided to vote in the Republican primary. But depending on who you ask, only 30 to 40 percent of the voters in that primary were indies; the rest were registered Republicans. According to MSNBC's exit polls, McCain took 35 percent of these voters, besting Romney by two points. In CNN's exit polls, Romney took 35 percent of these voters and McCain took 34 percent.

McCain won amongst men and amongst women. He won amongst voters who value national security and those who prioritize the economy. He won handily amongst lower-income voters, and managed to tie the former corporate CEO Romney amongst high-income voters. It was a decisive victory for McCain.

And it was stunning one for multiple reasons. McCain's campaign was pronounced all but dead due to lack of funds and staff upheavals last summer. Mitt Romney outspent McCain badly and hammered him with negative advertisements in this state. And no Massachusetts senator or governor has ever lost a primary in neighboring New Hampshire.

Instant Analysis: Reasons Why Clinton Won

| Tue Jan. 8, 2008 10:19 PM EST

MSNBC has just called New Hampshire for Hillary Clinton. Thinking out loud on why the polls were so, so wrong. Ideas welcome in the comments.

(1) Independents, who could vote in either the Democratic or Republican race, assumed that Obama had it wrapped up and turned to McCain in order to push him over the top.

(2) The voters in New Hampshire resented the picture the media was painting: Obama is king and New Hampshire is declaring the Clinton hegemony over American politics finished. Wait just a second, said the voters. Let's keep this debate going.

(3) Clinton cried. Edwards slammed her for it. The media questioned if she showed too much weakness, intimating that a woman couldn't cry and be taken seriously for high office. Women, who turned out hugely for Clinton in this race, turned to Clinton in the last few days. I actually think Obama got the same percentage of women as he did in Iowa, meaning a large number of women voters who went for Edwards in Iowa turned to Clinton.

(4) Edwards and Obama teamed up on her in the Democratic debate Saturday night. Voters, particularly those women who I just mentioned, didn't like that. Motivations in (3) and (4) are tied together, obviously.

(4) The strategy of answering questions showed voters the depth of her knowledge.

(5) There is a well-known effect that hits black politicians. They tend to do better in polling than they do when voters actually head into private polling booths. You can guess why. This effect doesn't occur in a caucus, because participating in a caucus requires voters to stand up for who they want in a public setting. There is social pressure. (I can't for the life of me remember the name of this effect. Anyone want to remind me in the comments?)

(6) All of the above.

I'm going with (6). And by the way, all this was incredibly premature.

A big victory for Clinton tonight. Nevada is up next. The political powerhouse in Nevada, UNITE-HERE Culinary Workers Union Local 226, was set to endorse Obama tomorrow, which many believed would basically hand him the state's primary on January 19th. Now we'll have to wait to see what happens.

Update: Thanks to our readers who IDed (6) as the Wilder/Bradley effect. Here's evidence that was not in play.

Updated Numbers: Clinton Has 4 Point Lead

| Tue Jan. 8, 2008 8:49 PM EST

The TV pundits, staring at Barack Obama's double digit lead in the polls, spent all day burying Hillary Clinton. Chris Matthews basically asked every guest he had if it was time for Clinton to drop out. And now, they're backtracking their fake-tanned butts off. With roughly a fifth of the vote in:

DEMOCRATS
Hillary Rodham Clinton 39.7%
Barack Obama 35.7%
John Edwards 16.8%
Bill Richardson 4.5%
Dennis J. Kucinich 1.7%

REPUBLICANS
John McCain 37.3%
Mitt Romney 27.9%
Mike Huckabee 12.2%
Rudolph W. Giuliani 9.2%
Ron Paul 8.6%
Others 2.8%
Fred D. Thompson 1.4%
Duncan Hunter 0.6%

We don't know what the final results will be, and either Obama or Clinton could win, but either way... we should probably get ready for "comeback kid" to become the word of the young year.

Did the Clinton folks see this coming? Was it a massive, well-orchestrated head fake? That's wild speculation, I know. But, man, that would be impressive, wouldn't it?

Update: With 42 percent reporting, Clinton 38.9% vs. Obama 36.6% vs. Edwards 16.6%.

Update: Dartmouth is in Grafton County. It has not reported. UNH is in Strafford County. It has also not reported. I'm scrambling to research more now.

Last update: Obama, the Dems' second place finisher, topped McCain, the GOP's winner, by a substantial margin. Yet another sign of the Democrats' future returns.