Saturday, July 16, 2005

Killing children

This from Wednesday’s paper:

A suicide car bomb was detonated today near a group of American soldiers who were distributing candy to children in a poor neighborhood here, killing as many as 27 people, about two dozen of them children, and wounding dozens more, government and hospital officials said.

This is messed up. You would think that sponsoring an attack that kills two dozen innocent children might give you pause to think about what you are doing, to reevaluate the trajectory on which you find yourself. Not so. The jihad continues, and the killing goes on, in Iraq, in London, and around the world.

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Novak not out of the woods yet

We know from recent experience that federal investigators don’t like being lied to. The American people don’t like being lied to. So that is why Murray Waas’s post indicating that Novak and Rove may have lied to federal investigators is so interesting:

Federal investigators have been skeptical of Novak's assertions that he referred to Plame as a CIA "operative" due to his own error, instead of having been explicitly told that was the case by his sources, according to attorneys familiar with the criminal probe.

That skepticism has been one of several reasons that the special prosecutor has pressed so hard for the testimony of Time magazine's Cooper and New York Times reporter Judith Miller.

Josh Marshall has debunked Novak's claim repeatedly. Apparently the feds thought it was a bit of a stretch, too.
Also of interest to investigators have been a series of telephone contacts between Novak and Rove, and other White House officials, in the days just after press reports first disclosed the existence of a federal criminal investigation as to who leaked Plame's identity. Investigators have been concerned that Novak and his sources might have conceived or co-ordinated a cover story to disguise the nature of their conversations. That concern was a reason-- although only one of many-- that led prosecutors to press for the testimony of Cooper and Miller, sources said.

Might this be another case of the cover-up being ultimately more damaging than the original act? I guess we’ll see in the coming weeks.

Update: Robert Kuttner suggests the feds are already focusing on possible lies told by Rove and Co., rather than the initial misdeed:
Under the CIA nondisclosure law, an illegal disclosure has to be deliberate and knowing, and the CIA agent clandestine. Other published reports suggest that Fitzgerald is pursuing a possible case against Rove and other suspected leakers for perjury or obstruction of justice, which are easier to prove, especially if Rove was not entirely truthful in his testimony.

Update: Murray Waas says Rove didn't tell FBI investigators in his first interview with them that he had discussed Plame with Cooper. When all is said and done, it's what Fitzgerald says in October that matters, not what the media, politicians, or the blogosphere say now. This story may have fallen off the front pages with the Roberts nomination, but that doesn't mean it has disappeared.

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Swift justice

An American filmmaker was detained in Iraq back in May after potential bomb-making materials were discovered in the taxi he was riding in. He was eventually released without charge after seven weeks.

"This case highlights the effectiveness of our detainee-review process," the spokesman, Brig. Gen. Don Alston of the Air Force, said in the statement. "We followed well-established procedures, and Mr. Kar has now been properly released."

However, Mr. Kar’s lawyer thinks that seven weeks was a long time for a U.S. citizen to wait in jail for the government to realize that he had simply been in the wrong place at the wrong time.
"He was never told what if any charges were being made against him," said one of the lawyers, Mark D. Rosenbaum. "He never had access to a lawyer. He was never told that he passed a lie-detector test. He was virtually incommunicado. That's not a model detention policy. And that was for 50 days - for a guy who got into the wrong cab."

We can probably assume that the military put Mr. Kar's case on the fast track, given the likelihood of press scrutiny of the detention of a U.S. citizen, and that the U.S. is trying harder not to let detainees languish too long without a determination, after such cases were repeatedly splashed around the news. So this is pretty much top speed for processing detainees in Iraq.

Our justice system, with its transparency and uncompromising protection of civil liberties, truly is a shining example to the aspiring democracies of the middle east.

Might I suggest that Mr. Kar, when he finishes with the project he was working on when interrupted, make a film about his experience in detention. We can only speculate what we might learn if all the people wrongly detained in Iraq and elsewhere had the education, connections, and resources to show us their version of what happened to them in U.S. custody. I’m guessing it wouldn’t be pretty, although it might be illuminating.

Saturday, July 09, 2005

Two vacancies are better than one

Ed Kilgore at TPMCafe points out that Bush is in a tight spot with both Rehnquist and O'Connor retiring at once, since the religious right is unlikely to accept a compromise on either justice. Both justices must be sufficiently pro-life to support the overturn of Roe v. Wade. In fact, according to Kilgore's math, the next three nominees must take this stance:

Right now the Court is stacked 6-3 against overturning Roe v. Wade, based on the lineup in the 1992 Casey decision. That means overturning Roe--the obsessive and irreplaceable goal of the Cultural Right, not just with respect to the Supreme Court, but in terms of its alliance with the GOP--requires a net gain of two Justices for that position. Rehnquist actually voted against the original Roe decision. So his retirement would leave just two sure votes to overturn.

Thus, the Right has to run the table--a vote against Roe to replace O'Connor, a vote against Roe to replace Rehnquist, and a vote against Roe to replace the next retiree, probably Stevens.

As Kilgore puts it:
[W]hen it comes to the Court, the Cultural Right could not possibly care less about issues like business regulation or federalism or treatment of detainees at Gitmo. It's all about abortion--always has been, always will be.

If the Dems don't completely botch this--and with Reid at the helm, we can hope that they won't--Bush will be under pressure to nominate a moderate for at least one spot. If he had the benefit of several months between nominations, he'd arguably have to compromise less. Bush's early calls to tone down the heated rhetoric surrounding the first anticipated nomination are probably not so much directed at the left as at his own base.

According to this data, a slim majority of Americans supports Roe, and while most (78%) think abortion should remain legal in some circumstances, large majorities think it should be confined to the first trimester. Leaving abortion aside for a moment, a justice who would vote to overturn Roe would likely take a hard right position on any number of other issues. Who is appointed to the high court is arguably the most important consequence of last year's election. While Bush's supporters can point to his victory in November to claim that he should be able to appoint who he wants ("you lost, so quit whining and deal with the consequences"), the relatively close margin of victory, Bush's current abysmal poll numbers, and public opinion on Roe (among other issues) indicate otherwise.

I'd like to think the Dems could manage to pull this off. It depends on whether they can keep up the unity and focus they've displayed since the 2004 election, now when it matters most.