Archive for April 12th, 2007

18 Minutes, 18 Days, 18 Months

A pair of very interesting missing e-mail stories back-to-back in TPMmuckraker today. First, the WH e-mail system:

From Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington:

In a startling new revelation, CREW has also learned through two confidential sources that the Executive Office of the President (EOP) has lost over five million emails generated between March 2003 and October 2005. The White House counsel’s office was advised of these problems in 2005 and CREW has been told that the White House was given a plan of action to recover these emails, but to date nothing has been done to rectify this significant loss of records.

(…)

When I spoke to CREW’s Naomi Seligman Steiner, she could only say that the missing emails were generated over a period of “hundreds of days within that two year period.” Furthermore, it’s not clear whose emails they are, or why those emails are missing as opposed to others. “We’re dealing with people who are only willing to tell us so much,” she said.

And the RNC system:

In a letter to Attorney General Alberto Gonzales today, Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA), chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, asked that the Justice Department retain all emails received or sent to a White House official’s RNC-issued email address.

…[T]here are some very tantalizing details concerning Karl Rove…

From the letter:

According to Mr. Kelner, the RNC had a policy, which the RNC called a “document retention” policy, that purged all e-mails from RNC e-mail accounts and the RNC server that were more than 30 days old. Mr. Kelner said that as a result of unspecified legal inquiries, a “hold” was placed on this e-mail destruction policy for the accounts of White House officials in August 2004. Mr. Kelner was uncertain whether the hold was consistently maintained from August 2004 to the present, but he asserted that for this period, the RNC does have a large volume of White House e-mails. According to Mr. Kelner, the hold would not have prevented individual White House officials from deleting their e-mail from the RNC server after August 2004.Mr. Kelner’s briefing raised particular concems about Karl Rove, who according to press reports used his RNC accountfor 95% of his communications. According to Mr. Kelner, although the hold started in August 2004, the RNC does not have any e-mails prior to 2005 for Mr. Rove. Mr. Kelner did not give any explanation for the e-mails missing from Mr. Rove’s account, but he did acknowledge that one possible explanation is that Mr. Rove personally deleted his e-mails from the RNC server.

Mr. Kelner also explained that starting in 2005, the RNC began to treat Mr. Rove’s emails in a special fashion. At some point in 2005, the RNC commenced an automatic archive policy for Mr. Rove, but not for any other White House officials. According to Mr. Kelner, this archive policy removed Mr. Rove’s ability to personally delete his e-mails from the RNC server. Mr. Kelner did not provide many details about why this special policy was adopted for Mr. Rove. But he did indicate that one factor was the presence of investigative or discovery requests or other legal concerns. It was unclear from Mr. Kelner’s briefing whether the special archiving policy for Mr. Rove was consistently in effect after 2005. [TPMmuck emphasis]

So, this gives us a timeframe from March 2003 to August 2004 where any incriminating e-mails of interest from White House staffers could easily be missing from both WH and RNC servers, with that “blackout” timeframe extended out to “some point in 2005” (October?) for Karl Rove. In fact, if all the WH staffers were industrious about deleting the most sensitive RNC-mails, this timeframe could effectively extend all the way to up to October 2005. Prior to this timeframe, it can be assumed that all WH e-mails should be available, and that all RNC-mails would be unavailable. After this timeframe, it can be assumed that all WH and Rove RNC-mails should be available, but there are absolutely no guarantees about the RNC-mails of any other staffers.

So, what does this timeframe cover? Just off the top of my head, it would cover the start of the Iraq war, the Plame leak and coverup, the 2004 election, most or all of the Abramoff and Cunningham investigations, and even Hurricane Katrina, if we assume that everyone was manually deleting their incriminating RNC-mails. On the positive side, this gap would not include any conversations about the Wilkes-Foggo investigation or the US Attorney firings – or any segue between them, i.e., any possible “We have to get rid of Lam before she takes down any more of our guys” e-mails, unless Rove stayed out of them.

Also on the positive side is the fact that there is absolutely no technical excuse not to produce any Rove e-mails from October 2005 on, so any directives or feedback he might have given about which USAs to fire and why should be available, whether he used WH or RNC e-mail systems. If the WH or RNC say they cannot produce them, then they are essentially admitting to a coverup.

On the other hand, if Rove was aware that his e-mails were being archived (it’s unclear whether he knew this, or if he was ineffectually deleting away, thinking he was untouchable – it’s hard to imagine the RNC wouldn’t warn him, though), there’s a good chance that he would save his most sensitive communications for the phone, or route them through a trusted aide (Jennings?) whose e-mails were not being archived.

My first thought was that Rove is so arrogant that he wouldn’t have taken such precautions until after the 2006 election proved “the math” wrong and ushered in The Age Of Oversight, but if that were the case he wouldn’t have been deleting all his e-mails in the first place. Bottom line: It’s entirely conceivable that there are simply no incriminating Rove e-mails available, and no way to bust him for circumventing even the off-the-books e-mail system… unless someone squeals.

Finally, here’s the question that keeps nagging at me: Let’s suppose, just hypothetically, that the Bush White House and the RNC are completely unethical. I know, I know, but bear with me. Now suppose that they hand over most of their e-mails in response to the subpoena, and claim that they’ve complied fully – would the Democrats be able to tell? I know a lot of them are former prosecutors, and I bet a lot of their staffers are, too (to say nothing of the Blogger Street Irregulars) – and Fitz has demonstrated just how much a good prosecutor can find out, even in the face of a coverup. Maybe they can spot the contour of an empty space where an e-mail chain should be, or a reference to a missing e-mail in another e-mail, or in someone’s testimony, and then… what? Who gets busted? Will they have a fall guy like Libby again, maybe some Regents grad willing to take one for Team Jesus?

I really want to believe that the truth will come out, but I know the Bushies can afford to let it. At the very least, I’m hoping that, like Nixon’s missing 18 minutes, the evidence of criminal obstruction will be so obvious and unspinnable that it makes the Republican Party radioactive for the next thirty years. But I’m sure that’s what we were saying in 1974, too. (Well, I was probably saying something like, “Ooo, pwetty truck!”, but you know what I mean.)

UPDATE: Just noticed this over at FDL. These are the kinds of things that don’t register on you when you’re not a prosecutor, and kinda brain-dead to boot:

[M]ay I just say for the record that if Mr. Rove knew that his e-mails were to be preserved due to a pending criminal investigation and deleted them anyway in an effort to keep them from being viewed in discovery under a valid request from, say, a certain tall special prosecutor whose name might be Fitzgerald – well, that could be construed in a whole lot of places as obstruction of justice.

Mwahahaha… This would, of course, also apply to any of his minions who might be deleting their e-mails as well.

6 comments April 12th, 2007 at 11:07pm Posted by Eli

Entry Filed under: Bush,Corruption/Cronyism,Favorites,Iraq,Libby/Plame,Politics,Republicans,Rove,Technology

Wait… What?

Brian Williams (from Think Progress, via Atrios):

If we’re all watching cats flushing toilets, what aren’t we reading? What great writer are we missing? What great story are we ignoring? This is societal, it’s cultural, I can’t change it. We should maybe pause to think about it. Because like everybody else, I can burn an hour on YouTube or Perez Hilton without breaking a sweat. And what have I just not paid attention to that 10 years ago I would’ve just consumed?

So, let me get this straight… Brian Williams, of the All-Missing-White-Women-All-The-Time mainstream media, just accused bloggers of wasting too much time talking about frivolous fluff?

Amazing.

3 comments April 12th, 2007 at 08:24pm Posted by Eli

Entry Filed under: Media,Wankers

I Guess I Can Watch CSI Tonight…

It’s over:

CBS announced Thursday that it has fired Don Imus from his radio program, following a week of uproar over the radio host’s derogatory comments about the Rutgers women’s basketball team.

“There has been much discussion of the effect language like this has on our young people, particularly young women of color trying to make their way in this society,” CBS President and Chief Executive Officer Leslie Moonves said in announcing the decision. “That consideration has weighed most heavily on our minds as we made our decision.”

(…)

Losing Imus will be a financial hit to CBS Radio, which also suffered when shock jock Howard Stern departed for satellite radio early last year. The program is worth about $15 million in annual revenue to CBS, which owns Imus’ home radio station, WFAN-AM in New York, and manages Westwood One, the company that syndicates the show across the country. CBS Corp. is also the parent company of CBSNews.com.

Kudos to CBS for joining MSNBC’s refusal to be used as a platform for hateful language. This should further strengthen the precedent for other media outlets to do the same, as well as extending it from TV to radio.

…Or the right-wing noise machine could succeed in generating a backlash against liberal witch-hunts and political correctness run amok, but my gut feeling is that they’ll have a hard time gaining much traction outside their base.

April 12th, 2007 at 06:54pm Posted by Eli

Entry Filed under: Media,Racism

Now That’s A Distraction.

For those of you who believe the Imus story is a frivolous distraction, Atrios provides an example of what a real frivolous distraction looks like:

CNN’s been flogging the story of the air traffic controller who needed to go to the bathroom all day.

Remember, this is right on the heels of the Imus story and, oh by the way, the revelation that the RNC may have just “accidentally” deleted some of the off-the-books WH e-mails currently under subpoena. Where are the wall-to-wall legal and technical experts beating the e-mail story to death?

As always, imagine the coverage if the Clinton administration conveniently “lost” some e-mails pertinent to a congressional investigation.

(I wonder if Mark Foley would have been the Republican investigators’ go-to guy for digital communications expertise…)

April 12th, 2007 at 05:44pm Posted by Eli

Entry Filed under: Media,Wankers

But What About Those Awful Rappers?

Okay, I know I said I was done, but there are a couple of strands of Imus apologia that are really pissing me off.

The first is the “But rappers call women hos all the time! Why don’t you make them all stop before you call Imus a racist/sexist?” This concern about misogyny seem insincere and transparently tactical to me, similar to the way in which the oppression and rape of women under Saddam was supposed to be one of the reasons for us to be all happy about the war. Apparently misogyny is a really big problem when it’s not practiced by white people.

And, of course, the rapper argument completely ignores the racist dimension of Imus & Co’s comments, and itself uses racism to diminish the significance of Imus & Co’s comments. It’s a two-fer! Kai has the definitive word on this, with diagrams and everything. Although he’s missing the one with two non-overlapping circles representing Misogynist Rappers and People With Their Own Syndicated Political Column Or Show Who Appear In The Mainstream Newsmedia On a Regular Basis.

Also: So what? Other people’s misogyny in no way excuses or minimizes Imus’s.

The other strain of Imus apology is that he’s really a good guy, he was just joking around and said all this stuff ironically, and we’re letting The Real Racists Get Away OMG.

Given Imus’s track record of vile comments that he has either made himself, or cheerfully allowed his sidekicks to make, I really don’t buy this. The best I could say about him is that he sounded like a guy clowning around and trying to fit in with his racist buddies, but that’s a stretch, and still not exactly admirable.

But even if Imus really is a misunderstood ironist, it really doesn’t make that much difference. What he said was racist and misogynist, and MSNBC decided that they did not want to be associated with such language. So good for them, and that makes it easier for other media outlets to cut ties to full-time, professional racists and haters like Coulter and Limbaugh and Savage and Morgan. And if they refuse to, they’ll have to explain why their code of conduct is more lax than MSNBC’s.

The importance of this episode is that a mainstream media outlet has declared that yes, there actually are things you can say that will get you fired or removed from their airwaves, which is a very valuable precedent.

4 comments April 12th, 2007 at 11:32am Posted by Eli

Entry Filed under: Media,Racism,Wankers

So It Goes.

RIP, Kurt Vonnegut.

Dammit.

April 12th, 2007 at 07:40am Posted by Eli

Entry Filed under: Uncategorized

Czard Work

Too funny:

The White House wants to appoint a high-powered czar to oversee the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan with authority to issue directions to the Pentagon, the State Department and other agencies, but it has had trouble finding anyone able and willing to take the job, according to people close to the situation.

At least three retired four-star generals approached by the White House in recent weeks have declined to be considered for the position, the sources said, underscoring the administration’s difficulty in enlisting its top recruits to join the team after five years of warfare that have taxed the United States and its military.

“The very fundamental issue is, they don’t know where the hell they’re going,” said retired Marine Gen. John J. “Jack” Sheehan, a former top NATO commander who was among those rejecting the job. Sheehan said he believes that Vice President Cheney and his hawkish allies remain more powerful within the administration than pragmatists looking for a way out of Iraq. “So rather than go over there, develop an ulcer and eventually leave, I said, ‘No, thanks,’ ” he said.

(…)

To fill such a role, the White House is searching for someone with enough stature and confidence to deal directly with heavyweight administration figures such as Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates. Besides Sheehan, sources said, the White House or intermediaries have sounded out retired Army Gen. Jack Keane and retired Air Force Gen. Joseph W. Ralston, who also said they are not interested. Ralston declined to comment; Keane confirmed he declined the offer, adding: “It was discussed weeks ago.”

Kurt Campbell, a Clinton administration Pentagon official who heads the Center for a New American Security, said the difficulty in finding someone to take the job shows that Bush has exhausted his ability to sign up top people to help salvage a disastrous war. “Who’s sitting on the bench?” he asked. “Who is there to turn to? And who would want to take the job?”

(…)

“There’s the residue of the Cheney view — ‘We’re going to win, al-Qaeda’s there’ — that justifies anything we did,” he said. “And then there’s the pragmatist view — how the hell do we get out of Dodge and survive? Unfortunately, the people with the former view are still in the positions of most influence.” Sheehan said he wrote a note March 27 declining interest.

This is a great example of the Competence Vs. Loyalty Conundrum: Anyone smart enough and competent enough to do the job (which in this case means, “Minimize and contain the inevitable disaster”) is too smart to go along with Dubya’s Eternal Aimless War strategy. They would be the military equivalent of Christie Whitman as EPA Director.

The other interesting thing about this is that it feeds my long-held suspicion that Dubya only likes the perks and privileges of being president, but not the responsibilities. So he’s happy to gad about to various photo ops, collecting trophies and sports jerseys and personalized quasi-military jackets, but he absolutely hates and resents the responsibilities that come with the job. And that only gets worse as the job gets harder and the Congress gets less cooperative.

2 comments April 12th, 2007 at 07:00am Posted by Eli

Entry Filed under: Afghanistan,Bush,Iraq,Republicans,War


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