Friday, May 26, 2006
Posted on May 25, 2006, Printed on May 26, 2006
Last week, William Scott Malone and I broke the story of how a still anonymous, senior White House official leaked top-secret NSA intelligence in 2001 to then-New York Times reporter Judith Miller. The intelligence indicated that Al Qaeda was planning a major attack on the United States. But the “The 9/11 Story That Got Away” never made it into the paper.
It never made it to the attention of top Times executive Bill Keller either. Keller, now executive editor of the paper, was managing editor in July 2001. But he was kept in the dark when Miller’s “impeccable” source first revealed details of highly classified signals intelligence (SIGINT) concerning an impending Al Qaeda attack, perhaps to be visited on the continental United States. The NSA had been listening in on a conversation between two members of Osama bin Laden’s terror network. One was overheard saying to the other, “Don’t worry, we’re planning something so big now that the U.S. will have to respond.”
Asked to comment on our revelation, Times man Keller emailed a statement that said in part, “I heard nothing about this from Judy or Steve (Stephen Engelberg, Miller’s editor) at the time.”
Keller went on to note, “Obviously it would have been satisfying to have ‘predicted’ the 9/11 attacks -- just as it was satisfying that we identified Al Qaeda as an important threat before 9/11, in the Pulitzer-winning series Judy heavily reported and Steve edited.”
As Miller explained in our exclusive interview, she was initially “floored” by the information from her source, and thought the story had “major Page One potential.” But after meeting with Engelberg, she agreed with his assessment that the story lacked sufficient detail. “I realized that I didn’t have the whole story,” she told us. “As Steve put it to me, ‘You have a great first and second paragraph. What’s your third?”’
Keller concluded by seeming to damn Miller - a controversial figure who remains at the center of the ongoing perjury and obstruction of justice case involving former top White House official I. Lewis (Scooter) Libby - with faint praise: “What Steve had in hand that day in July was a promising lead from an excited reporter,” Keller noted, “Not, or not yet, a story. It was the kind of tip that good investigative reporters build on, not something you throw into the paper in all its vagueness.”
Did Keller mean to imply that Miller is not a “good investigative reporter?” After all, as Keller noted, she won a Pulitzer Prize for her reporting on Al Qaeda. But Miller and Keller certainly clashed in the weeks following Miller’s release after spending 85 days in jail before finally disclosing that Scooter Libby was her anonymous source in the Valerie Plame affair -- another story Miller never wrote for the Times. In the aftermath of the Libby revelation, Miller was pilloried, Pulitzer and all, in the pages of the Times, and finally forced to leave.
Whatever Keller may have meant to suggest in all his vagueness, by her own admission Miller didn’t do much to build on the tip she received about the impending Al Qaeda attack. “I realized that this information was enormously sensitive, and that it was going to be difficult to get more,” she told us. “But that my source undoubtedly knew more. So I promised to Steve that I would go back and try to get more. And I did…try.”
But whoever knew about the ‘who’ and the ‘where’ was not willing to tell Miller more at that time -- although she says she later “was told that, ‘The bad guys were in Yemen on this conversation.’”
That bit of information never made it to Times higher-ups such as Keller either, and Miller soon moved on. “Washington being Washington, and the CT [counter-terrorism] world being the CT world, I was soon off pursuing other things.”
Read the rest HERE.
White House officials in July 2001 KNEW there was an impending major attack by al Queda, yet King George did nothing whatsoever to stop it.
Feel safer knowing that?
Tuesday, May 23, 2006
Texas Lawyer: Commission on Judicial Conduct Admonishes Justice Hecht
The State Commission on Judicial Conduct has issued a public admonition to Texas Supreme Court Justice Nathan Hecht, below left, regarding comments he made to the press last year in support of the nomination of White House Counsel Harriet Miers to the U.S. Supreme Court.
Last fall Hecht estimated that he gave 120 interviews to the press about Miers' qualifications for the bench -- including information about her religious beliefs and views on abortion -- after her Oct. 3, 2005, nomination came under attack from conservative groups. [See "Texas Attorneys Support Dallas Native's High Court Nomination," Texas Lawyer, Oct. 10, 2005, page 1.]
At that time, Hecht jokingly said to Texas Lawyer that he had been acting as a "PR office for the White House" and had been filling in gaps about Miers' background to the press, countering some conservatives' skepticism about her qualifications -- statements that were referenced in the commission's admonition. [See the commission's admonition.]
On Oct. 27, 2005, Miers withdrew her name from consideration to become a high court justice.
In its May 10 admonition, released today, the commission found that Hecht's actions constituted "persistent and willful violations" of two canons of the Texas Code of Judicial Conduct. Canon 2b states that "a judge shall not lend the prestige of judicial office to advance the private interests of the judge or others." And Canon 5(2) states that "a judge or judicial candidate shall not authorize the public use of his or her name endorsing another candidate for any public office, except that either may indicate support for a political party."
"The commission concludes from the facts and evidence presented that Justice Hecht allowed his name and title to be used by the press and the White House in support of his close friend Harriet Miers, a nominee for the office of United States Supreme Court justice."
In a statement, Hecht says he disagrees with the commission's admonition and he plans to challenge it.
"I believe that my statements on matters of national public interest did not offend canons of judicial ethics and were fully protected by the First Amendment as core speech," Hecht says. "As best I can determine, the Commission's action is unprecedented despite many judges, over the years, providing factual information and endorsements to the judiciary committee and the public concerning nominees to the federal bench."
Full Texas Lawyer article.
AP: FBI oversteps in congressional office search - May 23
By MARY DALRYMPLE, Associated Press Writer -- Tuesday, 3:37 AM ET
WASHINGTON - The 's weekend search of the House office of Rep. William Jefferson, right, a Louisiana Democrat under investigation for bribery may have overstepped Constitutional boundaries, House leaders said as the congressman under investigation pledged to stay in office.
House Speakersaid the Justice Department had never before crossed a line that separates Congress from the executive branch by searching a congressional office while investigating a member of Congress.
The search warrant was issued by a federal district judge in suburban Virginia, based on an affidavit from FBI investigators outlining some of the evidence that have accumulated in the case, including video tape of the congressman accepting $100,000 in $100 bills from an FBI informant, who agreed to have her conversations with the congressman taped.
Agents later found all but $10,000 of the cash in marked bills hidden in a freezer in one of the congressman's homes, according to the affidavit.
His homes in New Orleans and the Washington area were searched by FBI agents last August.
"Nothing I have learned in the last 48 hours leads me to believe that there was any necessity to change the precedent established over those 219 years," Hastert, an Illinois Republican, said in a statement Monday.
Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi of California said congressional independence from the executive branch protects Americans from abuses of power. "Justice Department investigations must be conducted in accordance with Constitutional protections and historical precedent," she said.
Rep. William Jefferson (news, bio, voting record), whose office was searched over the weekend in connection with allegations of bribery, called the weekend search of his office an "outrageous intrusion."
Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, asked about the search, said he understands the concerns raised about FBI agents raiding a congressional office.
"I will admit that these were unusual steps that were taken in response to an unusual set of circumstances," Gonzales said.
Full AP-Yahoo News story. M.C.: Maybe they should search the Prairie Chapel Ranch for drug paraphernalia or other illegal acts.
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