Thursday's must-reads

Published June 3, 2004 1:32PM (EDT)

Polygraphs at the Pentagon
The FBI is administering polygraph tests to a small number of Pentagon officials who had access to the classified intelligence Ahmed Chalabi reportedly gave to the Iranians. The New York Times says Chalabi denies the charges he snitched.

"Government officials say they started the investigation of Pentagon officials after learning that Mr. Chalabi had told the Baghdad station chief of Iran's intelligence service that the United States was reading their communications. Mr. Chalabi, American officials say, gave the information to the Iranians about six weeks ago, apparently because he wanted to ensure that his secret conversations with the Iranians were not revealed to the Americans."

"But the Iranian official apparently did not immediately believe Mr. Chalabi, because he sent a cable back to Tehran detailing his conversation with Mr. Chalabi, American officials said. That cable was intercepted and read by the United States, the officials said."

"Mr. Chalabi and his supporters argue that the accusations against him are part of a C.I.A.-inspired campaign to discredit him. His backers have been dismayed that the Bush administration recently divorced itself from Mr. Chalabi and his group, the Iraqi National Congress. They contend that the move was instigated by the C.I.A., which they say is now wielding intercepted Iranian communications as a weapon against Mr. Chalabi."

A liberal revival?
The Wall Street Journal reports that after a generation "on the defensive," the American left is seeing signs of a political comeback.

"Recent polls show more Americans are calling themselves 'liberal' -- a term that had been considered something of an epithet -- and fewer are identifying themselves as 'conservative.' Liberal groups, from the National Organization for Women to, are enjoying a big fund-raising surge. The flagship publication of the left, the Nation, claims to have captured the highest circulation of any weekly political magazine."

"'The plates have all moved,' argues Democratic pollster Stan Greenberg. The combination of hostility toward President Bush, anxiety about the war in Iraq and concerns about tax cuts and other economic issues 'make it possible for something fundamental to happen in this election,' he says."

"Republican strategists say liberals are delusional."

Bush seeks private counsel in Plame case
President Bush has consulted an outside lawyer in case he needs to retain him in the grand jury investigation of who in the White House leaked the name of covert CIA operative Valerie Plame last year, CBS News reported.

"There was no indication that Bush is a target of the leak investigation, but the president has decided that in the event he needs an attorney's advice, 'he would retain him,' White House spokeswoman Claire Buchan said. The lawyer is Jim Sharp, Buchan said, confirming a report by CBS Chief White House Correspondent John Roberts. "'The president has said that everyone should cooperate in this matter and that would include himself,' the spokeswoman said. She deflected questions about whether Bush had been asked to appear before a grand jury in the case."

Paris bans Bush protests
Financial Times says the "groundswell of French hostility" to President Bush won't be evident in central Paris when Bush visits on Saturday because demonstrations have been banned. The "blanket ban" won't conceal Bush's lack of popularity in France, but "it nevertheless underscores Mr Chirac's determination to make Mr Bush's stay in France for the 60th anniversary of the D-Day celebrations a friendly occasion and a chance to improve the chilly state of Franco-American relations."

"Paris is well aware that the US president is embroiled in a tough re-election campaign and that Mr Bush needs to wring domestic political capital from his D-Day appearance on the beaches of Normandy. However, French officials hope he will not seek to link too openly the liberation of Europe from Nazi Germany with the US's removal of the dictatorship in Baghdad and Mr Bush's broader war against terrorism."

"Any such muddying of the historical waters will not endear the US president to his French hosts. Mr Chirac has invited German chancellor Gerhard Schrvder and Russian leader Vladimir Putin to the ceremonies as a symbol of Europe's historic reconciliation."

Bush-Cheney '04 recruits at churches
President Bush's re-election campaign is trying to recruit supporters from 1,600 religious congregations in Pennsylvania -- a political push that critics said Wednesday could cost churches their tax breaks, the AP reported.

"An e-mail from the campaign's Pennsylvania office, obtained by The Associated Press, urges churchgoers to help organize 'Friendly Congregations' where supporters can meet regularly to sign up voters and spread the Bush word."

"'I'd like to ask if you would like to serve as a coordinator in your place of worship,' says the e-mail, adorned with the Bush-Cheney logo, from Luke Bernstein, who runs the state campaign's coalitions operation and is a former staffer to Sen. Rick Santorum, the president's Pennsylvania chairman. 'We plan to undertake activities such as distributing general information/updates or voter registration materials in a place accessible to the congregation,' the e-mail says. The Internal Revenue Service prohibits political campaign activity, for or against any candidate, from taking place at all organizations that receive tax exempt status under a section of the federal tax code -- including most churches and religious groups. Violators could lose their tax breaks and face excise taxes."

Brahimi: Bremer "a dictator"
Knight-Ridder takes a look at a frustrated and weary Lakhdar Brahimi.

"When the U.S.-appointed Governing Council announced this week that it had selected a new prime minister, Brahimi seemed to be caught flat-footed. The man tapped for the post, Iyad Allawi, has close ties to the CIA. Almost immediately after being named prime minister, he called for the United States to keep its troops in Iraq, a position unpopular with many Iraqis. Asked how big a role the American administration had in forming the government and selecting the prime minister and president, Brahimi reminded reporters that American Ambassador L. Paul Bremer runs things in Iraq."

"Bremer is the dictator of Iraq," he said. "He has the money. He has the signature." He later added: "I will not say who was my first choice, and who was not my first choice ... I will remind you that the Americans are governing this country."

By Geraldine Sealey

Geraldine Sealey is senior news editor at

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