Thursday's must-reads


Geraldine Sealey
August 5, 2004 5:50PM (UTC)

The New York Times reports that Tom Kean, the 9/11 commission chair, says voters should scrutinize how the candidates respond to the work of the 9/11 commission, and suggested the president wasn't doing enough to embrace the panel's recommendations.

"But despite his praise for Mr. Bush, Mr. Kean's comments in an interview carried an implicit warning to the president, who has already rejected specific recommendations in the commission's report, including its call for the establishment of a national intelligence director who would have direct control over the budgets and personnel of the C.I.A. and other intelligence agencies."

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"Mr. Kerry, the Democratic presidential nominee, has endorsed all the commission's recommendations, including the appointment of an intelligence director with the full authority envisioned by the commission, and he has called for quick follow-through by Congress and the White House. He has accused Mr. Bush of sluggishness in responding to the commission's report."

"Mr. Kean said he thought it was appropriate for Mr. Bush and Mr. Kerry to be judged in the election by the way they respond to the work of the commission. 'I think it will be an issue and should be an issue,' said Mr. Kean."

The New Republic says in essence "we told you so" about a "July surprise" the magazine predicted would come during the Democratic convention. As it turned out, the surprise came in the form of an announcement in Pakistan of the capture of an al Qaida operative four days after his arrest, but before interrogators extracted useful information from him, just in time for John Kerry's speech in Boston.

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"But some American and Pakistani intelligence and counterterrorism officials do question the timing of the announcement. After his arrest, Ghailani's Pakistani captors, with assistance from FBI officials, set to work getting him to talk. While they had little initial success, a source privy to the interrogations says, 'It might have taken awhile, but he would ultimately have broken down,' at which point Ghailani might well have shared information, such as the names of Qaeda associates, that the Pakistanis could have acted on. But, before that could happen, according to an ISI officer, FBI officials, who had initially insisted on keeping the arrest secret, told officials in Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf's government that Islamabad should announce Ghailani's capture. ...This official and another ISI official believe that the driving factor behind the announcement was U.S. politics. 'What else could explain it?' the second official says."

"Though there is no policy governing how long to keep such arrests secret, standard intelligence practices dictate that the capture should not have been made public until investigators had finished with Ghailani (and the laptop and computer disks he had been captured with). Indeed, Ghailani may still talk, but some current and former American officials fear that, by broadcasting his name around the world, the Pakistanis have reduced the value of the intelligence that interrogators can extract from him. 'Now, anything that he was involved in is being shredded, burned, and thrown in a river,' a senior counterterrorism official told the Los Angeles Times."

Where in the world is Donald Rumsfeld these days? The Los Angeles Times reports that the man President Bush once dubbed a "matinee idol" is now hard to find "as the war has turned from a positive for the Bush campaign into a potential liability. Critics, particularly on the left, have delighted in the shrinking Rumsfeld role. Now, supporters have weighed in as well, but not with delight. 'He's our rock star,' one senior administration official said Wednesday on condition of anonymity. 'He should be out there.'"

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"The man who gave daily progress reports at the Pentagon in the heat of the war has appeared only twice at Pentagon briefings since May. And the White House, which coordinates which administration officials appear on the networks' news-making Sunday talk shows, has not lined up a Rumsfeld interview for months, although a senior administration official, speaking on condition of anonymity, denied that the White House did not want Rumsfeld speaking out."

The Miami Herald reports that although state election officials now "publicly proclaim their faith in touch-screen voting machines in the midst of criticism, their own reports may have been the first to highlight potential shortcomings in the technology more than 18 months ago."

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"In January 2003, state election officials reported that there was a higher rate of so-called undervotes among voters using the ATM-style equipment than those voters who mark paper ballots and feed them into an optical scanner. At the time, the Florida Division of Elections compiled a detailed report that looked at how each county's voting equipment performed during the 2002 general election, when Gov. Jeb Bush defeated Democratic challenger Bill McBride. Bush received 2.85 million votes to McBride's 2.2 million votes."

"The report shows that more than 44,000 votes weren't counted in the governor's race because of undervotes, overvotes and problems with absentee ballots. Of that total, about 34,000 were undervotes -- in which voters apparently failed to make a choice at all."

The Washington Post reports that Republican Senator Richard Shelby divulged classified intercepted messages to the media when he was on the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, and in once case walked out of a classified briefing and marched right up to a Fox News reporter to pass on the information.

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"Specifically, Fox News chief political correspondent Carl Cameron confirmed to FBI investigators that Shelby verbally divulged the information to him during a June 19, 2002, interview, minutes after Shelby's committee had been given the information in a classified briefing, according to the sources, who declined to be identified because of the sensitive nature of the case."

"Cameron did not air the material. Moments after Shelby spoke with Cameron, he met with CNN reporter Dana Bash, and about half an hour after that, CNN broadcast the material, the sources said. CNN cited 'two congressional sources' in its report."

"The FBI and the U.S. attorney's office pursued the case, and a grand jury was empaneled, but nobody has been charged with any crime. Last month it was revealed that the Justice Department had decided to forgo a criminal prosecution, at least for now, and turned the matter over to the Senate Ethics Committee. The Justice Department declined to comment on why it was no longer pursuing the matter criminally. The Senate ethics panel also declined to comment on its investigation."

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Geraldine Sealey

Geraldine Sealey is senior news editor at Salon.com.

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