(Not) Plugging The Holes In Our Border

In a war on terrorism in which we have already suffered thousands of deaths from infiltrators into the US, one might think that border security might take a leading position among issues faced the federal government. However, the Los Angeles Times reports that sophisticated tunnels literally undermining our southern border still remain in use even after their discovery, thanks to half-hearted efforts to plug the holes created by smugglers:

Seven of the largest tunnels discovered under the U.S.-Mexico border in recent years have yet to be filled in, authorities said, raising concerns because smugglers have tried to reuse such passages before.
Among the unfilled tunnels, created to ferry people and drugs, is the longest one yet found — extending nearly half a mile from San Diego to Tijuana. Nearby, another sophisticated passageway once known as the Taj Mahal of tunnels has been sitting unfilled for 13 years, authorities say.
Though concrete plugs usually close off the tunnels where they cross under the border and at main entrance and exit points, the areas in between remain largely intact. Filling the seven tunnels would cost about $2.7 million, according to U.S. Customs and Border Protection officials. Accessing tunnels that run under private property is also a problem, as is a lack of coordination with Mexican authorities.
Mexican authorities have told their U.S. counterparts that they’ve filled their end of the tunnels. But U.S. officials express doubt, citing the high costs and examples of tunnels being compromised. The Mexican attorney general’s office, which handles organized crime, did not respond to numerous requests for interviews.

It’s difficult to blame the Mexican government for its lack of action on the tunnels when we haven’t done much with them, either. Congress shifted responsibility for the tunnels to Customs and Border Protection when it reorganized the Department of Homeland Security in 2003, but almost four years later, no one appears willing to address the problem effectively. As a result, smugglers — and others — simply work around the obstacles placed in the tunnels on the cheap.
Most tunnels require little effort to destroy. They consist of cheap, and probably dangerous, wormholes that can easily be shut down. However, the money flowing into the drug- and alien-smuggling operations have allowed miners with real expertise to create elaborate tunnels, some with telephone service, rails, and video surveillance. CBP and its predecessors have used concrete plugs to block these tunnels, rather than properly fill them with dirt in order to ensure that smugglers simply don’t tunnel around the obstructions. And that’s exactly what they do, which requires even more enforcement activity to stop the new brances off the same tunnels.
CPB points to issues of private-property ownership and cost when explaining the lack of progress on the tunnels. Some may take as much as $2 million in work to completely fill, and some private-property owners object to the methods used to fill them in any case. However, this isn’t a case of water rights-of-way or filling potholes on city streets. These tunnels could be used to transport anything around our border protection, and illegal workers are the least problematic of the potential contraband. While we have Congress demanding 100% inspection of cargo at port facilities, we have allowed these unchecked entry points to continue their usefulness to people who might use them to smuggle any kind of weapons to use against us.
These tunnels need to get shut down immediately. CPB, the White House, and Congress needs to make arrangements to resolve whatever procedural and cost difficulties exist quickly and end the potential for the kinds of mischief we wish to avoid. After we get serious about these tunnels, we can demand that the Mexicans meet their responsibilities.

The COLA-Free Congress, Courtesy Of The GOP

Republicans blocked the normally smooth process towards Congress granting itself its annual cost-of-living increase yesterday, a move that will certainly not sadden taxpayers but will leave Representatives around $2800 lighter. The GOP ended the amicable understanding between the two parties that discouraged any challenges to COLA increases after the Democrats violated an agreement between them not to use the COLAs for the basis of political attacks:

House Democratic leaders Monday abandoned attempts to revive an annual pay raise cherished by rank and file lawmakers, a decision prompted by lingering GOP anger over last year’s campaign.
Lawmakers’ pay will be frozen at $165,200 for this year in a dispute fueled by the Democrats’ use of the issue in last year’s campaign, violating a yearslong understanding that the competing parties would not attack each other over pay raises.
At issue is the annual congressional cost of living adjustment, or COLA, under which lawmakers automatically get a pay hike unless Congress votes to block it. Democratic and Republican leaders had worked cozily for years to make sure an annual pay-related vote went smoothly.

After the last increase got approved in June for this session of Congress — a session cannot increase its current wages — the Democrats used the COLAs in attack ads for the midterms, scolding the Republicans for making adjustments to the cost of living while leaving the federal minimum wage alone. The argument failed to note the participation of Democratic leadership in those agreements, leaving the Republicans holding the bag for the COLAs.
In December, while still in the majority, they pushed back the new COLA, making it impossible for the Democrats to avoid responsibility for the increase. The Democrats wanted to push the COLA back a few more weeks out, in order to get the minimum-wage hike approved before Congress got its raise, but the GOP blocked that effort — and have announced that they will not support any more increases in the Congressional wage. Without bipartisan support, the Democrats will have to drop the COLA.
None of this makes me unhappy, and I suspect many CQ readers will feel the same way. Our Representatives already make $165,000 a year, and Congressional officers make a little more than that. That’s more than double the average wage of the American family, and it doesn’t require adjustment to attract plenty of candidates for the jobs. Congress can stand to live within fixed means for a while, and perhaps it will inspire them to impose the same experience on the rest of the federal government.

Bush Orders Political Oversight Of Agency Rulemaking

The Gray Lady gets hysterical this morning over the executive order signed by President Bush requiring oversight of agency rulemaking. Bush’s order requires federal agencies to submit impact reports that justifies additional regulation not authorized by Congress as well as an annual report of the cumulative effect of their entire regulatory position, and it creates a White House appointee to conduct the oversight. One might consider this common sense, unless one has a bad case of Bush Derangement Syndrome:

President Bush has signed a directive that gives the White House much greater control over the rules and policy statements that the government develops to protect public health, safety, the environment, civil rights and privacy.
In an executive order published last week in the Federal Register, Mr. Bush said that each agency must have a regulatory policy office run by a political appointee, to supervise the development of rules and documents providing guidance to regulated industries. The White House will thus have a gatekeeper in each agency to analyze the costs and the benefits of new rules and to make sure the agencies carry out the president’s priorities.
This strengthens the hand of the White House in shaping rules that have, in the past, often been generated by civil servants and scientific experts. It suggests that the administration still has ways to exert its power after the takeover of Congress by the Democrats. …
Representative Henry A. Waxman, Democrat of California and chairman of the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, said: “The executive order allows the political staff at the White House to dictate decisions on health and safety issues, even if the government’s own impartial experts disagree. This is a terrible way to govern, but great news for special interests.”

Hogwash. The order ends the tradition of unchecked authority by federal agencies to set up their own rules and apply them capriciously, outside of the control of either Congress or the executive branch. It makes agencies justify any new rules and brings that process into a little more sunlight and holds the bureaucracy accountable. And the only reason that Bush had to sign this order is that Congresses over the past several decades, Republican and Democratic, have done nothing to rein in the imperial bureaucrats who conduct empire-building.
When an agency wants to add more regulation without any Congressional authorization, they have the requirement to submit the proposals to the Office of Management and Budget for review. Most of them have used a workaround called “guidance documents”, which get issued within the bureaucracies and have the force of policy. These documents never get public scrutiny, nor does OMB get a chance to review them before they go into effect. The regulated agencies usually see them, but no appeals process exists to stop them, since they exist outside any mechanisms for oversight.
That is a recipe for the mindless tyranny of petty bureaucrats and explains why regulation has gotten out of hand over the past few years. Even the Democrats used to acknowledge this; Al Gore led a task force for the purpose of undoing the overwhelming and mostly useless red tape within the federal bureaucracy. It went nowhere, and no systemic reforms were even contemplated. The Bush administration has obviously decided to pick up where the Clinton administration left off and actually do something to slow the tide of new regulation.
If Henry Waxman and the rest of Congress don’t like this idea, then let them come up with some other way to end the unchecked power of “guidance documents” and the self-perpetuating empire building in the federal bureaucracy. Waxman served in the majority before 1994, and he’s back there again. Until the Democrats and their constituent special interests either offer an alternative for controlling the expansion of power by federal agencies or justify the lack of oversight that allows it, then they have nothing at all to offer — which is the reason why critics like the New York Times have settled for good, old-fashioned paranoia and scare tactics.

With Just A Year To Go …

Is it too early for polling in the Presidential race? You bet it is. Does that stop anyone from quoting the polls? Absolutely not. So, just for fun and not for serious consideration, take a look at this New Hampshire poll from Boston’s CBS television affiliate, via Rich Lowry at The Corner:

Sen. Clinton is the choice of 40 percent, followed by Sen. Barack Obama with 25 percent, and 2004 vice-presidential nominee John Edwards at 23 percent. Only nine percent preferred someone else.
That’s a strong showing for Obama, a newcomer to a state where Clinton and Edwards have campaigned for years. But the numbers could be a nightmare for him too. …
Our survey of Republicans shows former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani in a virtual tie with Sen. John McCain, 33 to 32 percent, with former governor Mitt Romney up sharply over recent polling at 21 percent.
For Romney, it’s an early sign that his strategy of courting the right on social issues is paying off among GOP conservatives. And it leaves Giuliani and McCain facing the same fate as Edwards and Obama – they split the moderates, and Romney runs right through the hole they create.

In the Granite State, at least, it seems that the Democratic field has narrowed considerably. If Al Gore had been thinking about a return to Presidential politics, he might have missed his chance. Earlier this month, Rasmussen had him beating Mitt Romney in a general election. Good thing we’re not having it this month, then.
The Republican race appears more fluid. The top three eat up 86% of respondents, but that won’t hold if a big name drops into the race, such as Newt Gingrich. He may not immediately pull 30 points, but he would more than likely pull everyone else into the 20s or lower.
Rasmussen’s matchups show some interesting figures. They polled all of the major and minor presumed candidates against each other, and the one Republican who wins against them all is Rudy Giuliani. Romney loses to Obama by 13 points and Hillary by eight; he even loses to Tom Vilsack, although neither of them garner 40% in the poll. Romney still has a lot of time to define himself, of course, but that can’t be said of John McCain. He has been in front of a few cameras over the last few years as the leading GOP maverick, at least until Chuck Hagel started speaking up about Iraq. McCain edges Hillary within the margin of error, but loses to John Edwards and Barack Obama by the same margin. Giuliani, on the other hand, beats everyone — Hillary, Gore, Edwards, and especially Obama, whom he surpasses by eleven points.
It’s still way too early to take this seriously, but it’s not completely worthless, either.

We’ll Just Settle For A Little Extortion

The Libyan government indicated for the first time that the six medical workers sentenced to death for purportedly exposing a family to AIDS and touching off an epidemic would not get executed. Western governments have continuously lobbied Tripoli to stop the execution and release the workers, calling the accusations ludicrous, but until yesterday it appeared that those efforts would fail. Moammar Gaddafi’s son told a Bulgarian newspaper that his father opposes the execution — but that compensation has to be offered:

LIBYA will not execute five Bulgarian nurses and a Palestinian doctor sentenced to death last month, the son of the Libyan leader, Colonel Muammar al-Gaddafi said in a newspaper interview, calling the verdicts unfair.
A Libyan court sentenced the six for intentionally infecting hundreds of children with the HIV virus in a case which started eight years ago and that has triggered widespread international concern about its fairness.
Speaking to a Bulgarian daily newspaper 24 Chasa, Col Gaddafi’s son, Saif al-Islam, said a solution would be found soon to save the six and satisfy families of the infected children. “There will be no executions. I hope there will be a happy end soon … My father is also against the executions,” said Mr Islam, who is Col Gaddafi’s leading envoy.
“The case went in the wrong direction from the very beginning. There were many manipulations in the original files, many errors … This is why we should seek a compromise,” Mr Islam said, adding that Tripoli had already discussed a plan with Germany and France.

Libya accused the Palestinian doctor and the five Bulgarian nurses of negligently infecting a family with AIDS and allowing it to spread throughout the nation. AIDS researchers have repeatedly shown this to be false, and challenged the Libyan government’s assertion that AIDS did not exist in the country before their arrival. Despite numerous entreaties, Gaddafi allowed the trial to continue and sentence the six to death. Now Gaddafi has apparently changed his mind, a happy turn of events.
However, Gaddafi wants a little something for his trouble. Claiming that the family still has case, Gaddafi wants the Western nations to pay blood money for the workers’ release. Blood money has a long tradition in Islamic culture and is called bloodwit, and is described in Al-Baqarah (The Cow), Section 22, verse 178 as “ransom for manslaughter”. It also gets described in An Nisa’ (Women), Section 13, verse 92:

It is not befitting for a believer to kill a believer except by accident, and whoever accidently kills a believer, he is commanded to free a believing slave and pay bloodwit to the family of the victim, unless they forgo it as a charity. If the victim is from a hostile nation, then the freeing of a believing slave is enough, but if he belonged to a nation with whom you have a treaty, then bloodwit must be paid to his family along with the freeing of a believing slave. Those who do not have the means (bloodwit and / or a slave) must fast two consecutive months: a method of repentance provided by Allah. Allah is the Knowledgeable, Wise.

The expectation exists with wronged Muslims that any mercy must be purchased from the victims or their kin. However, in this case, it seems less religious and more mercenary on the part of Gaddafi and his government. The Scotsman reports that Gaddafi wants $10 million from Bulgaria to release the women, a rather steep price for bloodwit, which usually amounts to a few thousand dollars, if that. Bulgaria has already set up a foundation to pay for the continuing care of the afflicted, but they have already said that their settlement will not be in the millions.
We shall see whether Gaddafi and his son are in a bargaining mood. At the moment, though, we can hope that the six medical workers will not have to worry about a date with the hangman.

Damning Us For Our Success

Ali Ansari has a strange column in today’s Guardian regarding Iran, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, and US hawks. He wants to argue that Ahmadinejad’s presidency is failing and that the economic pressures on the Iranian economy have accelerated his decline. However, he then claims that American hawks may yet save Ahmadinejad and scold us for not propping him up:

Ahmadinejad was elected on a platform of anti-corruption and financial transparency, and few appreciated how rapidly he was intoxicated with the prerogatives of his office. He very soon forgot the real help he had received in ensuring his election, basking in the belief that God and the people had put him in power. Ahmadinejad soon had a view for all seasons: uranium enrichment. Of course Iran would pursue this, and what’s more, sell it on the open market at knockdown rates. As for interest rates, they were far too high for the ordinary borrower, so cut them immediately. And then there was the Holocaust.
None of this might matter so much, if the president had based his rhetorical flourishes on solid policies. … [N]ot only has Ahmadinejad singularly failed to consolidate and extend his political base, the recent municipal elections saw his faction defeated throughout the country. Traditional conservatives and reformists reorganised and hit back, ingeniously using technology to work round the various obstacles placed in front of them. Now, over the past weeks, with biting weather, shortages of heating fuel are further raising the political temperature, while his political opponents point to the burgeoning international crisis for which the globetrotting president seems to have no constructive answer. Talk has turned to impeachment.
Ironically, it is this very international crisis that may serve to save Ahmadinejad’s presidency, a reality that the president undoubtedly understood all too well. As domestic difficulties mount, the emerging international crisis could at best serve as a rallying point, or at worst persuade Iran’s elite that a change of guard would convey weakness to the outside world.
There can be little doubt that US hawks will interpret recent events as proof that pressure works, and that any more pressure will encourage the hawks further. Yet the reality is that while Ahmadinejad has been his own worst enemy, the US hawks are his best friends. Ahmadinejad’s demise, if it comes, will have less to do with the international environment and more with his own political incompetence. There is little doubt that it will take more than a cosmetic change to get Washington to listen to Iran. But the real question mark, as the Baker-Hamilton commission found to its cost, is whether Washington is inclined to listen at all.

Exactly what should the US do? Ansari seems to share our distaste for the Iranian “populist” who has busied himself with destroying his nation’s economy and lighting diplomatic fires all over the world. One would think that Ansari would hew to the dictum that warns about rescuing one’s enemies from their own folly. Instead, he complains that America has not engaged Ahmadinejad and kept him afloat, along with his millenial obsession and his virulent anti-Semitism.
Ansari apparently wants us to hand Ahmadinejad a diplomatic victory, which somehow will result, in Ansari’s imagination, in a rejection of Ahmadinejad by the mullahcracy and the Iranian electorate. That makes no sense at all. All of the economic pressure exerted on Iran has come from the tenacity of the Bush administration. As slow as Washington has reacted, the international community would never have backed sanctions on Iran without the US pushing it through the UN Security Council. As it is, the sanctions got weakened anyway by the UNSC, thanks to Russia, or we could have accelerated the economic downturn that Ansari cites as a primary reason for Ahmadinejad’s incipient collapse.
Instead, Ansari wants the US to follow the ISG’s recommendations to reach accommodation with Iran. How exactly would that hasten Ahmadinejad’s exit from power? The lifting of sanctions would allow the Iranian economy to rebound, and Ahmadinejad would use his oil revenues to continue his populist policies. The wealthy would return their money to Iran, and Ahmadinejad would get credit for having faced down the Great Satan. That hardly sounds like a recipe for regime change; it sounds more like a prescription for years of the Iranian Hitler strutting through the Middle East.
Ansari notes that one major source of Iranian dissatisfaction with its current president comes from the isolation of Iran over its belligerence on nuclear weapons and Israel, as well as its support of terrorism. Ansari should look again to find out which nation has pushed hardest for that isolation, and try then to explain how alleviating it would make Ahmadinejad look like a failure. This column certainly doesn’t even bother with the attempt.
UPDATE: Jules Crittenden takes a look at the “large pistachio nuts” of Iranian foreign policy.

Notes For A Monday Evening

I’ve been a dilettante this evening, of sorts. Instead of obsessively blogging — you know, my normal mode — I decided to take some time to make some infrastructure changes. I have had a lot of frustration with my Linksys wireless router; when I have the WEP encryption enabled, the network drops every few minutes, and then takes around a minute to reconnect. This was a fairly new unit, less than six months old, and upgrading the firmware didn’t do anything to fix the problem. Tonight, I bought a D-Link DIR-625 to replace it, and I just finished the install. It’s pretty slick, and their Network Magic product gives the user a nice, easy interface with which to manage the entire network.
While I played with the network, the First Mate and I watched Risky Business. She had never seen it, which surprised me, and we caught it on one of the movie channels just as it started. It’s a better movie than people think. It poses as a standard rite-of-passage sex romp, but it’s much darker and more substantive than most in that genre. It takes a deeply cynical look at capitalism, sexual mores, and the pressures of leaving the nest. The subplot involving the frantic nature of resecuring the crystal “egg” of Joel’s mother is a rather engaging piece of symbolism, especially when she discovers that it has a crack deep within it. It’s pretty raw, but if that doesn’t disturb you, it’s worth a look.
Finally, I’d like to point out an interview that Alan Levy conducted at Blog Talk Radio with Congressman and presidential hopeful Duncan Hunter. Be sure to check it out. I’ll probably want to discuss it and our own interview with Mitt Romney on my Blog Talk Radio show Thursday night. And if you’re looking for more uplifting fare than Risky Business and presidential politics, check out The Anchoress, who has been reposting some of her best work the past few days. Just keep scrolling.

Land Baron Harry

Bumped to top from the weekend.
The Los Angeles Times continues its in-depth look at the remarkable finances of Harry Reid, who came into politics a humble man and who apparently intends on leaving it a land baron. The LAT reports on a transaction that gave Reid a 160-acre parcel of land at one-tenth its value, which coincidentally came from a lubricants distributor who shortly afterwards became the intended beneficiary of a Harry Reid-sponsored piece of legislation (via Hang Right Politics):

It’s hard to buy undeveloped land in booming northern Arizona for $166 an acre. But now-Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid effectively did just that when a longtime friend decided to sell property owned by the employee pension fund that he controlled.
In 2002, Reid (D-Nev.) paid $10,000 to a pension fund controlled by Clair Haycock, a Las Vegas lubricants distributor and his friend for 50 years. The payment gave the senator full control of a 160-acre parcel in Bullhead City that Reid and the pension fund had jointly owned. Reid’s price for the equivalent of 60 acres of undeveloped desert was less than one-tenth of the value the assessor placed on it at the time.
Six months after the deal closed, Reid introduced legislation to address the plight of lubricants dealers who had their supplies disrupted by the decisions of big oil companies. It was an issue the Haycock family had brought to Reid’s attention in 1994, according to a source familiar with the events.
If Reid were to sell the property for any of the various estimates of its value, his gain on the $10,000 investment could range from $50,000 to $290,000.
It is a potential violation of congressional ethics standards for a member to accept anything of value — including a real estate discount — from a person with interests before Congress.

The bill that Reid proposed never passed, but the land passed to Reid nevertheless. It would have imposed government restrictions on interruptions of supply from oil suppliers to lubricant distributors, a common problem faced by people like Haycock. Although his repeated attempts to pass the legislation never succeeded, Reid’s efforts made it clear to the suppliers that Congress had, in the words of LAT reporters Chuck Neubauer and Tom Hamburger, taken an interest in supply interruptions — a message that certainly seems intended to intimidate Haycock’s suppliers.
In 1982, Haycock and Reid purchased the land in a partnership in which Reid owned a five-eighths share. Haycock spent $1500 an acre for his share of the land. In 1987, Haycock used his portion of the land as a contribution to his employee pension fund. A few years later, a California group bought the entire 160 acres from Reid and Haycock for over $1.3 million, which amounted to $8400 an acre — a fabulous return on investment over the 10 years that Reid and Haycock held the land. Unfortunately, the California investors ended up defaulting on the sale, and it reverted back to Reid and Haycock.
In 2001, Haycock’s firm began liquidating assets of the pension fund, and Haycock found he could not buy it himself. Instead, he offered it to Reid — for a price that amounted to one-tenth the value of the original purchase, and one-fortieth of the price the parcel fetched on the market ten years earlier.
Reid and his apologists point out that the parcel has topographical challenges, and that a minority share would have been difficult to sell to anyone but the majority partner. However, the LAT researched adjacent parcels and discovered that they commanded a price far above Reid’s eventual purchase price — over $4,000 an acre. Minority sales generally get discounted at around 20%, not 98%, even in the Mojave Desert.
This isn’t the first time we’ve seen shady land deals involving Harry Reid. He also had the singular achievement of getting paid over a million dollars on land for which he never disclosed his ownership, a story the LAT reported in October of last year. Reid stopped talking about the “culture of corruption” during the final weeks of the midterms last year — probably because it hit too close to home.
This deal certainly has the appearance of a slimy quid pro quo. Will the reformist zealotry of the Democratic majority be brought to bear on Reid? Don’t count on it.

DC Police Paint Graffiti As Victory

I’m not in the habit of reporting on demonstrations, simply because I think they’re too easy to organize for any purpose. The news that “tens of thousands” of anti-war activists gathered on the National Mall for a rally seemed about as newsworthy as a Democratic campaign speech attacking George Bush. These things happen, and for the most part, their banality renders them meaningless.
However, the reaction of the police in Washington DC to acts of vandalism are worth noting. The police stood by and watched as “anarchists” spray-painted graffiti on the steps of the Capitol — and then insisted that they had thwarted the protest:

Anti-war protesters were allowed to spray paint on part of thewest front steps of the United States Capitol building after police wereordered to break their security line by their leadership, two sources told The Hill.
According to the sources, police officers were livid when theywere told to fall back by U.S. Capitol Police (USCP) Chief Phillip Morse andDeputy Chief Daniel Nichols. “They were the commanders on the scene,” one source said,who requested anonymity. “It was disgusting.” …
Morse responded to these claims in an e-mail Sunday afternoon,explaining that the protesters were seeking confrontation with the police.
“While there were minor instances of spray painting ofpavement by a splinter group of Anarchists who were seeking a confrontationwith the police, their attempts to breach into secure areas and rush thedoors of the Capitol were thwarted,” Morse said. “The graffiti waseasily removed by the dedicated [Architect of the Capitol] staff, some ofwhom responded on their day off to quickly clean the area.”
He added, “It is the USCP’s duty and responsibility to protectthe Capitol complex, staff and public while allowing the public to exercisetheir First Amendment rights … at the end of the day, both occurredwithout injury to protestors or officers.”

That’s ludicrous. The First Amendment does not allow people to deface government property, regardless of their motivation. The police did exactly what they should not do — made a political decision about enforcing the law instead of holding everyone equally accountable for their actions.
The people have the right to assemble and demonstrate for the widest range of purposes and policies, as long as they do not include incitement to riot, the violent overthrow of the United States, and as long as they obey the law. The police are supposed to maintain order and enforce the law. Having police stand around watching while a crowd deliberately violates the law and damages public property not only allows a mob to offend the community, but also demonstrates a lack of will that only encourages more law-breaking — if not at this demonstration, then at the next. Regardless of political orientation, the police have to serve as a nonpartisan guard against abuses by unruly mobs, and apparently the Capitol Police are simply not up to the job.
Laughably, the DC police chief tries to paint this as a victory, especially the fact that he roused Capitol Hill workers to clean up the graffiti. A victory would have had the offenders cleaning it up while under arrest. Instead of issuing self-serving rationalizations, Chief Morse ought to issue an apology to Washington DC, and perhaps consider adding his resignation to it.

US Declassifying Intel On Iranian Role

American intelligence officials will declassify data that shows the Iranian efforts to foment disorder and terrorism in Iraq, according to Eli Lake of the New York Sun. The effort comes in response to the publicly-announced skepticism of Democratic leadership in Congress, and may wind up as an Internet site for mass dissemination:

New evidence of Iran’s role in Iraq will be made [public] in Baghdad by the chief spokesman for the multinational forces in Iraq, Major General William Caldwell. The Directorate of National Intelligence worked over the weekend to clear new intelligence and information that sources inside the intelligence community said would implicate Iran in deliberately sending particularly lethal improvised explosives to terrorists to kill coalition soldiers.
The intelligence community is currently debating whether to make the new evidence, which it plans to declassify, available on the Internet.
The plan to present the evidence will coincide with a presentation this week by Ambassador Khalilzad to the press detailing the charges against Iranian operatives affiliated with the country’s Quds Force arrested in the last six weeks in three raids.
The decision to go public with new evidence on Iran’s role in fomenting Iraq’s civil war and in working with terrorists killing American soldiers marks a change in strategy for the Bush administration, which has until now provided scant evidence to the public about Iran’s role in the Iraq conflict. Since the president unveiled his new war strategy on January 10, leading Democrats have challenged claims of Iran’s role and intentions in the Iraq war.

Leading the skeptics are Jay Rockefeller and Silvestre Reyes, the new chairs for the Senate and House intel committees. Rockefeller called it “Iraq all over again” after President Bush announced the surge earlier this month, suggesting that the administration either cooked up the evidence or is deliberately overreading it to justify action against Iran. Reyes took a softer tone, but said he wanted to investigate claims that Iran has manufactured IEDs used to attack American forces and kill American troops.
Declassifying and publishing the intel would certainly force both to acknowledge the existence of the data. However, it could also create risk for the people gathering the intel, and not just American sources. Some of the implications of the data make it risky for allies within the Iraqi government, who still have to work with Iran just due to proximity.
What can be declassified should be published, however. Given the failures of the intelligence on Iraq over several years, the American people have become somewhat skeptical of conclusions based on secret information gathered by the same agencies. If the government wants to build a case for tough policies on Iran, they need to provide as much of the data as possible in order to form a consensus that action is needed at all.