So Who Was Miller Protecting?

The more that I think about the denouement of Judith Miller’s three-month stay in prison, the less sense it makes. It didn’t sound right to me last night when word leaked that I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby had given her a personal assurance that she could name him as her source, even though he had repeatedly waived any confidentiality agreement before she went to jail. Now, having read some of the comments by her attorney Bob Bennett, it makes no sense at all.
Power Line notes that Bennett blames Libby for not speaking up sooner and letting Miller off the hook:

Miller’s lawyer Bob Bennett is way out of line as he makes the rounds of the talk shows suggesting that Scooter Libby should have called Judith Miller earlier to personally assure her that she had his permission to testify. For example, he told Wolf Blitzer:
Mr. Libby knew where Judy was. He had her phone number. They knew each other. There was no secret where she was. So I find it amazing that somebody would suggest that Judy would unnecessarily spend 85 days in jail.
I find amazing that Bennett would say something this ridiculous. As CNN has reported, Libby’s lawyer (Joseph Tate) told Miller’s original lawyer (Floyd Abrams) a year ago that she could testify as to Libby’s conversation with Miller. And Libby himself testified twice before the grand jury about his conversation with Miller. Thus, Libby would have had no reason to contact Miller’s attorney again. As Tate told CNN, Libby assumed that Miller was protecting another source, as she very likely was.

I think Power Line has this right. The agreement between her and Fitzgerald sets this up perfectly. She agreed only to testify to narrow questioning, presumably about only Libby. That allows her to get out of the grand jury without talking about whoever else knew about Plame or whatever Fitzgerald thinks she has. Fitzgerald went along with it, which seems doubly odd to me, and perhaps indicates that he doesn’t have much of a case after all. He may want to wrap this up and head back to his Chicago investigation.
So in the end, what did her three months in prison accomplish? Fitzgerald already had Libby’s testimony, and Miller already had a few waivers from Scooter to testify as well. If Fitzgerald allowed Miller to walk without having other sources explored, then why bother to imprison her in the first place? It looks like Miller protected a source that never had much to fear from Fitzgerald all along.
UPDATE: The Gray Lady can’t figure it out either. Adam Liptak writes in the New York Times that all Miller got was the same deal other witnesses got from Fitzgerald without having to spend a night in jail:

Two developments drove the decision of Judith Miller, the New York Times reporter jailed for refusing to testify about conversations with a confidential source, to appear before a grand jury in Washington yesterday in exchange for her freedom, she and her lawyers said yesterday.
One was a long phone call with the source. The other was a deal with the special prosecutor in the case.
But three recent letters from people involved in the case debate whether a similar deal may have been available for some time and raise questions about why Ms. Miller decided to testify now.

In fact, Libby wanted Miller to testify, according to Liptak, because he thought Miller’s testimony would help him with Fitzgerald. Her refusal to accept his earlier waivers took him by surprise. Libby finally contacted Miller directly to urge her to testify. Nor did Miller win any special favors from Fitzgerald in keeping the focus of his questions narrow. Glenn Kessler at the Washington Post got essentially the same deal without bunking at the hoosegow.
So now even her own newspaper can’t figure out why she served the last three months in jail. Didn’t Liptak just think to ask her — or is this gobbledygook her reply?

Pork — It’s What Eats Your Lunch

One of the benefits of the Not One Dime For Porkers campaign applies to the politicians and not to the electorate whose money disappears into these waste-laden programs. Sometimes, when politicians dig into half-baked pork, they find it quite damaging to their political health. Take Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, for example. After making arrangements for a series of federal grants to a Nevada church, Reid now may suffer a bit of indigestion from the fraudulent use of the money:

The money that led to the indictment this week of two Las Vegas pastors and the wife of one of them came from federal grants arranged by Sen. Harry Reid in September 2001, a Reid spokeswoman said Wednesday.
Moving to distance Reid from a possible scandal, aide Tessa Hafen said the senator sought the money on behalf of a nonprofit social services agency and not for the churches or persons who have been accused of mishandling the money.
“The money was administered by the Department of Justice, and it went to the agency in Nevada (Alliance Collegiums Association of Nevada),” Hafen said.
The Rev. Willie Davis, the longtime pastor of Second Baptist Church, and his wife, Emma, were indicted Tuesday on fraud charges with an associate minister, the Rev. McTheron Jones.
They are accused of spending $330,000 from federal grants on themselves although the money was intended for halfway houses for prison inmates in Southern Nevada.

What was Reid doing giving federal money to churches in the first place? Won’t his ACLU allies have a fit over that kind of line-crossing between church and state? I expect that they will want to start a campaign in Nevada noting that Harry Reid represents the front line of the “new theocracy” that threatens America. For my part, I’m pleased to see that Democrats have sympathy for faith-based initiatives, even if they only have sympathy for those which benefit Democrats and crooked clerics instead of the poor and needy.
Putting that aside, this episode demonstrates that pork can be dangerous. Politicians would be wise to avoid it in the future, and allow the taxpayers to bring home their bacon where they know best how to handle it.

Private Property Rights Making Comeback From Extinction?

Over the past thirty years, private property rights have steadily retreated in the face of an unprecedented hunt by environmentalists and grasping government agencies. Starting with the Nixon-era Endangered Species Act and reaching its nadir in the recent Kelo Supreme Court decision, owners of property have found their rights to hold and develop their property as they see fit increasingly restricted. Now, however, with the public outrage over Kelo still reverberating through political circles, Congress may finally push back on behalf of private property rights. On a mostly party-line vote, the House approved important restrictions on the application of the Endangered Species Act that requires the government to reimburse owners for the loss of any commercial value to their property under ESA enforcement, and not just only if all commercial value is lost:

The House passed legislation yesterday that could greatly expand private-property rights under the Endangered Species Act, the 1973 law that is credited with helping keep the bald eagle from extinction but that has also provoked bitter opposition.
By a vote of 229 to 193, lawmakers approved a revision of the act, perhaps the nation’s most powerful environmental law. The law has led to battles over species such as the Northern spotted owl, the snail darter and the red-legged frog. …
The bill would require the government to compensate property owners if measures to protect species thwart development plans. It would also give political appointees the power to make some scientific determinations and stop “critical habitat” designations, which limit development.
The changes were pushed through by House Resources Committee Chairman Richard W. Pombo (R). The California rancher contends that the current rules unduly burden landowners and lead to costly lawsuits while doing too little to save plants and animals.
Many Democrats and moderate Republicans said Pombo’s bill would eliminate important protections for species and lead to large government handouts to property owners. A White House statement yesterday supported the bill. But it noted that payments to property owners could have a “significant” impact on the budget.

The bill will only lead to “large government handouts” if the ESA continues to get abused to pursue no-growth strategies instead of its intended purpose of actually balancing the needs of nature and man. Far too often, environmentalists have used the Act as a back door to stop activities of which they disapprove politically, regardless of the consequences or the animals involved. A farmer in Central California had to stop farming on his very expensive land in the 80s because enviromentalists found an endangered rat on his land, the kangaroo rat, and farming could have killed it off.
One of the frequent casualties of such application of this and other efforts by environmentalists are oil refineries. America has not built an oil refinery in thirty years, mostly due to the opposition by environmental groups to the use of fossil fuels. However, instead of dealing with refineries in that manner, they hijack environmental laws to make the process of building a refinery so long and so expensive that the oil companies simply give up. The effect of such abuse only becomes apparent when we face crises like Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, where our existing capacity takes a temporary hit and has to shut down down — and we have no backup facilities to meet our demand.
The cost of this abuse gets entirely borne by the property owner. The new bill transfers that cost to all taxpayers, appropriately so since the federal government confiscates a profitable use of the properties in question, right now without any compensation. It will show people exactly how much this radical environmentalism actually costs our economy, bringing the damage into the light. Perhaps it will make people a lot less enthusiastic about ESA and the abuses it allows if they find out that they will have to foot the bill to keep rats alive in Central California.

AIPAC Central Figure Pleas Out, Will Testify

The central figure in the AIPAC espionage scandal has accepted a plea bargain and will testify against the operatives that passed classified intelligence to Israel, according to the Washington Post and the New York Times today. Lawrence Franklin has all but signed the paperwork, his attorney said, and the Post’s sources confirm his agreement to testify against his co-conspirators:

A Defense Department analyst charged with passing government secrets to two employees of an influential pro-Israel lobbying group plans to plead guilty at a hearing next week, court officials announced yesterday.
Lawrence A. Franklin, 58, will enter his plea in U.S. District Court in Alexandria on Wednesday, the court said. Sources familiar with the case said Franklin is expected to plead guilty to conspiracy and possibly to other counts. He also is planning to resume his cooperation with prosecutors, they said. …
If Franklin enters a plea, it will be a major development in a long-running investigation into whether classified U.S. information was provided to the Israeli government. The two employees of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, or AIPAC, have also been charged, and Franklin could be a key witness against them. The two AIPAC employees were fired after their alleged contact with Franklin.

Originally, Franklin cooperated with the FBI in its investigation into AIPAC, but then discovered that he could get charged with associated crimes as well, and lawyered up. He hired a big-gun attorney, Plato Cacheris, who rarely gets involved just to make arrangements for his clients to serve time. The NY Times points out that the type of activity for which Franklin will plead guilty — especially conspiracy to transmit classified information to a foreign government — rarely results in a suspended sentence.
Will Cacheris get Franklin completely off the hook? Hopefully not. Anyone who reveals classified intelligence information to spies, regardless of the nationality of the agents involved or for whom they work, should do some real time behind bars. On the other hand, the government appears to feel that the former AIPAC operatives, Steven Rosen and Keith Weisman, have more importance as targets of prosecution than Franklin. Why? They want to ensure that the spies have no more opportunity to find another dupe to give them the material they want, especially on Iran during this sensitive period when we negotiate the next step with the EU-3.
Espionage is espionage. If Israel spies on us and gets caught, too bad; their agents don’t get a free pass at our classified data unless our elected officials approve it. Weisman and Rosen may soon join Jonathan Pollard in belatedly recognizing that fact of American life, and like Pollard, they will likely have many years to reflect on that fact.

Quick Notes

A couple of quick notes before I go to bed and get a little shut-eye…
John Hinderaker sent me an e-mail earlier tonight that Sean Hannity quoted my Daily Standard article on the Chuck Schumer/DSCC scandal on his radio show tonight. Glad to hear it! …
Don’t forget to keep voting at Patrick Ruffini’s straw poll for the 2008 presidential election. So far, we’ve had 351 voters come from this site, and 40% have gone for Rudy Giuliani. I’ve been pretty dismissive of Giuliani’s chances, although I admire him greatly. Perhaps this shows that Rudy might really represent the rank-and-file of the GOP. …
The Anchoress has been blogging up a storm recently — be sure to keep up with her excellent output!

Now The Real Swearing Begins

John Roberts won confirmation to the Supreme Court as Chief Justice on a strong but hardly unanimous vote in the Senate, 78-22. Half of the Senate Democrats voted against his confirmation, including the arguable front-runner for the 2008, Hillary Clinton; half of them voted to confirm him, including most of the red-state Democrats like Robert Byrd (WV), Bill Nelson (FL), Ben Nelson (NE), and Kent Conrad (ND). The politics finally ended when Roberts went to the White House to take the oath of office in time for his first official day on the job next Monday.
However, that only starts the swearing, as both sides prepare for a nastier battle the second time around:

“The pivotal appointment is the next one,” said Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), who opposed Roberts. “The comparison obviously is with O’Connor,” she said, in contrast to the reliably conservative Rehnquist. Asked how much she feared that Bush will name someone more conservative than Roberts, she replied: “Very. On a scale of one to 10? Eight and a half.”
Republicans said the next nominee should be held to no higher standard than was Roberts, suggesting that the new chief justice has blazed a path others can follow. “Every single judicial nominee deserves to be considered on his or her own merits and not juxtaposed with their predecessors or horse-traded for ideological reasons,” said Sen. Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.). …
“If it’s an ideologue such as a Janice Rogers Brown or an Owen,” said Sen. Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.), mentioning another once-filibustered judge, “I think there’s a good chance that we would move to block it on the floor” with unending debate.
Numerous Republicans have said an effort to filibuster a Supreme Court nominee chosen by a twice-elected president would be foolhardy. If necessary, some said, Republicans would revive their plan to change Senate rules and bar judicial filibusters.

While the O’Connor seat presents a bigger target for the Democrats, it still has its drawbacks as a line in the sand on judicial confirmations. Some Democrats might find themselves foolish enough, or partisan enough, to initiate a filibuster fight over a Priscilla Owen or Janice Rogers Brown appointment to replace O’Connor. We know 22 of them will oppose almost anyone appointed by George Bush, but some of the other 22 have elections to face next year, and cannot afford to make themselves look like obstructionists in states that have supported Bush twice.
But one factor that the Democrats have to keep in mind is that George Bush has three more years in office, and the GOP is likely to retain control of the Senate for all three. The Democrats have to defend more seats in the 2006 election and have more red-state incumbents than the GOP have blue-state incumbents. Why is that important?
John Paul Stevens.
O’Connor may have sometimes provided a swing vote, but overall the best Democrats can say about O’Connor is that she didn’t turn out to be as conservative as they feared in 1981. She mostly represents the GOP’s home turf. They will make a hue and cry about maintaining her moderation on the court, but they cannot afford to lose the filibuster over O’Connor.
John Paul Stevens, on the other hand, is 85 years old and not getting any younger at all. Stevens provides one of the most reliable of the liberal votes on the Court these days, and they have to have all the weapons available in case he retires or passes away. He remains in good health at the moment, but the chances of him staying that way for another three years aren’t high enough for the Democrats to throw away the leverage they need to protect his seat if it comes up for replacement during a Bush term, regardless of the reason.
The Democrats will threaten a filibuster, and some of them may get insane enough to try one. However, unlike the lower-court filibusters, the GOP will not hesitate to pull out the Byrd option this time, and the Democrats will not risk everything to split the difference between a Janice Rogers Brown and an Antonio Gonzalez. That’s why Bush needs to act boldly to name a solid conservative to replace O’Connor now.
Expect an announcement tomorrow, during prime time. Bush already has his pick, and he will want to force the coverage to come over a weekend. By eight-thirty tomorrow evening (ET), I think we will know who Bush has lined up for O’Connor’s spot on the bench.

Judy Miller Scoots From Jail

Judith Miller, the New York Times reporter who went to jail rather than reveal her source only to endure the scorn of her colleagues for supposedly not reporting critically enough on the Iraq War, has now left prison and named Scooter Libby as her source on the Plame case. Miller spent three months in jail before finally calling Dick Cheney’s longtime aide to verify that he had waived their confidentiality agreement:

After nearly three months behind bars, New York Times reporter Judith Miller was released Thursday after agreeing to testify in the investigation into the disclosure of the identity of a covert CIA officer.
Miller left the federal detention center in Alexandria, Va., after reaching an agreement with Special Counsel Patrick Fitzgerald. She will appear before a grand jury investigating the case Friday morning.
“My source has now voluntarily and personally released me from my promise of confidentiality regarding our conversations,” Miller said in a statement.
The Times, which supported her contention that her source should be protected, reported late Thursday that her source was Vice President
Dick Cheney’s chief of staff, I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby.

This will probably disappoint those who anticipated that Miller went to prison to protect Karl Rove. It may not mean all that much, anyway, since we don’t know what Lewis told Miller. Miller never wrote anything for publication about Valerie Plame, which made her arrest on contempt charges so provocative. It probably will turn out that Miller passed the information to Robert Novak or to some other people in the media.
The grand jury expires on October 28th, so we may finally see some answers from Fitzgerald and his lengthy investigation. Perhaps we’ll also discover why someone who didn’t write about Valerie Plame wound up doing prison time protecting Lewis Libby.

Will Paul Martin And Autumn Leaves Begin To Fall?

The Globe & Mail reports that Tory polling shows the Liberal lead eroding once again, and with the NDP pulling out of the temporary alliance that kept the Martin government in power last May, autumn might see more than just leaves fall. The NDP fired the first shot yesterday, as Ed Broadbent scolded the Liberals for reneging on electoral reform and indicating that it didn’t need to wait for the full Gomery report to come out next year to act:

Talk of a snap fall election is creeping into the political chatter on Parliament Hill as the NDP strikes a harder tone toward the Liberals and the Conservatives say their internal polling has them within four percentage points of the Liberals.
Veteran NDP MP Ed Broadbent accused the Liberals during Question Period yesterday of backing down on a promise to launch consultations this fall on electoral reform.
“Is this not another extraordinary example of the cynicism and empty rhetoric of the government that the people of Canada want removed?” he said.
Outside the House, NDP MP Joe Comartin said the public could support an election after the first Gomery report into what happened with the sponsorship program is released Nov. 1, but before the second Gomery report with recommendations comes out Feb. 1.

The NDP split with the Grits comes at a good time for the Conservatives. According to the G&M’s inside sources, the private polling done by the Tories show them only trailing the Liberals 33%-29% coming out of the summer doldrums. With the NDP taking the aggressive position on a possible no-confidence motion, they could avoid some of the political heat for causing new elections and force the issue back onto corruption and competence.
The timing gets problematic, however. Any snap election will have to have its campaign through Christmas, with the earliest day for actual voting Boxing Day. It’s not exactly what most Canadians have in mind for a national holiday, nor will a Christmas campaign hold much appeal to the electorate either. A move for a no-confidence resolution would realistically create a January election, when the weather reaches its nadir. After that, the initiation of an election would almost certainly have to wait until March, when the second and final Gomery report would be right around the corner.
If the NDP wants it badly enough, we could see a Christmas election, and the NDP might take the political heat for triggering it just to distance itself from Paul Martin. Don’t expect the Tories to roll the dice like that for themselves with such a precarious political position to protect.

Color The WaPo Editorial Board … Skeptical

The indictment of Tom DeLay by DA Ronnie Earle has split the blogosphere into predictable battle lines, with liberal bloggers celebrating the indictment and conservatives, such as myself, pointing out the long history of partisanship that Earle has displayed in his pursuit of DeLay. Lost in the shuffle, for the most part, is the indictment itself. Apart from the arguable partisanship, the argument for a criminal indictment on the basis of the kinds of transactions alleged appears very weak, as even the Washington Post acknowledges:

Nonetheless, at least on the evidence presented so far, the indictment of Mr. DeLay by a state prosecutor in Texas gives us pause. The charge concerns the activities of Texans for a Republican Majority (TRMPAC), a political action committee created by Mr. DeLay and his aides to orchestrate the GOP’s takeover of the Texas legislature in 2002. The issue is whether Mr. DeLay and his political aides illegally used the group to evade the state’s ban on corporate contributions to candidates. The indictment alleges that TRMPAC took $155,000 in corporate contributions and then sent a check for $190,000 to the national Republican Party’s “soft money” arm. The national committee then wrote $190,000 in checks from its noncorporate accounts to seven Texas candidates. Perhaps most damning, TRMPAC dictated the precise amount and recipients of those donations.
This was an obvious end run around the corporate contribution rule. The more difficult question is whether it was an illegal end run — or, to be more precise, one so blatantly illegal that it amounts to a criminal felony rather than a civil violation. For Mr. DeLay to be convicted, prosecutors will have to show not only that he took part in the dodge but also that he knew it amounted to a violation of state law — rather than the kind of clever money-trade that election lawyers engineer all the time.

As I pointed out yesterday, the Democrats used the exact same manuever in the same election cycle. The Texas Democratic Party sent $175,000 to the DNC and got $195,000 in return in three pairs of matching transactions between June 2001 and October 2002, all pairs occurring on the same date:

The only problem is that similar transactions are conducted by both parties in many states, including Texas. In fact, on October 31, 2002, the Texas Democratic Party sent the Democratic National Committee (DNC) $75,000, and on the same day, the DNC sent the Texas Democratic Party $75,000. On July 19, 2001, the Texas Democratic Party sent the DNC $50,000 and, again on the same day, the DNC sent the Texas Democratic Party $60,000. On June 8, 2001, the Texas Democratic Party sent the DNC $50,000. That very same day, the DNC sent the Texas Democratic Party $60,000.

If what Earle alleges that DeLay did amounts to money-laundering — which Earle charged the other conspirators with committing, but not DeLay — then why not the Democrats as well? If in fact both violate Texas law, then both groups should face prosecution. Did Earle present that to the grand jury, or did he just limit it to DeLay and the GOP? Earle’s use of this case as a stump speech for Democratic Party fundraising this past May indicates that he had little motivation for equal application of the law — which gives the understandable impression that Earle acted out of political malice and not a desire to see justice done.
Again, if DeLay broke the law, then he needs to face trial for it and answer for his actions, no question. If he conspired to launder money through a series of illegal transactions, then he should not only lose his leadership post but should get booted from Congress altogether. But like the Washington Post, I remain deeply skeptical about a criminal complaint concerning what appears to be a manuever used openly by both political parties and only one of them being held accountable for it — by an activist for the other party.
I also agree with the Post about one other issue. We need to decide whether Tom DeLay should continue to represent the GOP in a leadership position even if this indictment gets tossed out, as it likely will as soon as a judge reviews it, but not for the hypocritical “ethics” charges that the Democrats keep tossing at DeLay, such as travel-expense irregularities that they more than casually commit themselves. We need to recapture the mantle of fiscal responsibility and smaller government, and DeLay appears to have swung over to the Drunken Sailor wing of the GOP establishment. His ludicrous statement earlier this month that the House had trimmed all the fat off the government budget at first sounded like an attempt at irony, but instead it demonstrated that the one-time firebrand for limited government had grown addicted to pork.
We need to ensure that those who lead the GOP understand that we elected them to cut the pork, not just shift it around to benefit Republicans. They seem to have forgotten that it’s not their money — it’s ours. We only want it spent on items of national importance, and the rest of it should come back to us. If Tom DeLay can’t find any waste in a federal budget that now eats up 20% of our gross domestic product, then he’s obviously the wrong man to lead the party.

Pataki Nixes Controversial Freedom Center At Ground Zero

Governor George Pataki, buoyed by a late alliance with Hillary Clinton on the issue of the memorial, has ordered the removal of the controversial International Freedom Center from Ground Zero. The 9/11 memorial site had generated a storm of heated debate about the appropriate manner or remembrance for the thousands of dead from the worst foreign attack on American soil, and some had grave concerns that the IFC would amount to little more than a rationalization of the terrorists’ actions. In response, the IFC has declared itself defunct, refusing any other site as inappropritae:

Governor Pataki pulled the plug yesterday on the International Freedom Center, the museum planned for ground zero that aimed to weave the events of September 11 into a historical movement toward freedom around the globe.
The governor asked the state agency in charge of the site, the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation, to work with the freedom center to locate other potential sites outside of its previously designated home in the World Trade Center site’s “memorial quadrant.”
But freedom center officials abruptly terminated their project after learning of the governor’s decision.
“We do not believe there is a viable alternative place for the IFC at the World Trade Center site,” read the freedom center’s statement. “We consider our work, therefore, to have been brought to an end.”

The decision by Pataki makes sense, both objectively and politically. What he specifically ordered was to ensure that the IFC did not sit in the same quadrant as where the Twin Towers stood. He understands, at least now, that the gaping hole where the Towers once stood, mightily dominating Manhattan’s skyline, should remain exclusively devoted to telling the stories of 9/11: the tragedy, the heroism, and the terrible effect of al-Qaeda terrorism.
The IFC could easily find a home elsewhere, but its backers have decided to act petulantly and disband. It calls their mission into question even further than Debra Burlingame and other critics have done in the past. Pataki did not ban the IFC from the entire 9/11 memorial site, after all, merely from the site of the Towers themselves. If the IFC feels that its message holds value as a component of the 9/11 memorial, the relocation should make little difference to its function. However, their reaction makes clear that they intended the IFC not just to present an alternative viewpoint espousing a why-do-they-hate-us exploration, but that they wanted to ensure that their approach supplanted the memorials that would directly recall the barbarity of the acts themselves.
If not, then why disband?