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General Accuses WH of War Crimes

About Those Bases

Kyle Crichton blogs for the New York Times: "In the debate over the future American military role in Iraq, the Bush administration has held firm on one point in particular: there will be no permanent American bases in Iraq. Just last week, Ambassador Ryan C. Crocker denied a report in The Independent of London to the effect that the United States was building 50 'permanent' bases.

"But what constitutes a permanent base? Almost anything, it turns out. . . .

"[E]ven though we may never have permanent bases in Iraq, we could very well have some venerable temporary facilities there before we finally depart. . . .

"[A] handful of big bases . . . are already there and looking quite permanent, from the KFC and Burger King outlets, to the car dealerships, to the 6,000- person mess halls."

Curveball Redux

John Goetz and Bob Drogin write in the Los Angeles Times about catching up with Rafid Ahmed Alwan, the Iraqi informant code-named Curveball.

"[I]n his first public comments, the 41-year-old engineer from Baghdad complains that the CIA and other spy agencies are blaming him for their mistakes. . . .

"It was intelligence attributed to Alwan -- as Curveball -- that the White House used in making its case that Saddam Hussein possessed weapons of mass destruction. He described what turned out to be fictional mobile germ factories. The CIA belatedly branded him a liar. . . .

"'I never said Iraq had weapons of mass destruction, never in my whole life,' he said. 'I challenge anyone in the world to get a piece of paper from me, anything with my signature, that proves I said there were weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.'"

FISA Watch

Manu Raju writes in The Hill: "Senate Democratic leaders said Tuesday that they would not stand in the way of a compromise overhaul of the 1978 Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA), despite their concerns with the impacts of the sprawling measure.

"Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), who also sits on the Judiciary Committee, said some Democrats are 'not happy with that, but there may be enough to get a majority vote.' . . .

"Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.) predicted Tuesday that there is enough support within the Democratic Conference to approve [the] contentious overhaul. . . .

"The latest development comes after Rockefeller, Sen. Kit Bond (R-Mo.), House Minority Whip Roy Blunt (R-Mo.), House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) and the Bush administration reached an accord late last week to break a weeks-long stalemate over balancing electronic surveillance with the right to privacy for American citizens, according to several people familiar with the talks."

The New York Times editorial board writes: "In the waning months of his tenure, President Bush and his allies are once again trying to scare Congress into expanding the president's powers to spy on Americans without a court order.

"This week, the White House and Democratic and Republican leaders on Capitol Hill hope to announce a 'compromise' on a domestic spying bill. If they do, it will be presented as an indispensable tool for protecting the nation's security that still safeguards our civil liberties. The White House will paint opponents as weak-kneed liberals who do not understand and cannot stand up to the threat of terrorism.

"The bill is not a compromise. The final details are being worked out, but all indications are that many of its provisions are both unnecessary and a threat to the Bill of Rights. The White House and the Congressional Republicans who support the bill have two real aims. They want to undermine the power of the courts to review the legality of domestic spying programs. And they want to give a legal shield to the telecommunications companies that broke the law by helping Mr. Bush carry out his warrantless wiretapping operation."

Glenn Greenwald of Salon yesterday started raising money for broadcast ads targeting Hoyer and "other Congressional enablers" for their support of the ostensible compromise. Greenwald announced this morning that in the first 16 hours of the campaign, more than $70,000 came in.

Bush on Gas Prices

H. Josef Hebert writes for the Associated Press: "With gasoline topping $4 a gallon, President Bush urged Congress on Wednesday to lift its long-standing ban on offshore oil and gas drilling, saying the United States needs to increase its energy production. Democrats quickly rejected the idea. . . .

"With the presidential election just months away, Bush made a pointed attack on Democrats, accusing them of obstructing his energy proposals and blaming them for high gasoline costs. His proposal echoed a call by Republican presidential candidate John McCain to open the Continental Shelf for exploration. . . .

"Sen. Barack Obama, the Democrats' presumptive presidential nominee, rejected lifting the drilling moratorium that has been supported by a succession of presidents for nearly two decades.

"'This is not something that's going to give consumers short-term relief and it is not a long-term solution to our problems with fossil fuels generally and oil in particular,' said Obama. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, lumping Bush with McCain, accused them of staging a 'cynical campaign ploy' that won't help lower energy prices.

Sheryl Gay Stolberg writes in the New York Times: "Mr. Bush has long advocated opening up the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska to drilling, and in 2006 signed into law a bill that expanded exploration in the Gulf of Mexico. But the topic of coastal drilling has been an extremely sensitive one in the Bush family; Mr. Bush's father, the first President Bush, signed an executive order in 1990 banning coastal oil exploration, and Mr. Bush's brother Jeb was an outspoken opponent of offshore drilling when he was governor of Florida.

"Now, though, President Bush is considering repealing his father's order... [T]wo people outside the White House said such a move was under serious consideration, and a senior White House official did not dispute their account."

Writes Stolberg: "With oil selling for more than $130 a barrel and no end in sight to high gasoline prices, Mr. Bush, a former oilman from Texas who came into office vowing to address an impending energy shortage, does not want to end his presidency in the midst of an energy crisis."

Flood Watch

Tom Raum writes for the Associated Press: "President Bush pledged housing help and other federal aid to victims of Midwest storms and said he would inspect flood damage in a trip to Iowa on Thursday.

"Briefed on Tuesday by officials involved in the relief effort, Bush also said he would work with Congress on emergency legislation to help replenish a federal emergency disaster fund."

Safavian Watch

James V. Grimaldi and Del Quentin Wilber write in The Washington Post: "A federal appeals court yesterday ordered a new trial for a former White House aide convicted of obstructing justice and lying, a setback for prosecutors in their four-year-old investigation into the activities of disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff."

Karl Rove Watch

Dan Friedman writes for CongressDaily: "House Judiciary Committee Democrats on Monday renewed their demand that former White House political adviser Karl Rove testify publicly on the politicization of the Justice Department but suggested they may accept a compromise in which Rove would be interviewed in private without taking an oath to tell the truth.

"The committee on May 22 subpoenaed Rove to testify at a July 10 hearing on the White House's role in the firing of nine U.S. attorneys in 2006 and his alleged involvement in the prosecution of Don Siegelman, the former Democratic governor of Alabama.

"Rove's lawyer, Robert Luskin, has said the White House has ordered Rove not to testify.

"But in a letter sent Monday to Luskin, House Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers, D-Mich., and Judiciary Commercial and Administrative Law Subcommittee Chairwoman Linda Sanchez, D-Calif., said Luskin recently suggested to the committee staff that Rove appear 'without a transcript or oath,' but without any limit on the committee's right to seek sworn testimony later.

"Luskin's proposal diverges from a White House offer to allow former White House Counsel Harriet Miers to appear for a similar interview on the condition the committee not seek future testimony from her, the letter said.

"'This is an important step forward,' Conyers and Sanchez said of Luskin's proposal. 'We are encouraged by this suggestion,' they added. . . .

"Nonetheless, the letter by Conyers and Sanchez also called a request by Luskin that the interview covers only the Siegelman matter and not the U.S. attorney firings 'unacceptable.'"

Peter Stone writes in National Journal: "To judge from his public persona, former White House senior adviser Karl Rove is devoting the lion's share of his time to analyzing the presidential campaign as an on-air commentator for Fox News and in columns for Newsweek, The Wall Street Journal, and other media outlets; restarting his political consulting firm; writing a book; and giving speeches nationwide.

"Rove has strongly suggested he has largely eschewed dispensing advice to the campaign of presumptive Republican presidential nominee John McCain or to outside political groups seeking to influence the November elections.

"But away from the spotlight, Rove has been busy pitching in by giving informal advice to McCain's team and spending a considerable amount of time as an outside adviser to Freedom's Watch, the conservative political group that is expected to spend tens of millions of dollars to help elect House GOP candidates. . . .

"One prominent GOP strategist says that Rove's various behind-the-scenes efforts for McCain and Freedom's Watch are aimed at bolstering the Bush administration's sagging fortunes, helping Republicans in a tough election year, and protecting his own place in history. Rove, who was a key architect of George W. Bush's presidential victories in 2000 and 2004, is 'trying to vindicate the Bush administration by electing a Republican president,' the GOP source said. 'This is very personal for Karl.'"

Poll Watch

Harris Interactive reports: "The latest Harris Poll finds the nation in a foul political mood. President George W. Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice all register their worst ratings ever. More people than ever also think the country is on the wrong track. . . .

"President Bush's latest ratings are 24 percent positive and fully 75 percent negative. Previously, his worst numbers were 26 percent positive and 72 percent negative in April of this year. His ratings are substantially worse than those of any president, except for Jimmy Carter (22%-77% in July 1980), since Harris first started measuring them in 1963.

"Vice President Cheney's ratings are even worse, 18 percent positive and 74 percent negative, compared to his previous low of 21 percent positive, 74 percent negative last July."

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Cartoon Watch

Daniel Wasserman on McCain's baggage; Pat Oliphant on habeas corpus; Stuart Carlson on King George and Ann Telnaes Cheney's torture defense.

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