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January 14, 2006

Comments

"But we're never going to be able to make a credible case if we conflate the several different programs the NSA uses or accuse Bush of things we can't prove." You have great gifts emptywheel and you use them very well.

Folk the Government!

It would seem pretty clear that the "Transitions 2001" document detailed what the Clinton Admin was doing and proposed to do. But everything we know about Bush/Cheney suggests that the fact that a program had been developed under Clinton was a reason to scrap the program. At that time Bush was determined to be the "Anti-Clinton"; hence his disregard of warnings about bin Laden.

I believe that the NSA is intercepting a huge amount of phone and e-mail traffic (perhaps even all of it) and running it through computers looking for patterns, largely as a CYA exercise. But I think it started after 9/11, for the simple reason that before 9/11 there was no (perceived) need for a CYA exercise.

Part of the problem is that Bush won't reveal date of secret order. However, officials say US warrantless spying on Americans occurred before Bush "authorized" a secret program, perhaps under 1981 Reagan Executive Order. As stated in the Wash. Post on 1/4/06:
"Even before the White House formally authorized a secret program to spy on U.S. citizens without obtaining warrants, such eavesdropping was occurring and some of the information was being shared with the FBI, declassified correspondence and interviews with congressional and intelligence officials indicate."
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/01/03/AR2006010301460.html

This article cites senior administration official as saying the secret NSA program was authorized in October 2001. So, if warrantless spying on Americans occurred before Bush's order in October 2001, we are getting very close to prior to 9/11.

William Arkin noted that in the Spring 2001 (or prior to 9/11), NSA changed its method from gathering massive data to analyze to a method of hunting even more information to determine what should be collected.
http://blogs.washingtonpost.com/earlywarning/2005/12/inside_nsas_wor.html#more
This new method could have obtained warrantless information about Americans. So, perhaps Bush's secret order for the NSA spy plan at issue was partially designed to retroactively validate what NSA was doing prior to 9/11?

Mimikatz

I actually don't doubt the Bush Administration was collecting information pre-9/11. But what you're describing is data mining that may be legal.

And I agree with you, PD, that there is a very good chance that Bush was doing illegal surveillance before 9/11. You've made a better case, IMO, than Leopold did, with just two paragraphs. I just want to refrain from conflating all of these programs, because it really discredits us. And I want to avoid making claims as to illegality without the proof. I think it's very clear the post-9/11 stuff is illegal. But a lot of surveillance is legal, and we'd do well to note those distinctions. They may still be wrong, but we've got to fight them differently.

Thanks for this EW. I read the Leopold piece last night at FDL and sensed - by the time I got all the way to the end - that something didn't quite add up. Thanks for parsing it for us. The 'administration' is plenty bad as it is. This sort of 'chicken-little-ing' really is fully counterproductive. It kind of 'pre-pays the tolls' on the road to hell.

Having not read the Risen book - nor having access to Leopold's sources (as one would expect from a former L.A. Bureau Chief for Dow during the Enron crisis) I am sure you're chin is right on the counter with this one.

Jason's got more data than he's giving. In fact, he emailed me that he does. If anything he is guilty of crafting a bad lead.

Or should I say the diarist at Daily Kos who pumped this story? It was inaccurately disseminated which has led to further misunderstanding or disinformation based on a weak 'diarist' dump at Kos.

Cut and paste google-sourced commentary on both your part and the lame Kos rush-rush-to-get-recommended diary - have no legitimacy. Are you willing to pick up the phone to back your critique? Or can you for that matter?

Unless you are willing to provide a source of your own - I consider this 'bottom feeding'. Period. You can't even claim a source. And the pitbulls you unleash on Leopold with your utterly flaccid dogma ultimately fails because you can't back it.

EW:
Your post is good and raises excellent point about mixing apples and oranges that then reduce our credibility. And we posted it at our site. Just wanted to make sure door is not closed on issue raised about whether Bush may have authorized prior to 9/11. Bush's refusal to give the date of his order just makes me suspicious as well as his apparent fondness for unilaterally validating actions by a retroactive interpretation, as with the habeas corpus law. So, we are on same page. Great work, had to take a lot of time!

Response to Emptywheel sent to me by JASON LEOPOLD (none / 0)

Had emptywheel done some real gumshoe reporting like the month I spent fleshing out this story she or he would have realized that the NSA had prepared this Transition 2001 document for the incoming Bush administration. Here is a link http://msnbc.msn.com/... from an AP story showing that. I took that report and went a step further and spent a month reporting this story. I spoke to many, many people who worked at the NSA and who were involved with this program BEFORE 9/11. In doing so, I got my scoop that Bush's NSA had been spying prior to 9/11 and was specifically ordered by him. Moreover, if you look carefully at the story you will see that the NSA director is supposed to by law inform Congress of it's intel program which the NSA director did not do either before 9/11 or after 9/11. Now if anyone wants to disagree with my story that's fine. You've got that right. But make sure you get facts straight before doing so. At the very bottom of this reply I am going to post a little known article from the Houston Chronicle from October 2001 that in hindsight when combined with my reporting sheds more light on the fact that the NSA was spying on Americans before 9/11. If anyone, anyone wants to contact me to talk about my sources, my reporting methods or just chat here's my phone number 310-556-2852 and my email jasonleopold@hotmail.com

NSA destroys data that might hold leads
JOHN DONNELLY
Boston Globe
748 words
27 October 2001
Houston Chronicle
3 STAR
21
English
(Copyright 2001)

WASHINGTON - Analysts at the super-secret National Security Agency, acting on advice from the organization's lawyers, have been destroying data collected on Americans or U.S. companies since the Sept. 11 attacks - angering other intelligence agencies seeking leads in the anti-terrorist probe, according to two people with close intelligence ties.

Some Central Intelligence Agency analysts and staff members of the House and Senate intelligence committees fear that important information that could aid in the investigation, and perhaps even redirect it, is being lost in the process.

In heated discussions with the CIA and congressional staff, NSA lawyers have turned down requests to preserve the intelligence because the agency's regulations prohibit the collection of any information on U.S. citizens.

The lawyers said that preserving the information would invite lawsuits from people whose names appear in the surveillance reports, according to the two, both of whom are former senior U.S. officials.

But people familiar with the NSA, including some who have worked for it, dismiss the idea that the agency needed to destroy the information immediately.

Although that's been the NSA's practice in the past, they believe the NSA's own rules allow it to change that practice in the face of the threat of terrorism.

They believe the real reason behind the agency's stance is its longstanding distaste for sharing raw data with other intelligence organizations.

"There are some people in law enforcement who are very unhappy about it, because they need investigative leads," said Vincent Cannistraro, former director of counterterrorism at the CIA.

The NSA spies on foreigners and foreign governments, using high- tech operations to intercept phone calls, e-mail messages, and faxes around the world; collecting data from satellite operations; and translating documents in foreign languages.

By law, the NSA cannot spy on a citizen of the United States, an immigrant lawfully admitted to this country for permanent residence or a U.S. corporation. But it can, with court permission, target foreigners inside the United States, including diplomats.

If, in the course of surveillance, NSA analysts learn that it involves a U.S. citizen or company, "they are dumping that information right then and there," said the second official, speaking on condition of anonymity.

"There's a view of a lot of people in the intelligence community who say, `Wait a minute, it could be useful to the FBI; let them look at it.' It's been the subject of some heated discussion between the agency (CIA) and the NSA," said the official.

The NSA declined to comment on the issue Friday. The CIA also declined to comment.

In the aftermath of the air attacks, former U.S. officials and analysts say that information-sharing has proceeded fairly well between the CIA and the FBI. But their relationships with the NSA have not significantly changed.

The NSA - which is based in Fort Meade, Md., and operates under the Department of Defense - distributes analysis summaries of its intelligence-gathering to a select number of senior U.S. officials, but it doesn't give its raw data - for example, the transcripts from wiretaps - to anyone. It is such raw data that are especially prized by intelligence analysts because they provide more context and leads than the distilled summaries.

U.S. Rep. Charles F. Bass, R-N.H., who served for four years on the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, said he knows of a long list of problems arising from the rules governing the NSA as well as the NSA's culture of keeping information in-house.

"I think it could be the biggest information problem that we face," Bass said in an interview. "If somebody is abroad and they even mention the name of an American citizen, bang, off goes the tap, and no more information is collected."

Once a U.S. citizen or corporation is mentioned, NSA's rules dictate that it must stop that surveillance.

A congressional outcry in the mid-1970s on U.S. intelligence abuses against American citizens led to many of the federal regulations strictly prohibiting the CIA and NSA from domestic spying.

The intelligence official said the NSA did share information "in cases to ward off a threat."

But the former U.S. officials said many investigators now were extremely frustrated that many possible leads stemming from the Sept. 11 attack weren't being followed because of the NSA position.

Document hou0000020011027dxar0009c

Sorry, but you're wrong.

First, let's look at the source you offer here, from the AP:

The National Security Agency warned President Bush in 2001 that monitoring U.S. adversaries would require a "permanent presence" on networks that also carry Americans' messages that are protected from government eavesdropping.

The warning was contained in an NSA report entitled "Transition 2001," which was made public Friday. The report was delivered to Bush shortly after he took office and reflects the agency's major concerns at the time.

Note that it says the report was delivered to Bush shortly after he became President. This article does not support your claim that "the NSA had prepared this Transition 2001 document for the incoming Bush administration."

Is it a quibble? No. In fact, it makes me seriously doubt your care with source materials.

First, the report was given to Bush after he became President. However, if you look at the report (archived in PDF form at the National Security Archives, link provided by emptywheel in the post), it shows that the date it was completed was December, 2000. That's significant, because for the first twelve days of December, it wasn't even clear that George W. Bush would be President. Furthermore, such reports are usually the product of months of writing and deliberation at various levels. Thus, it's almost certain that this report, completed some time in the month of December, certainly prior to Bush becoming President and possibly prior to it even becoming clear that he and not Al Gore would be President, was prepared not for the Bush administration, and certainly not at the behest of the Bush administration, but as a matter of standard policy for the office of the President, and not for a specific individual.

There is a very remote possibility that this document was prepared for the specific administration of George W. Bush before he took office and even before he knew he even would take office, and that it was prepared in a matter of a few days. But that seems highly improbable, and in any regard isn't a claim supported by your claim and evidence as provided in this comment.

Jason

I'm not disputing your sources or the amount of work you've put into this. I'm saying that the article you have written does not support the claims you have made for it.

I realize that the NSA document was written for the incoming Bush Administration (really, the title "Transitions 2001" is kind of a tip-off). What I don't understand is how you can use a document written in 2000 as proof of what Bush has done? If the NSA document reveals domestic spying (I don't think it does, but I can see how someone might argue the case), then it's domestic spying conducted under Clinton's watch.

I don't doubt Bush has broken the law. I find it highly likely that he spied on US citizens before 9/11. But your article argues that Bush's claim that he wrote the Executive Order in response to 9/11 is false. You can't prove that until you prove either that the program Risen describes started before 9/11 or that the Executive Order was intended to legalize all the other surveillance going on (some of which seems to be legal). You don't provide any evidence of either one of these.

Now if you have evidence that the Risen program existed before 9/11, by all means please share it. But you have not yet done so, not here, and not in your article.

Jason,

It's not just Emptywheel who got a different impression reading your article. Upon reading it yesterday I sent you an email from the Truthout website. Perhaps you did not receive it - so let me reproduce the points I made there.

It is more than obvious that the Transition 2001 document was prepeared for the Bush admin. But the fact remains that the document is actually dated December 2000 (on page 1). If that document actually admits that NSA was spying on Americans without warrants, then wouldn't that mean NSA was doing so as of Dec 2000 or before?

Second, the document talks about the "protected" communications of Americans, but I don't see that it says that the surveillance was *warrantless*. Is there a passage in the document which indicates that it was warrantless?

Third, the sentences in the document seem to have been written more in the context of what NSA "must" do, rather than suggesting it was already doing what the document says is a must.

My point in my email is that it has already been obvious Bush broke the law (http://www.theleftcoaster.com/archives/006455.php), but your article does not make it quite clear what the source of your claim is, that Bush started the illegal wiretapping prior to 9/11. Which is why, in my email, I wondered whether you have some additional information not contained in the document (e.g., Risen's book?)...and if you can clarify this.

If I read your comment, what you seem to be suggesting is that the Transition 2001 document does not actually prove that the NSA was spying on Americans without warrants, but rather, your sources within the NSA confirm this. Is that correct?

Thanks.

Whoops...DHinMI is right...let me correct one of the points in my comment...

I said "It is more than obvious that the Transition 2001 document was prepared for the Bush admin". As DHinMI points out, even this is not that obvious.

However, my other points are still valid.

Good work, EW. In fact, you beat me to this post.

I was going to go a bit, further, though, and note that "protected communications of Americans" refers to legal protection, as in, the NSA acknowledging that their are 4th Amendment and FISA constraints on the monitoring of Americans.

The issue here is that of the headline, which was misleading and which I will contact my editor and see if we could change it.

This is what the lead of my article says:

The National Security Agency advised President Bush in early 2001 that it had been eavesdropping on Americans during the course of its work monitoring suspected terrorists and foreigners believed to have ties to terrorist groups, according to a declassified document.

That's what they did. The NSA told the president that they were eavesdropping on Americans. The report is a warning to Bush that in the course of pursuing terrorists Americans would get caught up in the wiretaps.

Then:

The NSA's vast data-mining activities began shortly after Bush was sworn in as president and the document contradicts his assertion that the 9/11 attacks prompted him to take the unprecedented step of signing a secret executive order authorizing the NSA to monitor a select number of American citizens thought to have ties to terrorist groups.

So, after being advised that the NSA was spying on Americans after 9/11, Bush allowed the NSA to continue doing what it had been doing and he went a step further, according to MY sources, and told the NSA to keep the names handy.

The agency, by law, is supposed to black out the names of Americans but it didn't. It kept those names in the system and provided it to certain members of the administration. That was done before 9/11 and Russ Tice will agree to that.

The fact that the NSA had advised the president that Americans were getting caught up in wiretaps is evidence of spying without a FISA warrant no matter how you cut it. Bush knew this and allowed it to continue

I can't believe I've allowed myself to get caught up in this game of semantics which is what this is. Semantics. I am actually on the phone with a source, one who plans to testify if he can, confirming this. You guys need to read that NSA declassified document from beginning to end before you go on a tirade.

Meanwhile I am going to continue reporting the truth

Hey, great show of character. You really established an unassailable writerly ethos.

I hope these sources testify to Congress.

DHinMI:
Obviously I have a different take on this and I could go back and forth all day and then I wouldn't get any work done.

best
Jason

We all make mistakes, but I think it's pretty appalling how you're refusing to acknowledge and correct some pretty basic errors.

To be blunt, with your post misleading people into believing things you didn't establish, and now refusing to account for some pretty fundamental errors in dealing with source materials, I have to tell you that the possibility of you not getting much work done is one I find kind of appealing.

Oh fuck off DHinMI. here's the thing, I don't HAVE to agree with what you're saying. And I don't. It's real easy to talk shit on a blog, but I left my phone number on the post so if you've got some balls you can call me.

I don't want to talk with you, I want you to change your post. Talking to me doesn't do anything to prevent people from reading your erroneous post and drawing conclusions that aren't supported. And the real irony is, to paraphrase one of your earlier comments, "Leopold knew this and allowed it to continue."

And whether we're on a blog has no bearing on whether we're correct.

Pussy

Jason,

My comments were not intended to portray your article as wrong or false. As I said above, the way the article is written, it is not really clear what the basis is for the assertion that the NSA and Bush were doing illegal wiretapping of U.S. persons prior to 9/11. Again, as I read your second comment, I get the impression that the only piece of information you have confirming that assertion is the information from your sources. I just want to understand if that is indeed the case.

I am not casting doubts or aspersions on you or your sources. I happen to believe that if your NSA sources are telling you that, then it is almost certain to be accurate. But please don't dismiss these comments as having to do with "semantics". Accuracy in reporting is about ensuring that the information communicated in accurate - whether it is a matter of semantics or not. I am trying to understand what the basis is for the article's assertion - nothing more and nothing less. I suspect that Emptywheel is also in the same boat.

I am also not trying to trash your article. In fact, my intention is to use it, once I can be sure that I understand the basis for the article's assertion. I will try and read the declassified document from "beginning to end" when I get the opportunity to do so, but if there is a statement in the document proving that the NSA started warrantless wiretapping of U.S. persons in 2001, then please highlight it. If not, I will assume that your article's source was people inside NSA and that the declassified document does not directly prove what your NSA sources have told you independently.

Thanks.

Eriposte
The way you communicated this to me comes across much better than DMinHI. When I am being personally attacked it puts me on the defensive. I'm human just like all of you. And that's why I reacted the way I did. I plan on re-reporting this story and taking it a step further. I have four of my NSA sources who have just agreed to go on the record and will explain this further. Thank you Eriposte for your truly constructive criticisms which I appreciate. My apologies for the defensive attitude and the dismissive statements.

Best
Jason

Jason,

Thanks for taking the time to comment here and respond to the questions and criticisms. I will wait for your updated story at this point.

Jason

I did read the entire article. That's how I know that page 8 specifies "NSA is authorized to collect, process and disseminate signals intelligence information for national foreign intelligence purposes" (my emphasis), which supports the argument that this document clearly admits the restrictions against domestic surveillance. And that's also how I know of the discussion about Carnivore on page 17 which, in context, seems to be what the passages you cite refer to. Am I missing a passage where the document admits to domestic surveillance? Because the passage you refer to doesn't make that case.

Frankly, I'm with eRiposte. It seems like the bulk of your claim is based on what your sources are telling you, not the NSA document or the other articles. I'm also with eRiposte in not doubting your sources.

Might I suggest that your article, if it had stuck to what your sources were telling you, and then made the statement, "Bush claimed that he only authorized the illegal surveillance program described by Risen after 9/11. But he ordered other, equally illegal surveillance programs before 9/11, which can't be excused as a response to the terrorist attack."

And then qualified your concluding statement as follows:

"Still, one thing that appears to be indisputable is that some illegal NSA surveillance began well before 9/11 and months before President Bush claims Congress gave him the power to use military force against terrorist threats, which Bush says is why he believed he had the legal right to bypass the judicial process."

Then the article would be logical (and an important contribution to this coverage). As it is though, the article does not logically prove what it claims to prove. It's not a semantic issue (or, as I said, any reflection on the amount of work you've done on this). It's a logic issue.

EW
Thanks. I just got the clearance to use my sources on the record. That will make a world of difference when I re-report it. I apologize for being dismissive. Appreciate that you took the time and worked hard to point out the flaws.

Best
Jason

Thanks, all of you, for your hard work on this. I think it's really important in political discourse to have a high tolerance for conflict. The civility of the Senate is bugging the fuck out of me. I think this was a fine exchange with a good result.

I look forward to your new article on this, Jason.

When can we look forward to seeing the new article?

emptywheel is correct that it's a logic issue, and that's primarily related to issues pertaining to the NSA document. We don't have anything to suggest the sources are good or bad, correct or inaccurate, and the claim that Bush was spying on Americans prior to 9-11 is certainly plausible. But the stuff about the NSA document muddles up the claims, detracts from the article, and as emptywheel showed, isn't logically sound. That doesn't mean the sources are wrong or lying, or that it didn't happen. But it significantly weakens the case.

Hi Jason, hi all

I'm a former CBC investigative reporter who worked on the first documentary the broadcaster aired about Canada's version of ECHELON several years ago. Hats off to Jason for his Enron stuff and for even having NSA sources. I know how hard these people are to cultivate. You have to demonstrate serious competence to even have a meaningful conversation with SIGINT types. I know: I do covert op.s investigative work and you can get spun six ways from Sunday...none of which is to detract from EW's superb scalpel work here.

What seems key to me in this discussion---a stimulating and useful anatomy of the logic of Jason's piece aside---I've nowhere seen detailed: what species of executive order does Jason allege Bush made prior to 9.11? I worked pro bono [with several US investigative journalists] for the legal team that ultimately repped the 9.11 victim families' class action lawsuit against the Saudi royals.

One story we kept hearing over and over again [but never did see the executive order for] was that the Treasury department had an executive order in hand which prevented domestic investigation of Saudi nationals in the US.

We ran this lead past several legal experts and I've since trashed the email exchange from that conversation but I'm almost positive I recall that there are different species of executive orders, not simply one, ie, a 'national security' order.

Can anyone shed any light on this? Much may turn on the Bush ab/use of such an order, esp given the quality of legal advice he's had from the likes of Gonzalez and Yoo---and on our understanding of the legal implications of the document empowering [legally or not] the alleged NSA eavesdropping/data-mining/vectoring analysis.

Thanks

Wow... DHinMI is a pussy because Mr. Leopold gets a poopy diaper over having his article critically examined. Your comportment here Mr. Leopold is pathetic and like your as yet to be proven or realized claims in reporting on the Plame investigation as well, is seriously beginning to erode any confidence in your reporting.

Having a heated discussion on the contents of claims and counterclaims, sources etc. is all well and good, but your faux bravado and limp machismo in calling someone a pussy (nice misogyny there BTW) are pathetic to say the least.

If you expect to be taken seriously, I suggest you stop trying to prove how big you think your penis is and quite with the personal attacks.

Ugh...

...quit with the...

not

...quite with the...


I was directed to this thread by my colleague Larry Johnson. Let me just say that you're all a bunch of fucking idiots. As a longtime CIA op I can vouch for everything leopold has reported. The man is one of thw best intelligence reporters in this business. You have no idea how accurate leopolds reporting has been. The man has reported more than a thousand stories in his long career. I have been a source of his for many of those pieces.

And to the new age feminist, lighten the fuck up.

For Jason Leopold,
Jason, I just want to compliment you on your willingness to hang in with the dialogue. I am a regular at FDL so I am accustomed to course language, and admire it in those few, who are skilled in its use (emptywheel would be on that list). I wrote you off completely as I read some of your comments. Later as you returned, I too decided to keep an open mind on your work, because it is so important, and only because you treated emptywheel with at least some of the respect emptywheel deserves.

It didn't come across if you are familiar with emptywheel's body of work or not, but if your not,I strongly suggest you familiarize yourself with it. emptywheel is not only a prodigous thinker, emptywheel is also very committed to all that is best about being an American. On about a third of what emptywheel writes that I understand, I don't always agree on everything. But I think a lot of people at FDL would agree with me, if emptywheel doesn't think you are "taking care" with your sources, or has some other criticism, we're not even going to take time reading your stuff. I know that's not fair, but that is the weight I give to emptywheel's opinion.

It's a small thing, but when you're defending your stuff, it left me completely cold when you defended it by how much time you spent. We all get paid for results, not effort.
This may sound funny, but imo a really seminal thinker such as emptywheel needs people like you. Rendering the material accessible is imo the key to FDL's success. emptywheel does not always do that, because it's like asking Dwayne Wade of the Miami Heat to go back and play for Marquette. Jane Hamsher and ReddHedd imo are much much more "accesible" than emptywheel. They are both gifted thinkers in their own right, but for whatever reason, I find their work more accessible than emptywheel's. I also know that they both have the utmost respect for emptywheel.
We need Jason Leopold. I want to emphasize that. The danger to our nation and this world are the nutcakes on 1600 Pennsylvania Blvd. It was clear to me tonite that emptywheel's comments were guided by that knowledge. IMO emptywheel wants you to continue putting out very high quality articles.

I feel compelled to chime in here and put my two cents in. Jason leopold is an amzing reporter. He is by far one of the most aggressive, tenacious and driven newsman I have ever encountered. His work on th california energy crisis five years ago exposed how enron and others gamed the market that led to federal hearings. His work on plame has been equally as impressive. Lastly, he's passionate about getting the truth. You attacked a good man and an excellent reporter rather than sticking with the story. If he says he will follow it up you can bet he will. You all should appreciate that you have a journalist like jason working to further your cause. In one year alone he has reported more than 100 stories on bush and co machinations before any other reporter in the MSM.

Sad that all of you can't stick together like a team. Instead you eat your own.

Andrew G
The Guardian

I think the reporting regarding an order to stop surveillance on Saudi's resident in the US begin with Greg Palast, who acquired some documents to that effect shortly after 911. If I remember correctly his immediate source was someone connected to World Bank -- but that was not the original source of the documents.

I believe the immediate reason someone offered this material had to do with the earlier -- actually Clinton Watch era -- surveillance of the Dar al Hijra mosque in Falls Church VA, which in the spring of 2001 employed Anwar Aulaqi -- the cleric who had previously befrended Hamzi and Nanjour in a Mosque in San Diego. The argument thus runs that the Bush Administration decision and directive to end surveillance of Auluqi in Falls Church was a major barrier to 1) finding Hamzi, and 2) perhaps gaining intelligence on the 911 plot. That indeed was one consequence, but Palast's reporting suggested others. The 911 commission report mentions no executive order, and makes no mention of what kind of Surveillance was underway in the late Clinton years. I would assume Treasury would have issued orders if any aspect of this was about tracking money -- but if the matter of interest was Au;aqo the Cleric -- that could have been INS or FBI -- or others. This Mosque figures in two other prosecutions -- the Paintball training scheme and the prosecutions regarding systematicly getting fake Virginia Drivers Licenses. There were also a number of post 911 deportation cases. Aulaqi apparently just disappeared after 911 -- the commission was unable to find him.

WTF?! Nobody, finally, said that Leopold is ultimately wrong in what he's asserting, because we don't know one way or the other. Can you read English, Tom? And furthermore, no one here - NO ONE - was ever attacking Leopold personally nor did anyone ever say he was dishonest. Do you know the difference between a logical argument and a personal attack?

Your 'personal vouching' on a blog doesn't mean shit because we have no idea who the fuck you are. If you can really do it, then get out there and personally vouch for it in a meaningful way - in a way that would be meaningful/believeable to YOU, for god's sake. We ALL want to know what's going on. If you don't understand the difference between an honest critique and 'personal attack' (which Leopold himself *does* seem to understand, in the end) then you are the 'fucking idiot'.

An honest critique is in fact the opposite of a personal attack. We want Mr Leopold's reporting to be more solid, not to tear it down. You don't have to be a 'longtime CIA op' to know that getting something this explosive even slightly wrong - particularly when the error is patent to even us non-'special' people - can discredit the whole story, even if it's essentially right. Why all this hair-trigger defensiveness? YOU lighten up. If you're under pressure, it's not because of people on a blog like this. We are on YOUR SIDE jackass.

For all I know, you may have done extraordinary, dangerous, noble and un-sung service for the country; but if you are so stupid and paranoid as to think that anyone on THIS blog is in any sense your 'enemy', then...well, you are making your own bed. Stupid is as stupid does. We are just regular, taxpaying citizens trying to figure out what the hell is going on, using public sources.

BTW, since you just breezed in here shooting off your mouth - without joining, or probably even reading, the arguments in the post or thread - you wouldn't know that the author of this post is one of the very best (if not THE best) public source analysts of the Plame-outing crime there is - on the web or in the MSM. EW is as passionately outraged about it as Larry Johnson is, and has done a LOT of hard analytical work on it - all for free, of course. And she has the strength of character to take constructive criticism without squealing like a baby rabbit.

Ay! Jonny Butter head:

I read the whole damn thread. I read it because it was sent to me. You're a fucking pencil pusher. I'm in the field. You're sitting behind a fucking computer pontificating about the veracity of a very good reporter's story. I take issue with that because I helped on it. So watch your fucking mouth and be careful with your threats. You're very close to overstepping your boundary.

tom marconi...

(yawn, scroll)

I love when people on blogs malign people for being on blogs.

Ladies and Gentlemen, let's reserve our sharp swords for the real enemies of the Constitution.

Post-Rathergate we should all be familiar with the phenomenon of neutralizing a story by pushing back against an overstatement. It is fair game to prod even an immensely talented reporter like Leopold to re-examine whether he is overstating his claims. For the most part, this exchange was a good one, with the exceptions being when some posters decided to posture. But I do encourage Jason and EW to keep a dialog going. This is a good place to try things out, with a community that has diverse resources and is not an echo chamber. Cheers,

People, people: take deep breaths on all sides.

DHinMi,

I just wonder if you spend half the time off-line maligning people as you do online.

Jason's a friend of mine...we also work together...plus I'm a fan of his...but I had similiar issues with this column to Empty Wheel.....mostly due to the title.

But all you seem to do is live and breathe to take nasty potshots at people you don't agree with. All you do is slander people left and right...calling them anti-semitic or other insults when all else fails.

To my knowledge, you've never broken a story and you've never written anything substantive.

You're a thug, pure and simple. And it's a shame that great bloggers like emptywheel, eriposte and Meteor Blades never seem to call you out for your thuggery.

Just the other week I called you out when you spread your baseless slander (link) but you seem to be incapable of ever admitting you are wrong (just like you seem to be incapable of ever doing proper research to back up your nasty slurs).

It's one thing to critique a peer, it's another thing to do it in a loud, embarrassing and unstrategic way. Basically that's what happened in the first instance here. I think EW needs to acknowledge this, regardless of whether the critique was legit. Do we really want to air to the world each and every one of our fact-checking disputes?

The strategic way to do peer review is to know when to challenge someone's research in the first instance and when to let it go and defend it on the backside when the inevitable attacks come.

Think about how they do it on the right. Does Rich Lowry or Jonah Goldberg publicly call Sean Hannity to task for his inaccurate statements? Im not saying we should emulate the right but at the same time we can correct each other to the extent we need to after the fact. In this case, there is nothing lost if Jason has in fact conflated two different events, each of which provides evidence for the same proposition - that Bush violated the law. In fact, if the other side chooses to challenge us on this, doesnt that invite us to keep the discussion going and really reinforce the broader point?

I meant to write that I had similiar issues with Jason's article as emptywheel did.

Jack,

I think it's okay to criticize...and for the most part...emptywheel was respectful. But there is no one on either side of the blogosphere who is nastier or possesses less "character" than DHinMi.

Jack, you're confused if you think any of us are interested in being the Rich Lowry's or Sean Hannity's of the left. In fact, you're dead wrong if you think we believe there should be Rich Lowry's or Sean Hannitys on the left.

Rob: you're probably right that "to your knowledge" I've never broke a story or written anything substantive. But really, did someone pressure you to demonstrate the pathetic limits of your knowledge?

HA! Rob, it's hilarious you didn't find it relevant to mention that you're listed as a Researcher on Raw Story's masthead.

Jeeze, is there reason to think Raw Story places any value on journalistic integrity?

So watch your fucking mouth and be careful with your threats. You're very close to overstepping your boundary.

Hmmmm. Pardon? What exactly are you suggesting here? You're going to show up in his bedroom some night with a piece of piano wire? Forgive me if I always take people who claim without proof that they're long-time CIA operatives with the same attitude as I reserve for the customer service guy in New Delhi who says s/he'll get back to me at 4 p.m. tomorrow.

If we all get into a fist fight, I'm honor bound to be on empty wheel's side, but I really hope it doesn't come to that. I have no CIA credentials and have never taken a punch to the face, not even in stage combat class. I do have certain skills when it comes to defusing potentially tense situations with good natured humor, but enough about my family of origin.

"Jason's a friend of mine...we also work together...plus I'm a fan of his...but I had similiar issues with this column to Empty Wheel.....mostly due to the title."

HA! Rob, it's hilarious you didn't find it relevant to mention that you're listed as a Researcher on Raw Story's masthead.

Jeeze, is there reason to think Raw Story places any value on journalistic integrity?

DHinMI: I do not believe it is a secret that Ron Brynaert works for 'Raw Story'. He even said as much in his post above (the relevant part is reproduced above).

Some of EWs (and your) words are unwarranted and do not seem to belong in constructive criticism.

Emptywheel: you are doing a disservice to yourself and to the good work you do by having DHinMI on your team and allowing this guy to continue to post comments. More than anyone it's he that comes off as a loon and as an antagonistic fuck. We've had a lot of discussion at other boards about him today and there are a lot of people who really do not like this guy or the way he alienates lots of people. Your site would probably be taken more seriously if he wasn't a part of it. DHinMI you're really a rotten apple. Guys like Leopold, while he may make a mistake here or there, at least does something for this country and for all of us. His minor error in one story does not take away from the enormous work he has done for quite some time now. Everytime you post something I have more sympathy for him. So keep going.

Adam, what's your relationship to Jason Leopold?

And do you know any of his other defenders on this thread, like Tom Marconi and Andrew Gumbel?

I'm not trying to insinuate anything, I'm just wondering if you know any of these folks.

"I love this book. I love Jason Leopold. When other US reporters were licking Ken Lay's loafers, Leopold went for Enron's thieving throat. But Leopold is a fool, and a fascinating readable one at that: a journalist who insists on real investigative reporting -- inside documents, inside sources, hard knife-in-the-gut evidence -- detective-style reporting that is just about illegal in the USA. ...you'll get a hard-core story of a true investigative journalist hunted down and professionally exterminated, a hero cut down by the lazy fat pricks we call 'mainstream reporters.' The book is worth the price just for exposing the craven toadies of the New York Times who open their pages to White House hatchet jobs against offending reporters. Bravo and my personal Pulitzer to Jason Leopold. Every journalist in America should read this, then quit or riot."

--Greg Palast, author of The Best Democracy Money Can Buy


News Junkie is a weirdly fascinating memoir. You don't so much read it as you watch and listen to it unfold. Jason Leopold reveals the world of journalism with an intimacy and power few of us would otherwise be privileged to share. Leopold is a "news junkie" - - his story of addiction and his "double life" which is meshed with tales of his fascinating career as a brilliant journalist is simultaneously sad, hysterical, frightening, irreverent, profound, moving and entertaining. I wish I had been as courageous in telling my story about mental illness. He's not only a survivor but a true hero.

-- Andy Behrman, author of Electroboy: A Memoir of Mania

”Investigative Super Star Jason Leopold spares no one, least of all himself, in this devastatingly accurate first-hand expose of corporate, political and journalistic corruption from Enron to The New York Times. Hollywood’s younger action heroes will be fighting for the star role in News Junkie because of the cocaine, personal betrayals and wildly dysfunctional emotions coursing through this unrestrained account of what happens to a young man who, more even than fame, respect and drugs, craves knowledge of the truth. Just beneath its tempestuous surface, however, News Junkie provides the best account so far of how, and why, current American journalism has become so pharasaical, spineless, and detached from the truth.”

-- T.D. Allman, journalist and author of Rogue State, Unmanifest Destiny and Finding Florida

“Jason Leopold bravely and unsparingly chronicles his life in journalism, by turns shining light on corporate scandal, then turning our attention to his own previous double life. This memoir is one of the most brutally honest books I’ve ever read. You will grow to believe, and cheer on, this flawed hero as he gains a liberating knowledge of himself.”

--Joe Loya, author of The Man Who Outgrew His Prison Cell: Confessions of a Bank Robber

“Having told the truth for years as a first-rate reporter, Jason Leopold now comes completely clean about himself, and also sheds some light on his imperiled profession.
A riveting account of just how hard the truth can be.”

--Mark Crispin Miller, New York Times bestselling author of The Bush Dyslexicon and Cruel and Unusual

“Frighteningly honest. What Tony Bourdain did to the world of cooking in Kitchen Confidential, Leopold will do to the world of journalism with News Junkie. It’s Sid & Nancy meets All The President’s Men."

--Rob Cohen, author of the Los Angeles Times bestseller, Etiquette for Outlaws

http://processmediainc.com/titles/memoirs/news_junkie.php

In News Junkie, the cutthroat worlds of journalism, politics, and high finance are laid bare by Jason Leopold, whose addictive tendencies led him from a life of drug abuse and petty crime to become an award-winning investigative journalist who exposed some of the biggest corporate and political scandals in recent American history.

Leopold broke key stories about the California energy crisis and Enron Corporation’s infamous phony trading floor as a reporter for the Dow Jones Newswires. While he exposed high-rolling hucksters and double-dealing politicians, Leopold hid the secrets of his own felonious past, terrified that he would be discovered.

When the news junkie closed in on his biggest story-one that implicated a Bush administration member-he found himself pilloried by angry colleagues and the President’s press secretary, all attempting to destroy his career.

Jason Leopold introduces us to an unforgettable array of characters, from weepy editors and love-starved politicos to steroid-pumped mobsters who intimidate the author into selling drugs and stolen goods.

In the end, News Junkie shows how a man once fueled by raging fear and self-hatred transforms his life, regenerated by love, sobriety and a new, harmonious career with the independent media.

Jason Leopold is a former Los Angeles Bureau Chief of Dow Jones Newswires. He has worked for the Los Angeles Times and has been a frequent guest on CNBC; his articles have appeared in The Nation, The Wall Street Journal, and The Financial Times. Leopold currently writes for CounterPunch, Political Affairs, and Z Magazine and is a regular contributor to the Huffington Post.
ISBN 0-9760822-4-1

AVAILABLE APRIL 2006

This is a delicate point---and I submit this without prejudice and with great respect for EW's own work: blogs wouldn't have much to talk about without the grist of daily journalism to monitor, disassemble and evaluate.
This blog is of particular importance because EW and the community around her have, to my mind as an investigative journalist, helped gigging journalists advance stories.
That's why I check in here. I want to see what the state of play is. That's the power of these virtual comment communities.
But that's what they are: commentaries---they're not investigative journalism out of the box, which is very expensive to pursue, and entirely integrity-based, esp if you're freelance. As I am: I've worked for most of the past decade for Canada's version of 60 MINUTES, THE FIFTH ESTATE, as a researcher and story consultant in covert operations and moneylaundering matters.
When someone like Leopold goes out there and publishes without the benefit of a weekly salary or even malpractice insurance to indemnify the entity publishing him...it can get very chilly very fast. And freelance investigative journalists are the canaries in the mineshaft, folks. They're the people MoJo and the Center for Public Integrity and the Public Education investigative projects bankroll and God bless 'em.
They're the writers and photojournalists who get there first, before the corporate types arrive en masse
I've contributed to pre-blog forums as far back as '97 and the ones that survive and flourish adhere to a very simple formula: respect and intellectual honesty.
I don't know Jason Leopold or anyone else on this blog from Adam, save EW, with whom I've corresponded briefly.
But I take his side: there's just no way any lay blogger---and here I exclude talents like Glenn the constitutional lawyer and Josh Marshall, who are either lawyers or working journos---can do more than critique, and surpassingly well in EW's case...unless you want to be a source, which is a whole different ballgame.
Leopold's work on Enron alone is superb. He got so screwed on the Thomas White affair...he has every right to be a little thin-skinned from time to time.
The real gas for me is seeing him appear here, in the flesh, defending and refining his stuff. Or Larry Johnson at TPM or Arkin at the WaPo Early Warning blog.
At their best, blogs are like really great jazz: the cross-pollination of ideas and inspiration lifts stuff someplace new.
There's a gem here on EW. Be cool.

canuckjorno: thoughtful comment, and it's appreciated.

Here's a question for you, though. What do you think about a journalists' conduct on a blog? For instance, if a journalist misrepresented himself or his sources on a blog, would it be as grave as misrpresenting himself or his sources (or other individuals) in his printed, by-lined work?

I concur with canuckjourno. I don't know leopold on a personal level. Leopold was screwed so badly by salon DHinMi especially in light of the fact that everything he wrote about thomas white turned out to be true if you look at the jeff skilling indictment and the richard causey plea. It was a different time in october 2002 when leopold broke that story. No one was standing up to the administration except for a select few leopold being one. And I saw, DHinMi, how you and mitch gore went further on kos today and attacked leopold even further by diging up his past. Leopold is very open about his crime, his drug abuse and his life before journalism when he was in his mid-20s. He wrote a book about it which I for one look forward to reading when it comes out. Frankly, I like that he's got a past. It shows he's human and much more complex. Plus I believe everyone deserves a second chance and is entitled to redemption. So the guy called you a pussy. What's your role in this? You have vilified him here and on kos for not admitting an error yet for two days now you haven't yet admitted that you were antagonistic toward him. So imho you aren't any better and won't get any sympathy from me. Leopold is a guy whose very accessible. He returns emails quickly and whenever I had a question about his story he's always responded and even gave me his phone number and told me to keep in touch. I think you need to realize that you get what you give. I think for a guy like leopold who has had a rough life and has to endure constant attacks from the right because of the many OTHER stories he writes about bush is hard enough without having to be spit on by people who should be on his side. Try offering constructive criticism instead of vitriol and you'll see how much better the response will be. This is the very reason that I think the democratic party is so messed up. They are not a united front. We need to be a united front and that means utilizing the indy journalists who work hard to fight crimes of the bush administration.

Lets see if you can admit you had a role or if you will just try and justify your actions again and spend your time smearing people along with people like mitch gore

short answer: no diff
if it's a work in progress, you make sure everyone reading knows it's a draft---that's the only wiggle room any gigging journo has
otherwise, as far as I'm concerned, it's out there and fair game for anyone to criticize
you're measured---as are most other professionals---by both the best and the worst of your work
that's the downside of the 'power of the press'
why? because you're on your honour to do your best work
I've had a couple of factual howlers in my day---everyone has---but the issue I want to emphasize in Leopold's case is that freelance investigative stuff is a highwire act
he doesn't have the benefit of a newsroom to kick it around with or a staff researcher
If you're freelance, you rarely have much editorial guidance, you're damn lucky to have a factchecker---and then only in magazine work---and it's your ass if you blow it
the American centre [I hardly believe there's an American left left these days] ought to be kissing the asses of people like Sy Hersh and Leopold and Palast and Raimundo and Risen/Lichtblau and Chris Hedges. These people are absolutely key because they're story-breakers...and they will make mistakes
but the good ones are, IMHO, distinguished by one singular trait: they're generous
they will step up and share stuff, even as Leopold did here
takes guts
you want to know how badly it can go, though?
it's very easy to be set up, esp in the world of covert op.s and white collar crime, both areas I know Leopold is very good at
The most ticklish ethical stuff I've had to face is when you're hired for 'research work'---it's terribly easy to be misled as a contract hire
I have two US colleagues, both excellent reporters, who got hung out to dry by the Christic Institute as for-hires
I never do that work because I'm not a hired gun---I'm too perversely passionate to do anything but my own stuff or partner with another investigative journalist
Implicit perhaps in your question is the issue of plagiarism...and the short answer is never.
Nope.
Don't even think about it.
I went to Vassar with Janet Cooke and believe me, I get it. I knew her and knew the pressures she was under as a young Afro-American writer. But: no. Never.
In my other life, I'm a novelist and a screenwriter. I've read hundreds of historical and espionage novels and I fret sometimes when I think I've come up with something really good---is it truly mine? I read somewhere that when McCartney wrote 'Yesterday', even before the lyrics came to him, he played it for everyone who'd sit still...just to be sure it was really his.
My 0.02.
And FWIW, another 0.02
you should clear the air w/Leopold if you haven't already.
I'm a Canadian who grew up in downstate NY. I love the US and in ways very different from the ways I love my homeland.
You guys used to live in a country that prided itself on being a revolutionary republic.
If you want it back, back a horse like Leopold.
He's keeping some very very destructive people under the microscope, him and Hersh and the others.
nightnight

"canuckjorno: thoughtful comment, and it's appreciated."

The reason you felt it was a thoughtful comment and took it as constructive criticism is because canuckjorno was careful in couching / balancing criticism with praise and avoided coming across as being self-righteous. EW could have done the same with Jason's article if the intent was constructive criticism and the result would have been very different. The sooner EW and you take this to heart, the better because you folks definitely have the talent, but not the attitude, it seems, to allow it to flourish.

Also, when Jason was offering his telephone number to talk it over, I am surprised you refused to get off your soap box. If you felt his article was imperfect, it was a golden oportunity to let him know that and give him a chance to correct the record. A megaphone rarely has any place in constructive criticism.

That said, it takes two to tango and Jason did not exactly cover himself in glory with his posts either.

and one last note, now that I've seen the latest posts
as for Leopold's past
isn't bashing a guy for his past what the Karl Roves of this planet do? isn't that what swiftboaters do?
aren't we to hold ourselves to a higher standard?
is that how shallow a debate we're really involved in?
I don't think so
I think it's common ground this stuff *really* matters or we'd all be watching DESPERATE HOUSEWIVES right now
my favourite writers all had messy lives: it's where the art and the passion come from [mine's no peach but not a tad on Leopold's, that's for sure]
regardless, there's something deeper
there's a parable [not that I'm anything more than a seriously lapsed Catholic BTW] in the New Testament and the Talmud [and, I'm told] the Qu'ran
it's about the mote and the beam
before you criticize the mote [the tiny sliver] in another's eye...take the beam out of your own
again: make nice with Leopold, brother, clean it up---ain't nothing to be gained by personal attack on a person's past, even if that person is [Gawd help us] King Dubya hisself
you go after the work, the issue, the policy, the logic...not the person
there's no value system on earth supports that approach
none
and it's rank stupidity to do so---because it's terrible apologetics: you'll never win a convert worth having out of negativity, in any debate
and I've checked out Leopold's website: I've ordered his book---looks like ALL THE PRESIDENT'S MEN meets UNDER THE VOLCANO
I'll take a chance on a story like that...and on a guy gutsy enough to write it
and if you're hesitating about contacting Leopold...well, do it
that kind of conflict resolution is the way the world changes for the better
last I heard, there was a war on...and we kinda need everybody at their best to stand a chance of winning it
I'll shut up now: I'm on assignment tomorrow and won't be posting for a spell
bye

Jason Leopold has written an updated, much more readable article: It goes much farther in separating the pre-9/11 illegal activity from what James Risen calls "The Program." The earlier illegal activity, ordered by Cheney, may in fact be related to the flap which occurred during the John Bolton hearings. Truthout has the article.

"It's one thing to critique a peer, it's another thing to do it in a loud, embarrassing and unstrategic way. Basically that's what happened in the first instance here. I think EW needs to acknowledge this, regardless of whether the critique was legit. Do we really want to air to the world each and every one of our fact-checking disputes?"

Yes we do. Your question strikes at the very heart of the historical moment we find ourselves in.

Loud, embarrassing, and unstrategic discussions about the facts = open-source knowledge.

Private, proprietary, strategic discussions about the facts = congressional caucuses (be they republican or democrat), talking points (be they conservative or liberal), Diebold voting machines, and the New York Times.

Your call.


"And I saw, DHinMi, how you and mitch gore went further on kos today and attacked leopold even further by diging up his past."

...

"Lets see if you can admit you had a role or if you will just try and justify your actions again and spend your time smearing people along with people like mitch gore"

Posted by: joshua kline | January 15, 2006 at 22:32

Huh?

Please point to a single instance of me "attacking" Jason Leopold and his past?

I defy you to find any such posting that I made. And please point to an example where I am smearing Jason Leopold or anyone else please.

Hi, my name is Adam Yorkshire. I've never posted anything of the sort related to Jason Leopold.

nice blog keep it up

Dirk

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From : Ms Monica Robert
Abidjan, Ivory Coast
West Africa.vv

APPEAL FOR URGENT BUSINESS ASSISTANCE.

Dearest One,

Permit me to inform you of our desire of going into business relationship with you. I am quite aware that my message will come to you as a surprise because it is indeed very strange for someone you have not met before to contact you in this regard.
I am Ms Monica Robert the only daughter of late Chief.and Mrs. Dikko Robert. My father was a very wealthy Coccoa merchant in Abidjan, the economic capital of Ivory coast, my father was poisoned to death by his business associates on one of their outings on a business trip .
My mother died when I was a baby and since then my father took me so special. Before the death of my father on March 2006 in a private hospital here in Abidjan he secretly called me on his bed side and told me that he has the sum of (Seven million,five hundred thousand United State Dollars).USD($7.500,000,00) left in fixed / suspense account in one of the prime bank here in Abidjan,that he used my name as his only daughter for the next of Kin in depositing of the fund. He also explained to me that it was because of this wealth that he was poisoned by his business associates. That I should seek for a foreign partner in a country of my choice where I will transfer this money and use it for investment purpose such as real estate or hotel management.

Pls, I am honourably seeking your assistance in the following ways:
(1) To provide a bank account into which this money would be transferred to.
(2) To serve as a guardian of this fund since I am only 22years.
(3) To make arrangement for me to come over to your country to further my education and also to secure a resident permit in your country.

Moreover, I am willing to offer you 15% of the total sum as compensation for your effort/ input after the successful transfer of this fund into your nominated account overseas.
Furthermore, Pls indicate your options towards assisting me as I believe that this transaction would be conclude within seven (7) days you signify your interest to assist me.

Anticipating to hear from you urgently.

Thanks and God bless.

Yours Sincerely,
Monica Robert

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