Saturday, May 07, 2005

This morning's New York Times, Bolton, Sibel Edmonds, Microsoft

We're going to focus on only three stories in this morning's New York Times. Kara had a good point in her e-mail this morning and, acting on that, I e-mailed members who were suggesting links* to make sure they were fine with it.

So let's open with Douglas Jehl's "Ex-C.I.A. Official Says Bolton Interfered:"

John R. Bolton's effort in 2002 to oust a top Central Intelligence Agency analyst from his post in a dispute over Cuba represented a troubling breach of the line between policy makers and intelligence, the agency's former deputy director has told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, according to a transcript of the exchange.
The ex-official, John E. McLaughlin, who spent 32 years in the C.I.A., said the episode was "the only time I had ever heard of such a request" from a policy maker, that a C.I.A. officer or analyst be transferred.
The analyst, Fulton Armstrong, was the national intelligence officer for Latin America and had clashed with Mr. Bolton's office about a speech that Mr. Armstrong thought overstated the extent of Cuba's weapons programs.


Rob: The case is still not being made. Why is this a problem? I get why. I don't get why Democrats aren't all over the place explaining why. Bolton is a nightmare and the last thing we need at the U.N. But the case is still not being made.

Kara: The argument is still not stated. The argument goes to the way we see the world and our place in it. Possibly they fear distortions and lies like 'global consenst' when John Kerry attempted to broach this subject in a debate but the Democratic Party needs to engage in this discussion unless they're counting on those who've suffered under a bad boss to rise up and lead.
They have been handed one horror story after another but largely they have avoided both connecting dots and explaining the broader theme. The nation needs to be engaged on this debate that goes to the fundamental nature of our character.

Shirley wonders if this is a "disconnect deriving from the fact that it is so obvious to Senate Dems" what is wrong with Bolton? "The average person, hearing or reading a report or two, grasps that Bolton is a bully. The average person has also suffered under decades of bully bosses being applauded and held up by the press, most often the financial press, as a 'leader.'
The message that is not getting out is why Bolton is not right for the U.N. Certain senators may feel it is obvious, which I agree it should be, but in conversations I've had, I'm repeatedly struck by how often I'm forced to give a primer on the U.N.'s goals and what we're supposed to stand for. That is the argument that is not being made strongly to the people."

Ben: If you've followed Bolton's nomination closely you can argue the reasons for his being unqualified. But outside of printed editorials and op-eds, the issue isn't being raised. Any other nominee suffering these embarrassing revelations would have sunk a long time ago. Kerik was sunk by sex which didn't require much more than shock and disgust over his ground-zero love nest. Bolton's problems go to larger issues that are lost on a public that's been misled to see bullying as strength. With a list of incidents handed to them, Democrats now need to to make a coherent argument building on those incidents that goes to who and what we are as a people and country and how Bolton's actions spit on our self-concepts.

We'll move now to John Files' "Appeals Court Backs Dismissal of Suit on F.B.I.:"

A federal appeals court agreed with the government on Friday that a suit by an F.B.I. translator who was fired after accusing the bureau of ineptitude could expose government secrets and jeopardize national security.
The decision, by a three-judge panel of the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, effectively ends the suit by the translator, Sibel Edmonds.
Her lawyer said, however, that she planned to take the case to the Supreme Court.

[. . .]
A lawyer for Ms. Edmonds, Ann Beeson, said in a telephone interview: "This vast expansion of the state secret privilege by the government makes us less safe, not more. If government employees cannot report security breaches without retaliation, then American national security suffers."

Lloyd: Near daily briefings on the [Michael] Jackson case contrast poorly with the paper's coverage of Sibel Edmonds's case. The headlines reads like a confession by the paper of how poorly it's stepped up to the plate on this case, Edmonds's name doesn't even make the headline because the casual reader hasn't noticed this case that has not been featured prominetly in the paper. While Nicholas Kristof rouses himself every few weeks to scream 'threat of a dirty bomb isn't getting the attention needed!' he's opted out of any attempts to drive the Edmonds case. If a dirty bomb is a threat, that threat is made stronger by allegations that the F.B.I. might be blowing translations of key information they have. For all the talk of reforming intelligence that the paper and others did after the 9-11 committee's findings, when presented with an opening to address this head on, they close their eyes and shut their mouths. Kristof should temper his incessent outrage of late since he's failed to take leadership on the Edmonds's case. [Paul] Krugman and [Bob] Herbert have used their columns to hammer home points which have sometimes resulted in the reporters at the paper awakening to issues ignored. Kristof shows up every few weeks to scream "Sudan!" or "Dirty bomb!" and then goes back into hibernation. The Edmonds's case has national implications and should have been covered with twice the attention of the celebrity scandal [Michael Jackson] but reporters and eternally outraged Kristof have ignored press conferences held by Edmonds and have refused to dig into the story on their own.

The ACLU has a statement posted on the Edmonds' case:

In a one-line order with no explanation, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia today upheld the dismissal of FBI whistleblower Sibel Edmonds' case, despite a Justice Department Inspector General’s report which concluded that Edmonds' whistleblower allegations were in fact "the most significant factor" in the FBI’s decision to terminate her.
"First the government claims that everything about me is a state secret, then the court hearing is closed to the public, and now the court issues a decision without any public explanation. The government is going to great lengths to cover up its mistakes," Edmonds said. "If the courts aren't going to protect us, then Congress must act."
Edmonds, a former Middle Eastern language specialist hired by the FBI shortly after 9/11, was fired in 2002 after repeatedly reporting serious security breaches and misconduct. Edmonds challenged her retaliatory dismissal by filing a lawsuit in federal court, but her case was dismissed last July after Attorney General John Ashcroft invoked the so-called "state secrets privilege," and retroactively classified briefings to Congress related to her case.
"This decision endangers us all. If government employees cannot report security breaches without retaliation, then national security, and all Americans, suffer," said Ann Beeson, Associate Legal Director of the ACLU, who argued the case on behalf of Edmonds. "We are determined to take this case all the way to the Supreme Court."
The state secrets privilege has historically been rarely invoked, and even more rarely employed to dismiss an entire case at the outset. When properly invoked, it permits the government to block disclosure of evidence that would cause harm to national security. In the Edmonds case, however, the government used the privilege to urge dismissal of the entire lawsuit, insisting that every aspect of Edmonds' case involves state secrets--including where she was born and what languages she speaks.
In a surprise move last month, the appeals court closed the courtroom during the oral argument in Edmonds' appeal to members of the press and general public. Several media organizations, including The Washington Post, The New York Times, Reuters America, the Associated Press and The Hearst Corporation, filed emergency motions to open the courtroom. The motions were denied without opinion.

For more of the ACLU's statements click the link preceding or click here. That the Times and other media organizations would file an appeal to be in the court and then, after being refused, appear to back down on an issue their actions indicate they felt was important is rather sad. Especially when a "happy talk" article on jobs' "creation" makes the front page even as it gets a slap down from the editorial board on A26.

Lastly, we'll note Sarah Kershaw's "In a Reverse, Microsoft Says It Supports Gay Rights Bill:"

Microsoft, faced with unrelenting criticism from employees and gay rights groups over its decision to abandon support of a gay rights bill in Washington state, reversed course again yesterday and announced that it was now in support of the bill.
[. . .]
The bill, which would have extended protections against discrimination in employment, housing and other areas to gay men and lesbians, failed by one vote on April 21. But it is automatically up for a new vote next year because bills introduced in the Washington Legislature are active for two years even if they are voted down the first time.

Marcia notes that the "reverse" is after the fact: "Only after the outrage and after the vote is killed does Microsoft take action. I won't take any comfort in their new claims since by next April they may decide to pursue another back-door, in secret attempt to derail the bill yet again.
The heat from their actions they never expected. Their actions becoming public they never expected. This is damage control and until they demonstrate that their public remarks and their private lobbying efforts go hand in hand it's just empty talk."

The e-mail address for this site is

*Which brings us to this footnote. Yesterday, while attempting to explain to "Flower" that there would be no weekend reply to her e-mail, I confused long term members. My apologies for that.
Long term members who have needed replies to e-mails have always gotten some badly dashed off reply when possible that immediately gets sent.
Each day, however, brings new e-mails from new people. They may or may not be whom they present themselves to be. I don't know, I don't know them. For this reason, those without a long term e-mail relationship, do not get an immediate reply. If a reply is written, it's saved to draft and sent out the following day by a friend. On Friday, there were over eighty such e-mails that were sent out. This is one of many filters put in place to ensure privacy. When Krista replied to my e-mail this morning, she was the first to note her surprise over hearing from me after last night's remarks. Krista and Gina do their round-robin and get e-mail replies at all times of the day that go out immediately. The same is true for other long term members.
If, however, I don't know you, the filter is used for privacy reasons. Everyone who e-mails receives the automatic generic e-mail. The volume of e-mail is too much for everyone to receive a reply but when a reply is done (either immediately or through the filter) members should receive top priority. That's not always the case, such as Thursday when a first time e-mailer requested some information about domestic abuse resources, but that is the goal.
Hopefully these comments clarify the confusion but, if not, Krista and Gina will be addressing this in their round-robin next Friday with a series of questions they're currently formulating so look for that and if there's a question you have in the meantime, e-mail the site and I'll attempt to address it my responses to Gina and Krista's questions.