Dick Cheney- Corporate Criminal


CIA leak filing indicates gov't has evidence regarding Cheney

John Byrne
Published: Thursday May 25, 2006

WASHINGTON -- The latest filing by Special Prosecutor Patrick J. Fitzgerald in the CIA leak investigation indicates the prosecutor possesses "evidence" about communication between Vice President Dick Cheney and his former chief of staff who was indicted in connection with the ongoing investigation into the outing of covert CIA officer Valerie Plame Wilson.

RAW STORY has found an all-but-unnoticed sentence in the filing released by Fitzgerald late Wednesday. In his filing, Fitzgerald says testimony by "Scooter" Libby, Cheney's erstwhile chief of staff, "corroborate the government's other evidence indicating that these issues were communicated to defendant by his immediate superior, who also directed defendant during the critical week after July 6 to get into the public "all" the facts in response to the Wilson Op Ed."

It's possible that Fitzgerald's "other evidence" is a reference to Libby's grand jury testimony, which he included as part of his filing Wednesday. But the reference comes at the end of a paragraph also referencing Libby's testimony, and the prosecutor's careful language states "other evidence" rather than "defendant's testimony," as he asserts earlier in the paragraph.

"Defendant's testimony discussed above makes clear that defendant talked to the Vice President multiple times about the Wilson Op Ed and that, during one or more of these conversations, the Vice President discussed with defendant issues noted in the Vice President's handwritten annotations -- including the issue of Mr. Wilson's wife's employment at the CIA," Fitzgerald writes. "Therefore, the annotations corroborate the government's other evidence indicating that these issues were communicated to defendant by his immediate superior, who also directed defendant during the critical week after July 6 to get into the public "all" the facts in response to the Wilson Op Ed."

The investigation was mounted to determine whether or not Administration officials may have illegally outed a covert CIA operative, but has of late turned to the "cover-up" instead of the actual outing. Special Prosecutor Fitzgerald indicted Libby not on leaking the agent's name but for lying to federal investigators and obstruction of justice. Senior presidential adviser Karl Rove is also under scrutiny for allegedly misleading the FBI in his interviews about the outing.

The 'Wilson Op Ed' was a piece written by former Ambassador Joseph Wilson in the New York Times which questioned some of the Administration's key arguments for war with Iraq. Wilson, who had traveled to Niger to investigate claims that the African country had sold 'yellowcake' uranium to Iraq, said that he found nothing to support the claim. Documents alleging Iraq had sought uranium from Niger were found to be forgeries.

After the filing yesterday, many news organizations, including the Washington Post, centered around the fact Fitzgerald had not ruled out the possibility Cheney could be called to trial. But overlooked by these reports are repeated references to orders by Cheney to Libby to "get out into the public 'all' the facts in response to the Wilson Op Ed."

The Fitzgerald filing repeatedly argues that Libby's assertion that he didn't know about the Vice President's aims with the Wilson Op Ed are spurious based on other evidence Fitzgerald has collected in the case.

"The Vice President was the defendant's immediate superior with whom the defendant worked daily and closely, and from whom defendant received direction regarding the response to be made to the Wilson Op Ed," Fitzgerald says on page seven of his May 24 filing.

Such statements by the prosecutor made without specifics signal the prosecutor possesses evidence relating to the Vice President that counters Libby's testimony.

Fitzgerald has not indicated that Cheney is a target of his investigation, and Libby has denied that Cheney authorized the outing of CIA officer Valerie Wilson. But the latest filing is the strongest made to date by Fitzgerald regarding the Vice President's role.


Special counsel: Cheney may be called to testify
Prosecutor says vice president’s ‘state of mind’ relevant in CIA leak case

The Associated Press
Updated: 11:59 p.m. CT May 24, 2006

WASHINGTON - Vice President Dick Cheney could be called to testify in the perjury case against his former chief of staff, a special prosecutor said in a court filing Wednesday.

Special Counsel Patrick Fitzgerald suggested Cheney would be a logical government witness because he could authenticate notes he jotted on a July 6, 2003, New York Times opinion piece by a former U.S. ambassador critical of the Iraq war.

Fitzgerald said Cheney’s “state of mind” is “directly relevant” to whether I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby, the vice president’s former top aide, lied to FBI agents and a federal grand jury about how he learned about CIA officer Valerie Plame’s identity and what he subsequently told reporters.

Libby “shared the interests of his superior and was subject to his direction,” the prosecutor wrote. “Therefore, the state of mind of the vice president as communicated to (the) defendant is directly relevant to the issue of whether (the) defendant knowingly made false statements to federal agents and the grand jury regarding when and how he learned about (Plame’s) employment and what he said to reporters regarding this issue.”

In the Times article, former U.S. Ambassador Joseph Wilson accused the Bush administration of twisting intelligence on Iraq to justify going to war. In 2002, the CIA sent Wilson to Niger to determine whether Iraq tried to buy uranium yellowcake from Niger to build a nuclear weapon. Wilson discounted the reports. But the allegation wound up in President Bush’s 2003 State of the Union address.

Cheney wrote on the article, “Have they done this sort of thing before? Send an ambassador to answer a question? Do we ordinarily send people out pro bono to work for us? Or did his wife send him on a junket?”

Libby told the agents and the grand jury that he believed he had learned from reporters that Plame is married to Wilson and had forgotten that Cheney had told him that in the weeks before Wilson’s article was published.

‘Let’s get everything out’
In his grand jury testimony, Libby said Cheney was so upset about Wilson’s allegations that they discussed them daily after the article appeared. “He was very keen to get the truth out,” Libby testified, quoting Cheney as saying, “Let’s get everything out.”

Cheney viewed Wilson’s allegations as a personal attack because the article suggested that the vice president knew that Wilson had discounted old reports that Iraq had tried to buy uranium yellowcake from Niger to build a nuclear weapon.

Eight days after Wilson’s article, conservative syndicated columnist Robert Novak identified Plame and suggested that she had played a role in the CIA’s decision to send Wilson to Niger.

Fitzgerald contends that Plame’s status as a CIA officer was classified and that Libby was told that disclosing her identity could pose a danger.

The prosecutor wants to use Cheney’s notes on the Wilson article to corroborate other evidence he has that Libby lied about outing Plame to reporters.

In a filing last week, Libby’s lawyers said Fitzgerald would not call Cheney as a witness and would have a hard time getting the vice president’s notes admitted into evidence.

“Contrary to defendant’s assertion, the government has not represented that it does not intend to call the vice president as a witness at trial,” Fitzgerald wrote. “To the best of government’s counsel’s recollection, the government has not commented on whether it intends to call the vice president as a witness.”


Raising Funds but Not His Ratings
Despite his low approval numbers, the vice president attracts the party faithful to events across the state for three GOP House candidates.

By Mark Z. Barabak
Times Staff Writer
May 24, 2006

SAN DIEGO — His former top aide is under indictment in the CIA leak probe. His poll ratings fall somewhere between bad and atrocious. Still, Dick Cheney can pack in the faithful like few others in the Republican Party.

And so the vice president came to California on Monday and Tuesday for a series of fundraisers aimed at bucking up three GOP House candidates facing unexpectedly tough fights in this political season of scandal. Democrats were delighted.

Touching down in Sacramento, Stockton and San Diego, Cheney flew as far below the figurative radar as Air Force Two would allow. His appearances were either closed to the media and public, or conducted in lightning-strike fashion.

On Monday night in Stockton, at the Bob Hope Theatre, Cheney materialized from behind a dark curtain, then swiftly disappeared after delivering 15 minutes of workmanlike remarks on behalf of Rep. Richard W. Pombo of Tracy.

On Tuesday in San Diego, Cheney ducked in and out of a Brian Bilbray fundraising lunch without ever sitting down, much less eating.

But the vice president's furtive movements didn't stop protesters from gathering outside each appearance, or keep the state Democratic Party from issuing a series of snarky bulletins tracking Cheney's "Culture of Corruption Tour."

"It's sort of a trifecta of Washington's biggest ethics problems coming together," said Bill Burton, a spokesman for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, referring to the Abramoff, Cunningham and Plame affairs, which served as the unheralded backdrop for Cheney's visit.

Pombo and Rep. John T. Doolittle of Roseville, the vice president's Sacramento host, each collected tens of thousands of dollars in contributions from disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff and his associates. Bilbray is vying on June 6 to fill the congressional seat vacated by Randy "Duke" Cunningham, now serving an eight-year prison stretch for taking bribes. Although still uphill for Democrats, the three congressional seats are considered the most likely in California to slip from the GOP's grasp.

Not surprisingly, the names Abramoff and Cunningham never passed the vice president's lips, nor did Valerie Plame's. (The unmasking of the former CIA operative is at the heart of an ongoing criminal investigation that has implicated Cheney's former chief of staff, I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby.)

Instead, Cheney stuck to his practiced role as administration cheerleader and stiletto-wielding partisan. He lauded the economy's performance under President Bush and said the country had become a safer and stronger place thanks to Bush's "sound decisions" over the last five years. He called the administration's warrantless wiretapping program "absolutely vital in saving American lives."

And he all but accused Democrats of lending aid and comfort to terrorists, saying advocates of "a sudden withdrawal from Iraq are counseling the very kind of retreat that Osama bin Laden has been predicting and counting on."

The response was strikingly subdued, given the loyalties of his audiences. In Stockton, there were cheers and whoops as Cheney reeled off a tickertape of upbeat economic statistics. But his lengthy defense of the war in Iraq, his insistence that "we are on the offensive" and "have a clear plan for victory," was met with nearly complete silence.

The response was identical at Tuesday's fundraiser in San Diego, though Cheney received a warmer reception earlier in the day when he addressed hundreds of sailors and Marines on the flight deck of the amphibious assault ship Bonhomme Richard. "We are going to stay on the offensive and stay in the fight until the fight is done," the vice president told the cheering crowd.

Opinion polls place Cheney's approval rating from 34% in the last Gallup Poll to 20% in a CBS News survey — the latter figure worse than President Nixon's showing when he quit the White House amid the Watergate scandal.

The numbers suggest more than Democratic discontent. Indeed, several of those who came out over the last two days said they did so mainly to support Pombo or Bilbray, who unlike Doolittle opened their fundraisers to reporters.

Asked his opinion of Cheney, Richard Solarz, a 58-year-old physicist who lives in Pombo's district, replied: "Ummm … Uh … " He gripped his chardonnay. He paused. "I wish we weren't in Iraq," he finally said.

But Cheney's popularity — or lack thereof — is largely immaterial to his own political fortunes. His name is nowhere on the November ballot, try as Democrats might to make the midterms a referendum on the Bush administration — and he says he has run his last race.

Rather, cash was the main purpose of his trip, as even a local pastor said in Monday night's invocation.

"Lord, tonight's all about raising money," said Brent Randall Regnart of Stockton's Christian Life Center, as he sought Jesus' blessing for Bush, Cheney and Pombo and thanked the Lord for those paying upwards of $500 a head to glimpse the vice president.

Although Democrats took great glee in sniping at Cheney, "At the end of the day, each of these California candidates is going to sock a lot of money in the bank, which they'll be able to spend in the fall at a time when voters are really paying attention," said Scott Reed, a veteran GOP strategist in Washington.

According to spokesmen for the three congressional campaigns, Cheney's visit brought in well more than $800,000.


MSNBC: New Docs in Libby Case Draw Cheney Closer to Center of CIA Outing Case

Experts: Odds Increase that Veep to be Called as Witness in Perjury Case Against his Former Chief of Staff

Pre-Trial Disclosures Reveal Libby 'Does Not Recall' Seeing Veep's Hand Written Notes about Valerie Plame on copy of NY Times Editorial...

New pre-trial filings by Special Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald in the Scooter Libby perjury trial related to the outting of covert CIA agent Valerie Plame, seem to draw Dick Cheney still closer to the center of the scandal, MSNBC's David Schuster is now reporting.

In the newly released documents, defendant Libby denies having seen Cheney's handwritten notes on the margins of a 2003 NY Times op/ed, in which Cheney raises questions about Plame's involvement in former Ambassador Joe Wilson's fact-finding trip to Niger. In the op/ed, Wilson exposes what he didn't find on that trip -- evidence that Saddam was attempting to purchase uranium from Niger.

From Schuster's report this evening:

If the chief of his office did not see the Vice President's notes, who were they intended for?
Meanwhile, legal experts say the latest Libby filing could be telling for what the defense does not argue. Libby does not challenge the prosecution statement that on the day columnist Robert Novak first disclosed Valerie Wilson's identity, a quote "CIA official discussed in the defendant's presence the dangers posed by disclosure of the CIA affiliation of one of its employees as had occurred in the Novak column. This evidence directly contradicts the defense position."


Protesters Arrested at Halliburton Meeting

By SHAUN SCHAFER, Associated Press Writer
Wed May 17, 4:39 PM ET

DUNCAN, Okla. - Sixteen people protesting Halliburton Co.'s role as a military contractor were arrested Wednesday outside a building where shareholders discussed spinning off the subsidiary that provides meals, clean laundry and other services to U.S. troops in Iraq.

One man was accused of vandalism for tearing up a plastic fence holding back protesters, and the rest were accused of trespassing as they left an enclosure and headed toward the meeting.

Halliburton announced plans last month to sell just under 20 percent of KBR, which has diluted the company's financial results and drawn criticism of its multibillion contracts in Iraq.

Dave Lesar, the company's chairman and chief executive officer, said Wednesday the company planned to follow the initial offering with either additional public offerings or a sale to a competitor of the remaining 80 percent.

As a standalone company, KBR would have a better opportunity to prosper, Chief Financial Officer Christopher Gaut told about 200 shareholders. He described KBR as Halliburton's nearly lowest margin business and one that has seen contract activity in Iraq decrease.

A spin-off "would unlock the value of KBR for shareholders," Gaut said.

Shareholders of the world's largest provider of products and services to the petroleum and energy industries looked back on a year of record earnings. Halliburton, founded in 1919, earned $2.4 billion in 2005.

Shareholders approved a company request to increase its authorized share count to 2 billion from 1 billion. Lesar said a stock split was planned sometime in the next two months.

Shareholders rejected a request by a group of Texas and Kansas shareholders for adoption of a policy based on the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Halliburton directors, noting that the company does business in more than 100 countries and refrains from doing business where prohibited by the U.S. government, did not support the proposal.

About 100 people protested outside the meeting. A masked man beat on a large empty jug and protesters chanted, "The whole world is watching," and "Shame on you," while police made the arrests. A designated area had been set up for the protest, and police had told protesters not to leave that area.

One of those arrested was wearing a Dick Cheney mask. The vice president formerly headed Halliburton, which has drawn criticism for its big government contracts, some awarded without competitive bidding. Its KBR unit provides support services for troops stationed in the Middle East.

Lesar said afterward that the protest did not bother him.

"I cannot change the fact that my predecessor is the vice president of the United States," he said.

Protesters carried signs such as "Bush Lied," and "Record Corrupt Blood Soaked Profits." Oklahoma Veterans for Peace lined up 37 pairs of combat boots to represent Oklahoma soldiers killed in Iraq.

"I think many Americans, myself included, are concerned that America is becoming a nation of, for and by corporate profits," said Nathaniel Batchelder, a member of the veterans group.


Cheney's scribbled note adds twist to Plame probe

Associated Press

WASHINGTON - The prosecutor in the CIA leak case said more than six months ago that he was not alleging any criminal acts by Vice President Dick Cheney regarding the leak of agency operative Valerie Plame's identity.

But now the prosecutor is leaving the door open to the possibility that the vice president's now-indicted former chief of staff, I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, was acting at his boss' behest when Libby allegedly leaked information about Plame to reporters.

Special Counsel Patrick Fitzgerald is using handwritten notes by Cheney to assert in a new court filing that the vice president and Libby, working together, were focusing much attention on Plame and her husband, former Ambassador Joseph Wilson, a Bush administration critic.

Cheney's notes on the margins of Wilson's opinion column in The New York Times on July 6, 2003, reflect "the contemporaneous reaction of the vice president," Fitzgerald said in the court filing late Friday.

In the column, Wilson recounted how he had been sent by the CIA in 2002 to Niger to assess intelligence that Iraq had an agreement to acquire uranium yellow cake from the African country. His conclusion: It was highly doubtful that such a deal existed.

Scribbled in the days leading up to the leaks of Plame's identity, Cheney's notes refer to the CIA and to Wilson's trip, asking, "Have they done this sort of thing before? Send an Amb. to assess a question? Do we ordinarily send people out pro bono to work for us? Or did his wife send him on a junket?"

Subsequently, Plame's supposed role in her husband's trip to Africa allegedly was leaked to the media by both Libby and by presidential adviser Karl Rove.

Dems write their own margin notes for Cheney

Published: Monday May 15, 2006

Democrats are using the story of Dick Cheney's handwritten Plame Affair "margin notes" as a means of humorously striking out at the Vice President, RAW STORY has learned.

Notes made by Cheney in the margins of an op-ed by Ambassador Joseph Wilson just days before wife Valerie Plame Wilson's status as an undercover CIA agent was revealed to the press indicated that Cheney asked at the time, "Did his wife send him on a junket?" This hypothesis would later be echoed as a claim by Wilson's critics, and given by some as the reason Plame's name was entered into the debate.

The office of Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) has now released its own pieces of conjecture, imagining what, in their eyes, Cheney's notes may be in the margins of speeches he plans to deliver today in Ohio and Minnesota. While "the remarks themselves may be devoid of interest," the release states, "Cheney's margin notes could be full of interesting revelations about the questions currently on his mind."

The Democrats' satirical take on Cheney's notes follows:

What handwritten questions could Cheney have penciled into the margins of his prepared remarks today?

How can we cut Congress out of oversight of national security?

Cheney and his current chief of staff were the key advocates for expanded NSA surveillance with almost no Congressional oversight and in possible circumvention of the law. "In the weeks after the Sept. 11 attacks, Vice President Dick Cheney and his top legal adviser argued that the National Security Agency should intercept purely domestic telephone calls and e-mail messages without warrants in the hunt for terrorists, according to two senior intelligence officials. But N.S.A. lawyers, trained in the agency's strict rules against domestic spying and reluctant to approve any eavesdropping without warrants, insisted that it should be limited to communications into and out of the country, said the officials, who were granted anonymity to discuss the debate inside the Bush administration late in 2001." [New York Times, 5/14/06]

Do we ordinarily send staff to disclose classified information to the media? Is Libby going to give me up at his trial?

Cheney authorized Libby to disclose classified information to the press. "President Bush authorized White House official I. Lewis 'Scooter' Libby to disclose highly sensitive intelligence information to the news media in an attempt to discredit a CIA adviser whose views undermined the rationale for the invasion of Iraq, according to a federal prosecutor's account of Libby's testimony to a grand jury. The court filing by Special Counsel Patrick J. Fitzgerald for the first time places Bush and Vice President Cheney at the heart of what Libby testified was an exceptional and deliberate leak of material designed to buttress the administration's claim that Iraq was trying to obtain nuclear weapons." [Washington Post, 4/7/06]

Do the energy companies need any more pro bono help from my energy task force?

After Ken Lay gave Cheney a memo arguing against temporary price caps, Cheney said price caps wouldn't solve energy problems.

"[Senator Barbara] Boxer cited a 30-minute meeting that [Enron CEO Ken] Lay, who since has left Enron, had with Vice President Dick Cheney on April 17 to discuss the California crisis. The senator said a memo from that meeting offers possible evidence that Enron officials, who were huge financial contributors to the Bush presidential campaign, influenced the administration's energy policies. The eight-point memo that Lay reportedly gave Cheney during their meeting was published earlier this week by the San Francisco Chronicle. In it, Lay suggested that the administration 'reject any attempt to re-regulate wholesale power markets by adopting price caps or returning to archaic methods of determining the cost base of wholesale power.' He added that even temporary price caps would be detrimental to power markets. The day after his meeting with Lay, Cheney said price caps wouldn't solve California's problems." [San Francisco Chronicle, 2/1/02]

Is the Senate Intelligence Committee really going to demand my cooperation?

Cheney and his now indicted former chief of staff withheld documents on pre- Iraq War intelligence from the Senate Intelligence Committee.

"Vice President Cheney and his chief of staff, I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, overruling advice from some White House political staffers and lawyers, decided to withhold crucial documents from the Senate Intelligence Committee in 2004 when the panel was investigating the use of pre-war intelligence that erroneously concluded Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction, according to Bush administration and congressional sources. Among the White House materials withheld from the committee were Libby-authored passages in drafts of a speech that then-Secretary of State Colin L. Powell delivered to the United Nations in February 2003 to argue the Bush administration's case for war with Iraq, according to congressional and administration sources. The withheld documents also included intelligence data that Cheney's office -- and Libby in particular -- pushed to be included in Powell's speech, the sources said." [National Journal, 10/27/05]

How'd he find out about the cabal? It was supposed to be secret and insular!

Colin Powell's former chief of staff describes a Cheney-Rumsfeld "cabal" making secret decisions.

"In President Bush's first term, some of the most important decisions about U.S. national security — including vital decisions about postwar Iraq — were made by a secretive, little-known cabal. It was made up of a very small group of people led by Vice President Dick Cheney and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld. . . . Its insular and secret workings were efficient and swift — not unlike the decision-making one would associate more with a dictatorship than a democracy. This furtive process was camouflaged neatly by the dysfunction and inefficiency of the formal decision-making process, where decisions, if they were reached at all, had to wend their way through the bureaucracy, with its dissenters, obstructionists and 'guardians of the turf.' But the secret process was ultimately a failure. It produced a series of disastrous decisions and virtually ensured that the agencies charged with implementing them would not or could not execute them well." [Lawrence Wilkerson, L.A. Times, 10/25/05]

What can I do next to further expand presidential power?

Cheney believes the power of the presidency has waned.

"From shielding energy policy deliberations to setting up military tribunals without court involvement, Bush, with Cheney's encouragement, has taken what scholars call a more expansive view of his role than any commander in chief in decades. . . . Speaking with reporters traveling with him aboard Air Force Two to Oman, Cheney said the period after the Watergate scandal and Vietnam War proved to be 'the nadir of the modern presidency in terms of authority and legitimacy' and harmed the chief executive's ability to lead in a complicated, dangerous era." [Washington Post, 12/21/05]


Cheney and Rumsfeld Shielded Telecoms from Domestic Spying Charges in the 1970s

Jon Ponder | May. 12, 2006, 4:34 am

President Bush’s illegal domestic spying program is not the first government program for spying on American citizens. To understand how the present controversy will play out, we need look no farther back in history than the Ford Administration to see how it will play out:

After World War II, the NSA’s predecessor, the Army Signal Security Agency, sent representatives to the major telegraph companies and asked for cooperation in getting access to all telegraph traffic entering or leaving the United States. The companies complied, over the objections of their lawyers. When these practices came to light as part of a 1976 investigation into intelligence abuses, President Gerald R. Ford extended executive privilege, which shielded those involved from testifying publicly, to the telecommunications companies on the recommendation of then chief-of-staff Dick Cheney and then-Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, according to the Project on Government Oversight.


For Sound Energy Policy, Don't Look to Congress

By Warren Brown
Sunday, May 7, 2006; G02

Congress thinks we're stupid. Maybe we are. We, most of us, refuse to accept that we are living in a world of rapidly increasing demand for declining fossil fuel resources.

We believe more oil is to be found around the corner, in the next country, beneath the ocean, under or in the next rock. Maybe it is.

But people who have spent much of their professional lives looking at this issue say it really does not matter that more oil is waiting to be found somewhere. They believe there will never be enough of the stuff to fuel, feed, clothe, house and move a constantly growing global population.

Those people include Vice President Cheney, White House energy adviser Matthew Simmons and, believe it or not, President Bush.

For some time now, Cheney and Simmons, an energy investment banker, have been telling Bush that oil as we know it is about to go away. Their advice largely is why the president in his State of the Union address in January warned that America has become "addicted to oil." That is why the president, a scion of the Texas oil patch, uncharacteristically chided his fellow Republicans in Congress for offering yet another tax break for the nation's oil companies, this one facilitating quick write-offs of the costs of resource exploration.

"Record oil prices and large cash flows also mean that Congress has got to understand that these energy companies don't need unnecessary tax breaks like the write-offs of certain geological and geophysical expenditures," the president told the White House media corps.

That does not mean Bush is no longer a bosom buddy of Big Oil. It does mean, at least on this issue, that he is significantly smarter than Congress.

People enjoy poking fun at Bush, portraying him as something of an errant fraternity boy. But this president is nobody's dummy. He fully understands the concept of "peak oil," the high point of the bell curve at which 50 percent of the provable reserves in any oil field have been recovered.

Oil is plentiful on the upside of the curve. It is less available, substantially more difficult and enormously more expensive to retrieve on the downside.

Experts contend that peak oil production in North America actually was reached as far back as 1970, forcing the United States, for one, to rely more heavily on foreign sources of crude, a decidedly dangerous and extremely costly way of fueling our economy.

One of those experts is Robert L. Hirsch, senior energy program adviser at San Diego-based Science Applications International Corp. (SAIC), which conducts a variety of scientific studies for governments and global corporations.

Hirsch and his colleagues last March completed a study for the Department of Energy. Maybe it was too difficult for Congress to read. Certainly the title was forbidding: "Peaking of World Oil Production: Impacts, Mitigation and Risk Management."

Had Congress read Hirsch's report, Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) might not have proffered the silly idea of giving Americans a $500 tax rebate to help cover the cost of rising gasoline prices, and Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.) might not have come up with the equally goofy idea of giving Americans a $100 gas rebate.

Both proposals, now thankfully dead, constituted the most wrongheaded kind of political pandering, the kind that supports the notion that American consumers have a God-given right to cheap gasoline in a world where hundreds of millions of people already are paying considerably more for that fuel.

Congress was trying to play Robin Hood without portfolio, sticking a windfall profit tax on companies such as Exxon Mobil Corp., which raked in $8.4 billion in profits in the first quarter of 2006, and passing a part of the proceeds on to grumbling citizens.

I have no doubt that Exxon Mobil and the rest of oildom are engaging in a bit of profiteering, taking advantage of a very real energy crisis. But the Stabenow and Frist proposals, along with the advocates of increased federally mandated corporate fuel economy without any increases whatsoever in gasoline taxes, completely miss the point.

Hirsch and his colleagues put it clearly in their report to the Department of Energy:

We eventually will not have enough oil to fuel our enormously wasteful American way of life.

Global oil production is peaking.

"Optimistic oil production forecasts deserve to be viewed with considerable skepticism," the Hirsch report said. "World oil peaking represents a problem like none other. The political, economic and social stakes are enormous," the report said.

In plain English, that means America's cheap-oil ride is over. Ill-thought consumer tax rebates will not help. Ill-thought tax breaks for oil companies that are bumping up prices now in anticipation of oil's future decline will not help.

We need more political wisdom and the guts to do the right thing.

That starts with political leaders telling the American people the truth, as Bush did in his "addicted to oil" comments. It means mandated increased vehicle fuel economy accompanied by increased taxes on gasoline, engine displacement and vehicle size. It means getting over our social and racial biases, which still keep certain people out of certain neighborhoods, and coming up with a truly efficient, democratic mass transportation system.

"Waiting until world conventional oil production peaks before initiating crash program mitigation leaves the world with a significant liquid fuel deficit for two decades or longer," the Hirsch report said.

Wake up, Congress. Wake up, America. We are a part of that world.


Don't fear "the Jackal": The growing paranoia of Dick Cheney

Will Bunch

There's a lot for the blogosphere to buzz about tonight, and into that mix comes a fairly explosive profile of Dick Cheney in the new Vanity Fair, written by Todd Purdum. The headline grabbing stuff is going to be the comments by the vice president and his daughter Mary on how the family learned she was gay and their acceptance of it. We don't know what to make of all that -- maybe we're reluctant to comment because we remember John Kerry making an idiot of himself on the subject in 2004.

And truthfully, that's not what's important here. Just the short excepts that we've seen will confirm your worst fears, that the man who steered us into Iraq and is now pushing us toward Iran, and possibly a nuclear war there, is a raving victim of paranoia.

Read it and weep:

Purdum reports that Cheney travels with a chemical-biological suit at all times. When he gave his friend Robin West and his twin children a ride to the White House a couple of years ago, West commented on the fact that Cheney’s motorcade varied its daily path. “And he said, ‘Yeah, we take different routes so that “The Jackal” can’t get me,’” West tells Purdum. “And then there was this big duffel bag in the middle of the backseat, and I said, ‘What’s that? It’s not very roomy in here.’ And [Cheney] said, ‘No, because it’s a chemical-biological suit,’ and he looked at it and said, ‘Robin, there’s only one. You lose.’”

This is scary stuff, indeed. For those of you under 40ish, "The Day of the Jackal" was a Frederick Forsyth thriller, made into a 1973 movie, that follows an assassin's attempt to kill Charles DeGaulle (Spoiler alert: He misses...duh). For some men, four heart attacks might trigger a kind of fatalism, but the Cheney effect seems to be the reverse, an over-the-top survivalist instinct -- no doubt worsened by his many months brooding in "undisclosed locations" -- and the growing belief that people are out to get him on every street corner.

Do you want this guy holding the hand of the guy with his finger on the button?

We sure don't.


Cheney exempts his own office from reporting on classified material

Chicago Tribune

WASHINGTON - As the Bush administration has dramatically accelerated the classification of information as "top secret" or "confidential," one office is refusing to report on its annual activity in classifying documents: the office of Vice President Dick Cheney.

A standing executive order, strengthened by President Bush in 2003, requires all agencies and "any other entity within the executive branch" to provide an annual accounting of their classification of documents. More than 80 agencies have collectively reported to the National Archives that they made 15.6 million decisions in 2004 to classify information, nearly double the number in 2001, but Cheney continues to insist he is exempt.

Explaining why the vice president has withheld even a tally of his office's secrecy when such offices as the National Security Council routinely report theirs, a spokeswoman said Cheney is "not under any duty" to provide it.

That is only one way the Bush administration, from its opening weeks in 2001, has asserted control over information. By keeping secret so many directives and actions, the administration has precluded the public - and often members of Congress - from knowing about some of the most significant decisions and acts of the White House.

In the aftermath of the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, the administration has based much of its need for confidentiality on the imperative of protecting national security at a time of war. Yet experts say Bush and his closest advisers demonstrated their proclivity for privacy well before Sept. 11:

Starting in the early weeks of his administration with a move to protect the papers of former presidents, Bush has clamped down on the release of government documents. That includes tougher standards for what the public can obtain under the Freedom of Information Act and the creation of a broad new category of "sensitive but unclassified information."

Not only has the administration reported a dramatic increase in the number of documents deemed "top secret," "secret" or "confidential," the president has authorized the reclassification of information that was public for years. An audit by a National Archives office recently found that the CIA acted in a "clearly inappropriate" way regarding about one-third of the documents it reclassified last year.

The White House has resisted efforts by Congress to gain information, starting with a White House energy task force headed by Cheney and continuing with the president's secret authorization of warrantless surveillance of people inside the United States suspected of communicating with terrorists abroad. Sen. Arlen Specter, R-Pa., recently threatened to withhold funding for the surveillance program unless the White House starts providing information.

The administration has withheld the identities of, and accusations against, detainees held in its war on terror, and it censored the findings of a joint House-Senate committee that investigated the events leading to Sept. 11, including a 27-page blackout of Saudi Arabia's alleged connections to the terrorists.

While maintaining a disciplined and virtually leakproof White House, senior members of the administration have been accused of leaking information to punish a critic of the war in Iraq. The grand jury testimony of a former White House aide reportedly asserts that Bush himself selectively authorized release of once-classified information to counter criticism.

A tension has always existed between the presidency and the public, with concerns about security and confidentiality competing with the public's right to know about its government. But the balance seems to be tipping toward secrecy in a more pronounced way than at any time in the past three decades.

"Our democratic principles require that the American people be informed of the activities of their government," Bush said in his executive order on classified information. "Nevertheless, throughout our history, the national defense has required certain information be maintained in confidence in order to protect our citizens."

Bush and Cheney have made it clear they are intent on reclaiming presidential powers lost by Bush predecessors. That erosion of power started with Richard Nixon's losing fight over the privacy of his papers after the Watergate scandal and continued through Bill Clinton's impeachment.

"This is a presidency in which, from the start, there were important forces to accentuate the executive prerogative, and all of that became more important after 9/11," said Fred Greenstein, professor emeritus of politics at Princeton University and author of "The Presidential Difference: Leadership Style from FDR to George W. Bush."

White House spokeswoman Dana Perino maintains that the White House has "struck the right balance" between national security and openness.

"We need to ensure that national security information is properly classified and protected," Perino said. "We endeavor to make as much information available to the public as possible. ... We are accountable to the American people. The president doesn't want it any other way."

But to some, the administration's penchant for secrecy has curtailed crucial public debate.

"It determines the character of our political system," said Steven Aftergood, director of the Project on Government Secrecy at the Federation of American Scientists. "Is it a political process that is open to wide-ranging debate, or is it more like a closed circle of elite decision-makers? I think we've learned, often to our disappointment, that it's the latter."

To others, the insistence that information considered important be kept confidential is part of the Bush White House's insistence on discipline and order.

"I really think they think of it in terms of good governance," said James Carafano, senior fellow for national security and homeland security at the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank. "It's a very corporate style of leadership."

Bush has a partner - some say mentor - in Cheney, who from the start resisted all efforts to disclose the inner workings of a task force devising the administration's energy policy. He defeated an unprecedented lawsuit by the Government Accountability Office, the investigative arm of Congress, to unveil that task force and carried his fight successfully to the Supreme Court.

And as the administration has sealed an increasing number of documents as secret or sensitive, and cut the number of documents being declassified each year, the refusal of Cheney's office to report on the number of its decisions stands out.

A directive from the National Archives, acting under the authority of the executive order bolstered by Bush in March 2003, requires all agencies and executive branch units to report annually on their classification and declassification of files.

Cheney's office maintains that its dual executive and legislative duties make it unique, as the vice president also serves as president of the Senate.

"This matter has been carefully reviewed," said spokeswoman Lea Anne McBride. "It has been determined that the reporting requirement does not apply to the office of the vice president."

To many, the administration's acts are part of a broader campaign to boost the powers of the presidency.

"It's pretty clear that there were certain players in the administration, including the vice president, who felt that the executive branch had not fully exerted all of its constitutional authorities," said David Walker, the U.S. comptroller general.

Walker, as head of the GAO, filed that office's only lawsuit against a government agency in April 2002 as it sought to open the records of Cheney's energy task force. A federal judge dismissed the suit as a struggle between the executive and legislative branches that courts were not empowered to adjudicate.

The White House, in asserting a more powerful executive office, believed "that some of its authorities and privileges had eroded through the years and wanted to redraw that line," Walker said. "We just happened to be one of many situations that they chose to try to test."

Organizations including the Sierra Club also carried the fight to the Supreme Court, which in 2004 voted 7-2 to uphold "a paramount necessity of protecting the executive branch from vexatious litigation" and returned the case to an appeals court, which last year ruled in favor of the White House.

The administration started asserting its power over paper soon after Bush's inauguration by placing a hold on the release of the records of former presidents - beginning with the papers of Ronald Reagan's presidency - and later issuing an executive order granting past presidents a veto over releases.

The Presidential Records Act of 1978, enacted in response to Watergate-era court battles over Nixon's papers, had placed a hold on release of "confidential communications ... between the president and his advisers" for 12 years after the conclusion of a presidency.

The order Bush issued in 2001 enabled former presidents, or their representatives if the president has died, to screen any request for records and withhold ones considered "privileged." It gave the same authority to vice presidents.

Before the end of its first year, the administration also reversed a long-standing policy on how agencies respond to public requests for records under the Freedom of Information Act.

Clinton's attorney general, Janet Reno, had insisted on "a presumption of disclosure." But Bush's first attorney general, John Ashcroft, arguing that "no leader can operate effectively without confidential advice and counsel," implored all agencies to disclose information requested by the public "only after full and deliberate consideration ... of the privacy interests that could be implicated."

The administration's policy, stated by Ashcroft in an Oct. 12, 2001, memo, had been in the drafting for months.

But after the Sept. 11 attacks, and amid growing concern about information that terrorists might obtain from the government, then-Bush Chief of Staff Andrew Card issued an order in March 2002 demanding that any "Sensitive but Unclassified Information" related to homeland security be released only after careful consideration "on a case-by-case basis."

That has led to a proliferation of documents stamped "Sensitive but Unclassified" or simply "For Office Use Only," according to experts who track government record-keeping.

The Bush administration is "objectively more secretive" than its recent predecessors, Aftergood said.

"Anyone who calls or writes a government agency for information encounters barriers that were just not there a decade ago," he said. "The government is undergoing a mutation in which we are gradually shifting into another kind of government in which executive authority is supreme and significantly unchecked."