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February 03, 2010

There are no homophobes in foxholes: Repeal DADT now

Some (admittedly ridiculous) people say that we shouldn't repeal Don't Ask Don't Tell in wartime. Really, though, what better time to take the decisive step towards justice and equality? In peacetime, homophobes in the military would have plenty of time to obsess about all the terrible things that might happen if the gays were let in.

But if you learn that the person who is entrusted with keeping you alive in a firefight is gay, are you really going to make a big deal about it?

February 01, 2010

"Mentor" to alleged phone tamperers blogged about dirty tricks with phones

Justin Elliott of TPM Muckraker points to a new story in the New York Times about Ben Wetmore, a 28-year-old conservative activist who let anti-ACORN provocateur James O'Keefe and his merry band crash at his New Orleans home prior to their arrest for allegedly attempting to tamper with Sen. Mary Landrieu's phones. 

According to the New York Times, Wetmore was a mentor to a network of right wing provocateurs who embraced various forms of political theater to dramatize their issues on college campuses. Marcy Wheeler's commenter cinnamonape connected the dots between Ben Wetmore and James O'Keefe last Friday.

The page now redirects automatically to Newsbusters. A WHOIS search for that domain delivers no information. However, the cached version looks like the personal blog of the now infamous Ben Wetmore, campus provocateur.

The cached site is Countermedia. The author, who replies to blog commenters under the name "Ben" writes bitterly about his tenure the Leadership Institute, the conservative group where Wetmore and O'Keefe used to work. Amongst other things, Ben assails the Leadership Institute for trying to take undeserved credit for O'Keefe's early video successes. "All the good things at the Institute while I was there happened despite the management, or by going around them. I was nearly fired, as was my boss [former] Cong. Steve Stockman, for buying the initial video equipment that James [O'Keefe] used," Ben wrote last September. He seemed especially bitter that the LI hired and fired idealistic young conservatives capriciously. Where's a union when you need one, eh? 

This post, dated Oct 21, 2009, survives in the Google cache:

Disrupting speeches on the cheap

Leftists disrupt speeches by throwing pies, calling names, and chanting stupid stuff.

So uncreative.

Personally I've given advice to disrupt malcontents like Michael Moore using track phones going off with obscenely loud ringers in various locations, as well as a variety of other crazy schemes that I'd rather not go into.

In a cached post dated Sept. 18, 2009 at floats the idea of impersonating Barack Obama in a robocall.

[Original reporting, please credit Lindsay Beyerstein.]

Continue reading ""Mentor" to alleged phone tamperers blogged about dirty tricks with phones" »

January 30, 2010

Ladies, meet your new gender diversity coordinator, Mr. Angry Penis

Stan Dai, one of the four Republican operatives arrested this week for allegedly plotting to tamper with Sen. Mary Landrieu's telephones, is a bit of a self-styled spook, at least in his own mind. His resume features some relatively junior administrative gigs with programs sponsored by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence and the Department of Defense. He also liked to publicly hold forth on terrorism, intelligence, and surveillance in videos and in before the Junior Statesmen of America.

You can rest easy, Laura Rozen was able to confirm that Dai never worked directly for a U.S. intelligence agency. Rather, he worked for programs supported by grants from these organizations. As far as we know, he never claimed otherwise. But he certainly got a lot of mileage out of his job titles including Assistant Director for the Intelligence Community Center for Academic Excellence at Trinity Washington University and Operations Officer for a DOD fellowship on irregular warfare. Dai's resume also lists him as having been an undergraduate fellow at the right wing Center for the Defense of Democracies. I called the Center to confirm this claim. A spokeswoman explained that the fellowship was a summer enrichment program for college students, which Dai completed in 2004. 

So, what is an Intelligence Community Center of Academic Excellence? Mark Hosenball of Newsweek reports that the ODNI gives grants to universities to attract more women and minority students to intelligence work. 

Stan Dai, as you will recall is the author of the Penis Monologues, a satire of the Vagina Monologues in which Dai's penis reacts with fury at being invited to a performance of the VM. (Quoth Dai: "MY PENIS IS ANGRY!!!!!!! You want to know what happened to my penis? Joan [the 5-foot-tall hairy vagina] happened to my penis!")

The irony is not lost on Marcy Wheeler: "As Hosenball points out, it’s ironic that a movement conservative like Dai was involved in what was basically a program to encourage diversity. But I’m a little more shocked that ODNI, under Mike McConnell, was funding Mr. Angry Penis to help recruit women into the field of intelligence."

January 29, 2010

Osama bin Laden's secret weapon to destroy the world: Good advice

Osama bin Laden is speaking out against climate change:

"The effects of global warming have touched every continent. Drought and deserts are spreading, while from the other floods and hurricanes unseen before the previous decades have now become frequent," bin Laden said in the audiotape, aired on the Arab TV network Al-Jazeera.

The terror leader noted Washington's rejection of the Kyoto Protocol aimed at reducing greenhouse gases and painted the United States as in the thrall of major corporations that he said "are the true criminals against the global climate" and are to blame for the global economic crisis, driving "tens of millions into poverty and unemployment."

What a devilishly clever plan to destroy the world.

Bin Laden surely knows that if he rails against climate change, Americans will reflexively champion global warming. Temperatures will soar, decadent Western civilizations will bake and crumble and their parched ruins will be swept away by rising seas. The earth will be scourged by famine, pestilence, war, and plagues too numerous to name. At last, Bin Laden will seize his chance to usher in the medieval Caliphate of his dreams.

Don't let the bearded villain get away with it. Call your member of congress today and demand action on climate change.

January 28, 2010

Has the FBI seized the computers of the New Orleans 4?

Defenders of the operatives who tried to tamper with Sen. Mary Landrieu's phones point out that the men have not been formally accused of wiretapping. They have been accused of intending to maliciously tamper with the a federally owned phone system.

Wiretapping is one type of malicious tampering. It's also a much more serious and politically explosive charge than mere vandalism. So, as you'd expect, the suspects' lawyers are working overtime to counter suspicions of bugging or wiretapping.

Since the alleged tamperers were stopped before they reached the main phone cabinet, prosecutors are going to have to infer their intentions from other evidence. If you wanted to figure out whether someone intended to tap a phone or place a bug in an office, what would you look for?

The first step would be to analyze the equipment that the suspects brought with them. According to the affidavit that the two fake "repairmen" were wearing tool belts. So far, authorities haven't said what kind of tools they were carrying. It would also be nice to know more about that listening equipment that Stan Dai supposedly had with him in his car when he was arrested.

Perhaps the most revealing piece of evidence, in this day and age, would be the computers of the suspects. If you were going to bug someone's phone, you'd probably start Googling, or sourcing tools online. A sensible person might hesitate to do those searches on his or her own computer. But so far, these guys have proven themselves to be anything but sensible.

All four guys have been bailed out of jail. Let's hope the FBI has taken care to secure their home and work computers. Otherwise, they're probably home wiping their hard drives right now.

Step 1 Break phones; Step 2 ????; Step 3 Profit

The four conservative operatives arrested for maliciously tampering with Sen. Mary Landrieu's phones say that they just wanted to vandalize her phones, not surreptitiously monitor conversations:

Mystery solved? NBC is reporting that James O'Keefe and his three companions were carrying out a plan to gauge how the staff of Sen. Mary Landrieu would respond if their office phone system were disabled, following complaints by conservative constituents that anti-health reform calls were not getting through to the New Orleans office.

Republicans have slammed Landrieu in recent months over what they've dubbed the "new Louisiana Purchase" -- a reference to extra Medicare funding for the state she won in the Senate health care bill. And Rasmussen found just 34% of voters in the state, where tea partiers have targeted Landrieu for her support of reform, back the health plan. [TPMM]

The first hypothesis was that they were just "checking" the phones to make sure that they hadn't been disabled by evil Landrieu staffers bent on ignoring right wingers. When they first came into the office, the phony repairmen let James O'Keefe film them as they fiddled with the phone on Landrieu's reception desk. One guy made a big show of calling the desk phone and announced that he couldn't get through. Up until this point, I can imagine this scene in an O'Keefe expose: Our hero calls desk phone, it doesn't ring, therefore Mary Landrieu is ignoring conservatives.

But the "just checking" theory couldn't account for the fake repairmen's interest in the main phone cabinet, or the report that Stan Dai was arrested in a car near Landrieu's office with listening equipment.

So, the revised excuse is that they wanted to disable Landrieu's phone, just to see what she'd do.

What did they think she would do? The phone system goes down after they leave. Riveting television, right? Unless they planned to covertly monitor Landrieu's response from afar. O'Keefe has a thing for hidden cameras. That might explain why Dai was waiting in the car with reception and transmission equipment what the AP described as "a listening device that could pick up transmissions." 


January 27, 2010

Wiretapping and/or covert recording at Landrieu's office

Defenders of the four men who admit they scammed their way into Sen. Mary Landrieu's office and tried to tamper with her telephone are claiming that the guys were just checking her phone system to make sure that she hadn't "done something" to her telephones to make it easier for her to ignore constituents who were calling to complain about her stance on health care reform. This technology does exist. We call it voicemail.

The affidavit doesn't specify exactly what James O'Keefe, Robert Flanagan, Joseph Basel, and Stan Dai intended to do with Mary Landrieu's federally-owned phone system. It just alleges that they planned on "maliciously interfering" with it. Bugging is a time honored way of interfering with the phones of politicians.

Robert Flanagan's lawyer swears up and down that his client wasn't trying to wiretap the phone. That's nice. He can say whatever he wants to the press. Let's see what he says in court. O'Keefe's lawyer won't say why his client was at the office, or whether he was working for someone else.

The affidavit is just the first step. It's a summary of the evidence the feds needed to arrest these guys. It's not even an indictment. The state's allegations will probably come into sharper focus later on.

When they first arrived, "repairmen" Basel and Flanagan played with the phone at the reception desk for a bit while O'Keefe filmed them on his cell phone. Basel called--or pretended to call--the reception phone with his cell. He announced that it didn't work.

Up until this point it seems like the guys might have been trying to expose Mary Landrieu's purportedly scandalous voicemail system. Riveting teevee for the over-80 set, I'm sure.

The phony repairmen headed for the main telephone cabinet, but they were stopped by a GSA employee who refused to believe the old "left our credentials in the truck" excuse.

What on earth were they looking for in the main cabinet? Anyone who could diagnose how Landrieu screens her calls by glancing in the main cabinet presumably knows enough about phones to place a wiretap.

A federal law enforcement official told the AP that Stan Dai was arrested in a car near Landrieu's office with electronic listening equipment. That equipment isn't mentioned in the affidavit. I called the US Attorney's office to ask why not, but they said they couldn't offer any further comment because the case is ongoing. 

Maybe the accused perps are the only ones who know what they intended to do with Landrieu's telephones. The thing is, they were busted before they could do much of anything.

The FBI agent already had more than enough evidence to charge the men: based on eyewitness accounts and their confessions. The affidavit was sworn just hours after the incident. You can't say more in an affidavit than you can swear to under oath. When the special agent signed the affidavit, law enforcement officials may not have examined the equipment closely enough to draw firm conclusions about how the suspects intended to use it.

Besides which, these four wouldn't be the first privileged, well-connected individuals to be charged with lesser crimes than the evidence against them would appear to support. Robert Flanagan's father is an acting U.S. Attorney in Shreveport. It would be much more politically embarrassing for him if his son was implicated in an attempted wiretapping of a Louisiana senator's office, as opposed to a dumbass right wing video stunt.

The affidavit indicates that the suspects confessed immediately. (Somehow, I doubt enhanced interrogation techniques were necessary.) The authorities may have rewarded them for their ready cooperation by not digging too deeply into their motives for spelunking in Landrieu's phone cabinet.

Just because the affidavit doesn't use the word "wiretapping" doesn't mean that the men aren't suspected of wiretapping. They're innocent of everything until proven guilty. But wiretapping seems like a more plausible motive for trying to get into the main phone cabinet than exposing suspicious call waiting practices.

January 26, 2010

Little (would-be) bugger Flanagan interned for Sen. Lamar Alexander, Rep. Mary Fallin

One of the four men arrested for allegedly trying to bug Mary Landrieu's office interned for Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN) in 2007, according to his LinkedIn profile. The following year, Robert Flanagan worked as a paid intern for Republican Rep. Mary Fallin of OK. His duties included "brief[ing] legislative staff on issues of national security and international relations." In the summer of 2008, Flanagan volunteered for Chris Gorman's campaign in Shreveport, LA.

As you may have read, Robert's father, William, is an acting U.S. Attorney based in Shreveport.

Like his co-accused James O'Keefe, Stan Dai, and Joseph Basel, Flanagan appears to be a well-connected movement conservative.

I'm reposting Robert Flanagan's LinkedIn profile below the fold.

(Original reporting, please credit Lindsay Beyerstein.]

Continue reading "Little (would-be) bugger Flanagan interned for Sen. Lamar Alexander, Rep. Mary Fallin" »

Is this the same Stan Dai arrested for trying to bug Mary Landrieu's office?

Stan Dai is one of the four men arrested with a failed attempt to bug Sen. Mary Landrieu's office.

I did some research. Ten bucks says this is the little (would-be) bugger:

STAN DAI, Lisle, Ill., attends The George Washington University majoring in Political Science. He is editor-in-chief of The GW Patriot, an alternative conservative student newspaper, a Club 100 Activist of Young America’s Foundation, and an Undergraduate Fellow on Terrorism of the Foundation for the Defense of the Democracies. He is co-founder of GW’s Students Defending Democracy, a volunteer on several political campaigns, and active in the GW College Republicans and GW Colonials for Life. He was a 2003 Honorable Mention in the U.S. Institute of Peace Essay Contest.

One Stan Dai was listed as the Assistant Director of the The Intelligence Community Center of Academic Excellence (ICCAE) at Trinity (Washington) University. The ICCAE says it prepares young people for careers in intelligence.

(Original reporting, please credit Lindsay Beyerstein.)

Update: Welcome, Politico readers. Many thanks to Laura Rozen for the link.

Continue reading "Is this the same Stan Dai arrested for trying to bug Mary Landrieu's office? " »

ACORN pimp's co-accused is the son of an acting U.S. Attorney (updated)

This just gets better and better. Main Justice reports that one of the men arrested along with conservative activist/pimp impersonator James O'Keefe in connection with the attempted bugging of Sen. Mary Landrieu's office is the son of an acting U.S. Attorney:

The son of acting U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Louisiana William J. Flanagan was arrested and charged with trying to interfere with phones at Sen. Mary Landrieu’s office in New Orleans.

Robert Flanagan, 24, along with conservative activist James O’Keefe, 25, and Joseph Basel, 24, and Stan Dai, 24 were charged with entering federal property under false pretenses for the purposes of committing a felony.

According to the Associated Press and The Hill, Flanagan is the son of William J. Flanagan, who is the acting head of the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Shreveport. O’Keefe was in the news last year for his part in making secret videos in several offices of the community organizing group ACORN (Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now).

Update: Beltway Confidential republished the affidavit of an FBI agent summarizing the evidence against Flanagan, Basel, O'Keefe, and Dai.

Update II: An unnamed federal official told the Associated Press that one of the suspects was picked up in a car full of listening equipment:

A federal law enforcement official said one of the suspects was picked up in a car a couple of blocks away with a listening device that could pick up transmissions. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because the information was not part of an FBI affidavit that described the circumstances of the case.