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24 posts categorized "Senate"

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" »

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.

November 24, 2008

Towards the light: Spanish city installs solar panels in cemetery

A Spanish city has installed solar panels on the roofs of some of the multi-story mausoleums in the town cemetery. The panels capture enough energy every year to power 60 households:

A Spanish city has found an unusual place to generate renewable energy - the local cemetery.

Santa Coloma de Gramanet, near Barcelona, has placed 462 solar panels over its multi-storey mausoleums.

Officials say the scheme was initially greeted with derision, but families who use the cemetery eventually supported the idea following a public campaign. [BBC]

The cemetery was chosen because it is one of the few open, sunny places in the crowded city.

The public was skeptical at first, but city officials manage to reassure them that the panels would be unobtrusive to visitors at ground-level. The program has been such a success that officials plan to install additional panels.

November 07, 2007

McCaskill puts hold on Myers confirmation after blackface party prize

Bravo to Sen. Claire McCaskill for putting a hold on the confirmation of Julie Myers to head the U.S. Immigration Customs Enforcement (ICE):

McCaskill, D-Mo., said she was acting because of questions raised about Myers' role in a Halloween contest in which an agency employee wore a racially offensive costume.

Myers heads the Immigrations and Customs Enforcement agency as a recess appointee of Bush and is awaiting Senate confirmation.

She was a judge at last week's contest in which the employee was recognized for having the "most original" costume: a prisoner with a black-and-white striped outfit, dreadlocks, and bronze makeup on his face, according to Kelly Nantel, an agency spokeswoman. [SLPD]

McCaskill wants answers about why Myers awarded the prize, and why the official photographs of the event were "discarded."

DHS subsequently deemed the employee's infraction serious enough to place him on leave. What does that say about his boss?

What would possess the nation's top immigration enforcer to give an employee in blackface a prize at a Homeland Security Halloween party? A prize for originality no less...

I can only hope the latest debacle will remind people that Myers was never qualified to run ICE in the first place. Like Michael Brown at FEMA, she was chosen for her personal ties to high-ranking administration officials, rather than her CV.

The bigger scandal is that Myers' was chosen to lead the largest investigative component of the Department of Homeland Security, the second largest investigative agency in the federal government, despite having no law enforcement experience. Nevermind that her legal job description calls for a candidate with at least 5 years' experience in law enforcement.

Myers' behavior at the party shows that she also lacks common sense, moral seriousness, and empathy for her colleagues and employees.

But most importantly, her actions show that she lacks any grasp of the mission of her agency.

Recall that ICE is charged with arresting and detaining foreigners. Given the nature of its work, ICE operates in a racially charged environment. Whatever legitimacy and efficacy the agency has is contingent on the perception that it is an impartial, non-racist law enforcement organization.  Every time recess appointee Myers' laughs at a racist joke in public, she undercuts the mission of ICE.

Myers must not be confirmed.

It should also be noted that Myers was one of a three-judge panel that bestowed the "most original costume" prize. Who were are these other two senior officials? Also, according to media reports, the party was a relatively intimate affair. There were only 50-75 guests in attendance. So, a DHS employee who gets invited to a Halloween party with the Deputy Secretary for Homeland Security is probably relatively senior in his own right. Finally, Myers admitted in a Nov. 2 email that "a few of the costumes were inappropriate and offensive." A few? Let's hear what those other costumes were.

If Michael Chertoff is being honest when he says that he won't tolerate this kind of behavior in DHS, he will release the names of the other two judges and the contestant. He will also hand over the original digital media/negatives that captured the images, the hard drive of any PC that received images from a digital medium or scan, and any URLs where event pictures were posted. He will also release all the official pictures of the party that were deemed sufficiently inoffensive to make it into the record. (If he won't, we can probably FOIA them.) Finally, he will write out a meticulous timeline from the instant the images were exposed to the moment a spokesperson claimed images had been "discarded." If anything got lost, he will know when, why, and by whom--and explain it to the press and Congress. 

If, for some reason, he can't deliver these simple things to the House and Senate committees that oversee Homeland Security by quitting time tomorrow, he should tender his resignation, because he's clearly unqualified to head the Department of Homeland Security.

September 18, 2007

Cops turn stun gun on student at Kerry event (video)

Live Leak has the raw footage of police Tasering a mildly disruptive student at a John Kerry event at the University of Florida:

RAW STORY has three videos of the incident. Kerry has condemned the use of the stun gun on the 21-year-old student.

July 26, 2007

McConnell's tobacco ties

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) surprised observers by coming out against legislation that would expand state-based health insurance for children by taxing tobacco.

David Donnelly of notes that McConnell has received a lot of money from the tobacco industry over the course of his career, $257, 725. That's more than any other sitting senator except Richard Burr (R-NC).

Frankly, I'm not convinced that a tobacco tax is the best way to fund S-CHIP. As Mark Kleiman says, a tobacco tax burdens old, poor smokers for the sake of child health insurance.  Increasing the cost of cigarettes might also have other unintended consequences such as an increase in smuggling.

I would rather see the extra CHIP money come from general revenue, but that option isn't on the table yet.

The perfect is the enemy of the good. The benefits of extending health insurance to millions of American children appear to outweigh the disadvantages of singling out smokers to pick up the tab.

The Republicans are terrified of this initiative because they rightly see it as an incremental step towards single-payer health care. That possibility itself is a reason to support the S-CHIP legislation. We can work out a better funding scheme for a larger and more ambitious program in the future.

February 19, 2007

Minnesota Monitor interviews Al Franken

Joe Bodell of the blog Minnesota Monitor interviews Democratic senate candidate Al Franken.

February 15, 2007

Al Franken announces senate run

Al Franken announced yesterday that he will run for senate in Minnesota in 2008.

I interviewed Franken last August when he was still making up his mind about whether to run.

I'm delighted that he decided to take the plunge.

November 13, 2006

America's first socialist senator has own video game


There's an official Bernie Sanders video game--Bernie Arcade!