The Situation: Wednesday, October 5
Editor's Note: The Situation Report is a running log of dispatches, quotes, links and behind-the-scenes notes filed by the correspondents and producers of CNN's Washington Bureau. Watch "The Situation Room" with Wolf Blitzer on CNN 3 p.m. ET to 6 p.m. ET weekdays.
Pentagon analyst guilty plea
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Posted: 5:33 p.m. ET
Former Defense Department analyst Larry Franklin pleaded guilty Wednesday to conspiracy to communicate defense information to people not authorized to receive it as well as conspiracy to communicate classified information to an agent of a foreign government, which Franklin identified as Israel.
Franklin, 58, also pleaded guilty to unlawful retention of national defense information. He had taken documents to his home in West Virginia although Franklin said that was just to read them and prepare for questions about them.
The government agreed to drop three other charges involving sharing national defense material.
Franklin told the court, "It was never my intention even for a moment to harm the United States."
He admitted to sharing information with two officials who worked for the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, known commonly as AIPAC. The two officials, Steven Rosen and Keith Weissman, were later fired by AIPAC and they also face charges in the case.
Franklin told the court he shared information with Rosen and Weissman so they could convey it to officials with the National Security Council. According to Franklin, "We talked about my frustration with the policy. I suggested strongly that they speak to people on the NSC." He did not identify the policy in question.
Judge T.S. Ellis scheduled sentencing for January 20. Franklin faces between 10 and 15 years in prison and a possible fine. The government agreed to recommend Franklin serve his time at a minimum security facility in Cumberland, Md.
CIA 9-11 accountability
Posted: 5:27 p.m. ET
Central Intelligence Agency Director Porter Goss has decided against punishing agency employees who were singled out by the CIA inspector general as having made mistakes that contributed to the failure of U.S. intelligence to stop the 9/11 terrorist attacks.
"I will not convene an accountability board to judge the performances of any individual CIA officers," Goss said in a statement released to reporters Wednesday.
Goss also suggested he would oppose making public the report by CIA Inspector General John L. Helgerson, on the grounds that it would reveal too much about the "sources and methods" of the agency.
Goss said the individuals blamed in the inspector general's report include "amongst the finest we have."
"These officers were 'stars' who had excelled in their areas, so the CIA leadership singled them out to take on some tough assignments," Goss said.
"Unfortunately, time and resources were not on their side, despite their best efforts to meet unprecedented challenges." He added, "Risk is a critical part of the intelligence business. Singling out these individuals would send the wrong message to our junior officers about taking risks -- whether it be an operation in the field or being assigned to a hot topic at headquarters."
Goss' boss, John Negroponte, the director of national intelligence, said in a written statement "I fully support" the CIA director's decision to reject the accountability board recommendation.
CIA insiders say the long-awaited decision is a great relief to intelligence professionals -- both serving and retired -- but is likely to be criticized by 9/11 victim families who had pressed for government officials who made mistakes to be held accountable.
The Morning Grind
Posted: 9:00 a.m. ET
Which shade of red?
In the color scheme of politics, it seems as though we've reached a place where we cannot rely simply on primary colors. Gone are the days of a simple "red" or "blue"; crimson or cherry might be more apt, or scarlet, radical red, brick red, maroon, or razzmatazz, to name a few more, with a little help from Crayola. A second indictment of ousted Republican majority leader Tom DeLay coupled with a Supreme Court nominee from President Bush who isn't exactly securing glee from conservatives, and we're talking about an all-out spectrum on the right-hand side.
Take, for example, the CNN/USA Today/Gallup poll released late last evening. Only 58 percent of conservatives believe that nominee Harriet Miers is a good choice, compared with the 77 percent of conservatives who had the same belief about Chief Justice John Roberts. Conservative doubt is reflected in Miers' overall numbers as well - while a majority of the country (51 percent) thought that John Roberts was a good choice for the Court, less than half (44 percent) believe that Miers is a good choice.
And the trends are coming out loud and clear in the pages of our nation's newspapers this morning. Despite a chorus of reassurance from conservative advisors including Jay Sekulow and Leonard Leo, a 17-state effort from Progress for America, and a choir of long-time Miers friends and neighbors speaking to her strong Christian faith, quotes like the one from close confidant and friend Texas Supreme Court Justice Nathan Hecht can't be helpful in erasing all the doubts: "You can be just as pro-life as the day is long and can decide the Constitution requires Roe" to be upheld, he said in the New York Times. That's exactly what conservatives are afraid of. As Focus on the Family President James Dobson pointed out in his reaction to Miers' nomination, "one cannot know absolutely about matters of integrity and philosophy until a jurist is given the tremendous power and influence of their position."
Ms. Miers is on Capitol Hill today, meeting with Senators of all stripes including Sen. John Cornyn and Sen. Patrick Leahy. Sen. Cornyn made his thoughts known this morning in an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal, saying, "I am confident that when the American people get to know Ms. Miers as I have, they will be as supportive as I am of her nomination." Meanwhile, a top aide to Leahy says, "At this point we don't know much about her. He will likely ask about her experience - and given the absence of public record on her, impress upon her to be forthcoming with her answers and info relating to her background." In the CNN/USA Today/Gallup poll, a majority of Americans (55 percent) believe that Senators should insist that Ms. Miers answer questions on abortion before confirming her.
Other Democrats, meanwhile, are testing out what seems to be a newfound chance to spread wings of self-righteousness. No doubt editorials like the one in this morning's New Hampshire Union Leader alluding to cronyism play into their cause. "Harriet Miers, the President's legal counsel and nominee to succeed Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, is no more or less qualified to sit on the Supreme Court than thousands of other attorneys with similar career highlights," says the newspaper in the famous primary state, "What separates her from the others is a single attribute: friendship with the President." One Democratic aide summed up what we can expect from Dems over the next several days to the Grind last night saying that they will, "stand back and watch the two wings of the Republican party attack each other."
President Bush meets with Defense Secretary Rumsfeld and Lt. Gen. David Petraus, the former commander of the Multi-National Security and Transition Command - Iraq. We expect Mr. Bush to answer some more questions today about avian flu. And Vice President Cheney speaks at The Association of the U.S. Army's Annual Meeting & Exposition.
Also today, President Clinton continues his visit to the Gulf Coast, visiting with workers, attending briefings with local and state officials, and touring the devastated area.
Plus, the Supreme Court will hear arguments on a case dealing with Physician-assisted suicide, the Ashcroft directive, Controlled Substances Act and the Oregon Death with Dignity Act.
Political Hot Topics
Posted: 8:40 a.m. ET
"I PICKED THE BEST PERSON I COULD FIND": Seeking to quell a revolt within his own party, President Bush offered a robust defense of his new Supreme Court nominee as well as his own conservative credentials yesterday in the face of Republican complaints that he has drifted from his ideological moorings in recent weeks. A day after tapping White House counsel Harriet Miers for associate justice, Bush appeared in the Rose Garden to reject charges of cronyism, criticism of her scant constitutional background and suspicion of her judicial philosophy. He presented her as the most qualified candidate in the country and called on the Senate to confirm her by Thanksgiving. Their friendship, he added, should be seen as a plus, not a minus. Washington Post: Bush Defends Supreme Court Pick
SOME CONSERVATIVES ARE UNCONVINCED: Some of President Bush's conservative supporters are unconvinced by his defense of Supreme Court nominee Harriet Miers, creating dissension in a Republican Party that until now has reverently approved Bush's judicial candidates. Conservatives in some cases are expressing outright opposition, some are in wait-and-see mode and some are silent, all bad signs for a Bush administration used to having the full backing of all wings of the GOP when it takes on the Senate's minority Democrats over judicial selection. Miers, meanwhile, is trying to build up support by visiting senators at the Capitol on Wednesday, scheduling stops with GOP Sen. John Cornyn and top Judiciary Committee Democrat Patrick Leahy. AP via Yahoo! News: Conservatives Split Over Court Nominee
STILL GOT ALL THAT POLITICAL CAPITAL? President Bush said Tuesday that he still had "plenty" of political capital and that he intended to spend it on battles over government spending, energy policy, Social Security and other issues that have so far proven difficult for him. Speaking at a news conference in the Rose Garden, against a backdrop of political problems that have pushed his approval ratings down to among the lowest of his presidency and exposed fissures within his party, Mr. Bush cast himself as undeterred and no less dedicated than ever to the policies that he has advocated all along. New York Times: Bush Says He'll Press Ahead With Broad Political Agenda
TOUGH BLOW FOR NOLA WORKERS: In a frank acknowledgement of New Orleans' bleak economic condition, Mayor Ray Nagin dispensed pink slips to half the city's work force Tuesday and conceded that additional layoffs could loom. The firing of 3,000 workers, some of whom almost certainly lost their homes to Katrina, comes as the city's $13 million monthly sales tax revenue has shrunk to zero. Intense negotiations for loans from state and federal agencies have proved fruitless so far, and a $50 million line of credit from private lenders remains sketchy, Nagin said. New Orleans Times-Picayune: N.O. fires 3,000 city workers
DOESN'T MATTER WHO THEIR HUSBANDS ARE: About four in five voters say their choice for or against Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton and potential Republican challenger Jeanine Pirro won't be swayed by who their husbands are, a poll says. Former President Bill Clinton survived impeachment over his White House affair with Monica Lewinsky while Pirro's husband, lawyer-lobbyist Albert Pirro, served time on tax-fraud charges. Seventy-nine percent of voters surveyed by the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute said the Clintons' relationship wouldn't make any difference on how they vote. For Pirro, 80 percent of voters said who her husband was wouldn't influence how they vote. The poll found the former first lady leading Pirro, 61 percent to 30 percent. New York Post: LOUSE FOR SPOUSE NOT HILL & PIRRO'S FAULT: POLL
'03 FLASHBACK - KERRY HEADS TO IOWA: Former Democratic presidential nominee John Kerry is scheduled to return to Iowa on Sunday to help raise money for local candidates and touch base with party activists. The U.S. senator from Massachusetts is among a half-dozen potential 2008 presidential candidates planning October visits to Iowa, where the precinct caucuses are expected to kick off the nomination run. Kerry, making his first trip to Iowa this year, plans to headline a morning meeting of Democratic women in Des Moines, help a Cedar Rapids City Council candidate campaign in the afternoon and attend a late-afternoon meeting of the Johnson County Democratic Party in Iowa City. The senator visited Iowa in December after losing the 2004 election to President Bush. Des Moines Register: Kerry plans 3 Iowa stops Sunday
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