ADMIN TAPPING INTO BANK RECORDS:
Under a secret Bush administration program initiated weeks after the Sept. 11 attacks, counterterrorism officials have gained access to financial records from a vast international database and examined banking transactions involving thousands of Americans and others in the United States, according to government and industry officials. The program is limited, government officials say, to tracing transactions of people suspected of having ties to Al Qaeda by reviewing records from the nerve center of the global banking industry, a Belgian cooperative that routes about $6 trillion daily between banks, brokerages, stock exchanges and other institutions. New York Times: Bank Data Sifted in Secret by U.S. to Block Terror HADLEY ACKNOWLEDGES U.S. MISSILE DEFENSE SYSTEM READY:
Senior Bush administration officials said publicly for the first time yesterday that the United States is set to shoot down any North Korean missile launch that threatens the United States. National Security Adviser Stephen J. Hadley, briefing reporters during President Bush's brief visit here, said the United States has a missile defense system with "limited operational capability" that could be used to try to shoot down an incoming North Korean missile, but he added that U.S. officials were vigorously pursuing a diplomatic push to head off a test launch by Pyongyang. Washington Times: U.S. set to down Korean missile FBI ARRESTS SEVEN ALLEGEDLY PLOTTING TO ATTACK SEARS TOWER:
FBI agents in an undercover sting operation arrested seven terrorism suspects in Miami on Thursday who allegedly were plotting to attack the Sears Tower in Chicago, the FBI headquarters in Miami and other U.S. buildings, officials said. The suspects had "aspirations" but "no means" to attack the Sears Tower or other buildings, a senior federal law-enforcement source said. The men were all Muslims who thought they were plotting "in conjunction with Al Qaeda" but they really were dealing with law-enforcement undercover agents, one law-enforcement official told The Miami Herald. The men, who told neighbors in the Liberty City area of Miami that they were starting a children's karate class at a warehouse, had been plotting for an undetermined amount of time, but their scheme was thwarted well before any attack could be carried out. Chicago Tribune: FBI: Sears Tower targeted SENATE VOTES DOWN BOTH IRAQ WITHDRAWAL PROPOSALS:
The Senate on Thursday roundly rejected two Democratic proposals to begin pulling troops out of Iraq, as Republicans and Democrats staked out starkly different positions heading into Congressional elections this fall. The more far-reaching measure, calling for all United States combat troops to be withdrawn within a year, failed 86 to 13, with no Republican supporters. An alternative, backed by the Democratic leadership and calling for troop withdrawals to begin by the end of the year without setting a deadline for complete withdrawal, was also defeated, 60 to 39, with one Republican voting with the Democrats and six Democrats joining the Republican majority. New York Times: Senate Rejects Calls to Begin Iraq Pullback CHENEY ON CNN: "THE WORST POSSIBLE THING WE COULD DO IS WHAT THE DEMOCRATS ARE SUGGESTING":
Withdrawing American troops from Iraq would embolden terrorists and leave the United States and its allies vulnerable to new attacks, Vice President Dick Cheney said Thursday. "The worst possible thing we could do is what the Democrats are suggesting," Cheney told CNN's John King in an interview at the vice president's residence... Neither an immediate nor phased withdrawal would confer any protection on the United States, Cheney said. "If we pull out, they'll follow us," he said of terrorists. "It doesn't matter where we go. This is a global conflict. We've seen them attack in London and Madrid and Casablanca and Istanbul and Mombasa and East Africa. They've been, on a global basis, involved in this conflict. CNN: Cheney: Iraq pullout 'worst possible thing we could do'
Read the full Cheney interview transcript here
. CROWLEY NEXT AT DCCC?
Rep. Joe Crowley (D-N.Y.) has opened the door to chairing the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) next cycle, should the opportunity arise. "I would be open to talking" to Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) about the job, he said yesterday. "I have offered myself in service to the caucus in many ways. I do recognize the demands of that job." Crowley is chairman of the DCCC's business council. Earlier this week, Rep. Rahm Emanuel (D-Ill.) said he would not serve a second term as chairman of the House Democrats' campaign operations so that he could spend more time with his family. The Hill: Rep. Crowley is 'open' to a bid for DCCC MORE PROBLEMS FOR NEY?
In the fall of 2004, Rep. Robert W. Ney (R-Ohio) told Senate investigators that he was unfamiliar with a Texas Indian tribe represented by lobbyist Jack Abramoff. Days later, evidence emerged that the congressman had held numerous discussions with Abramoff and the Indians about getting Congress to reopen their shuttered casino. Ney's statements to staff members of the Senate Indian Affairs Committee were included in the panel's 357-page report on tribal lobbying, released yesterday after two years of hearings and investigation... Ney's comments to the panel could add to his problems with the Justice Department... A spokesman for Ney said yesterday that in his interview with the Senate committee, the congressman did not initially recognize the name of the tribe. Washington Post: Senators' Report On Abramoff Case Disputes Rep. Ney REED "A CENTRAL FIGURE IN MR. ABRAMOFF'S LOBBYING OPERATION":
A bipartisan Senate report released on Thursday documented more than $5.3 million in payments to Ralph Reed, the former director of the Christian Coalition and a leading Republican Party strategist, from an influence-peddling operation run by the corrupt lobbyist Jack Abramoff on behalf of Indian tribe casinos. The report by the Senate Indian Affairs Committee portrayed Mr. Reed, now a candidate for the Republican nomination for lieutenant governor in his home state of Georgia, as a central figure in Mr. Abramoff's lobbying operation, the focus of a criminal investigation by the Justice Department. New York Times: Senate Report Lists Lobbyist's Payments to Ex-Leader of Christian Coalition JOHN EDWARDS... "SOUNDING LIKE A CANDIDATE":
Former Democratic vice presidential nominee John Edwards says he will do "anything" to get ordinary Americans to pay attention to poverty -- even at the risk of sounding like a 2008 presidential candidate. Edwards, who ran for the Democratic nomination in 2004 before joining Massachusetts Senator John Kerry on the ticket, has focused on the issue since he left the Senate last year, as director of the Center on Poverty, Work and Opportunity at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. While the job has given him the opportunity to raise the visibility of poverty in the U.S., it has also given him plenty of opportunities to keep himself visible. One came yesterday, when Edwards, 53, visited Washington for a speech at the National Press Club. Bloomberg: Edwards, Sounding Like a Candidate, Calls for Fighting Poverty DUNCAN DROPS OUT; A "STARTLING MOVE THAT RESHAPES" THE RACE:
Revealing that he received a diagnosis of clinical depression this week, Montgomery County Executive Douglas M. Duncan bowed out of the race for governor yesterday, a startling move that reshapes this year's contentious gubernatorial campaign. Duncan's decision eliminates the need for a long and costly Democratic primary that some had feared would leave the eventual nominee depleted of cash and politically bruised. In an attempt to unite his party, Duncan endorsed Baltimore Mayor Martin O'Malley in the fall contest against incumbent Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr., a Republican. Baltimore Sun: Duncan bows out LIEBERMAN REJECTS WITHDRAWAL OPTIONS, HITS LAMONT FOR WAFFLING:
By voting Thursday with Republicans to reject two Democratic proposals to set a timetable for withdrawing U.S. troops from Iraq, Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman once again egged on anti-war Democrats backing his challenger, Ned Lamont. But Lamont also gave Lieberman an opening: By urging the senator to support the less aggressive of the two withdrawal plans - one with no firm deadline - Lamont appeared to back away from comments in recent weeks supporting an immediate withdrawal of U.S. forces from combat. "I support the Levin-Reed Amendment on U.S. Policy in Iraq, and I urge Senator Lieberman to do the same," Lamont said in a statement posted Wednesday on his website... Lamont said Thursday night that he still supported an immediate withdrawal of U.S. troops from combat and would have voted for setting a firm deadline. Hartford Courant: Lamont Wavers, Rival Camp Says "VOTE 4 MISS ANGELA":
An obscure candidate in a down-ticket Georgia race is getting some much-needed attention from a rap campaign song that pummels voters with a simple, mind-numbing lyric: "Vote 4 Miss Angela." That's Angela Moore, a 43-year-old medical personnel company owner making her first run for office in Georgia's packed Democratic primary for secretary of state. She was relatively unknown until her campaign rap, written and performed by a 12-year-old boy, began making the rounds on the Internet. It has received 26,000 hits in the three weeks since it's been posted on her campaign Web site. AP via Yahoo! News: Rap song draws attention to Ga. Candidate