Newsday is reporting that a federal grand jury has subpoenaed records of calls made from the president’s Air Force One in the week before the name of a covert CIA agent was leaked to the press last year. The grand jury has also subpoenaed records from the White House Iraq Group, a little-known internal task force established in August 2002 to help publicize the threat posed by Saddam Hussein. Regular participants in the group included Bush’s senior political adviser Karl Rove, strategists Karen Hughes and Mary Matalin, national security adviser Condoleezza Rice and Vice President Cheney’s Chief of Staff Lewis Libby. Also subpoenaed were records of contacts between the White House and more than two dozen journalists and media outlets. The grand jury is trying to determine who within the administration outed the identity of CIA operative Valerie Plame to conservative columnist Robert Novak. Plame is the wife of former U.S. diplomat Joseph Wilson, who was an outspoken critic of the Bush administration.
The Senate’s most senior member, Robert Byrd, has called on Congress to create an independent Iraq intelligence commission because he questions the independence of the panel appointed by President Bush. Byrd said, “The President has described the panel that he created as being an independent commission. Well, nothing could be further from the truth.”
Meanwhile, The Hill is reporting that the White House is rebuffing a request by Senator John McCain to give the president-appointed Iraq intelligence commission power to subpoena records.
And CIA Director George J. Tenet is appearing today for questioning on Iraq intelligence in a closed session of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence. He appeared before the Senate Intelligence Committee in closed session yesterday.
In Iraq, The Pentagon’s most senior commander, General John Abizaid, has admitted that it is “possible” Iraq could descend into civil war.
In campaign news, a new Associated Press poll has found that in a three-way presidential race between George Bush, John Kerry and Ralph Nader, Bush would narrowly beat Kerry. The poll put Bush’s support at 46 percent, Kerry at 45 percent and Nader at 6 percent.
The Los Angeles Times is reporting that Rev. Al Sharpton may soon drop out of the presidential race if Senator John F. Kerry agrees to adopt a more pronounced “urban agenda.”
Republican Oklahoma Congressmember Tom Cole came under criticism yesterday for his comments on the significance of November’s presidential election. He recently told an audience, “If George Bush loses the election, Osama bin Laden wins the election. It’s that simple. It will be interpreted that way by enemies of the United States around the world.”
Eight antiwar protesters will be appearing in court later this month following their arrest during a recent Army-Navy basketball game at West Point. They were arrested for standing in the last row of the bleachers wearing T-shirts that spelled out “U.S. Out of Iraq.” The eight activists, who included two veterans, were arrested for trespassing and disorderly conduct.
A three-month Senate investigation has found top Republican staffers systematically downloaded over 4,600 computer files from Democratic offices. The investigation was carried out by the Senate’s top law enforcement officer, Senate Sergeant-at-Arms William Pickle. He made no recommendations about whether to pursue criminal prosecutions but said several federal laws were likely broken. The report identified two staffers, including Manuel Miranda, who became Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist’s top aide on judicial nominations. Both Miranda and the other staffer, Jason Lundell, left their Senate jobs during the investigation.
This news from Venezuela: The country’s ambassador to the United Nations resigned yesterday in protest over Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez’s handling of a referendum on his presidency. The ambassador, Milos Alcalay, said citizens should be allowed to vote on whether they want the democratically elected Chávez to finish his term. He also accused the National Electoral Council of engaging in “very tricky action” after it questioned the authenticity of 800,000 signatures on a presidential referendum.
The states of South Dakota and Wyoming both abolished the juvenile death penalty this week. Thirty-one states now bar the execution of youthful offenders for crimes committed at the age of 16 or 17.
The world’s largest organization of anthropologists have responded to President Bush’s charge that same-sex marriage posed a threat to our civilization. The executive board of the American Anthropological Association issued a statement reading, “The results of more than a century of anthropological research on households, kinship relationships and families, across cultures and through time, provide no support whatsoever for the view that either civilization or viable social orders depend upon marriage as an exclusively heterosexual institution. Rather, anthropological research supports the conclusion that a vast array of family types, including families built upon same-sex partnerships, can contribute to stable and humane societies.”