Thursday Reads

Good Morning!!

As I was starting my day, I discovered that my internet was down. It finally came back, and I’ve been belatedly looking around at the latest news. Every day it gets crazier and crazier. Why did I ever think we could be rid of Trump if he lost the 2020 election? Fat chance. Will he ever go away? Maybe if he finally goes to prison or dies of old age. In the meantime, we’re stuck with a dangerous high profile lunatic who may have the ability to destroy not only our democracy, but also our national security.

How many of those top secret documents did Trump read or share with visitors to his office–where documents were stored in boxes and even in his desk?! What if he decides to reveal government secrets on Truth Social or in TV interviews? Some Democrats are worried he could do something that insane.

The Daily Beast: Dem Lawmakers Grow Concerned Trump May Spill State Secrets.

The damning photograph that the Department of Justice released Tuesday night, showing classified documents spread out across the carpeted floor at Mar-a-Lago, confirmed that former President Donald Trump had kept records related to intercepted communications—possibly involving secret spy satellites or surveillance aircraft.

And the sensitive nature of those secrets, coupled with Trump’s particularly unhinged behavior in recent days, has many Democratic lawmakers nervous.

In the photo released late Tuesday, some of the documents were labeled “TOP SECRET.” Others were just “SECRET.” But either way, the White House memos cautioned that they should severely limit access to details contained within. Some of the documents can be seen with the “NOFORN” marking, indicating that no foreign nationals should ever lay eyes on them.

All of the visible cover sheets warned that the contents were “HSC-P/SI/TK,” meant to signify that the secrets they held inside were strictly controlled, clandestinely captured, and involving possible aerial reconnaissance, respectively.

1200x-1Adding to the chaos, in the hours before and after that DOJ disclosure, Trump showed himself to be increasingly volatile, taking to his own social media app to share bizarre conspiracy theories about Hunter Biden’s laptop, Q-Anon cult material, and assert that the records he had are, in fact, no longer restricted.

“Thought they wanted them kept Secret? Lucky I Declassified!” Trump’s personal account posted Wednesday morning.

The implied threat is that he could, if he so desired, reveal them at any time….

“I would not leave it beyond him to do something as insane as that. When someone is cornered, they make very bad decisions, and Donald Trump is in a very bad situation right now. We don’t know what he will do,” Rep. Ted Lieu (D-CA) said in an interview with The Daily Beast.

Read remarks from several other Congresspeople at the link. Just a bit more:

The damage assessment currently underway by the office of Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines will take into account what could happen if these secrets were exposed. And the FBI has seized surveillance video footage from Mar-a-Lago that might show who handled those records without permission this past summer.

But Trump continues to rage-post online, which is why Rep. Jared Huffman (D-CA) warned that the threat is ongoing.

“Here’s what makes it truly scary: Trump is weirdly attached to all of this ‘Top Secret’ information, he constantly throws tantrums, and he has an insatiable desire for attention including on social media,” Huffman said. “Since he no longer has White House china to smash, his next tantrum might be blurting out sensitive national secrets on Truth Social, or calling his pal [Vladimir] Putin to divulge or even sell information. With anyone else these would seem like crazy scenarios, but not with Trump.”

From Andrew Feinberg at The Independent: ‘We’re gonna blind ourselves’: Ex-intel officials say Trump’s document hoarding could ruin years of work.

Former president Donald Trump’s hoarding of highly classified national defence information at the Palm Beach, Florida, home could bring about a level of damage to US intelligence operations not seen in decades, according to current and former intelligence community officials and experts who spoke to The Independent.

A Tuesday court filing from the Department of Justice laid out just how many documents containing America’s most sensitive secrets were recovered from the ex-president over the last nine months.

More than 100 “unique documents with classification markings” were seized from his Mar-a-Lago club during an 8 August search by FBI agents, including three stored in Mr Trump’s desk. Classification levels ranged from confidential — the lowest level of classification in the US system — to the highest, top secret.

The department also said “certain documents” found at Mr Trump’s property bore markings denoting them as containing “sensitive compartmented information”, a designation reserved for extremely closely held secrets often involving intelligence sources and methods or nuclear weapons. Those 100 joined another 38 documents which FBI agents recovered from Mr Trump’s counsel during a 3 June meeting at Mar-a-Lago, plus another 184 documents which National Archives and Records Administration officials brought back from Florida in a set of 15 boxes Mr Trump allowed them to retrieve in January.

What national security experts told The Independent:

The experts who spoke with The Independent have decades of combined experience dealing with the most sensitive information, ranging from battlefield intelligence meant to disrupt terrorism networks to human intelligence gathered from clandestine assets and the highly technical signals intelligence collected by the National Security Agency.

All of them expressed fears that Mr Trump’s retention of such closely held secrets in a notoriously insecure facility — and one that has long been known to be a target of foreign intelligence services — will lead the US government to undertake what will be a unilateral degradation of American intelligence capabilities, on the assumption that whatever programs described in the papers stored at Mar-a-Lago may already have been or will soon be compromised.

David Priess, a former CIA intelligence officer who delivered daily intelligence briefings to then-FBI Director Robert Mueller and other top officials during the George W Bush administration, told The Intependent in a phone interview that it’s possible that some programmes that may be compromised by Mr Trump’s retention of documents in such a public place could still be salvaged if the documents in question are not specific as to intelligence sources or methods….

“It’s likely that some of the information is going to lead to some at least some serious investigation and possibly some actual shutdowns of some collection,” he said.

Another former CIA analyst, who asked for anonymity because they now hold another sensitive position in the US government, said Mr Trump’s retention of documents pertaining to “HUMINT” — human intelligence that is often gathered with the aid of sources recruited in hostile countries over a period of years — could lead intelligence officials to pull the plug on long-running operations and possibly could force them to mount operations to extract operatives or assets to safety.

“There’s a good chance someone at Langley is now trying to figure out how to exfiltrate some very helpful folks from very unfriendly places,” they said.

Feinberg notes that this already happened in 2017, when Trump blabbed about a secret operation to Sergey Lavrov and Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak in the Oval Office.

Meanwhile, Trump’s incompetent lawyers are blabbing scary stuff. Alina Habba, who previously represented a parking garage company, thinks violating the espionage act is a “mundane” crime.

And she says that she has been in Trump’s office–where he was storing top secret documents in his desk and in boxes, and so have lots of other visitors.

Today at 1PM, Judge Aileen Cannon will hold a hearing on whether she should appoint a “special master” to examine the documents the FBI seized from Mar-a-Lago. Tierney Sneed at CNN: What to watch for at Thursday’s hearing in Trump’s bid for a special master over documents seized at Mar-a-Lago.

After an explosive court brief and picture of classified documents from Mar-a-Lago earlier this week, the Justice Department will argue in court Thursday against a request by former President Donald Trump that a so-called special master be appointed in to review the evidence the FBI seized at his Florida resort last month.

US District Judge Aileen Cannon will be considering whether to bring in third party oversight of the Justice Department, in which an outside attorney would in theory identify and filter out evidence that should be withheld from investigators because it was privileged.

Arguing it is unnecessary, prosecutors in court filings Tuesday night provided new details about its investigation into whether classified government documents were illegally mishandled. Lawyers for the former president, who filed a lawsuit last week seeking the appointment, meanwhile argued in a Wednesday night court filing that the Justice Department could not be trusted, as Trump claimed the search itself was unjustified.

Cannon previously signaled an inclination toward granting Trump’s request, but that was before the Justice Department’s dramatic filing this week.

Sneed lists the following questions to watch for (Read details at the CNN link):

 — How sharply does DOJ go after Trump’s spin?

 — How are the dynamics on Trump team playing out?

 — Does the judge recalibrate her approach?

 — If the judge grants the special master review, what does it look like?

As you know, over the past two days, first the DOJ and then Trump lawyers turned in filings with their arguments about Trump’s request for a special master. The DOJ strongly opposed the request in a longer than usual argument (35 pages) on Tuesday; Trump’s team responded with their arguments in favor yesterday. Today journalists are reporting new insights into the two opposing filings. 

Two more relevant reads:

Barbara McQuade at The Daily Beast: Are Trump’s Passports the FBI’s Smoking Gun?

According to DOJ’s recent brief, classified documents in that office were “commingled” in a desk drawer with three passports. While the government did not disclose the name on the passports, Trump himself has complained that during the search, the FBI “stole” his three passports. It seems a safe bet that the passports DOJ recovered were Trump’s.

The significance of the passports is enormous. As DOJ explained in an understated footnote, “The location of the passports is relevant evidence in an investigation of unauthorized retention and mishandling of national defense information.”

In other words, the presence of the passports in the same drawer as the classified records tends to tie the unauthorized possession of these documents to Trump himself. A photo included with the filing shows the items that were recovered from his office. Among the classification markings on the documents are “Top Secret,” meaning that the disclosure of the material could cause exceptionally grave damage to the national security of the United States.

A routine practice in drafting search warrants is to include a request to seize identity documents that can connect the subject of the investigation with the premises. That helps to make the evidentiary tie between the person and any contraband that might be found at the location. For example, if searching for illegal drugs in a house where multiple people come and go, agents will seek authority to seize identity documents like a driver’s license, photographs or other personal possessions located in the same room as the contraband. Finding both of these items together tends to connect the person to the contraband. Here, the presence of Trump’s passports alongside the classified documents supports an inference that he himself possessed the classified documents.

To the extent Trump may be inclined to pin all blame on his lawyer who signed a document in June attesting that all of the classified documents had been returned, the documents in his personal desk drawer are a problem for him. The former president would need to explain away the notion that he himself possessed these documents long after the government asked for their return, and despite personal assurances from Trump when Counterintelligence Section Chief Jay Bratt visited Mar-a-Lago in June to inspect the storage of documents. At the time, Trump told Bratt, “Whatever you need, just let us know.”

The former president’s continued retention of the documents, even after the repeated requests to return them, suggests a willful violation of the law.

Read more at The Daily Beast.

The Washington Post: Justice filing points to new legal trouble for Trump and lawyers, experts say.

Newly public details from the Justice Department’s criminal probe of documents taken to Mar-a-Lago suggest enormous legal peril for two of Donald Trump’s attorneys  and considerable uncertainty for Trump himself, intelligence and legal expertssaid.

There’s no way to predict whether the Justice Department will ultimately pursue charges against the former president or his associates. But in a court filing Tuesday night, government lawyers recounted numerous instances in which Trump’s lawyers allegedly misled government officials during the investigation, and in which Trump or his team appear to have haphazardly handled materials that contained national security secrets.

The evidence laid out in the filing, experts said, could build a legal case that Trump attorneys Evan Corcoran and Christina Bobb obstructed the government’s investigation, allegedly telling FBI agents and prosecutors that they had handed over all classified documents when in fact many remained in Trump’s possession.

Left unanswered were key questions that could determine Trump’s legal fate: Did he direct Corcoran and Bobb to mislead the government, either before or after the FBI raid of his Florida home and club?

And, if so, why did he want to keep reams of top-secret classified documents there?

“It’s bad,” said Peter Lapp, a former FBI agent who worked on espionage cases and is now a private consultant. “It’s all pretty damning.”

Read the rest at the WaPo.

I’ll end there. I’ll be hanging out on Twitter to watch for reports from Judge Cannon’s courtroom. I hope there will be a quick resolution. If she does favor a special master, I wonder if the DOJ will appeal? What do you think? What other stories are you following?

Lazy Caturday Reads: What A Week!

Happy Caturday!!

What a week this has been!

Norman-Catwell by Lucia Heffernan

Norman Catwell, by Lucia Heffernan

On Monday, the FBI executed a search of Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort, and took 27 boxes that contained above top secret documents. Trump’s Republican allies viciously attacked the FBI and DOJ.

Predictably, on Thursday one of Trump’s fans entered an FBI office in Cincinnati, fired a nail gun, and pulled out an AR-15 style rifle. He then fled and was eventually shot and killed during a standoff in a cornfield.

While the standoff was in progress, Attorney General Merrick Garland made a public statement about the Mar-a-Lago search. He said that he had personally signed of on the search warrant, which was then approved by a federal magistrate judge in Florida based on probable cause that a crime had been committed. He also said he was requesting the release of the search warrant and the list of items taken in the search as long as Trump did not object.

On Friday Trump released the warrant and receipt for items taken to Breitbart, Fox News, and the Wall Street Journal about an hour before the court approved the public release. Trump did not hide the names of the agents listed in the warrant. Breitbart published the names, opening the agents to terroristic threats and violence from Trump fans. They were also threatening the judge.

Finally, we learned that the 45th president of the united states is being investigated for violating the espionage act as well as obstruction of justice. Read the full warrant and receipt at The Daily Beast. You can also read a timeline of events over many months that led up to the Mar-a-Lago search at USA Today.

While all this was happening, Democrats in the Senate and House passed Biden’s massive inflation reduction/health care/climate change bill.

Finally, yesterday afternoon, author Salmon Rushdie was attacked and badly injured at an event in upstate New York.

The latest on the Trump espionage investigation:

The Washington Post: Agents at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago seized 11 sets of classified documents, court filing shows.

The FBI search of former president Donald Trump’s Florida home earlier this week found four sets of top-secret documents and seven other sets of classified information, according to a list of items seized in the high-profile raid and unsealed by a federal magistrate judge on Friday.

Rudi Hurzlmeier

Cat art by Rudi Hurzlmeier

The written inventory — a document provided by investigators after a search — says the FBI took about 20 boxes of items from the Mar-a-Lago Club on Monday, including photo binders, information about the president of France, and a variety of classified material.

One set of documents is listed as “Various classified TS/SCI documents,” areference to top secret/sensitive compartmented information, a highly classified category of government secrets, in addition to the four sets of top-secret papers. Agents also took three sets of documents classified as secret, and three sets of papers classified as confidential — the lowest level of classification.

The list of seized material doesn’t further describe the subject matter of any of the classified documents.

“Some of what was in Trump’s possession is mind-boggling,” said Javed Ali, a senior official at the National Security Council during the Trump administration who now teaches at the University of Michigan. “Whenever you leave government — including probably a former president — you can’t just take it with you.”

More details from CNN: FBI took 11 sets of classified material from Trump’s Mar-a-Lago home while investigating possible Espionage Act violations.

The search warrant identifies three federal crimes that the Justice Department is looking at as part of its investigation: violations of the Espionage Act, obstruction of justice and criminal handling of government records. The inclusion of the crimes indicates the Justice Department has probable cause to investigate those offenses as it was gathering evidence in the search. No one has been charged with a crime at this time….

While details about the documents themselves remain scarce, the laws cited in the warrant offer new insight into what the FBI was looking for when it searched Trump’s home, an unprecedented step that has prompted a firestorm of criticism from the former President’s closest allies.

Kim Haskins, psychedelic cat painting

Kim Haskins, psychedelic cat painting

The laws cover “destroying or concealing documents to obstruct government investigations” and the unlawful removal of government records, according to the search warrant released Friday.

Also among the laws listed is one known as the Espionage Act, which relates to the “retrieval, storage, or transmission of national defense information or classified material.”

All three criminal laws cited in the warrant are from Title 18 of the United States Code. None of them solely hinge on whether information was deemed to be unclassified.

That last fact–that the items don’t have to be classified in order for a crime to have been committed–is going to short-circuit the excuses that Trump and his allies have been putting forward.

Here’s the claim from the Trump camp as reported by Lawrence O’Donnell on MSNBC last night.

Insider: Trump’s latest defense for Mar-a-Lago documents is everyone ‘brings home their work from time to time’ and the files were automatically declassified.

Former President Donald Trump said that everyone takes work home sometimes, as he sought to develop a new line to explain why top secret government documents were stored at his Mar-a-Lago residence in Florida.

“As we can all relate to, everyone ends up having to bring home their work from time to time. American presidents are no different,” said the statement from Trump’s office on Friday night read out on Fox News.

Trump further claimed that he had a “standing order” to declassify documents “the moment” they left the Oval Office.

“President Trump, in order to prepare for work the next day, often took documents, including classified documents, from the Oval Office to the residence. He had a standing order that documents removed from the Oval Office and taken into the residence were deemed to be declassified the moment he removed them,” the statement said.


This new defense – portraying Trump as just another hard-working American – contradicts previous statements by Trump and his lawyers that baselessly claimed the FBI could have planted evidence while on site.

By Sofia Struk

Cat art by Sofia Struk

While the president has the authority to declassify documents, legal experts say they must follow a defined procedure. It is not clear if Trump ever did.

“He can’t just wave a wand and say it’s declassified,” Richard Immerman, a historian and an assistant deputy director of national intelligence in the Obama administration, told NBC News. “There has to be a formal process. That’s the only way the system can work.”

Immerman noted that declassified documents are marked with the date they were declassified. It is not the case with some of the documents returned from Mar-a-Lago to the National Archives this year, per NBC.

When reports of classified documents at Mar-a-Lago emerged in May, former Trump administration official Kash Patel claimed that Trump had declassified the files shortly before leaving office but that the classified markings had not been removed.

But none of this matters, because the espionage act charges do not hinge on whether documents are classified or not.

The Inflation reduction/health care/climate bill

The New York Times: A Detailed Picture of What’s in the Democrats’ Climate and Health Bill.

Democrats in Congress have had to scale back their legislative ambitions since last year, but the Inflation Reduction Act, passed by the House on Friday and sent to President Joseph R. Biden Jr. for his signature, is still a substantial piece of legislation, which will make big investments in the environment and health care, and increase taxes on some key groups.

The bill includes policies lowering the prices of prescription drugs; increasing the generosity of Medicare benefits; and encouraging the development of renewable energy and reducing the impact of climate change.

It would also raise taxes on some corporations and bolster the ability of the Internal Revenue Service to crack down on wealthy tax evaders. It would lower the federal deficit, though modestly.

The bill includes last-minute changes requested by Senator Kyrsten Sinema, Democrat of Arizona, the final holdout among her party’s 50 senators. Democratic leaders agreed to remove a tax on some wealthy hedge fund managers and private equity executives, and to include $4 billion in drought funding for her state.

Head over to the NYT link to see charts and a detailed list of everything in the bill.

A shocking attack on famed novelist Salmon Rushdie

The Washington Post: Salman Rushdie hospitalized after attack onstage in New York state.

Salman Rushdie, the renowned novelist whose work made him the subject of death threats, was attacked at an event in Chautauqua, N.Y., on Friday by a man who stormed the stage and stabbed the writer in the neck and abdomen, police said.

Rudi Hurzlmeier2

By Rudi Hurzlmeier

Rushdie was taken by helicopter to a hospital. His agent, Andrew Wylie, told the Associated Press that the writer was on a ventilator, with damage to his liver and nerves in an arm. He also said Rushdie will likely lose an eye.

Police identified Hadi Matar, 24, of New Jersey as the suspect in the attack. They have not yet determined a motive, Maj. Eugene Staniszewski of the New York State Police said, and are working with the local district attorney to decide which criminal charges will be filed. The FBI is also involved in the investigation.

In an instant Friday morning, a literary event in a lakeside town in western New York was transformed into a scene of potentially deadly violence, drawing gasps from the audience gathered in an open-air amphitheater.

Read more at the WaPo.

NewYork4: Who Is Hadi Matar? NJ Man Suspected in Salman Rushdie Attack Had Shia Extremist Sympathies.

Police are learning more information about the suspect who allegedly stormed onto a New York stage and stabbed author Salman Rushdie in the neck on Friday.

The suspect, 24-year-old Hadi Matar, was born in California, but recently moved to New Jersey, according to law enforcement sources familiar with the investigation. His last listed address was in Fairview, a Bergen County borough just across the Hudson River from Manhattan. FBI officials were seen going into the home of Matar Friday evening.

Sources said that Matar also had a fake New Jersey driver’s license on him.

State Police Maj. Eugene Staniszewski said the motive for the stabbing was unclear. A preliminary law enforcement review of Matar’s social media accounts shows he is sympathetic to Shia extremism and Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps causes, a law enforcement person with direct knowledge of the investigation told NBC News. There are no definitive links to the IRGC but the initial assessment indicates he is sympathetic to the Iranian government group, the official says.

A bit more from ABC News: Suspect charged with attempted murder in on-stage attack of author Salman Rushdie.

Law enforcement officials briefed on the investigation told ABC News that “a preliminary investigation into the suspected perpetrator’s probable social media presence indicates a likely adherence or sympathy towards Shi’a extremism and sympathies to the Iranian regime/Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps.”

The officials say investigators found photos on Matar’s phone of Iranian Maj. Gen. Qasem Soleimani and Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, the leader of Iraq’s pro-Iranian militia movement, who were killed by U.S. forces in a drone strike in Baghdad on Jan. 3, 2020.

Police believe the suspect acted alone and were in the process Friday of obtaining search warrants for items including electronics and a backpack found at the scene that they believe belong to the suspect, Staniszewski said.

The FBI is also assisting with the investigation, he said.

The suspect had a pass to access the event, officials said.

It’s been an unbelievable news week, and I expect we’ll be learning more about these three big stories over the weekend. What are your thoughts? What other stories are you following?

Thursday Reads

Good Morning!! Does anyone have a remedy for the sleepies? I recently finished a semester of teaching, and the last couple of days I’ve been extremely groggy. Yesterday I even slept until 10:30AM! It doesn’t help that we haven’t seen the sun in the Boston area for at least a week–it’s dark, dank, and raw out there. It seems a lot more like November than late May. On top of all that my Spring allergies are the worst I’ve ever experienced. So please forgive me if this post makes no sense. On to the news of the day.

Disgraced IMF honcho Dominque Strauss-Kahn’s accuser testified before a New York grand jury today. Immediately following her testimony, Strauss-Kahn’s attorneys announced their determination to spring their client from his cell at Rikers Island Jail.

His lawyers initially proposed a $1 million bail package that was rejected by the court.

Today a new offer that was said to add a private monitoring firm, an electronic bracelet and a guard to the package was put together. The cash component of the bail package remained at $1 million dollars, but the deal now included a guarantee that Strauss-Kahn would remain confined in New York City and not leave his residence except for visits to his doctor or lawyers. His passports and travel documents have already been taken from him.

According to ABC News, police are testing body fluids found in Strauss-Kahn’s hotel room for DNA.

ABC News has confirmed that police cut a swath of carpet to test for DNA and swabbed one of the suite’s sinks under a black light that indicated there was potential DNA evidence there.

Apparently Strauss-Kahn’s attorneys plan to claim that their client’s sexual encounter with a hotel maid was “consensual,” but there is a serious problem with that theory in addition to the maid’s testimony.

Investigators also say information downloaded from the suite door’s electronic card reader indicates the maid entered the room and never closed the door. The hotel policy requires maids to leave the door open when cleaning. The open door, they say, is proof that the women entered the room to work, not to engage in consensual sex.

I won’t dwell on this sordid story much longer, but I did want to call your attention to this piece in Time Magazine, which details a number of previous accusations against Strauss-Kahn–along with rumors –gossip about his abusive behavior toward women–that were hushed up until now. How predictable these guys are!

Joseph Cannon’s latest post is a must-read, along with the New Yorker article by Jane Mayer on which the Cannon comments. It’s about the domestic spying by the NSA that went on under Bush and the Obama administration’s heavy handed prosecution of whistleblowers while at the same time protecting the Bush administration criminals. (Minkoff Minx also mentioned Mayer’s article in her morning post yesterday.) Here’s an introduction to the piece by Cannon:

This humble blog spent a lot of time talking about NSA overreach during the controversies over Russell Tice and FISA. Meyer’s piece confirms a long-held suspicion that the real problem wasn’t eavesdropping on telephone calls but automated data-mining of all forms of electronic communication.

Two competing computer systems were designed to take us into this brave new world: ThinThread and Trailblazer. (The system in place now is called Turbulence. Someone at NSA has a strange affection for the letter T — which is also the first letter in totalitarian.) Trailblazer turned out to be a costly boondoggle. ThinThread worked. Originally, it had provisions built in to protect the privacy of American citizens; NSA Director Haybed tossed out those barriers.

Meyer focuses on an NSA whistleblower named Thomas Drake, who tried to blow the whistle on the Trailblazer fiasco — and on the abuses of privacy — to a staffer on the House Intelligence Committee. Unfortunately, the Committee was headed, at the time, by Porter Goss — and by Nancy Pelosi. They both seemed deaf to what Drake had to say.

Why is Obama so obsessed with prosecuting whistleblowers–even to the point of dusting off the Espionage Act? Jane Mayer writes:

When President Barack Obama took office, in 2009, he championed the cause of government transparency, and spoke admiringly of whistle-blowers, whom he described as “often the best source of information about waste, fraud, and abuse in government.” But the Obama Administration has pursued leak prosecutions with a surprising relentlessness. Including the Drake case, it has been using the Espionage Act to press criminal charges in five alleged instances of national-security leaks—more such prosecutions than have occurred in all previous Administrations combined. The Drake case is one of two that Obama’s Justice Department has carried over from the Bush years.

Gabriel Schoenfeld, a conservative political scientist at the Hudson Institute, who, in his book “Necessary Secrets” (2010), argues for more stringent protection of classified information, says, “Ironically, Obama has presided over the most draconian crackdown on leaks in our history—even more so than Nixon.”

Mayer asked Drake about it:

Sitting at a Formica table at the Tastee Diner, in Bethesda, Drake—who is a registered Republican—groaned and thrust his head into his hands. “I actually had hopes for Obama,” he said. He had not only expected the President to roll back the prosecutions launched by the Bush Administration; he had thought that Bush Administration officials would be investigated for overstepping the law in the “war on terror.”

“But power is incredibly destructive,” Drake said. “It’s a weird, pathological thing. I also think the intelligence community coöpted Obama, because he’s rather naïve about national security. He’s accepted the fear and secrecy. We’re in a scary space in this country.”

Check out her article if you can. She’s one of the best investigative reporters we have.

You may have missed Dakinikat’s late night post on Tuesday–the one about exploding watermelons. I thought this story deserved a little more emphasis, because it shows what can happen when there are no government regulations on agriculture–and industry in general (and that is what the Republicans would love to make happen). From Raw Story:

A bizarre wave of exploding watermelons — possibly due to farmers’ abuse of a growth-boosting chemical — has once again spotlighted safety fears plaguing China’s poorly regulated food sector.

State media has said nearly 50 hectares (120 acres) of watermelon crops in the eastern city of Danyang have been ruined by the phenomenon this month after some growers doused them with the growth accelerator forchlorfenuron.

“On May 7, I came out and counted 80 (exploded watermelons), but by the afternoon it was 100,” farmer Liu Mingsuo told state broadcaster China Central Television (CCTV) in a report that aired Tuesday. He said he had sprayed them with the chemical just a day before.

Remind me to never buy any food produce in China!!

Have you heard that the Obama campaign is selling T-shirts and coffee cups that mock the “birthers?”

President Obama’s 2012 presidential campaign today started selling “Made in the USA” t-shirts featuring images of both President Obama and the long-form birth certificate he released copies of last month.

Wear your support for this campaign with an official Made in the USA T-shirt,” his website advertises. Donate $25 or more today and we’ll send you your limited-edition shirt.

Coffee-mugs are also available.

“Remember ‘fight the smears’ from the 2008 campaign?” asked campaign spokesman Ben LaBolt. “This is the mobile version of it.”

Quite frankly, I think this is a little bit tacky….but that’s just me. And speaking of tasteless behavior, the Catholic Church is attempting to blame the ’60s counterculture for the behavior pedophile priests. From the Guardian UK:

The investigation commissioned by Catholic bishops said that the peak incidence of sexual abuse by priests in the 1960s and 70s reflected the increased level of other deviant behaviours in American society in the period, including “drug use and crime, as well as social changes, such as an increase in premarital sex and divorce.”

Researchers at John Jay College of Criminal Justice said most of the abusive priests were ordained in the 1940s and 50s and were not properly trained to confront the social upheavals of the 1960s.

David O’Brien, a historian of American Catholicism at the University of Dayton, said the report, Causes and Context of Sexual Abuse of Minors by Catholic Priests in the United States, 1950-2010, was dangerous because it seemed to exonerate bishops.

The study also ignores the long history of sexual abuse of children by the Catholic clergy. Methinks these “researchers” told the Catholic Bishops what they wanted to hear rather than do any serious research.

Finally, President Obama plans to give another “most amazing speech evah” tomorrow. This one is on the Middle East and North Africa. According to Voice of America:

The speech will be broad in scope, as Mr. Obama focuses on the peaceful democratic movements for change that have swept the region, discusses implications for U.S. policy, and offers what administration officials call some concrete policy proposals.

He will give his assessment of the impact of popular uprisings that have led to political changes in Egypt and Tunisia, and which continue in places like Syria, Libya and Yemen.

Senior administration officials say Mr. Obama will speak of a moment of opportunity, after a decade of great tensions and divisions, in which people of the region and U.S. policy can begin to turn the page toward a more positive and hopeful future.

The stalemated Israel-Palestinian peace process will be an important element. However, Mr. Obama is expected to frame it as part of a wider picture and say that leaders on both sides of that conflict should seize an opportunity for peace.

Whatever….I think I’ll arrange to be busy while he’s speechifying. Anyway, what are you reading and blogging about today?