Bush’s Farewell: “I Followed My Conscience.”

Detainee being tortured by US personnel at Abu Ghraib prison, Iraq.

“I have followed my conscience and done what I thought was right.
…This is a nation where citizens show calm in times of danger,
and compassion in the face of suffering.”

– President George W. Bush, Farewell Address, Jan. 15, 2009.

Agonized detainee during a bloody beating by US personnel at Abu Ghraib prison, Iraq.

“We must continue to engage the world with confidence and clear purpose.
In the face of threats from abroad, it can be tempting to seek comfort by turning inward.”

– President George W. Bush, Farewell Address, Jan. 15, 2009.

Detainees hooded and bound inside a plane, US flag hanging behind.

“We must keep our resolve. And we must never let down our guard.”

– President George W. Bush, Farewell Address, Jan. 15, 2009.

Unspeakable horrors being performed by US personnel at Au Ghraib prison, in Iraq.

“I have confidence in the promise of America because I know the character of our people.”

– President George W. Bush, Farewell Address, Jan. 15, 2009.

George W. Bush giving the finger, during the 2000 presidential campaign,

“I do solemnly swear that I will faithfully execute
the office of President of the United States,
and will to the best of my ability, preserve, protect and
defend the Constitution of the United States.
So help me God”

– George W. Bush, Jan. 20, 2001 and Jan. 20, 2005,
Presidential Oath of Office,
United States Constitution, Article II, Section I.


Listen to President George W. Bush’s
Farewell Address to the nation.

Thursday, January 15, 2009
(MP3, 13 min. – via WhiteHouse.gov)

Pakistan Shifts More Troops to India Border on Intel of Incursion Within Days

Map: Pakistan - red dots show troop redeployments, Dec. 2008In a frightening move that is raising already precarious tensions, Pakistan has begun transferring troops and artillery away from the Afghanistan / northwestern Pakistan front to key points on its border with India, near Kashmir. According to at least some unnamed sources in Pakistan’s military and intelligence services, the move comes in response to new intelligence that India is preparing to launch a raid or attack as soon as early next week.

At this writing, the scale of Pakistan’s troop movements remains unclear, but the emerging news suggests it is significant. Reports from late Friday said “there was little to indicate that the troop movements constituted a major redeployment,” and in its Saturday edition the NY Times reported that “Several senior American officials said they had not seen evidence of major troop movements.”  Yet.

However, the Associated Press on Sunday quoted two anonymous Pakistani intelligence sources as saying “a total of 20,000 soldiers — about one-fifth of the deployment in the tribal areas” were to be redeployed from Waziristan.  While the sources gave no timeframe for how fast or slow the redeployment would be, the AP report said residents in that area are seeing massive and immediate movement.  Mushtaq Bokhari, a resident near the Punjabi border with the North West Frontier Province, reported a “a big, big convoy.  It took about three hours to pass through our city.”

Pakistani and international news reports indicate troops are being redeployed to Kasur and Sialkot (strategic points near hyper-sensitive Kashmir), and Lahore, the second-largest city in Pakistan, just 20 miles from the Indian border.  This area of the country is the stronghold of Lashkar-e-Taiba and related groups which were responsible for the deadly Mumbai raid in which 163 were killed.  It is also perilously close to the national capital of Islamabad.
The Kashmir-Lahore corridor is also the very same area where two weeks ago Indian warplanes crossed into Pakistani airspace, in two separate incidents occurring almost simultaneously.  At the time, both governments made a public show of saying it was understood the incursions were “accidental,” but everyone understood the true message.  At the very same time, there were eyewitness reports that “Long convoys of military trucks” comprised of “hundreds of medium and heavy artillery vehicles” were on the move in the area.  The Times of India summarized Pakistani news reports that quoted travelers, motorists, and residents who had seen the large-scale artillery movements.

Regarding the current troop redeployment, in an article by Richard A. Oppel Jr. and Salman Masood, “Pakistan Moves Troops Amid Tension With India” (New York Times, Dec. 26, 2008), only a few Pakistani officials would speak and all insisted on anonymity.  Somewhat conflicting versions emerged from those who did talk.

One senior Pakistani military official said the decision to move forces and restrict furloughs was made “in view of the prevailing environment,” namely deteriorating relations with India since the terrorist attacks. He added that the air force was “vigilant” and “alert” for the same reason.

…[But] Some of the Pakistani officials who spoke of the redeployment said it was partly a response to new intelligence that suggested India could launch an attack inside Pakistan by early next week. All of them spoke on the condition of anonymity.

One senior Pakistani military official who said troops were being redeployed from the areas where government forces were engaging the Taliban, added that the soldiers who were leaving were “being pulled out of areas where no operations are being conducted,” or where winter weather had limited their ability to maneuver. He called the number of soldiers being moved “limited.”

He and another senior Pakistani military official interviewed Friday about the troop movements chose their words very carefully and offered few details. They said nothing harsh about India, even though they were speaking anonymously.

But two Pakistani intelligence officials — one from military intelligence and one from the country’s premier agency, Inter-Services Intelligence — described the situation in graver terms, and said troops along the border with India were on the highest state of alert.

Another Pakistani official said the air force had been in a “point defense” posture for one week, prepared to defend specific key defense installations and cities — including Islamabad, Rawalpindi and Lahore — as well as the Kahuta nuclear weapons laboratory. Pilots are sleeping in uniform with their boots on, the official said.

Meanwhile, at least some Pakistani officials are trying to keep a poker face.  In the AP’s Sunday, Dec. 28, 2008 article, “a senior Pakistani security official denied that the troops were being deployed to the Indian border.”

“He said a ‘limited number’ of soldiers were being shifted from areas ‘where they were not engaged in any operations on the western border or from areas which were snowbound.’

“He declined further comment and asked that his name not be used, also citing the sensitivity of the situation.”

For it’s part, India — for the moment at least — is projecting a calm front even as there are reports that it too is moving troops to the border. On Saturday (Dec. 27), a spokesperson for India’s ministry of defense dismissed the reports as “baseless and speculative,” yet acknowledged there were maneuvers underway. According to a news item on the Indian Sify.com web portal:

“The Army headquarters has termed all such reports as baseless and speculative in nature,” Defence Ministry spokesperson Sitanshu Kar said.

He said the movements that had been reported were “normal” and “routine.” The Army units were currently training at a winter exercise in Rajasthan and Punjab, which they carry out every year, he added.Some other units were moving to Jammu and Kashmir as part of the regular turn over of troops in the state, he said.”Taking into consideration the climatic conditions of Rajasthan throughout the year, winter months are the best months for troops to practice manoeuvres and hence these annual training exercises,” Kar said.

Yyyeah, if you say so.

More here in this AP video news piece via YouTube — including press announcement footage of India External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee addressing Pakistan’s redeployment.

Obama’s Intelligence Gap

This week’s issue of Newsweek has a couple interesting pieces in it.  Most obvious is the long cover story about the Bush Admin’s level 4 shitstorm raining down on the whistleblower who revealed the warrantless wiretap program (the patently illegal one).  But there is also this brief report on the difficulty Obama and his transition team have been having finding people to helm the intelligence agencies.  There doesn’t seem to have been much progress since I mentioned the problem three weeks ago, except perhaps that John Brennan is now handling the intelligence dossier for the Obama transition, after pulling himself from consideration for head of CIA the day before Thanksgiving.

Barriers To Intelligence
By Mark Hosenball
Newsweek, 12/22/2008 (12/13/2008 online)

The Bush Administration’s rough treatment of captured terror suspects has bedeviled President-elect Barack Obama’s efforts to fill key posts on his intelligence team, as nearly every qualified candidate is linked, however remotely, to the practices. But according to multiple sources close to his transition team, Obama is circling nearer on some picks.

The head of Obama’s intel transition team, John Brennan, was the leading candidate for CIA chief until he was slammed by liberal bloggers for not doing enough while serving as a top CIA and anti-terror official to oppose Bush. Current CIA chief Michael Hayden is keen to stay on for a while in an Obama administration, and intel officials say that would be good for agency morale. But Obama voted against Hayden’s confirmation in 2006 — and other Democrats believe he defended Bush policies too zealously. Several people close to the Obama transition, who asked for anonymity when discussing sensitive deliberations, say the leading candidate to replace Hayden is his deputy, Stephen Kappes, who was No. 2 in the CIA’s covert-ops division from 2002 to 2004, which means he was almost surely involved in interrogation policy. But Kappes’s backers say he was working on counterintel issues — uncovering moles — when the CIA set up its “secret prison” network. If Kappes’s star falls, other CIA candidates are said to include another former senior spy, Mary Margaret Graham, and former congressman Tim Roemer, an intel-reform advocate.

The sources say the top candidate for National Intelligence director — a post established by Congress after 9/11, but whose powers are still being debated — is retired Admiral Dennis Blair. A former chief of U.S. Pacific forces, Blair has broad military command experience — a plus for Obama—and he also has no obvious connection to controversial Bush policies. Obama could please his base with another possible pick: Maureen Baginski, an Obama intel-team member who spent years at NSA and joined the FBI after 9/11, is being mentioned as a candidate to become the first civilian and first female director of NSA. A spokeswoman for Obama declined to comment on personnel deliberations.

 

Iraq Coup Plot Busted, 35 Arrested says NY Times

The New York Times reported this today, but so far no real traction on the story…which is interesting:

“35 Iraq Officials Held in Raids on Key Ministry”
by Campbell Robertson & Tarig Maher
Dec. 17, 2008, NY Times

Up to 35 officials in the Iraqi Ministry of the Interior ranking as high as general have been arrested over the past three days with some of them accused of quietly working to reconstitute Saddam Hussein’s Baath Party, according to senior security officials in Baghdad.

The arrests, confirmed by officials from the Ministries of the Interior and National Security as well as the prime minister’s office, included four generals, one of whom, Gen. Ahmed Abu Raqeef, is the ministry’s director of internal affairs. The officials also said that the arrests had come at the hand of an elite counterterrorism force that reports directly to the office of Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki.

The involvement of the counterterrorism unit speaks to the seriousness of the accusations, and several officials from the Ministries of the Interior and National Security said that some of those arrested were in the early stages of planning a coup.

Oh yeah, those guys…

Recently released by the Congressional Research Service (CRS):

“Iran’s Nuclear Program: Status” (PDF) — Nov. 20, 2008

And since you mention it…

“Pakistan’s Nuclear Weapons: Proliferation and Security Issues” (PDF), as updated on June 20, 2008.

“Pakistan-U.S. Relations” (PDF), updated August 25, 2008

“India-U.S. Relations” (PDF), updated August 12, 2008

Also (but not from the CRS):

“Indian nuclear forces, 2008″ (PDF)
Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists
Vol. 64, No. 5, pp. 38-40
By Robert S. Norris & Hans M. Kristensen
Related blog post by co-author Kristensen

(Sources: Secrecy Blog, and FAS Strategic Security Blog. Thanks.)

Joint Intelligence DNA Database

The Joint Federal Agencies (or more often: Antiterrorism) Intelligence DNA Database (JFAIDD) is described in a 2007 briefing slide as “a searchable database of DNA profiles from detainees and known or suspected terrorists.”

The JFAIDD contains 15,000 DNA profiles, according to a 2007 report of the Defense Science Board, with “a queue of 30,000 new samples in the laboratory and 400 [pending] requests for DNA profiles, searches, or comparisons.”  See “Defense Biometrics” (pdf, at page 32).

…But “The FBI can process [only] two samples every three days using manual methods.  Given this rate, the DNA Analysis Unit… cannot keep up with the collection of these samples.”

The Justice Department therefore requested funding to automate the DNA analysis process, to permit analysis of 40 samples a day, five days a week so as to keep pace with the anticipated delivery of “approximately 9,000 samples per year from detainees of the U.S. government.”

More, including related documents and slides, at Secrecy News.

(Anybody else besides me suddenly reminded of John Poindexter’s secret little Total Information Awareness program?)

Torture Report Issued by Senate Armed Services Committee

Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin (D-Mich.) and Ranking Member John McCain (R-Ariz.) today released the executive summary and conclusions of the Committee’s report of its inquiry into the treatment of detainees in US custody.  The remainder of the report remains classified.

The Committee concluded that the authorization of aggressive interrogation techniques by senior officials was both a direct cause of detainee abuse and conveyed the message that it was okay to mistreat and degrade detainees in US custody.

In the course of its more than 18-month long investigation, the Committee reviewed hundreds of thousands of documents and conducted extensive interviews with more than 70 individuals.

A joint statement released by Levin and McCain emphasized the abuses were directly the result of decisions and orders made at the highest levels of the Bush Administration.  “Attempts by senior officials to pass the buck to low ranking soldiers while avoiding any responsibility for abuses are unconscionable. The message from top officials was clear; it was acceptable to use degrading and abusive techniques against detainees,” Sen. Levin said in the statement.
The report’s executive summary, the only part to be released publicly, lays blame squarely at the feet of President Bush, former Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld, and top generals (including Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez and Maj. Gen. Geoffrey Miller) who reinforced the message personally to their commands.

“Interrogation techniques such as stripping detainees of their clothes, placing them in stress positions, and using military working dogs to intimidate them appeared in Iraq only after they had been approved for use in Afghanistan and at GTMO. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld’s December 2, 2002 authorization of aggressive interrogation techniques and subsequent interrogation policies and plans approved by senior military and civilian officials conveyed the message that physical pressures and degradation were appropriate treatment for detainees in U.S. military custody.”

Senate Armed Services Committee Inquiry into the Treatment of Detainees in US Custody

Related Links

US Interrogator on Our Use of Torture

“Matthew Alexander” (a pseudonym used “for security reasons”) wrote this recent Washington Post Op-Ed piece.  According to the Post’s capsule bio, he “led an interrogations team assigned to a Special Operations task force in Iraq in 2006,” essentially batting clean-up after the Abu Ghraib scandal. Coincidentally, “Alexander” has written a new book: How to Break a Terrorist: The U.S. Interrogators Who Used Brains, Not Brutality, to Take Down the Deadliest Man in Iraq.

In a recent (Dec. 3, 2008) interview with Amy Goodman on her program Democracy Now, “Alexander” described excessive Pentagon censorship, including quotes from an unclassified field manual and even items directly from the Army’s own Web site.  Out of 93 extensive redactions, 13 were rescinded following a law suit, but not in time for the first printing of the book.

I’m Still Tortured by What I Saw in Iraq

By Matthew Alexander
Washington Post
Sunday, November 30, 2008; page B01

I should have felt triumphant when I returned from Iraq in August 2006. Instead, I was worried and exhausted. My team of interrogators had successfully hunted down one of the most notorious mass murderers of our generation, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the leader of al-Qaeda in Iraq and the mastermind of the campaign of suicide bombings that had helped plunge Iraq into civil war. But instead of celebrating our success, my mind was consumed with the unfinished business of our mission: fixing the deeply flawed, ineffective and un-American way the U.S. military conducts interrogations in Iraq. I’m still alarmed about that today.

I’m not some ivory-tower type; I served for 14 years in the U.S. Air Force, began my career as a Special Operations pilot flying helicopters, saw combat in Bosnia and Kosovo, became an Air Force counterintelligence agent, then volunteered to go to Iraq to work as a senior interrogator. What I saw in Iraq still rattles me — both because it betrays our traditions and because it just doesn’t work.

Violence was at its peak during my five-month tour in Iraq. In February 2006, the month before I arrived, Zarqawi’s forces (members of Iraq’s Sunni minority) blew up the golden-domed Askariya mosque in Samarra, a shrine revered by Iraq’s majority Shiites, and unleashed a wave of sectarian bloodshed. Reprisal killings became a daily occurrence, and suicide bombings were as common as car accidents. It felt as if the whole country was being blown to bits.

Amid the chaos, four other Air Force criminal investigators and I joined an elite team of interrogators attempting to locate Zarqawi. What I soon discovered about our methods astonished me. The Army was still conducting interrogations according to the Guantanamo Bay model: Interrogators were nominally using the methods outlined in the U.S. Army Field Manual, the interrogators’ bible, but they were pushing in every way possible to bend the rules — and often break them. I don’t have to belabor the point; dozens of newspaper articles and books have been written about the misconduct that resulted. These interrogations were based on fear and control; they often resulted in torture and abuse.

I refused to participate in such practices, and a month later, I extended that prohibition to the team of interrogators I was assigned to lead. I taught the members of my unit a new methodology — one based on building rapport with suspects, showing cultural understanding and using good old-fashioned brainpower to tease out information. I personally conducted more than 300 interrogations, and I supervised more than 1,000. The methods my team used are not classified (they’re listed in the unclassified Field Manual), but the way we used them was, I like to think, unique. We got to know our enemies, we learned to negotiate with them, and we adapted criminal investigative techniques to our work (something that the Field Manual permits, under the concept of “ruses and trickery”). It worked. Our efforts started a chain of successes that ultimately led to Zarqawi.

Over the course of this renaissance in interrogation tactics, our attitudes changed. We no longer saw our prisoners as the stereotypical al-Qaeda evildoers we had been repeatedly briefed to expect; we saw them as Sunni Iraqis, often family men protecting themselves from Shiite militias and trying to ensure that their fellow Sunnis would still have some access to wealth and power in the new Iraq. Most surprisingly, they turned out to despise al-Qaeda in Iraq as much as they despised us, but Zarqawi and his thugs were willing to provide them with arms and money. I pointed this out to Gen. George Casey, the former top U.S. commander in Iraq, when he visited my prison in the summer of 2006. He did not respond.

Perhaps he should have. It turns out that my team was right to think that many disgruntled Sunnis could be peeled away from Zarqawi. A year later, Gen. David Petraeus helped boost the so-called Anbar Awakening, in which tens of thousands of Sunnis turned against al-Qaeda in Iraq and signed up with U.S. forces, cutting violence in the country dramatically.

Our new interrogation methods led to one of the war’s biggest breakthroughs: We convinced one of Zarqawi’s associates to give up the al-Qaeda in Iraq leader’s location. On June 8, 2006, U.S. warplanes dropped two 500-pound bombs on a house where Zarqawi was meeting with other insurgent leaders.

But Zarqawi’s death wasn’t enough to convince the joint Special Operations task force for which I worked to change its attitude toward interrogations. The old methods continued. I came home from Iraq feeling as if my mission was far from accomplished. Soon after my return, the public learned that another part of our government, the CIA, had repeatedly used waterboarding to try to get information out of detainees.

I know the counter-argument well — that we need the rough stuff for the truly hard cases, such as battle-hardened core leaders of al-Qaeda, not just run-of-the-mill Iraqi insurgents. But that’s not always true: We turned several hard cases, including some foreign fighters, by using our new techniques. A few of them never abandoned the jihadist cause but still gave up critical information. One actually told me, “I thought you would torture me, and when you didn’t, I decided that everything I was told about Americans was wrong. That’s why I decided to cooperate.”

Torture and abuse are against my moral fabric. The cliche still bears repeating: Such outrages are inconsistent with American principles. And then there’s the pragmatic side: Torture and abuse cost American lives.

I learned in Iraq that the No. 1 reason foreign fighters flocked there to fight were the abuses carried out at Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo. Our policy of torture was directly and swiftly recruiting fighters for al-Qaeda in Iraq. The large majority of suicide bombings in Iraq are still carried out by these foreigners. They are also involved in most of the attacks on U.S. and coalition forces in Iraq. It’s no exaggeration to say that at least half of our losses and casualties in that country have come at the hands of foreigners who joined the fray because of our program of detainee abuse. The number of U.S. soldiers who have died because of our torture policy will never be definitively known, but it is fair to say that it is close to the number of lives lost on Sept. 11, 2001. How anyone can say that torture keeps Americans safe is beyond me — unless you don’t count American soldiers as Americans.

After my return from Iraq, I began to write about my experiences because I felt obliged, as a military officer, not only to point out the broken wheel but to try to fix it. When I submitted the manuscript of my book about my Iraq experiences to the Defense Department for a standard review to ensure that it did not contain classified information, I got a nasty shock. Pentagon officials delayed the review past the first printing date and then redacted an extraordinary amount of unclassified material — including passages copied verbatim from the Army’s unclassified Field Manual on interrogations and material vibrantly displayed on the Army’s own Web site. I sued, first to get the review completed and later to appeal the redactions. Apparently, some members of the military command are not only unconvinced by the arguments against torture; they don’t even want the public to hear them.

My experiences have landed me in the middle of another war — one even more important than the Iraq conflict. The war after the war is a fight about who we are as Americans. Murderers like Zarqawi can kill us, but they can’t force us to change who we are. We can only do that to ourselves. One day, when my grandkids sit on my knee and ask me about the war, I’ll say to them, “Which one?”

Americans, including officers like myself, must fight to protect our values not only from al-Qaeda but also from those within our own country who would erode them. Other interrogators are also speaking out, including some former members of the military, the FBI and the CIA who met last summer to condemn torture and have spoken before Congress — at considerable personal risk.

We’re told that our only options are to persist in carrying out torture or to face another terrorist attack. But there truly is a better way to carry out interrogations — and a way to get out of this false choice between torture and terror.

I’m actually quite optimistic these days, in no small measure because President-elect Barack Obama has promised to outlaw the practice of torture throughout our government. But until we renounce the sorts of abuses that have stained our national honor, al-Qaeda will be winning. Zarqawi is dead, but he has still forced us to show the world that we do not adhere to the principles we say we cherish. We’re better than that. We’re smarter, too.

howtobreakaterrorist@gmail.com

Quo vadis, DNI?

Today, with much ballyhoo, President-elect Obama announced what was touted as his national security team.  Much of the team had been telegraphed, some loudly.  (Let us pause, just for a moment, to consider the fact that Rush Limbaugh actually considers Clinton as Secretary of State as a “brilliant stroke” by Obama.)

But while today’s Chicago press conference formally announced Obama’s picks for National Security Advisor (a Marine with the slightly unnerving name of Jim Jones) and director Homeland Security, conspicuously absent from the dais was a Director of National Intelligence (DNI).

For the 50-60 years prior to 9/11 and the USA Patriot Act and, specifically, the Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act of 2004, the head of all US intelligence operations — at least ostensibly — was the head of the CIA, whose official title was Director of Central Intelligence (note absence of the word “Agency”).  Now, by law, the role of “intelligence czar” for the president is executed by the Director of National Intelligence, who has his own (burgeoning) staff.  Technically, CIA now answers to the DNI, not directly to the President.

The ABC News online coverage today noted “Obama Mum on Key Intelligence Posts”, while also mentioning “Democratic sources” recently saying Obama’s current leading candidate for DNI is Admiral Dennis C. Blair (ret.), formerly Commander-in-Chief of US Pacific Command.  The two have reportedly met in Chicago, but nothing is yet official and all concerned are neither confirming nor denying, in the usual fashion.

The current DNI is Mike McConnell (not to be confused with Attorney General Mike Mukasey, who recently collapsed during a speech to the arch-conservative Federalist Society (official DOJ transcript), shortly after Washington State Supreme Court justice Richard Sanders stood up and shouted “Tyrant! You’re a tyrant!”). McConnell was preceded as DNI by John “I love Death Squads” Negroponte.

Parenthetically, the same ABC News piece also mentions in a postscript that among the many people bending Obama’s ear on national security lately is Brent Scowcroft, the National Security Advisor for Bush I (1989-1993) and Ford (1974-1977). To Scowcroft’s credit, he did publicly oppose the then-supposedly “undecided” invasion of Iraq in an August, 2002 op-ed piece published by the Wall Street Journal.  But this will undoubtedly be fodder for the leftie bloggers already critical of Obama’s middle path.

In related news, President-elect Obama’s top pick to head the CIA, John Brennan, chose the day before Thanksgiving to suddenly withdraw himself from consideration because, he said, of mounting hubbub about his possible role in Bush administration policies on interrogration and detention.

Newt Gingrich Rises from the Grave

Here we go again.  The Washington Times is reporting a behind-the-scenes power struggle in the Republican National Committee to oust the current chairman and replace him with either former Maryland Lt. Gov. Michael S. Steele and everyone’s best pal from the ’90s, Newt Gingrich.  The paper says supporters of the ouster want “a leader who can formulate a counter-agenda to President-elect Barack Obama’s administration and articulate it on the national stage.”  There’s no doubt Gingrich is skilled at psychological warfare and right-wing insurrection, and he (a co-architect of an impeachment, don’t forget) has been articulating Obama counter-strategies in recent months.

Publicly he’s been playing it cool, but Gingrich is now letting it be known (apparently at least, from the mouth of his Georgian friend Randy Evans to the ear of an Atlanta Journal-Constitution reporter) that “If a majority of the RNC thought he was needed, he would accept that appointment.”  It remains to be seen who will be thrown into which briar patch, especially since it all has to be done in stage whisper thanks to the official “smooth transition” party line coming out of the White House.

Update – Jan 5, 2009:  It has developed that Gingrich is not, in fact, one of the (currently) six men running for head of the RNC.  As reported in the Jan. 3, 2008 edition of the Washington Post, that distinction goes to:

While the “draft Gingrich” effort obviously went nowhere, he remains an active voice in the power struggle.

In the cold winter of 1998, when he retired under a damning cloud from both the Speakership and the House, some went so far as to predict Gingrich was politically finished.  But after his obligatory quiet and contrite period, Gingrich has been rehabilitated within Republican inner circles and, while not a member of the RNC itself, has been playing an increasingly prominent role within what I fondly refer to as the Junta — the kinda guys that meet Cheney after work for scotch, or periodically visit him at an undisclosed location for a round of ping pong.  Ultimately, whether this is all just parlor gossip and footsie or not, the fact that Newt Gingrich is being discussed in that kind of light at all is noteworthy, both in terms of the arc of the Gingrich Sagaâ„¢ (will he be another Nixon?) and not least as a read on the latest Kremlin-ology.

Where has he been?  Well you may ask.  After he resigned from Congress, Gingrich landed in 1999 at the conservative Hoover Institution at Stanford University, rubbing elbows with the likes of National Security Advisor-to-be Condoleezza Rice. In 2000, during the lead-up to the first Bush campaign, Gingrich became a fellow of the American Enterprise Institute (AEI), the right-wing think tank of choice for the Bush administration.  He even started appearing as a pundit on conservative TV, and during the latest election got to where he could even show his face openly in the mainstream media again.  Most recently, the day after the presidential election, he published an op-ed piece entitled “Repeal Sarbanes-Oxley”, arguing that the post-Enron accounting reforms should be wiped away because they haven’t “been enough” to stop the collapse of the housing and credit bubbles simultaneously, despite a complete lack of enforcement by the Bush administration.  This, from a guy who probably went hot tubbing in the Caribbean with the dudes from Enron.

Aw yeah, the good times are back. Keep an eye over your right shoulder, folks.  It’s gonna get weird out there.