Inconvenient News,
       by smintheus

Saturday, November 18, 2006

  Pentagon IG: David Laufman's hail mary pass

Boffo: David Laufman's nomination to be the Pentagon Inspector General is looking pretty desiccated.

Buffo: Laufman is campaigning to revive it via the media.

Bozo: Laufman's getting an assist from the AP's spectacular hack, John Solomon.

Since June I've been saying, to nobody in particular, that Laufman's nomination needs to be stopped because he's an unqualified, untrustworthy partisan and a Bush family "cleaner". Fortunately, Sen. Carl Levin also distrusts Laufman and put a hold on his nomination this summer. The latest summary is here.

I thought we might have to fight to block the nomination during the lame duck session, but on Monday Levin declared that he's still opposed. Laufman rushed forth and fought back, as one must in DC, by means of the whinging, self-pitying interview.

It's a hail mary pass, and I doubt it will avail Laufman in the slightest. But just for the sheer pleasure of it, please join me in thanking the good Senator Levin for taking a firm line on this appointment. Laufman would have been a dangerous person to put in charge of so many important investigations, and boy is it good to start winning these fights.

Phone (202) 224-6221; Fax (202) 224-1388; Webmail


Here is the little I've discovered about Levin's statement on Laufman:

At a news conference yesterday (11/13/06), Levin said he has "real problems with that appointment" and added that he "will continue to oppose" Laufman's confirmation.


It was the news conference in which Levin spelled out the Democratic agenda for the Senate Armed Services Committee in the next Congress.

That very afternoon, by a most curious coincidence, John Solomon filed a story about the lack of progress for Laufman's nomination. The reporter's point of view could not be clearer: Sen. Levin is to blame for this grave harm to the nation. Again, by a curious coincidence, that appears to Mr. Laufman's own view on the matter. He was interviewed for the piece; Levin refused to talk to Solomon.

The Pentagon has been without its chief watchdog for more than a year, even as the military spends billions of dollars a month in Iraq and controversy simmers over warrantless surveillance, missing weapons and friendly fire deaths.


How sad for Mr. Solomon, his first sentence contains a falsehood. There is an Acting Inspector General at the Pentagon, Thomas Gimble, who has been performing those duties. Not well, but he does indeed exist. As I described in an earlier post, Mr. Laufman doesn't much get along with Gimble.

After a short but lovely meditation on over-priced hammers, John Solomon returns to his theme.

The Defense Department's last inspector general, Joseph Schmitz, stepped down in August 2005, and Bush named David Laufman, a federal prosecutor with GOP credentials, to take over the job months ago.

In the interim, the office has been run by an acting inspector general, and it has been criticized as being slow to get staff on the ground to investigate Pentagon issues in Iraq and as shying away from examining the National Security Agency's electronic surveillance program.


Delicious stuff. "Stepped down"? More like, "Bush's first IG was forced out because he was a goddamned crook".

"GOP credentials"? It is precisely his lack of credentials that came out clearly in Laufman's responses to the Committee, as I described exhaustively in this post. Anyhow, how does being a partisan hack give one credentials for such a position?

The (resolutely unnamed) Acting IG (Gimble) has indeed been criticized for those things—by critics of the Bush administration, but never, oh never in Mr. Solomon's reporting…until now.

Laufman's nomination came to a halt after he testified to the Senate Armed Services Committee this summer that the inspector general's law requires him to consult with the defense secretary before embarking on cases involving national security and other sensitive matters.

Career employees inside the inspector general's office alerted Democratic Sen. Carl Levin's office that such consultations would be a major departure from current practice. They said they had discussed their concerns with Laufman but could not change his mind.


Actually, Mr. Laufman seems to have had a rough time at his hearing in July, such that his nomination might uncharitably have been described as DOA. Oh, and those "career employees" in the IG's office included the Acting IG, a fact Solomon excludes.

After noting that Levin mistrusts Laufman's independence, Solomon adds:

Levin was correct that the current inspector general office hasn't been consulting that way. Laufman was correct in noting the federal law's language suggests he should.


"Suggests". I would suggest that Mr. Solomon needs to get the opinion of lawyers or those who drafted the regulations for the Inspector General's duties, before he ventures to declare about their correct interpretation. Just a thought.

The senator also is challenging Laufman's veracity because career employees said they raised concerns about the issue with Laufman. Laufman testified he shared his answers with the career staff but could not recall getting any feedback on the issue.


Could that be a teeny-tiny lie from the mouth of the nominee? Mr. Solomon, however will you change the subject?

There has been no action on the nomination since, leaving the Pentagon's top watchdog job vacant.


Phew, that old falsehood reprised from the first sentence…just when it's needed.

Levin declined to be interviewed, but his office says he has serious reservations about the nomination. The current committee chairman, Republican John Warner of Virginia, is checking with senators this week to see if there is enough support for Laufman to proceed.


Sounds like wishful thinking to me. But just in case, let's keep a sharp eye on this.

Laufman, a veteran prosecutor who won accolades for convicting a Virginia man of plotting to kill Bush, is now taking the offensive in trying to convince lawmakers he'd be the independent investigator they want.

“For too long, there has been a void of aggressive oversight and accountability at the Department of Defense – precisely when we've needed it the most,” he told The Associated Press. “It's time to put politics aside and bring new leadership.”


Blub, blub, blub.

"A void…" Nice to see that Laufman retains his ability to spin falsehoods.

Are you getting the sense that maybe John Solomon acquired his Point of View™ more or less directly from David Laufman? I mean, really…"accolades"? For convicting a man in that cockamamie plot, by means of a confession extracted under torture in Saudi Arabia? A man whose fingernails had to be allowed to grow back, before he could be brought to trial?

"Put politics aside". Because that's what campaigning for the job all around Washington is most emphatically not about.

Solomon goes on to describe, with a peculiar urgency, Laufman's campaign to circumvent Levin's objections. All the accoutrements of the modern political campaign are there, including wild promises…

Likewise, Laufman has told senators he wants to aggressively investigate the friendly fire death of former pro football player Pat Tillman and is willing to examine the NSA's anti-terror surveillance program.


and endorsements…

"David is the prototype for an IG"…. His investigations and his background are filled with opportunities that demonstrated his integrity."


The entire second half of the article is devoted to cheering on Laufman's campaign. Although Solomon can't be bothered fashioning any further falsehoods, you'll find only a single instance where he makes even a small gesture toward critical thinking:

Laufman served on two investigations that cleared Bush's father's administration of wrongdoing…


What those pesky allegations might have been, however, the reader never learns from Solomon. No need for such piffle, when Laufman's supporters are ready to assure us that he's "demonstrated his integrity".

For a rather less cloying mash-note to Laufman, see Griff Witte's article in the Washington Post the following day. He too is aware that Democrats have serious reservations about the nominee, and he too just prefers to use his pulpit to spread Laufman's message:

The nominee for Pentagon inspector general, David H. Laufman, is a veteran prosecutor who has vowed to be an aggressive watchdog -- especially of work in Iraq and Afghanistan. But Laufman, nominated by President Bush in June, has met resistance from Democrats who question his independence. Republicans, meanwhile, have done little to advance his nomination since confirmation hearings in July. The inaction has prompted Laufman to take the unusual step of speaking out.


"Inaction", or "refusal"? As for what prompted Laufman to "speak out"…erm, "up" for himself…what was it that Carl Levin said about him hours before you two got to have a nice chat? The chat in which Laufman told you…

"Given the nature and magnitude of U.S. involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan, and the hundreds of billions of dollars at issue in defense acquisition and contract performance, the need for aggressive oversight and accountability at the Department of Defense is critical," he said yesterday. "Yet for more than a year, there has been a void of leadership in the Office of the Inspector General and a corresponding absence of essential oversight and accountability."


There's that "void" again. Sounds like Hesiod's description of the big blank spot filled by the arrival of the Kosmos. Oddly, I don't find the term "megalomaniac" anywhere in Witte's piece.

It follows much the same pattern as the longer and more transparent Solomon article. Witte sings Laufman's praises and transcribes some of the same endorsements, while downplaying potential objections to the nominee and warning of the danger of leaving the office unfilled for much longer.

We've already seen the tip of the propaganda iceberg on the Laufman nomination, back in September with this NBC report. It was the last time Laufman tried to budge his nomination.

My guess is that Laufman is finished, washed up, kaput. But the Solomon piece, as laughable as it is, got pretty wide distribution. I'll recommend that you contact Levin and show him some love, and perhaps better, contact the other members of the Senate Armed Services Committee to ask them to call for the President to find a more credible nominee.

From Unbossed

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