Update: Feel free to liveblog the debate thread here–we were working on a liveblog thread, but it didn't happen. 

As Christy pointed out this morning, it's amazing what the threat of subpoenas will do for you (with everyone, that is, except our recalcitrant Secretary of State). But I'd like to make a closely related point. It's also amazing what the threat of subpoenas will do. In the last 24 hours, three of the issues Waxman has been focused on have moved significantly forward, and Waxman has made significant progress in negotiations with Fred Fielding about whether and how Andy Card will be interviewed by the Committee. The three areas of progress are:

RNC Emails

Yesterday morning, the RNC provided Waxman a list of 37 (out of 50) of the people with RNC emails. It also admitted that they had 25 million KB of email data for the 37 individuals in question (that's a lot of emails). And finally, they revealed that they had engaged a computer forensics firm to scan Karl Rove's hard drive.

These efforts include retaining a leading, nationally-known computer forensics firm, Stroz Friedberg, LLC, to provide advice and technical support. Over the last several days, Stroz Friedberg imaged several RNC-owned computers and blackberries that are currently being used by White House employees.

Okay–they didn't mention Karl by name. But if you're going to focus on just "several" people's data, you'd think Karl would be at the top of that several, wouldn't you?

Of course, all of this was an attempt to avoid having to turn over the shady emails that Waxman doesn't yet know about–but Waxman didn't buy it. So they still subpoenaed the RNC for basic information on the RNC email use.

As a result, I am asking the Committee to approve this subpoena. It asks the RNC to provide answers to basic questions about the use of RNC e-mail accounts by White House officials, such as a list of which officials uses these accounts and how many e-mails they sent and received. The deadline is two weeks.

It also asks the head of the RNC, Mike Duncan, to appear before the Committee in two
weeks to testify about these matters, Depending on the kind of response the Committee receives
from the RNC in the interim, I will consult with the members about whether the Committee will
need to proceed with this hearing.

I like that last bit–subpoenaing Mike Duncan to appear before the committee. I imagine that'll persuade Mr. Duncan to be a little more forthcoming with information about those emails. 

Hatch Act Violations

Meanwhile, in what I assume was a similar attempt to forestall a subpoena (and probably a response to Jeffrey Smith's reporting), the White House admitted it had held "informational briefings about the political landscape" at 20 government agencies. Big surprise–those agencies include several that have been accused of unfairly helping Republicans or hurting Democrats in their duties, such as DHS/FEMA's preferential treatment of Mississippi at the expense of Democratically governed Lousiana after Katrina. You think maybe there's a connection between Rove, asking agency heads to consider how they can help get Republicans elected, and agency policies that help get Republicans elected? Nahhh.

Once again, though, Waxman did not get distracted by shiny objects; after all, he had asked more generally about emails referring to the use of government resources to get Republicans elected. So the RNC got a second subpoena, this time looking for more information on potential Hatch Act violations.

As a result, I am asking the Committee to approve this subpoena. The subpoena asks the
RNC to provide the e-mails described above. It also asks for several previously requested
documents, including policies and procedures regarding the use of the RNC e-mail accounts, and
communications from federal entities regarding the preservation, storage, or destruction of emails.

Honestly, I suspect this subpoena is designed to bunge up the RNC works, because there's no way they'll completely comply with the subpoena (they're not going to admit to all the ways Rove has used the RNC servers to talk about using government resources to establish a one-party state). But this subpoena will be something we can refer back to when we get new revelations of how BushCo used the RNC server to serve Rove's ends.

MZM's Contracts 

The most interesting–and least reported–development relates to Waxman's attempt to get the White House to turn over information on MZM's contract with the White House. MZM, you'll recall, was one of Mitchell Wade's companies for which he was bribing Duke Cunningham in exchange for government contracts. It's very first federal contract provided services of some kind to OVP–though those services have been variously referrred to as a furniture contract, service to scan mail for anthrax contamination, or (most recently), a service to scan email for threats (huh. we're talking about email again). The contract is interesting for two reasons (in addition to the confusion about the services rendered). First, it pretty transparently paid for Duke Cunningham's boat, the Dukestir. And second, MZM went on to provide key services tied to spying on Americans

There were two developments on this front yesterday. First, in response to Waxman's subpoena threat, the White House turned over to Waxman two hundred pages of documentation on the original MZM contract. And perhaps more interesting, the Department of Defense announced it was discontinuing a program associated with MZM's spying contract (hat tip Laura Rozen).

Less than two weeks after being sworn in as undersecretary of defense for intelligence, James R. Clapper Jr. is moving to end the controversial Talon electronic data program, which collected and circulated unverified reports about people and organizations that allegedly threaten Defense Department facilities.


Talon — which stands for Threat and Local Observation Notices — is operated under the direction of the Counterintelligence Field Activity, which was established in September 2002 by then-Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul D. Wolfowitz. CIFA was originally charged with coordinating policy and overseeing the domestic counterintelligence activities of Pentagon agencies and the armed forces.

The agency's size and budget are classified, but congressional sources have said that CIFA had spent more than $1 billion through last October. One counterintelligence official at that time estimated that CIFA had 400 full-time employees and 800 to 900 contractors working for it.

Last August, CIFA Director David A. Burtt II and his top deputy, Joseph Hefferon, resigned in the wake of a scandal involving CIFA contracts that went to MZM Inc., a company run by Mitchell J. Wade. Wade pleaded guilty in February 2006 to conspiring to bribe then-Rep. Randy "Duke" Cunningham (R-Calif). [my emphasis]

You see, in my more speculative moments, I have wondered whether MZM's domestic spying contracts were the most urgent reason for Carol Lam's firing. How curious then, that just as the White House turns over documentation on the original MZM contracting, Defense announces it will end the more egregious domestic spying program?

It's just one of those coinkydinks that subpoena power seems to produce.



Marcy Wheeler aka Emptywheel is an American journalist whose reporting specializes in security and civil liberties.