Monthly Archives: January 2004

More on Hackergate: One Staffer or Two?

A commentator[*] suggests that, contrary to my suggestion, Mr. Miranda is not a second staffer, but the first staffer in a new job. At first glance this seemed odd to me, since Sen. Hatch announced in late November that the staff member involved had been suspended, and the AP was reporting Sen. Frist's suspending Mr. Miranda as if it were new.

The AP article I linked to is silent on this question, but more research suggests that the “same staffer” theory turns out to be possible, albeit unlikely— although the it's-only-Miranda scenario has its own interesting aspects.

The New York Times suggests there were two staffers, i.e. that that Mr. Miranda had an accomplice:

Manuel C. Miranda, a former Republican Judiciary Committee staff member, whose name appeared as a recipient of one of the Democratic e-mail messages and who has been questioned by Mr. Pickle's investigators, said in an interview Thursday that he knew how the documents were obtained by Republicans. He said that a junior member on the staff of Senator Orrin G. Hatch, Republican of Utah and chairman of the Judiciary Committee, had discovered a flaw in the computer system that allowed him to read some of the Democratic computer traffic.

Mr. Miranda, who is now a senior staff aide to Senator Bill Frist of Tennessee, the Republican leader, said that the junior aide was reading the Democratic documents from about May 2002 until the early fall of 2002. The aide, who has since left the Senate, passed some of those memorandums to Mr. Miranda and other Hatch staff members, Mr. Miranda said.

“Those documents that I did read were, in my view, not obtained in any way that was improper, unlawful or unethical,” he said. He described them as “inadvertent disclosures that came to me as a result of some negligence on the part of the Democrats' technology staff.” His only obligation, he said, was to see that the Democrats were told that the computer system had a flaw that allowed Republican aides to read some of their memorandums.

“I knew our people had told their people about it,” Mr. Miranda said. “Once I knew that, I had no further obligation.”

Suppose, however, there was just Mr. Miranda. Then even more interesting questions arise:

  • Was he really suspended in November at all?
  • If so, when did it end and why?
  • And why is he re-suspended now?

Whether there's one staffer or more, it would also be interesting to know:

  • Whether Senator Frist hired Mr. Miranda knowing about the Hackergate incident?
  • If so, was it as a reward?
  • And, whether or not he knew then, does Senator Frist endorse Mr. Miranda's vision of Senate collegiality and comity as set out in the NYT article above?

[*] I deleted the comment which raised this issue because it violated rules one and two of my comments policy—fortunately something I only rarely need to do. Perhaps because there are so few comments….

Posted in Law: Criminal Law, Politics: US | Leave a comment

What So-Called Liberal Media?

Spotted at Brian Leiter's blog.

Posted in Politics: US | 2 Comments

Hutton Live

The Guardian is scribing the live delivery of the Hutton report. So far it looks bad for the BBC and good for Tony Blair.

Update: It's over. Full summary is now here, with the headline “BBC targeted as Hutton clears Blair”.

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Second Staffer Fingered In Senate Hackergate Probe

Yahoo! News – Memo-Leak Probe Expands to Frist's Office:

An aide to Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist has been put on leave during an investigation into how Republicans gained access to Democratic memos concerning opposition to President Bush (news – web sites)'s judicial nominees.

Manuel Miranda, who works for the Tennessee Republican on judicial nominations, is on leave pending the outcome of the inquiry by the Senate sergeant-at-arms, Frist spokesman Nick Smith said Tuesday. In the matter under investigation, Democratic memos stored on a computer server shared by Judiciary Committee (news – web sites) members ended up in GOP hands.

Miranda told The Knoxville News-Sentinel that investigators were looking at work he performed for the Judiciary Committee before he joined Frist's office. “There was no stealing,” he said. “No systematic surveillance. I never forwarded these memos — period.”

I said previously that this wasn't a one-person show, that it went beyond the single staffer Hatch already suspended.

No way that goodies like this didn't get shared around.

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Sun Claims Hutton Report Will Clear Blair

The Hutton Report is due out in a few hours. Meanwhile, the Sun Newspaper — a British tabloid best known for running daily pix of half-naked women to pump up circulation — reports that it has had advance access to the Hutton Report and that the report 'clears' Blair.

Hutton 'clears Blair': The Sun newspaper has tonight claimed to have a leak of the Hutton report. The paper says Tony Blair has been cleared of wrongdoing but that the BBC and the governors have been criticised for not investigating the veracity of the Andrew Gilligan report that sparked the row between the corporation and the government.

But the slant the Sun has taken is already being treated with some scepticism – Lord Hutton demanded that everyone who received an early copy of his report sign an undertaking not to disclose its contents and there is suspicion that the tabloid may have got its leak from a source sympathetic to the government.

The Sun has supported the Labour party throughout the Kelly affair and it appears that it has not the seen the full report, but has only had part of the conclusions read to it.

The paper's front page story claims the prime minister will not be blamed for the 'naming strategy' that led to the public identification of Dr Kelly as the 'mole' who had an unauthorised meeting with Gilligan.

According to the Sun, the BBC has also been criticised for not making more rigorous checks to establish the truth of Gilligan's central claim that the government had knowingly 'sexed up' the Iraq dossier that made the case for war.

Although once Margret Thatcher's biggest cheerleader, Ruport Murdoch's newspaper has been a big supporter of Blair, especially as regards Iraq.

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Update: Howard Dean on ID Cards: Not So Bad, but Not So Good

Larry Lessig, a member of the Dean Net Advisory Net, responds to the news article that inspired my item Howard Dean on ID Cards: Bad. Bad. Bad. with what declan doesn’t get (how to read). In it Larry points to the full text of Dean's talk (starts at page 10).

Larry, like the first commentator on the earlier item, also points to the Register's timely reminder that the source of this report has a very bad track record for carelessly sliming Democrats on tech issues. Fair enough.

Indeed, the full text of Dean's speech isn't as bad as the news account made it sound. It does contain many nods towards privacy rights. And it actually makes a point I agree with — the current privacy baseline is low, as we've ceded a lot of privacy already. Having said that, though, it does seem to me that this speech is fairly described as a strong endorsement of ubiquitious smart card readers (not mandatory, just standards-driven) for PCs in order to create a world in which communications are better authenticated, and access to information can be more properly rationed (e.g. age restrictions). Would that be a better world? I have my doubts. Is it a likely world? Alas, yes. Could it be implemented in ways that are more or less evil? Absolutely, and I'll have lots to say about that in coming months.

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War Profiteering (Halliburton Dept.): Following An Ancient if Not Honorable Tradition

You might think that amidst all this 'we support our troops' rhetoric emanating from secure locations in Washington D.C. that someone in the white house or the Pentagon would be making sure that our troops get fed decent food.

Nope. Think again. According to Heather Yarbrough, what we've got is a system in which someone whose job is monitoring the quality and safety of food served to soldiers on U.S. military bases in Iraq gets fired for doing her job.

Talk about history repeating itself. President Abraham Lincoln secured passage of the False Claims Act in 1863 in order to combat similar frauds against the Union Army, including the sale of rancid food for the troops.

Did Heather Yarbrough run afoul of a rush for profits, a system which depends on paying third-world workers pittances and of course no benefits, and gets third-world sanitation practices in return? Or did she just rile an old boy network? Either way, if her charges regarding the way soldiers' food is stored and prepared are correct, it's a scandal.

Freezers and refrigerators weren't working. Food was spoiling. The kitchen workers were exhausted, and some of them weren't following basic sanitation practices. “It became apparent to me that much of the food served at the banquet the night before was … possibly dangerous,” she wrote.

At 2 a.m. Yarbrough saw a lone kitchen worker spreading mayonnaise onto several thousand slices of bread for the next day's sandwiches. He was halfway through the job, and the mayonnaise had sat in open bowls for hours.

The kitchen's air conditioner had moderated the desert heat somewhat, but it had also spewed dust over the worker, the mayonnaise and the bread. Yarbrough conferred with a kitchen supervisor, and they agreed that the mayonnaise and partially made sandwiches should be thrown away.

Yarbrough logged the incident in the journal that she kept for her Halliburton KBR supervisor, and the next day the supervisor applauded her decision to discard the suspect food.

On her second night on duty, Yarbrough met with kitchen staff — all third-country nationals working for ESS — and wrote down a list of supplies needed for sanitary purposes: thermometers to check the heat in steam trays, test strips to measure chlorine in sanitizing water, rubber gloves and other items.

She noted that the day shift had left the dining facility a mess: dirty tables, overflowing trash, no sodas stocked. And she took some feedback from a sergeant who represented Halliburton's client, the Army. “The cream[ed] beef was greasy. Dessert table is messy with crumbs. Stock juices earlier in the morning because they want the products to be cold,” she wrote in her journal.

Over the next few days, Yarbrough trained kitchen workers in sanitation methods and taught seminars on botulism, E. coli and other dangerous bacteria. The kitchen crews seemed to be paying more attention to safety. “Overall, this is much better,” she wrote Aug. 10 in her journal.

The next day, Yarbrough recorded another confrontation with Ray, but she went on with her job. “I gave a short brief on salmonella, likely sources, mode of contamination, toxicity and symptoms of infection,” she wrote. “Cooks seem pleased with this nightly entertainment.”

She planned to give the same talk to day cooks, but she was suspended the next day, relieved of duty and told to pack up and be ready to take the next convoy back to Kuwait.

Yarbrough's supervisor told her she was being fired for wearing a dirty shirt, leaving work early once and other infractions. But Yarbrough felt certain these were bogus charges. The supervisor seemed “eaten up with guilt,” she recalled in an interview. “He wouldn't look me in the eye.”

While waiting for the convoy, Yarbrough appealed to a Halliburton district manager. She told him Ray was compromising food safety, and she believed he'd used his influence to get her fired.

“He told me that I was a danger to myself if I remained at Tikrit,” said Yarbrough. “He wouldn't tell me why, but I thought it was that somebody would have been sent to do me harm.”

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