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March 27, 2007


One possibility is that the "threat mail technology insertion" is one componant of the screening process, one that could be put in the hands of an untested player if the pay-off was helpful. I doubt that the Secret Service was willing to outsource all of its VP security responsibilities, and the anthrax letters were overblown as a threat (and targeted at media and Democrats besides).

The deal was stupid and unseemly, the quid pro quo that's shaping up looks illegal, but I'm not convinced it was a huge breach of security.

The mail scanning deal seems really fishy: assuming that MZM had no actual capabilities before they got the $140K deal, there is just no way they could have afforded to build anything.

Product development costs money and testing is enormously expensive, especially if you are dealing with bioweapons. Weaponized anthrax can only be handled in a level 3 containment facility; there aren't many of those around and I bet that renting time in them is not cheap. That's assuming you can get your hands on weaponized anthrax to test with in the first place.

Even if MZM planned on just buying some off the shelf product and slapping their logo on it, they'd still have to perform some testing...unless the contract really is a complete sham.

It might be possible that the $140K was a subcontract that was part of a much larger deal, but for life critical systems, companies are usually very conservative.

Also, I'm having trouble coming up with a small chunk of noncritical work that could be broken off without endangering the whole project. But I might just be tired.

I'd kill to see MZM's job postings from 2001-2002.

You realize what this means? Cheney installed his own private goons to go through all mail destined to the President. Pretty nice trick that.

One note about Carol Lam, she was apparently targeted before the Cunningham scandal broke. She was on the March 2 list (name crossed out). A reporter broke the Cunningham story on June 12.

OK – two notes. I keep seeing references to Lam being targeted because she was investigating Jerry Lewis. But Lam was not the responsible USA – that was Debra Yang in LA.

Doesn’t change the larger story – but these are often repeated points that are questionable at best.

OCSteve, the right time to target Lam wasn't after the scandal broke out, it was after she started to seriously investigate Cunningham -- or someone else they didn't want investigated.

If the scandal broke out June 12, when did they first notice she was going after Cunningham? Could it have been before March 2? Did she perhaps start collecting evidence more than 3 months before the scandal broke?

Your point seems questionable.

J Thomas: I believe that the story was broke by the investigative reporter noted. That is, the USA did not know about it, no one did, before the story broke.

I could be wrong…

OCSteve is right. Lam was on a list that existed before the Cunningham story broke open, and it was broken by the San Diego reporter, not by the US Attorney's office or any other law enforcement people.

That said, however, the list was in flux throughout. (As I know from having seen roughly a gzillion different iterations of it, while skimming the document dump. Ugh.) Some people who were rated 'strong' on that list were later fired; some who were rated 'weak' were not. If we assume that what got her onto that list was also what accounted for her staying on it and eventually being fired, then it follows that she wasn't fired for the Cunningham investigation, or any of the investigations that grew out of it. But I'm not sure we can assume that.

Somewhat OT: Atrios has posted a -- pitiful? funny? -- video of a hearing on the meeting described in this story. (The General Services Administration has a meeting in which one of Rove's people comes down to discuss the results of the 2006 elections, and how the GSA can help elect Republicans in 2008.)

It's worth watching it, even though the best parts don't come until the 2nd half, just to see all those nice slides with titles like: "2008: Top Democrat Targets" and "2008: Battle For The Senate". It's a pity that one question that's asked about halfway through doesn't come first, and then stay emblazoned at the top of the screen, namely:

"Can you tell us what, if anything, these slides hve to do with the GSA's core mission of procuring supplies and managing Federal buildings?"

It would also help to know at the outset that there are various GOP political appointees who have been deposed about this meeting, and who have reported that the very woman who is testifying in this video, and who has such a complete loss of memory about the meeting in question, said at that meeting:

"How can we use different GSA projects, building openings and the like, to further aid other Republicans?"

It would also be nice to have a ticker at the bottom with all the provisions of the Hatch Act scrolling by.

Our tax dollars at work.

Hilzoy- I think that topic deserves a front page post don't you? Digby also has done some posts about that meeting.

"one of the three main services MZM is providing to the U.S. government is something called “counterintelligence field activity.” The Union-Tribune describes it as “a highly secretive program created in 2002 by a Pentagon directive that focuses on gathering intelligence to avert attacks like the ones on Sept. 11, 2001.”"

I wonder what the going rate for stovepiped intelligence is.

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