Skip to main content

Congress requested any and all records from the DOJ concerning US Attorney firings.
Included in the documents produced by the DOJ and posted on the House Judiciary Committee website are hundreds of emails dating from April 29, 2004 through March 8, 2007.

The content of these emails has been revealing, but is not the point of this post.  Intriguingly, we have also heard about an 18-day gap, likened by Senator Patrick Leahy to the infamous 18-minute gap on the Nixon tapes pointing to cover-up.  We also now know that perhaps 5 million emails are missing from White House records (Link), suggesting a similar problem could be facing AttorneyGate investigators.

Lost email can be accidental and random, and it can also be “lost deliberately”.  See below the fold for graphic evidence of “The GAP”, suggesting deliberate non-production of emails regarding the US Attorney firing.

Examining the email trail suggests that the 18 day gap is just the tip of the iceberg of non-production.  To get a picture of the pattern of email traffic revealed by the DOJ, I did the following:

Regardless of content, unique emails in the March 13-March 28 (Set 1) and April 13 (Set 2) document dumps were tabulated.  The number of unique emails for a given date was totaled, and if multiple recipients were identified, these were also included in the total.  Monthly total emails (Figure 1), as well as number of dates per month on which email was sent (Figure 2) were then graphed:



Over 2006, there is progressively increasing email traffic within the DOJ pertaining to US Attorney firing/replacement.  Strikingly, in contrast to trends in the data, there is a paucity of email produced for October and November 2006.  To wit:


In the 3 months prior to October, there was an average of 176 emails per month sent on an average 18 days per month.  In the 3 months following November, there were an average of 447 emails sent on an average of 20 days per month.
In October and November, there were an average of 47 emails sent on an average 9 days per month.

The other telling feature of these graphs is the pattern of production.  For the second document prodcution (Red bars of Figure 1), there was a large production of documents over May-July 2006, much of which was aimed at illustrating problems with Lam, Iglesias and Charlton.  There was minimal production of documents from October-November.

These data document a surprising reduction in email traffic during October and November, 2006.
We see significant email traffic in June-September indicating significant interest and DOJ resources devoted to this issue.  It suddenly drops in October and November, immediately before they are going to undertake the unprecedented move of firing 7 US Attorneys.  They knew it was unprecedented and that there would be political ramifications, so it is difficult to envision October and November as months in which internal DOJ attention to the upcoming firing would decrease.

Importantly, the List was not finalized in mid-September.  On September 13, 2006, Kyle Sampson emailed Harriet Meyers with a list recommending 9 attorneys be replaced.  David Iglesias was not on that list.  On November 15, Kyle Sampson drafted a final list, suggesting there was interest and work to produce the list between September and November.  Further, on November 27, AG Gonzales attended a one-hour meeting to discuss the upcoming firings on December 7.  It is hard to believe that there was not extensive planning in preparation for this meeting.  Along these lines, On November 21, an email from DOJ employee Tasia Scolinos to Catherine Martin in the White House outlines a potential talking point- “The one common link here is that three of them are along the southern border so you could make the connection that DOJ is unhappy with the immigration prosecution numbers in those districts."  Thus, it is apparent that there was discussion and work among multiple DOJ employees with respect to US Attorney firings during October and November, and it is very surprising that the email traffic does not reflect this.

On the other hand, the apparent reduction of email traffic in October-November 2006 is consistent with incomplete document production.  Taken together with the timeline evidence that active discussions were ongoing during October and November before the firing, these data strongly suggest that despite congressional requests, The DOJ documents are still incomplete.  
Possible explanations for the data gap include:
Emails in Oct/Nov 2006 have been “selectively lost”
Emails in Oct/Nov 2006 exist but are deliberately non-produced

This was painstaking.  There were multiple duplicates in batches of email from different recipients.  Although I tried to ensure that only unique emails were considered there may be unintended overcounting. When greater than 10 recipients were identified, I looked at content.  If it was mass email, such as general guidelines sent to all USAs, or contact info for a fired attorney sent to > 10 people, I did not include it.  There were only a handful of these examples (out of 2750 total emails).  Otherwise, content was not analyzed.  As such it represents data that was provided to the Judiciary Committee by the DOJ based on their identification of responsiveness to the document requests.  In this sense, if all documents are provided, it should be an unbiased measure of the amount of DOJ resources/interest dedicated to the decision to fire/replace US Attorneys.
I am happy to provide Excel spreadsheets for further statistical analysis or other documentation purposes.

Originally posted to drational on Mon Apr 16, 2007 at 06:17 AM PDT.

Your Email has been sent.
You must add at least one tag to this diary before publishing it.

Add keywords that describe this diary. Separate multiple keywords with commas.
Tagging tips - Search For Tags - Browse For Tags


More Tagging tips:

A tag is a way to search for this diary. If someone is searching for "Barack Obama," is this a diary they'd be trying to find?

Use a person's full name, without any title. Senator Obama may become President Obama, and Michelle Obama might run for office.

If your diary covers an election or elected official, use election tags, which are generally the state abbreviation followed by the office. CA-01 is the first district House seat. CA-Sen covers both senate races. NY-GOV covers the New York governor's race.

Tags do not compound: that is, "education reform" is a completely different tag from "education". A tag like "reform" alone is probably not meaningful.

Consider if one or more of these tags fits your diary: Civil Rights, Community, Congress, Culture, Economy, Education, Elections, Energy, Environment, Health Care, International, Labor, Law, Media, Meta, National Security, Science, Transportation, or White House. If your diary is specific to a state, consider adding the state (California, Texas, etc). Keep in mind, though, that there are many wonderful and important diaries that don't fit in any of these tags. Don't worry if yours doesn't.

You can add a private note to this diary when hotlisting it:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary from your hotlist?
Are you sure you want to remove your recommendation? You can only recommend a diary once, so you will not be able to re-recommend it afterwards.
Rescue this diary, and add a note:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary from Rescue?
Choose where to republish this diary. The diary will be added to the queue for that group. Publish it from the queue to make it appear.

You must be a member of a group to use this feature.

Add a quick update to your diary without changing the diary itself:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary?
(The diary will be removed from the site and returned to your drafts for further editing.)
(The diary will be removed.)
Are you sure you want to save these changes to the published diary?

Comment Preferences

    •  Pictures. (5+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Xan, macdust, G2geek, drational, uniongal

      The two months leading up to the pulling of the trigger have the least number of messages?

      I can't buy that - they've got to be holding back.

    •  Amazing, painstaking and original work (11+ / 0-)

      You rock.

      Other places do seem so cramped up and smothery, but a raft don't. You feel mighty free and easy and comfortable on a raft. - Huckleberry Finn

      by Red Bean on Mon Apr 16, 2007 at 06:24:17 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Thanks (12+ / 0-)

        My gift of 18 hours to daily kos.
        This could be done more precisely in about 40 person-hours.  Specifically, one could look at individual player email patterns, ensure no omissions or duplications and make all sorts of fancy connectivity charts.  Any civics or government teachers out there?

        •  I hope Josh picks this up (4+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Xan, Brother Dave, drational, uniongal

          even without the refinements you'd like to see.

          Other places do seem so cramped up and smothery, but a raft don't. You feel mighty free and easy and comfortable on a raft. - Huckleberry Finn

          by Red Bean on Mon Apr 16, 2007 at 06:42:29 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

        •  excellent; suggestion: teach the methods? (8+ / 0-)

          Ten points for this one, excellent stuff.  

          How'bout posting a couple of diaries to teach Traffic Analysis 101?  I'm sure there are a bunch of people here who would gladly learn the methods and put in the time to get results.  

          It would also be useful to get all the people who have thus far been working on this kind of stuff, together in one place, to compare methods and results.  Think of it as an intel analysis group.  The output would be published on Kos and copied to Waxman et. al.  

          It might be interesting to seek out a couple of dissident NSAers (there are many) to teach methods of analysis.  There shouldn't be a problem with this since the skills themselves are not classified as far as I know.  

          Here's another thing to add to the mix:  Note any instances where an email refers to another mode of communication, for instance postal mail, telephone, blackberry, or whatever.  Make note of the senders and receivers to the extent possible, as well as the time-sequence of the uses of various modes of communication.  

          Very often what you will find is that there is an informal "chain of command" or allocation of tasking that is not apparent from examination of one mode of communication only.  Also the use of various modes of communication points to the roles each person may actually play in an organization (roles may change depending on tasks), and the immediacy that is needed in their respective roles.  

          Also look for secondary layers of transmission:  One person may originate relatively few communications, but the people with whom they communicate may each originate many communications thereafter.  Look for ripples or waves of communication through a network.  

          Time-of-day can provide intereseting clues.  Look at an individual's normal pattern, the times of day when their incoming & outgoing loads appear heaviest (for example someone might do most of their email in the morning and at the end of the day), and then look for breaks in the pattern (for example a day on which that individual sent a bunch of emails immediately after lunch).  Breaks in the normal schedule indicate unforeseen or urgent events that need immediate attention outside of routine.  

          A couple of ideas for structuring a working-group to process the load

          First establish a working-group of "analysts" who will determine what data need to be extracted from the material.  They would set up a standardized and reasonably cross-platform sysem for tabulating the stuff, perhaps a spreadsheet.  

          Second, break the pile into smaller chunks and number the chunks.  The size of a chunk should be about what a person can process in an hour.

          Third, put the chunks up on the web for people to download and process.  Establish a working-group of "collectors," who don't need to have analyst skills but can follow instructions to mine data and compile into the spreadsheets.  Each person would download a chunk, enter the relevant data in the spreadsheet, and then upload the results, and then grab another chunk and repeat.  Thus the most time-consuming part of the task is reduced to a manageable exercise.  

          Once the collection output is complete, the "analysts" would get to work on it seeking out patterns.  

          In fact I tend to think that a spreadsheet wouldn't have sufficient flexibility in terms of adequate space for notes; an online database with a web front-end might be more effective.  

          Or is there already an organized effort to go at it, and if so, where can they be reached?

          •  Excellent suggestion! n/t (4+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Xan, G2geek, drational, uniongal

            My moniker is in honor of three generations of women whose soul's were seared in the cauldron of Hell's Kitchen, NYC

            by hells kitchen on Mon Apr 16, 2007 at 07:47:01 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

          •  Great Ideas (4+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            gogol, Xan, G2geek, uniongal

            this analysis was time consuming, but easy.  I did it on excel and just used excel graphics for the plots.  Deeper analysis would require more time and effort, especially if we wanted to do something like demena suggests.  The only organized effort likely to exist is probably within congressional staffers.  I don't have any knowledge of this.  not sure if we could organize a web-based group of part-timers, who all probably have day jobs, but i'd be willing to participate.

            •  "time" is the killer-diller... (2+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              Xan, uniongal

              I tried to take on a task of this sort single-handedly last year and it's still in my proverbial inbox waiting for a very large chunk of time to process it.  At this point it may not even be possible if some of the needed information is no longer available.  

              What I should have done was set up a working group.

              The present task is significantly larger.  Ten points to you for taking it on single-handedly.  

              What we really need is some kind of funding that would enable paying people for their time on this stuff, ideally to establish an organization with both full-timers and regular part-timers working on cases, and volunteers.

              As far as I know the D party doesn't have something like this (yet) but needs it badly.  

          •  working group (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Xan, uniongal

            Try  This is a new collaboration tool that would centralize the working group call out!

        •  Fantastic Illustration! (3+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          kurt, drational, uniongal

          A picture is worth a thousand words.  Your graphs point out the gap in a way that even the simplest minds can understand.  (Heh. Why not show it to the Republicans?)  

          I might add that when I first heard about the missing gap, my very first thought was that it seemed to coincide with the Thanksgiving holiday.  That might account for a lower volume of email.  Then I had to remind myself that no Thanksgiving holiday lasts for 18 days -- except for maybe the President's holiday.

          However, your graph makes it clear that the low volume of emails for the months in question defies any explanation except that they're deliberately being withheld.  It's not at all likely that people stopped emailing about this topic for that long a period of time, particularly if that is when the firings took place.  Did they all just sit on their hands for those two months??? just doesn't sound like what those self-righteous and self-important busybodies at the DOJ and the Administration would've been capable of doing.

          It also defies logic that all the people who were sending each other emails about this before and after this time period suddenly decided to use the RNC mail servers JUST FOR THAT TIME FRAME.  (This was another explanation that had crept into my mind.)  But WHY would that have been done just for that time frame, and then normal email channels be resumed again?  This just makes no logical sense, either.

          Nope, anyway that you poke at it or prod it, it just seems like a large number of emails have been held back.

          Even if you're raw numbers are slightly wrong, you can reasonably say that the aggregate results are still indicative of an overall trend.  A miscounted email or two here or there isn't going to change the picture that your charts paint.

  •  Another explanation (8+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    gogol, Xan, G2geek, DocGonzo, lgmcp, drational, uniongal, DvCM

    that they gave up on their government work during that period in an effort to politicize anything and everything, i.e., they weren't engaged in doing the work that the taxpayers pay them for but doing the political work of the GOP.

    Give me ten lines from a good man and I'll find something in there to hang him. - Cardinal Richelieu

    by lgrooney on Mon Apr 16, 2007 at 06:19:36 AM PDT

    •  Then this is further evidence (8+ / 0-)

      that rather than being public servants, they are all dedicated to the goal of Republican Hegemony

      •  Incompetence (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Xan, drational, uniongal

        is impeachable.  Not acting in accordance with the Hatch Act is certainly a firing offense and worthy of sanction.

        From Merriam - Webster: 3a - lacking the qualities needed for effective action; b - unable to function properly

        I wonder what the legal definition would be.  Is unwillingness to do one's legally sanctioned job considered incompetent?  Is the inability to separate one's legal responsibilities from one's political initiatives incompetent?  I certainly think the inability to hire qualified individuals a/o not knowing what one's charges are doing on a broad scale is incompetent.

        Give me ten lines from a good man and I'll find something in there to hang him. - Cardinal Richelieu

        by lgrooney on Mon Apr 16, 2007 at 07:32:12 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

    •  right: who was paying their salaries when (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Xan, nancelot, drational, uniongal

      they were doing the party's business rather than the nation's business?

      We might be looking at some kind of malfeasance here, collecting government paycheck whilst engaged in party work.  

      Man these people are so dirty you practically need a vacuum cleaner to keep up with them.  

  •  good information (6+ / 0-)

    I'll point out for discussion that the drop in email activity occurs just before the election in early November (11/7).

    As to whether traffic would be affected by people in the administration focusing attention on election issues and away from US Attorney discussion, I'm not sure.

    I will say, one of the main points of contention regarding replacing the US Attorneys is their devotion - or lack thereof -  to voter fraud.

    So do you think the DOJ would be discussing such issues more or less just before the election?  Hmmmm.

  •  Good work. thanks n/t (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    G2geek, drational, uniongal
  •  What I would like to see (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    VA Gal, nancelot, G2geek, uniongal

    but do not know how to do is this;

    I would like to have a large circle on my screen with points on the circumference representing all participants in these emails.

    I would like to be able to start at anytime and "see" the emails as lines between participants, and move slowly forward in time watching the lines change.  Different colour for each thread.

    I would like to able to 'stop time' and click on a line to see the email in another window.

    Use of a visualisation tool like this should point to what is explicitly missing.

    Any ideas as to methodology?

    Best Wishes, Demena

    by Demena on Mon Apr 16, 2007 at 06:57:32 AM PDT

    •  oh, nice one there! (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Xan, VA Gal, uniongal

      I like that.  

      Very nice tool.  

      Also possibly different colors for different modes of communication, for example where an email refers to a telephone call or a blackberry message or postal mail or in-person meetings.  

      Anyone up for developing something like this?  

      Ideal case is, make is cross-platform, make it run on a website.  

      Note, before a tool of this type can be used, someone has to enter all the relevant data into the system.  See my suggestion upthread about setting up a working group to do this.  

      •  Well (4+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Xan, VA Gal, G2geek, uniongal

        I can probably develop it but I am a retired old burnout and I need some more input into this.  Your ideas are a major upgrade.

        Ideally you want this thing to be able to suck in communications records in a large number of formats and to control what is displayed.

        Now there are a lot of visualisation tools out there that may even do the job once the data is sucked in and even if there is not a specific interface might not be too hard to produce.

        But firstly we have to decide what the requirements are before we look at the best way to do it.  That is probably going to take more than two of us.

        But looking at this, it could be readily adapted to other things too, lots of logs of different types.  It could be a very useful tool for security if you looked at differen IP adresses and protocols.

        Actually the more I think about it the more it seems you could persuade it to reveal.

        Best Wishes, Demena

        by Demena on Mon Apr 16, 2007 at 08:10:09 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  "the more you could persuade it to reveal" (3+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Xan, VA Gal, uniongal

          Exactly right.  Now you understand why traffic analysis (TA) is such a darn good tool of the intel trade.  

          Just by knowing who is communicating with whom, when, and via what means, you almost have X-ray vision into an organization.  It's the next best thing to having raw intercepts, though of course we have those too in the form of the email.  

          In fact here's another SIGINT paradigm that could be applied:

          By analogy with battlefield intel, the email we presently have is equivalent to cleartext communication, and the more important stuff is encrypted and presently out of our reach.   That is, we presently have the stuff that's the least damaging to the other side, and the more important stuff is still a mystery.  

          OK, what inferences can we make with respect to the stuff we're not getting?  Drational has done a great job of pointing to where some of it may be, by way of the "negative traffic" in October and November.  

          The person who we really need to organize this project is General Odom, who is a former Director of NSA and is a ferocious critic of the Regime.  I wonder if anyone has attempted to contact him over this?  He would in turn be in contact with other retired NSAers who have similar views.  Put those people in charge and then gather up a bunch of smart volunteers such as Drational and you and I and a few others, and assign tasks accordingly.  If an organization of that sort was put together it would make major progress in short order, and the Rs would be quaking in their boots.  

          •  I'm in. (3+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Xan, G2geek, uniongal

            But I don't know such people and am shy.

            Best Wishes, Demena

            by Demena on Mon Apr 16, 2007 at 04:37:58 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  I found a way to reach Odom (3+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              Xan, VA Gal, uniongal

              ...though somewhat indirectly.  

              Given what he's doing these days I don't think he would have time to actively organize something.  But he would certainly know people who could.  And he might have some hints about material that is in the public domain that people could read to train themselves for the tasks.  

              I don't know if I'm up to the time requirements that it would take to organize this, I'm fairly swamped at the moment (what else is new?) (then why am I spending time here now?:-), but we'll see what happens.

      •  Working Group (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        Consider  for online collaboration tool.

  •  thanks for your hard work (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Xan, drational, uniongal

    this is important stuff.

  •  Bless the Diary Rescue folks (4+ / 0-)

    because I missed this completely when it first appeared.

    Drational, were all the mails you analyzed from the ".gov" servers? My understanding is that those were the only things turned over (thus far..heh heh heh!) to Judiciary.

    Of course we now know that 20+ White House employees were simultaneously using email addresses owned & operated by the Republican National Committee, which were supposed to be strictly for "political" rather than "official" communications. And we also know that to the BushCo crowd the political IS the official.

    I love your phrasing describing the gap as
    "deliberate non-production of emails." But if your analysis doesn't include mails with the and addresses, then we have a more than heavy suggestion that the mails were not "deliberately non-produced" at all, just run over the lines they thought they could keep hidden from the Archives.

    Great work.

    Where are we going, and why am I in this handbasket?

    by Xan on Mon Apr 16, 2007 at 09:20:40 PM PDT

    •  Non-production is just that (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Xan, BentLiberal

      I included only the data available from DOJ.  There were both .gov and non-gov addresses, and I did not segregate.  If they failed to produce gwb43 or rnchq emails but had them, then this would be deliberate non-production in violation of the congressional requests.  

  •  Amazing job! and Thank you! nt (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    BentLiberal, drational, NotGeorgeWill
  •  Great analysis. (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    BentLiberal, drational

    The data definitely raises questions.

    The activity in January and February makes sense in light of the hearings.  And it's clear that the discussions were in motion during the summer.

    That October to November gap is definitely an odd one.  Even if we were just talking about a lull in Holiday activity from Thanksgiving to the New Year, you would at least expect that the November activity would be on a level comparable to that which we find in December (especially since the firings were being discussed at that time and the lists were being finalized in advance of Dec. 7th).

    Very odd.

  •  Incompetence vs. conspiracy (0+ / 0-)

    I appreciate the hard work that apparently went into this analysis.  But I really don't think this is good evidence of an intentional destruction of the DOJ e-mails.

    Is the most likely explanation that this was a deliberate cover-up?  Or is it more likely that the people at DOJ simply weren't focused on this issue as much at some times as at other times.  Haven't many of us worked on issues that were frenzied for a few weeks, and then were put aside, only to be brought out frenzied again?

    DOJ policy offices (such as the offices of the AG, Deputy AG, Policy, Public Affairs, and Legislative Affairs) often go into a huge "lull" when Congress leaves town right before an election.  Even projects that have nothing to do with Congress tend to slow.

    The people at DOJ responsible for finding, sorting and collecting e-mails is a pretty non-political bunch.  It's the ones who review those e-mails to decide which ones are going to be released that are more political.  They don't hesitate, as they have, simply to refuse to turn over e-mails they don't want to.  So wouldn't it be easier just to claim "Executive Privilege" or something, like they're already doing, instead of also committing a crime for some, but not all of the e-mails, by erasing them?  It doesn't make even basic sense.

    I'm not trying to defend the AG or his people by any means -- what appears to have happened is that 8 US attorneys were "blackballed" by a handful of senior DOJ officials through an uncontrolled process in which no one saw the full picture.  Thus, people might have been fired for petty, incorrect, or even improper reasons known only to the one or two that issued the "blackball".   This is terrible, and could easily have been an abuse of power.  But look at the e-mails from these people that have already been released.  Do they seem smart enough to pull off a conspiracy?

    •  Well (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      If you look at the documents, you will find over 100 unique individual recipients of produced email traffic.  Thus, many individuals were providing data that was relevant to the production request.  It is certainly possible that there was a lull; for loss of interest, election distraction or other reasons.  It is clear however, that "Thanksgiving Holiday" is not a reasonable explanation for the data gap, which has been a response to Leahy.

      I don't claim this data proves conspiracy, but it is certainly consistent with deliberate nonproduction.  If you look at the statements by AG Gonzales and Kyle Sampson, you get a good indication about how forthcoming they want to be with the investigation.  Non-production of documents could be another version of "I don't recall remembering".  At the least, they owe an explanation for why the DOJ (by inference from email traffic) vacated this issue in the 11th hour before the firing.

Subscribe or Donate to support Daily Kos.

Click here for the mobile view of the site