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I'll let the Associated Press begin with the lede:

The Bush administration is laying out a new secrecy defense in an effort to end a court battle about the White House visits of now-imprisoned lobbyist Jack Abramoff.

But in a court filing Friday night, administration lawyers said that the Secret Service has identified a category of highly sensitive documents that might contain information sought in a lawsuit about Abramoff's trips to the White House.

The Justice Department, citing a Cold War-era court ruling, declared that the contents of the "Sensitive Security Records" cannot be publicly revealed even though they could show whether Abramoff made more visits to the White House than those already acknowledged.

Jack's back, and the Bush White House is again obfuscating and stonewalling about his true relationship with the President and members of the senior White House Staff.

Hiding the Evidence on a Friday night.

The Bush spin machine is at it again.
-- Bury the headline with a Friday night announcement.  Check.
-- Make somebody else do your dirty work.  Check.
-- Cite pressing national security concerns as need for continued secrecy.  Check.

But back to the story.  

Bush Never Met Abramoff?  Wrong!

Nearly two years ago, just after Abramoff had pleaded guilty in the influence peddling scandal, Bush told reporters, "I can't say I didn't ever meet" Abramoff, "but I meet a lot of people."

"I don't know him," Bush said at the presidential news conference in January 2006. "I've never sat down with him and had a discussion with the guy."

Um, George, the good folks at CREW would like to jog your memory:

photo credit: Citizens For Ethics in Washington

Not coincedentally, then Bush-Cheney '04 Campaign Manager Ken Mehlman was also at the same event as Abramoff pictured above with his father (Art) and mother (Judy).  .  It's even still on Reflections website!  You'll recall that prior to becoming campaign manager, Mehlman was Political Director of the White House - Rove's left hand.

Mehlman was also Abramoff's friend and a friend in Judaism.  Despite attending a Passover Seder at Abramoff's home, Mehlman felt compelled to be lie and say in January 2006 "[Abramoff is] someone we know a lot about ... except for what is read in the press."

It's a Fake Photo!  No one would ever hide evidence!

What, you claim it's a fake?  Not so fast, guy.  I believe your GOP-favored photo company, Reflections, attempted to obliterate any and all traces of the photo (or one like it).  Josh Marshall from TPM was on the story in early 2006:

Earlier this month, we were alerted to the existence of a series Abramoff photos at the website of Reflections Photography, a studio that does photo shoots for many Republican political events and sells copies to the individuals who attended the events and other members of the public through an online photo database. Reflections was an official photographer for Bush-Cheney 2004 campaign events and for the 2005 inauguration.


When we went to the page for the photograph of President Bush and Abramoff, the page in question had disappeared from the site. Indeed, in the sequence of photographs from the event in question, each had a unique identification number in perfect consecutive order. All were there on the site, in sequence, with the exception of the one that was apparently that of President Bush and Abramoff.


Amos very straightforwardly told me that the photographs had been removed and that they had been removed because they showed Abramoff and the president in the same picture. The photos were, she told me, "not relevant."

When I asked her who had instructed her to remove the photos, she told me she was the president of the company. She did it. It was "her business decision" to remove the photographs. She told me she had done so within the last month.

So, here we have it that the president of Reflections admits that she removed photos of Abramoff and the president from their online database. If what her employee told me on the 11th is accurate the photos were also deleted from the CDs they keep on file in their own archives. So the scrub seems to have been pretty thorough.

Did the White House send out the word to deep-six those Bush-Abramoff pics?

TalkingPointsMemo by Joshua Micah Marshall, 01-26-06

The New Claims.

The Justice Department, citing a Cold War-era court ruling, declared that the contents of the "Sensitive Security Records" cannot be publicly revealed even though they could show whether Abramoff made more visits to the White House than those already acknowledged.

"The simple act of doing so ... would reveal sensitive information about the methods used by the Secret Service to carry out its protective function," the Justice Department argued.

Associated Press

So the Secret Service believes their "protective function" (assumedly of the First or Second families) could somehow become compromised by telling about other as of yet undiscovered visits of Abramoff.  And the Department of Justice decided to "support" the Secret Service in this belief.

Knowing the little that I know about how the system works, if a visitor/appointment to the White House has flags "raised" during screening, he's given a closer look - and the staff who request the appointment be admitted be warned.  That's part of the USSS' mission, to protect all assigned protectees from potential harm.

Abramoff certainly would/should have raised red flags during his White House. The guy had ties to the South African apartheid government (they paid for him to make a film).  The guy was buying night vision and sniper rifles for Israeli right wing extremists.  

Now if the Secret Service failed to see Abramoff's "red flags" or their system failed, then I could certainly understand the security threat to their protectees and their desire to cover it up.  But since Abramoff (at least according to the White House) was not a regular visitor but somehow managed to get into events anyway, that's another serious securty problem that could endanger protectees.

Or, thirdly, Karl Rove's (or other 'friendly' White House staff) could have been clearing Abramoff in over the objections of the Secret Service - and let him roam free in the complex.  EOP staffer Catharine Ryun (daughter of defeated Kansas Congressman Jim Ryun, the guy that bought a house on discount from Tom DeLay Inc) once cleared Abramoff into the Old Executive Office Building (OEOB), despite her office being in an entirely building.  For the uninitiated, most of the important White House people are in the OEOB - Catherine was not. If Catherine wasn't clearing Abramoff in for her office in the "Faith Based Initiatives" section, then who was she clearing him in to see?  And was her decision to give Abramoff unfettered access to the OEOB a good one when he wasn't coming to mee with her?

(Here's some earlier speculation about what he could have done during a revealed visit with VP Cheney's domestic policy staffer Caesar Conda).

But It's Probably Dick Cheney Dictating This.

In an attempt to bolster its case, the Justice Department is citing a lawsuit on a secret operation of the Cold War, the attempted raising of a sunken Soviet submarine. In a 1976 ruling, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit allowed the CIA to refuse to confirm or deny its ties to Howard Hughes' submarine retrieval ship, the Glomar Explorer.

"A refusal to either confirm or deny the existence of responsive records is a well-recognized and accepted response in circumstances such as these," the Bush administration's court filing states.

Associated Press

The Soviet sub affair (the debacle that it was) was called "Project Jennifer."  It was a CIA operation authorized by President Richard Nixon.  Dick Cheney was a part of that Administration.

The court case was resolved in 1976, when Cheney was serving as Chief of Staff to Gerry Ford.

And today, the government is using the 1976 ruling.  Who might have dredged a 32 year old court case from the Ford Administration for use as precedent?  My money is on Dick Cheney.

Stay tuned.  It's not over.

Originally posted to citizen92 on Mon Dec 03, 2007 at 05:17 AM PST.

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