For Congress: a Few Good Spook
The CIA's class of '85 must have been a doozy. Three alumni of that year's fall career training class are much in the news these days. There's Valerie Plame, the now retired spy whose outing is being investigated by special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald. Among Plame's classmates was the outspoken Larry Johnson, a terrorism expert who has turned into a leading Bush critic, trashing the president through media appearances and his blog "No Quarter." Now add to that list Jim Marcinkowski, who's running for the House in Michigan's Eighth District. First-time candidate Marcinkowski is unopposed in the Democratic primary and has Dems buzzing about his chances against the GOP's Mike Rogers.
The three former spooks all know each other, and Marcinkowski even drew on Plame's husband, former Ambassador Joseph Wilson, to appear at his campaign kickoff. Marcinkowski is one of a dozen or so candidates boosters are calling "macho Democrats." The list includes some eight military veterans from Iraq and at least one other former CIA officer, John Pavich of Illinois. But the GOP is responding in kind, with ex-CIA incumbents Rob Simmons of Connecticut and Joe Schwarz of Michigan and newcomer Jeff Beatty of Massachusetts. "It certainly shows that the talent goes in many different directions," says an intelligence insider.
GOP Fears in a Bellwether Race
Staffers from the National Republican Congressional Committee are quietly telling GOP House members to prepare for a possible loss in the June 6 special election to fill the seat of Randy "Duke" Cunningham, now in prison for taking bribes. The Southern California district is heavily Republican, but some GOP insiders believe that Democrat Francine Busby will defeat former GOP Rep. Brian Bilbray and go on to win a full term in November. More alarming some worry that a Bilbray defeat could signal the GOP's loss of control of the House. The NRCC has already pumped $3.1 million into the race. "It is becoming more and more likely," says one GOP strategist, "that Bilbray will squeak out a victory." But another longtime Republican operative isn't so sure. "This is a district we should never lose," he says. "It's the stink of Cunningham, and the Bush problem."
An Unpopular Plug in a Data Pipeline
Talk about your bad timing. Just when everyone's watching the price of oil, the federal government has decided to scale back the information it gathers on how those prices get set. State governments, at least one federal agency, a host of oil analysts, and 46 members of Congress have asked the Energy Information Administration to reconsider its decision to eliminate two of its closely watched statistical reports. Other federal agencies, it seems, look to the EIA for information to develop their own reports on the economy. The Bureau of Labor Statistics, for one, says the data are "vital." But the plan looks as if it's going forward. Guy Caruso, the EIA's administrator, has said it was "a reluctant but tough budgetary decision."
The Calm (the Tan?) Before the Storm
At his Senate confirmation hearing last week, the prospective head of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, David Paulison, seemed suspiciously bronzed. "The man looks like he just returned from Cabo," quipped one reporter. Paulison, it turns out, is getting heat not just at the Senate but, more invitingly, at his family home in Miami. "He's been helping around the house--with the gardening," says Aaron Walker, FEMA's communications director. We assume he's enjoying the rest while it lasts; hurricane season starts June 1.
The More You Know, the More You Get
The boom in national security employment has job seekers with security clearances in great demand. And the higher one's clearance, the bigger the salary, says William Golden, CEO of top placement firm IntelligenceCareers.com. Applicants with a basic secret clearance can get up to a 5 percent boost in salary. Those with a top-secret/special compartmentalized (TS/SCI) clearance can get a bump of between 10 and 15 percent. And at the top level--TS/SCI with a "lifestyle polygraph"--new employees can expect between 10 and 35 percent more. Nice work if you can get it.
Pressing the Prez on Intel Details
It's not law yet, but the Senate Intelligence Committee has passed an authorization bill with brawnier-than-expected requirements for the Bush administration to cough up more details about clandestine detention facilities overseas and detainees held there. The Senate panel also wants to know more about secret programs like the National Security Agency's warrantless surveillance--before they show up in the press. The measures could still be stripped out of the bill, but either way, it will be hard to know whether Bush complies. Any reports to Congress would themselves be classified.
Iranian to Bush: 'Let's Talk'
The Bush administration refuses to talk with Iran about its nuclear programs. But at least some in Tehran want to talk with Washington. Most recently, the Iranians spoke with Mohamed ElBaradei, the head of the United Nations' International Atomic Energy Agency, and at least one told ElBaradei that Iran wants a direct dialogue with Washington. Last week, ElBaradei conveyed that wish to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, says a U.S. official. The Iranian in question may be Ali Larijani, head of Iran's National Security Council. Rice wouldn't say; ElBaradei acknowledged meeting with Larijani but declined to elaborate.
Officials, Idols, and Hometown Ties
And how did Condi Rice relax last week? By watching the season finale of American Idol, naturally. She cheered on winner Taylor Hicks, a fellow native of Birmingham, Ala., and, says an aide, even plans to send him a congratulatory note.
With David E. Kaplan, Edward T. Pound, Marianne Lavelle, Kevin Whitelaw, Thomas Omestad and Angie C. Marek
This story appears in the June 5, 2006 print edition of U.S. News & World Report.