The cost of intelligence

One of the recommendations of the 9/11 Commission was that the figure for overall U.S. spending on intelligence should be made public annually.

A law enacted this summer required that the Bureau of National Intelligence produce that number 30 days after the end of the federal fiscal year. That was Sept. 30, and Tuesday, 30 days later, came the figure — $43.5 billion for fiscal 2007.

If there is a surprise, it is that the total is lower than most outside experts had estimated. They put it at around $45 billion.

All the news that’s fit to twist

Mark Twain famously said that “if you don’t read the newspapers you are uninformed — if you do read the newspapers you are misinformed.” Today, those who rely on the elite media for news of Iraq suffer from both disabilities.

Why gas prices are rising

In April of last year, Rep. Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., was asked why gas prices were surging ever closer to $3 per gallon. She told CNN: “We have two oilmen in the White House … The logical follow-up from that is $3-a-gallon gasoline. It is no accident. It is a cause and effect.”

Firestorm over immunity deal

The US State Department faced tough questions Tuesday over reports that it offered immunity to Blackwater security firm employees in the wake of a Baghdad shooting that left 17 civilians dead.

Top Democratic lawmakers sent letters to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice demanding answers over reports that Blackwater, which protects US diplomats in Baghdad, had been offered protection from prosecution when the State Department investigated the September 16 shooting.

Help wanted: Must be willing to die

White House assurances that Iraq in general and Baghdad in particular have become safer thanks to President Bush’s “surge” strategy are apparently not resonating at certain levels of the U.S. State Department.

The department has been unable to attract enough volunteers from among its diplomatic corps to fully staff the huge Baghdad embassy, the United States’ largest, so it is resorting to its first mandatory call-up of Foreign Service officers since the Vietnam War.

FEMA’s fantasies

Fox News and MSNBC tag-teamed the other day in a wacky, zany comedy contest against “Saturday Night Live.”

Final score: FNC & MSNBC 1, “SNL” 0. The triumph came when the 24/7 cable news channels aired a live comedy program that the trained professional comedians at “Saturday Night Live” could not possibly match.

Live from FEMA — it’s Tuesday afternoon!

Blackwater mercenaries get immunity

A controversial immunity deal for Blackwater mercenaries involved in the murder of Iraqi civilians threatens a criminal investigation into the killings and has further angered the Iraqi government.

The immunity deal promised by the State Department is viewed by some as a cover up of Blackwater’s many illegal activities in the Iraq war and a blatant attempt by the Bush administration to whitewash the actions by a company whose owner is a major supporter of Republican political activities.

FEMA’s fake press conference backfires

Perhaps FEMA should stand for “Fake Every Morning & Afternoon.”

Officials of the embattled emergency management agency openly admit they screwed the pooch by holding a fake “news” conference, filling the room with staff members posing as reporters.

Both FEMA and the Bush Administration scrambled Friday to try and recover from trying to pass propaganda off as news: Another black eye for an error-prone administration.

But their excuses fell on deaf ears.

Fraud probe launched on Iraq deals

A team of specially trained investigators will hunker down in an Army office north of Detroit on Monday to begin poring over hundreds of Iraq war contracts in search for rigged awards.

This team of 10 auditors, criminal investigators and acquisition experts are starting with a sampling of the roughly 6,000 contracts worth $2.8 billion issued by an Army office in Kuwait that service officials have identified as a hub of corruption.

Do you feel a draft?

Here are a few facts that Americans should consider when contemplating the situation in Iraq and whether they support sustaining this invasion and occupation for the length of time the Bush administration has said it may take to put things on a sound, peaceful footing, if that is ever even possible.