Evan Thomas

Stories by Evan Thomas

  • CHENEY FAMILY VALUES

    Around Bush-Cheney headquarters, they are known, respectfully but also with a certain amount of eye-rolling, as The Family. Vice President Dick Cheney's wife, Lynne, and daughters Liz and Mary can be intense, insular and prickly as they protect their man, his reputation and his place on the GOP ticket. For White House and campaign staffers, the Cheney family can be dangerous to cross and easy to disappoint. Since taking office, Cheney is on his fourth press secretary, and all of them have appeared to be afraid of even trying to pass on tough or annoying questions from reporters. Prospective Cheney staffers are expected to be "part of The Family." The connotation is not quite the Sopranos, but it's not about baking cookies, either.The Family has been feeling a little besieged lately. Last week The New York Times ran a front-page story relating a plan--characterized by the paper as "ingenious as it is far-fetched" to dump Cheney under the guise of bringing on a new doctor who would...
  • As the Shadows Fell

    The story of Ronald Reagan's last decade is at once grim and tender. The personal history of how Nancy coped with his Alzheimer's.
  • TRANSITION

    WILLIAM MANCHESTER, 82 ...
  • INTELLIGENCE: WITH SPIES LIKE THESE...

    Three blocks from the White House, tucked away in an odd little brick building, is a small (50-member) men's club known as the Alibi. It was once a haven for spy masters. Allen Dulles, the longest-serving CIA director (known as the "Great White Case Officer"), drank martinis there with Kennedy and Eisenhower administration officials. It was at the Alibi that Richard Bissell, the CIA's swashbuckling chief of operations, announced in January 1961, at the depths of the cold war, "I'm your basic man-eating shark."Today, the Alibi's membership still includes a few old spooks, including the president's father, George H. W. Bush (who served as CIA director in 1976 and 1977). But some old hands complain that the club has been taken over by lawyers and lobbyists. George Tenet, the second longest-serving CIA director, who announced last week that he will step down, is not a member of the Alibi. The CIA has grown grayer, blander. Most of the modern "intelcrats" (intelligence bureaucrats) who...
  • No Good Defense

    He Leaned Forward, Changing The Way America Fights Wars And Shaking Up A Staid Bureaucracy. But His Culture Of Intimidation Alienated The Brass--And Helped Pave The Road To Abu Ghraib. Donald Rumsfeld's Journey To The Brink
  • Explaining Lynndie England

    What made Lynndie England, patriotic, pixie-ish tomboy who joined the army reserve to pay for college, become the poster girl for sexual humiliation and degradation at Abu Ghraib? Her sister, Jessica, describes England as "very kind-hearted, dependable, strong-minded and idealistic." And yet the photos show her calmly holding a cringing naked man on a leash.Typically in a plane crash, not one thing, but several things go wrong all at once. In Abu Ghraib, the source of degradation seems to be an "all of the above" answer to a sick multiple choice exam. The causes appear to be at once banal and evil, specific to the individual and as broad based as all of society. Everyone and no one was to blame. Why did England sink so low?The higher chain of command. That's England's explanation. She told a Denver TV station that she had been ordered to perform such sordid acts as pointing for the camera at a detainee's genitals while signaling thumbs-up. England sometimes felt "kind of weird," she...
  • 'I HAVEN'T SUFFERED DOUBT'

    It was Monday, Jan. 13, 2003, and President George W. Bush had just told his secretary of State, Colin Powell, that he was going to war in Iraq. "You know you're going to be owning this place?" inquired Powell. According to Washington Post reporter Bob Woodward's new book, "Plan of Attack," Powell "wasn't sure whether Bush had fully understood the meaning and consequences of total ownership." No matter. Bush said something to the effect of "I think I have to do this," and Powell, in essence, saluted and carried on. The whole conversation took 12 minutes.That's what passed for debate in the Bush war cabinet, at least as the White House is depicted by Woodward. Early press accounts about Woodward's latest behind-the-scenes narrative suggested that Bush kept even his closest advisers in the dark about his decision to go to war because he was afraid of leaks. The real news, however, is not that Bush was secretive about his war planning, but rather that there was so little consideration...
  • KERRY AND AGENT ORANGE

    The swift boats, like the one John Kerry captained, were sitting ducks. Hiding in the dense jungle along the riverbanks of the Mekong Delta, the Viet Cong could open up on the Americans with machine guns, mortars and rockets--and vanish before the Americans could effectively shoot back. So the U.S. military adjusted, dropping tons of herbicide on the foliage to strip the enemy of its cover. "They just told us they sprayed something to kill the bushes," recalls Mike Medeiros, who served with Kerry aboard PCF (Patrol Craft Fast) 94 in the winter of 1969. "It looked like a moonscape... You saw skeletal remains of trees everywhere. It was like, whatever they're using is some serious stuff."Some of Kerry's men, contacted last week by NEWSWEEK, don't recall being directly sprayed, or saw planes or choppers dropping the herbicides in the distance. Other Swift Boat crews patrolling near Kerry's boat say they were doused. But everyone, including Kerry, realizes today that they fought in a...
  • War Stories

    PAST AS PROLOGUE: IRAQ FILLS THE HEADLINES, BUT FOR PRESIDENT BUSH AND SEN. JOHN F. KERRY, VIETNAM MAY BE THE CRUCIBLE THAT MATTERS MORE. HOW TWO SONS OF PRIVILEGE CONFRONTED THE CONFLICT--AND THE WAYS THOSE CHOICES HAVE COLORED THEIR DIVERGENT PATHS
  • A VITAL MERGER

    The question seemed perfectly innocuous. A student at a small gathering of college Democrats in Lacey, Wash., asked Teresa Heinz Kerry why her husband had waited so long in the Senate (almost two decades) before deciding to run for president. The candidate's wife suddenly recalled something her mother had told her: that the Devil was powerful not because "he's so smart--he's so smart because he's so old."John Kerry as the Devil? For a moment, it looked like the sort of unfortunate, oddball blurt that makes campaign handlers cringe. Kerry's staff has long been uneasy about Teresa Heinz, a demanding, somewhat unpredictable 65-year-old demi-billionaire. But no one in the audience seemed to mind or even notice a sinister juxtaposition. The crowd laughed with her. Perhaps it was the context, an entertaining monologue about her roots in colonial Africa, delivered in her trademark, slightly sexy, vaguely exotic accent. Or perhaps it was just a friendly crowd, Democratic activists who want...
  • A PROBLEM IN THE BUNKER

    Is Dick Cheney a drag on the ticket? As President Bush's rating dips below 50 percent, some prominent Republicans are beginning nervously to wonder. "The chatter on Cheney has increased in the last two weeks," says Republican strategist Scott Reed. "Cheney has moved into the Bush world; you either love him or hate him." The charge that the Bush administration hyped the WMD threat from Iraq has thrust the vice president into the spotlight, a place he generally prefers not to be.There was a time when Cheney's presence in the White House was regarded as reassuring. With his thin record on foreign affairs and national security, George W. Bush seemed a little callow when he took office. Cheney, the former White House chief of staff under Gerald Ford and Defense secretary under the first President Bush, was a gruff, taciturn old hand who looked as if he were comfortable sleeping in a bomb shelter. But as Cheney disappeared into his "undisclosed location" after 9/11, surfacing only...
  • 'I'M A GOOD CLOSER'

    In the 1996 U.S. Senate race in Massachusetts, the wise guys in the Boston media and political establishment toasted Gov. William Weld and made fun of incumbent Sen. John Kerry. Kerry was mocked as a phony and a publicity hound--dubbed "Live Shot" by Billy Bulger, the Massachusetts state Senate president. Weld, on the other hand, was seen as clever and cool, the witty star of Bulger's annual St. Patrick's Day breakfast. If you had to guess which of the two candidates would do better on "Imus in the Morning," the irreverent talk show that has a large New England audience, you wouldn't have guessed John Kerry.You would have guessed wrong. Appearing on "Imus," Weld, who can be a little lazy, was unprepared and flat. "He didn't recognize my enormous influence," recalls Don Imus. Kerry came ready with jokes and riffs, but more important, he was not rattled by the razzing of the mercurial Imus. ("You can ask him questions like 'Is your wife too nutty to be First Lady?' " says Imus.) The...
  • WHY BUSH IS OVER THE MOON

    Karl Rove, President George W. Bush's chief political strategist, is known for hamming it up, whistling, humming and occasionally breaking into song. But he seemed especially jolly last week at a dinner, held at a PGA golf-and-spa resort in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla., for about 40 Republican heavy hitters. The mood of the GOP fat cats, so-called Rangers and Pioneers who have raised more than $200,000 and $100,000, respectively, for the president's re-election bid, had improved greatly since a similar gathering last fall, when worries over the economy and the war in Iraq had made them querulous with Rove. Now, with the stock market climbing and Saddam in jail, the contributors mostly tossed softballs to the president's top politico. Was Howard Dean, one questioner wanted to know, the best (i.e., weakest) Democrat for Bush to face in November? Rove indulged in some casual titillation. If voters were surprised by some of Dean's over-the-top comments, they should hold on to their hats,...
  • Operation Hearts And Minds

    Like all American soldiers in Iraq, the men and women of the Third Squad, First Platoon, B Company, 1/124 Infantry of the Florida National Guard were elated over the capture of Saddam Hussein. "It felt like complete victory," wrote one squaddie, Sgt. Richard Schevis, to his friends and family back home. "It felt like a connection with our grandfathers arriving in Berlin after fighting the Germans and finally the Reich falling." Schevis and his mates were especially happy when the city of Ar Ramadi, a Baathist stronghold, erupted in what sounded like celebratory gunfire.But then Schevis learned that the Iraqis were not firing their AK-47s skyward to celebrate Saddam's seizure. Rather, the men of Ar Ramadi had gone mad with joy over a report, aired on the Arabic television station Al-Jazeera, that the Americans had seized the wrong man, that Saddam was still free. Schevis felt crestfallen. "I was devastated and filled with rage towards the Iraqis," he wrote home.Other American GIs...
  • How We Got Saddam

    'Don't Shoot,' The Bearded, Submissive Man Said To The Soldiers. He Was Saddam Hussein, Hiding In A Hole, The Man The Pentagon Called 'High Value Target Number One.' The Story Of His Capture--And What's Next
  • Spy Games Uncloaked

    In the movie "Master and Commander," Jack Aubrey manages to find the single enemy ship for which he's searching the vast Pacific. During the real age of fighting sail, commanders were not so lucky. Lord Nelson, the cleverest of all British admirals, was driven into a "frenzy" trying to find Napoleon's fleet--some 300 ships--in the Mediterranean in 1798. (After 79 days he did, and destroyed them.) Nelson railed against fortune, unable to eat or sleep as he cast about for some piece of intelligence that would reveal the enemy.All commanders long for that secret key to victory--the broken code, the well-placed spy, the brilliant deception. They rarely find it, writes John Keegan in his new book, "Intelligence in War," and when they do, they still have to fight. In a series of bracing, meticulous case studies, including the Battle of Midway and Stonewall Jackson in the Shenandoah Valley, Keegan, our greatest modern military historian, argues that "ultimately, it is force, not fraud or...
  • Rumsfeld Bares His Fangs

    Defense secretary Donald Rumsfeld is known for his brusqueness with the press. But for Rumsfeld to be snippy with reporters about national-security adviser Condoleezza Rice was, to say the least, unusual and noteworthy. Pundits and their unnamed sources may speculate about rivalries or bad blood between members of President George W. Bush's war cabinet, but the principals themselves--Rumsfeld and Rice, Vice President Dick Cheney and Secretary of State Colin Powell--have for the most part been very careful not to speak ill of each other to reporters, or even hint at any personal differences.That is the way President Bush, who values loyalty and dislikes the Washington game, wants it to be. But last week Rumsfeld let his mask slip for a moment and bared his teeth at a colleague. It was one of those moments of Washington theater that, while stylized and partly in code, spoke volumes about longstanding rifts in Bush's foreign-policy team. That these divisions are now surfacing publicly...
  • "I Am Addicted To Prescription Pain Medication"

    True Confessions: Limbaugh Built An Army Of Admirers With His Hard-Right Rants. But Off-Air, He Was A Lonely Man Who May Have Broken The Law To Feed His Addiction. The Real Rush.
  • Politics: The Water Walker

    Gen. Wesley Clark likes to say that he loved all 34 of his years in the U.S. Army except for two days: the day he was shot (four times) in Vietnam and the day he was fired as Supreme Allied Commander, Europe, effectively ending his military career. Both times he was caught by surprise. On patrol in Vietnam, he dropped his rifle (how odd, he thought for an instant; he had never dropped his rifle before) and looked down to see white bone sticking out of his hand where the bullet had struck. The second wound was worse--a stab in the back. As commander of NATO forces, Clark had used an escalating 10-week bombing campaign to force Serbian strongman Slobodan Milosevic to abandon his campaign of "ethnic cleansing" in the Balkans. General Clark had expected to be hailed by his bosses in Washington as a conquering hero--or at least thanked for winning a war at the cost of zero U.S. casualties. Instead, he was dumped for being too independent-minded.Shocked, humiliated, Clark called Richard...
  • Cold War: Bluster Before The Fall

    Know thine enemy is an old rule of war and geopolitics, but one that often cannot be obeyed, especially if the enemy is a totalitarian state and hard to spy on. Throughout the cold war, American policymakers often had to guess at the intentions of the Kremlin, and they often guessed wrong. It was only after the Soviet Union collapsed in the late 1980s that Washington realized that the "evil empire" had long been rotting from within.The Soviets' weaknesses are vividly demonstrated in a trove of documents that will be released this week by the Russian government: the deliberations of the Politburo from 1954 to 1964. They show Prime Minister Nikita Khrushchev and his comrades worrying about planes that won't fly and bread lines that won't go away. At the same time, the Soviets are willing to take hair-raising risks. Khrushchev talks about shooting down American planes over Berlin in 1961 and asserts that the United States would "capitulate," a dangerous assumption that could have...
  • Groping In The Dark

    Iraq may be spinning out of control, but in the Bush administration, the spin was strictly controlled. From Baghdad to the White House, administration spokesmen went to elaborate lengths to argue that the presence of terrorists in Iraq was somehow a positive development. Paul Bremer, the U.S. civil administrator in Iraq, adopted a tone of "we've got 'em right where we want 'em." Bremer said: "Better to fight it here than to fight it somewhere else, like the United States." At a White House briefing, a senior administration official echoed, "I would rather fight them in Baghdad than in New York." If Al Qaeda has popped up in Baghdad, the Bushies defiantly proclaimed, it only goes to show that the administration was right all along to label Iraq as a terrorist haven. "Those who said there was no link between Iraq and the war on terror were dead wrong," said the White House official. (Writing in The New York Times, Harvard lecturer and former Clinton national-security official Jessica...
  • Condi In The Hot Seat

    First to take the fall was CIA Director George Tenet. He apologized for not stopping President Bush from declaring, in the State of the Union, that the Iraqis were trying to buy yellowcake uranium in Africa, a claim based on thin or fraudulent intelligence. Then last week it was deputy national- security adviser Steve Hadley's turn to fall on his sword. A shaken Hadley confessed to reporters that the CIA had, in fact, warned the White House in October to be wary of British intelligence reports about the Iraqis and African uranium--but that he had forgotten all about it when it came time to draft the president's State of the Union Message in January.Amid the high-level mea culpas, one voice was significantly missing. National-security adviser Condoleezza Rice has been defiant, and more than a little defensive, in her insistence that the flap about hyped-up intelligence was "overblown." She may have a point: proof could still turn up that Saddam Hussein harbored a secret WMD program....
  • See how They Ran

    THEY HOARDED MONEY. AND THEY HUDDLED IN FEAR. INSIDE THE FLIGHT PATH OF SADDAM'S SONS. THE RAID THAT GROUNDED THEM--AND THE HUNT FOR THE ACE OF SPADES
  • The War Over Gay Marriage

    In A Landmark Decision, The Supreme Court Affirms Gay Privacy And Opens The Way To A Revolution In Family Life
  • Center Court

    Justice Sandra Day O'Connor got her job through affirmative action. It was obvious to officials in the Reagan Justice Department, as they searched for a Supreme Court justice in the summer of 1981, that she lacked the usual qualifications for the high court. "No way," Emma Jordan, an assistant to the then Attorney General William French Smith, recalls thinking. "There were gaps in her background where she had clearly been at home having babies. She had never had a national position. Under awards, she had something like Phoenix Ad Woman of the Year." No matter. President Reagan wanted to appoint the first woman justice, so he named O'Connor.Last week O'Connor in a sense returned the favor by playing the critical role in the most important affirmative-action case in decades. She cast the fifth and deciding vote and wrote the court's opinion in upholding the right of the University of Michigan Law School to use race as a factor in admissions. As a practical matter, her ruling in...
  • Al Qaeda In America: The Enemy Within

    Khalid Shaikh Mohammed looked more like a loser in a T shirt than a modern-day Mephistopheles. But "KSM," as he is always referred to in FBI documents, held the key to unlock the biggest mystery of the war on terror: is Al Qaeda operating inside America?The answer, according to KSM's confessions and the intense U.S. investigation that followed, is yes. It is not known where the authorities took KSM after he was captured, looking paunchy and pouty, in a 3 a.m. raid in Pakistan on March 1. As Al Qaeda's director of global operations, KSM was by far the most valuable prize yet captured by American intelligence and its various allies in the post-9-11 manhunt. He probably now resides in an exceedingly spartan jail cell in some friendly Arab country, perhaps Jordan.He has probably not been tortured, at least in the traditional sense. Interrogation methods, usually involving sleep deprivation, have become much more refined. He probably did not tell all he knew. Qaeda chieftains are...
  • The New Man To See

    The vice president's chief of staff and national-security adviser, I. Lewis (Scooter) Libby, wants to be anonymous, but his personality sometimes gets the better of him. A slight figure, taciturn like his boss, Libby rarely speaks to reporters. But in April at a White House Correspondents Dinner after-party, he challenged various well-known journalists to drink tequila shots. Most of the reporters got drunk; Libby did not. "Typical Libby," says Rep. Rob Portman, Republican of Ohio. "He was probably doing every other one."Libby is the most powerful Washington figure most people never heard of. "He is viewed as an adviser to the president, not as staff. That is very unusual," says Portman, a friend of Libby's. As Congress begins to investigate whether the Bush administration hyped the WMD threat in Iraq, Libby's role is likely to come under scrutiny. Libby, like his boss, is known as a probing questioner of intelligence analysts. The question is whether he was too aggressive.Libby is...
  • The Secret War

    It's Been The Best-Covered War In History. But The Key To Success Was What We Didn't See: Special Forces, Psyop, The Air War--And The Utterly Inept Iraqi Army