Michael Isikoff

Stories by Michael Isikoff

  • Liz Cheney: Heir to a New Dynasty?

    Liz Cheney is truly Dick's daughter, galvanizing the Republican base with her right-wing views and blistering critiques of Obama. Did somebody say 2012?
  • Karl Rove as Jean Valjean: An Upside-Down Look at the Plame Affair

    In his fat and highly skewed new memoir out today, Karl Rove portrays himself as an improbable Jean Valjean—an innocent man who, like the persecuted hero of Victor Hugo's Les Misérables, is relentlessly hounded by an obsessed lawman determined to put him behind bars. As the former White House senior adviser tells it in Courage and Consequence: My Life as a Conservative in the Fight, he was forced to drain his personal savings and watch his family subjected to "countless hours of abuse and fear"—all because special counsel Patrick Fitzgerald was supposedly seeking any way possible to indict him for lying about the outing of CIA operative Valerie Plame. Rove maintained a brave public face throughout. But behind the scenes, "the whole thing was scaring the hell out of me," he writes. And it turns out that he was far closer to getting indicted than most people knew. After Rove's fourth grand-jury appearance in October 2005, Fitzgerald phoned Rove'...
  • 'I Was Disgusted,' Says Former Bush Official About Liz Cheney Ad

    Nine former Bush administration officials who played major roles in shaping counterterrorism policies today released a statement condemning as “shameful” recent attacks by Liz Cheney’s advocacy group on Justice Department lawyers who had previously represented Guantánamo detainees. ...
  • New Details of Elaborate Dubai Assassination Emerge

    A chart released by the Dubai police shows the travel ports of entry and exit of suspects in the murder of Hamas officer Mahmoud al-Mabhouh.The assassins who killed Mahmoud Al-Mabhouh at a five-star Dubai hotel in January made one mistake: their work was too perfect. The hit team took elaborate steps to make the Hamas military commander's cause of death appear natural. His body was found lying in bed unclothed, his pants folded neatly over a chair and a bottle of heart medicine on the nightstand beside him. There were no bruises on the corpse, and no sign of a struggle in the room. The door was even chain-locked from inside. But the scene was so immaculate that when Dubai police finally entered the room, after his wife complained she couldn't reach him on his cell phone, "they were struck by how neat everything was," in the words of a foreign law-enforcement official who is close to the investigation, and provided fresh details to NEWSWEEK on condition of...
  • More Bush Lawyers Join Attacks on Liz Cheney Ad

    In recent days the Justice Department has been getting angry phone calls about the "Qaeda" lawyers supposedly hired by Attorney General Eric Holder. The reason? An unusually ferocious Web ad by Liz Cheney's advocacy group, Keep America Safe, targeting Justice lawyers who previously did pro bono work for Guantánamo detainees. The ad—in one frame, a headline refers to the DOJ as the "Department of Jihad"—has been denounced as McCarthyism by liberal critics. It's also being condemned by a growing number of former George W. Bush administration lawyers. Ted Olson, who served as Bush's solicitor general, says he has the "greatest respect" for lawyers who represented Gitmo clients; they were acting "consistent with the finest traditions of the legal profession," he says. He calls the attacks on one of the targets, Deputy Solicitor General Neal Katyal, "outrageous." Four years ago, Katyal represented Salim Ahmed Hamdan, Osama...
  • Civil Liberties Board Goes Vacant Under Obama

    When President Bush two years ago failed to name members to a federal board to monitor the protection of civil liberties, Democrats and activist groups were duly outraged, seeing it as one more example of his administration's indifference to the subject. ...
  • Did Suspected Dubai Hit Men Really Visit U.S.?

    The international mystery over the murder of a senior Hamas leader deepened Monday when U.S. law-enforcement officials said they were unable to find any records to corroborate assertions by Dubai police that two suspected hit-squad members fled to the U.S. following the slaying....
  • The Growing Mystery of the Missing E-Mails

    How big is the Justice Department’s missing e-mail problem? That may be the key question arising from the disclosure—in last week’s Office of Professional Responsibility (OPR) report—that the e-mails of Justice Department lawyers who crafted memos on torture and other controversial issues had mysteriously disappeared.  ...
  • Exclusive: Archives Demands DOJ Explain Missing E-Mails

    The National Archives is pressing the Justice Department to investigate the “possible unauthorized destruction of e-mail and other records” within the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel during a crucial time period, when the office’s lawyers wrote hotly disputed memos about torture, Guantánamo, and warrantless wiretapping. ...
  • Zazi Guilty Plea a Boon for Obama Officials

    Today’s guilty plea by Najuibullah Zazi to terrorism charges in federal court provides fresh ammunition for Obama administration officials to argue that traditional law enforcement methods can be just as effective, if not more, in questioning terror suspects than subjecting them to “enhanced interrogation techniques.” By pleading guilty to plotting what he called a “martyrdom operation” and agreeing to cooperate about his Al Qaeda contacts in Pakistan, Zazi becomes the fourth major terror suspect to cut deals or at least begin plea negotiations with the FBI in recent months. Those suspects have already produced a bonanza of intelligence about the inner workings of Al Qaeda and its affiliates that is being actively used by security services around the world, according to current and former U.S. counter-terrorism officials and numerous press reports. Read the rest of the story on NEWSWEEK's Declassified blog...
  • Zazi Guilty Plea a Boon for Obama Officials

    Today’s guilty plea by Najibullah Zazi to terrorism charges in federal court provides fresh ammunition for Obama administration officials to argue that traditional law-enforcement methods can be just as effective, if not more, in questioning terror suspects than subjecting them to “enhanced interrogation techniques.”...
  • Justice Report Provides Gruesome New Details About CIA Program

    The long-awaited Justice Department report on the lawyers who wrote the so-called torture memos provides gruesome new details about the CIA’s harsh interrogations of high-level Qaeda suspects, highlighting issues that could ultimately complicate the Obama administration’s efforts to try the detainees in federal court or even before military commissions. ...
  • Justice Report: CIA Memo Used by Cheney to Justify Waterboarding Was Inaccurate

    A crucial CIA memo that has been cited by former Vice President Dick Cheney and other former Bush administration officials as justifying the effectiveness of waterboarding contained “plainly inaccurate information” that undermined its conclusions, according to Justice Department investigators.
  • Report: Bush Lawyer Said President Could Order Civilians to Be 'Massacred'

    The chief author of the Bush administration's "torture memo" told Justice Department investigators that the president's war-making authority was so broad that he had the constitutional power to order a village to be "massacred," according to a report released Friday night by the Office of Professional Responsibility.
  • Osama Bin Laden's Former Driver: A Proud—And Happy—New Papa in Yemen

    Just after the 2008 election, the Pentagon quietly escorted Salim Ahmed Hamdan, Osama bin Laden’s former chauffeur, out of his cell at Guantánamo and flew him back to his homeland in Yemen to serve out the last weeks of his five-and-a-half-year sentence for providing  material support to terrorism. ...
  • Can the FBI Secretly Track Your Cell Phone?

    The Justice Department is poised this week to publicly defend a little-known law-enforcement practice that critics say may be the "sleeper" privacy issue of the 21st century: the collection of cell-phone "tracking" records that identify the physical locations where the phones have been. ...
  • Brennan Plays Unusual 'Attack Dog' Role

    White House counterterrorism adviser John Brennan played an unusual role Sunday when he swiped at congressional Republicans for bashing the administration's handling of the Christmas Day bombing suspect....
  • Justice Official Clears Bush Lawyers in Torture Memo Probe

    For weeks, the right has heckled Attorney General Eric Holder Jr. for his plans to try the alleged 9/11 conspirators in New York City and his handling of the Christmas bombing plot suspect. Now the left is going to be upset: an upcoming Justice Department report from its ethics-watchdog unit, the Office of Professional Responsibility (OPR), clears the Bush administration lawyers who authored the “torture” memos of professional-misconduct allegations....
  • WMD Panel Gives an F to Obama and Congress for Failing to Prepare for Bioweapons Attack

    The Obama administration and Congress get an F for failing to prepare for a biological terrorist attack—a “national security” risk that is getting greater “by the day,” according to the director of a blue-ribbon federal panel set up to study the issue. Borrowing a page from the 9/11 Commission, the bipartisan WMD panel is today issuing a “report card”  on how the U.S. government has responded to its December 2008 recommendations for steps needed to prepare for the threat that terrorists will strike using nuclear or biological weapons.The  panel—chaired by former Democratic senator (and intelligence-committee chairman) Bob Graham and former GOP senator Jim Talent—concluded more than a year ago that there was better than a 50-50 chance that Al Qaeda or some other terrorist group would use weapons of destruction somewhere in the world in the next five years.Since then, the risks of such an attack have only gotten greater, said Randell Larsen,  the executive director of the panel, in an...
  • Intel Chief's Comments Infuriate Obama Officials

    Obama administration officials were flabbergasted Wednesday when Director of National Intelligence Adm. Dennis Blair testified that an alleged Qaeda operative who tried to blow up a U.S. airliner on Christmas Day should have been questioned by a special interrogation unit that doesn't exist, rather than the FBI. ...
  • Interpol, Round Three: Newt Fires Back at 'Openly Leftwing' NEWSWEEK

    Never one to shrink from a fight, former House speaker Newt Gingrich has struck back at Declassified's reporting on his endorsement of the seemingly wacky conspiracy theories circulating about the International Criminal Police Organization based in Lyon, France, commonly referred to as Interpol. ...
  • No KSM in NYC?

    Top administration officials are getting nervous that they may not be able to proceed with one of their most controversial national-security moves: trying Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and four other accused 9/11 conspirators in federal court in New York City. Last November Attorney General Eric Holder Jr. portrayed the trial as a way to showcase the American justice system to the world—and to accelerate President Obama's stalled plans to shut down the U.S. prison at Guantánamo Bay. But because of shifting political winds in Congress, the trial is now "potentially in jeopardy," a senior official, who did not want to be named talking about a sensitive situation, tells NEWSWEEK. The chief concern: that Republicans will renew attempts to strip funding for the trial and, in the aftermath of the bombing attempt aboard Northwest Flight 253, pick up enough support from moderate Democrats to prevail. Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham says he will force another vote on his amendment to...