Michael Isikoff

Stories by Michael Isikoff

  • A Delegate Loophole?

    Citing wiggle room in an obscure, 26-year-old Democratic Party rule, Hillary Clinton's campaign is leaving the door open to the idea of attempting to persuade Barack Obama's pledged delegates to switch their votes at the last minute and back the New York senator—despite fears among some party officials that it could throw this summer's Denver convention into chaos.The question of whether pledged delegates must stick to the candidate they were elected to vote for has prompted party chatter for weeks. Clinton herself drew notice last week during a NEWSWEEK interview when she said her delegate numbers aren't "bleak at all," even though by most counts she trails Obama by more than 100. "Even elected and caucus delegates are not required to stay with whomever they are pledged to," she added. Although her campaign quickly denied it was waging any effort to "flip" Obama's pledged delegates, Clinton's remarks weren't academic. After the 1980 battle between Jimmy Carter and Ted Kennedy, her...
  • An Arms Dealer’s U.S. Ties

    U.S. officials are thrilled about the arrest in Bangkok of accused Russian arms trafficker Viktor Bout following a lengthy undercover sting by the Drug Enforcement Administration. Dubbed the "Merchant of Death," Bout had been a top target for years. But if, as expected, he is extradited to New York, where he faces charges of conspiring to provide weapons to Colombian guerrillas, the case could also embarrass some U.S. government figures. As recently as four years ago, Bout's companies were employed by the Pentagon to fly troop supplies for the Iraq War into U.S. military bases—an issue he will likely exploit at his trial. "This shows the incompetence of the way the war was being run," said Lee Wolosky, a former White House national-security aide who led efforts to apprehend Bout during the Clinton administration. "While Bout was being pursued by one part of the U.S. government, another part was rewarding him with fuel agreements and subcontracts."Bout's Iraq work continued even...
  • Attack Ads on the Way

    A new series of TV commercials featuring sinister photos of Osama bin Laden may signal what's to come this fall: a wave of secretly financed political attack ads. The spots, by a group called Defense of Democracies, which was just created by former Republican National Committee spokesman Cliff May, target 15 House Democrats for their failure to support a White House-backed electronic-spying bill. May told NEWSWEEK he plans to spend $2 million on the ads, but declined to identify who is financing the effort, saying he set up the group as a tax-exempt nonprofit—known in the federal tax code as a "501(c)(4)"—thereby permitting it to engage in political advocacy without disclosing donors.The ads spotlight what some experts say is a gaping loophole in the campaign-finance laws. On Dec. 26, 2007, the Federal Election Commission quietly issued new rules in the wake of a Supreme Court decision last June that give more latitude for 501(c)(4) groups to run political "electioneering" ads...
  • Terror Watch: Scare Tactics on Eavesdropping?

    An aggressive campaign by the White House and its allies to win approval of a new electronic spying bill is escalating partisan tensions on Capitol Hill. The contentious debate over the measure could spill over into this fall's election campaign. The latest tactic employed by administration supporters involves a $2 million television advertising campaign featuring sinister images of Osama bin Laden that started running this week in the home districts of about 15 Democratic members of Congress who are potentially vulnerable this fall. The ads, funded by a newly formed conservative advocacy group called defenseofdemocracies.org, charge that House Democrats have allowed "surveillance against terrorists" to be "crippled" because they failed to approve a version of the spying bill supported by the Bush administration.The group, run by Clifford May, a former communications director of the Republican National Committee, has not disclosed the names of its donors. May told NEWSWEEK that he...
  • Back on the Tape Trail

    Newly released documents suggest that the U.S. government videotaped more Qaeda suspects than it has publicly disclosed. Court filings unsealed last week show that federal prosecutors recently informed a judge about videos depicting the questioning of a key figure in the case of convicted Qaeda operative Zacarias Moussaoui. Although the witness's name was redacted, a U.S. official (who asked for anonymity discussing sensitive matters) acknowledged that it was Mohammad al-Qatani, the reputed "20th hijacker," who has been detained at Guantánamo Bay since 2002. A Qatani video could create problems: his treatment was the subject of an extensive investigation by the U.S. Southern Command. The probe, whose results were released in 2005, found that he'd been forced to wear a bra, stand naked in front of female guards, wear a leash and "perform a series of dog tricks." The Southern Command report concluded that while these practices were "abusive and degrading," they did not rise to the...
  • Ex-Congressman Indicted

    Former U.S. representative Mark Siljander is indicted on charges related to work for an Islamic charity that prosecutors say has Al Qaeda and Taliban ties.
  • The Dirty War Moves South

    Mudslinging. Hit jobs. Dark arts. Whatever you want to call the practice, it's back for Campaign 2008, and it's only going to get worse.
  • Archivist Challenges Cheney

    A National Archives official reveals what the veep wanted to keep classified--and how he tried to challenge the rules
  • Son’s Past Could Come Back to Bite Huckabee

    As Mike Huckabee gains in the polls, the former Arkansas governor is finding that his record in office is getting more scrutiny. One issue likely to get attention is his handling of a sensitive family matter: allegations that one of his sons was involved in the hanging of a stray dog at a Boy Scout camp in 1998. The incident led to the dismissal of David Huckabee, then 17, from his job as a counselor at Camp Pioneer in Hatfield, Ark. It also prompted the local prosecuting attorney— bombarded with complaints generated by a national animal-rights group—to write a letter to the Arkansas state police seeking help investigating whether David and another teenager had violated state animal-cruelty laws. The state police never granted the request, and no charges were ever filed. But John Bailey, then the director of Arkansas's state police, tells NEWSWEEK that Governor Huckabee's chief of staff and personal lawyer both leaned on him to write a letter officially denying the local prosecutor...
  • CIA Tape: What Will AG Do?

    How will the new attorney general respond to the CIA's destruction of interrogation videotapes?
  • The Qatari Connection

    Giuliani won't release a full list of his business interests. One now-public deal is of particular note.
  • Selective Memories

    Master spinners Bill Clinton and Karl Rove try to rewrite the roles they played in the run-up to war.
  • Wolfowitz Back in Govt.?

    The Bush administration has offered the former World Bank president a new public service position.