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Spy in the House of Bush: Cheney Staff Member Under Arrest For Espionage

The FBI has arrested a U.S. Marine most recently assigned to Vice President Dick Cheney’s staff, according to ABC News:

Officials tell ABC News the alleged spy worked undetected at the White House for almost three years. Leandro Aragoncillo, 46, was a U.S. Marine most recently assigned to the staff of Vice President Dick Cheney.

“I don’t know of a case where the vetting broke down before and resulted in a spy being in the White House,” said Richard Clarke, a former White House advisor who is now an ABC News consultant.

Federal investigators say Aragoncillo, a naturalized citizen from the Philippines, used his top secret clearance to steal classified intelligence documents from White House computers.

This news could not have come at a worse time for a White House beleaguered by a host of scandals and political troubles. While the damage to U.S. national security is likely minimal and the involved nation, the Philippines, far from the notorious Axis of Evil in terms of a threat to strategic interests, the arrest will still likely be seen as a black eye to a notoriously tightly run and controlled White House.

It’s ironic that the arrest was made public today as cracks in the historic unity of the Republican Party have also appeared over recent days with the nomination of White House Counsel Harriet Miers to the United States Supreme Court. A wide range of conservative thinkers and politicians, from George Will to former Supreme Court nominee Judge Robert Bork have expressed concern about Mier’s qualifications and lack of an established legal and constitutional philosophy.

George Will takes the President to task for using “intellectually disreputable impulses”:

Under the rubric of “diversity” — nowadays, the first refuge of intellectually disreputable impulses — the president announced, surely without fathoming the implications, his belief in identity politics and its tawdry corollary, the idea of categorical representation. Identity politics holds that one’s essential attributes are genetic, biological, ethnic or chromosomal — that one’s nature and understanding are decisively shaped by race, ethnicity or gender. Categorical representation holds that the interests of a group can be understood, empathized with and represented only by a member of that group.

The crowning absurdity of the president’s wallowing in such nonsense is the obvious assumption that the Supreme Court is, like a legislature, an institution of representation. This from a president who, introducing Miers, deplored judges who “legislate from the bench.”

With an unpopular war in Iraq, rising gas prices, and a massive reconstruction operation in the Gulf region, President Bush’s second term agenda was already in jeopardy, if not on life support. It will be interesting to see if these new allegations of espionage at the highest levels of government will in some way undermine support for Miers, a longtime legal counsel to President Bush, in the Senate Judiciary Committee.

For much more on political scandal and mayhem, check out the Blogcritics Political Scandal Sheet. For more on the Supreme Court, click here.

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  • http://home.comcast.net/~chickyraptor/ted_hooters.jpg Dave

    Interesting how the quoting of the ABC article ended right before the sentence:

    In 2000, Aragoncillo worked on the staff of then-Vice President Al Gore.

  • http://biggesttent.blogspot.com/ Silas Kain

    Interesting. Apparently the individual in question began in the Gore Vice Presidency. So, if that’s the case, Mr. Gore has some explaining to do. Aside from that, this Administration came into office under the perception that national security was a top priority. The buck stops in the Oval Office. Both the Clinton and Bush II Administrations should be held accountable. Unfortunately the Cowardly Congress will divide along party lines. Harry Reid will blame Bush. Dr. Frist will blame Clinton. Personally, I’d blame both branches of government. America, what’s it gonna take to get our collective heads out of our arses? It doesn’t matter which side of the issue you fall on — we all deserve a government that is accountable to us for a change.

  • http://biggesttent.blogspot.com/ Silas Kain

    Let’s not bait and switch this one. He started in the Gore Office, no doubt about it. But the incoming Administration collected resumes on all White House staff and made their own decisions. For once, both sides have got to come together. This isn’t about Democrat vs. Republican. It’s about National Security and that transcends politics. Any member of Congress who tries to play the party card should be called on he carpet. If you think it can’t be done remember that these members of Congress stood on the steps of the Capitol on September 11, 2001 and sang God Bless America. It didn’t matter that day who was what.

  • http://dumpsterbust.blogspot.com Eric Berlin

    Regardless of when the guy started working at the White House, it’s bad news for an administration that is universally considered to be politically weak (after nearly four years of being nearly historically strong).

  • http://www.suddennothing.net LegendaryMonkey

    Precisely. It doesn’t matter where he comes from, or who is responsible for it. After declining support for the war, after the Plume issue, after FEMA and the label of cronyism, followed by the nomination of yet another of Bush’s cronies, Harriet Miers, to the Supreme Court… now this?

    It’s a bad time to be in the White House, I expect.

  • http://none.com Bob A. Booey

    Bush was never “historically strong.” His great political skill was in transforming a weak mandate and marginal public support into a strong, aggressive agenda. But he never did it with the sheer force or charisma of the man he’s most clearly emulating, Reagan, or with the legislative dominance of other forceful Presidents. He’s a very good campaigner and eked out two elections, but he’s not someone who rules by force of will and personality.

    He’s largely out of political capital now and he’ll be lucky to get through this Miers thing with any left at all. Social Security is dead and he knows it.
    The only significant domestic legislation that might happen before the 2006 midterms might be some sort of immigration reform, but Bush hasn’t shown any leadership on the front.

    That is all.

  • http://none.com Bob A. Booey

    Let me be clearer: Bush wins, and Bush wins close contests, but Bush wins ugly and not with many style points. And he’s run out of wins, I think. He may well be a lame duck President other than the Iraq reconstruction, which seems to be his whole legacy anyway.

    The Filipino spy thing is more bad news, of course, that further damages the administration’s declining reputation for being able to move quickly, competently, and intelligently to protect the nation and its security.

    That is all.

  • http://dumpsterbust.blogspot.com Eric Berlin

    Bob — Support for the President was historically strong over a four year period. I didn’t mean to imply that Bush was / is a “historically strong President.” Therefore, every new crack in this armor — what some have called The Bush Myth, a great term in my opinion — is especially noticeable.

    Republicans have been remarkably unified from the Fall of 2001 through the summer of 2005. The very fact that that unity is now evidently fragile is a significant development indeed to political observers.

  • http://none.com Bob A. Booey

    Only to uninformed political observers. Bush has been in danger of losing his legislative and popular conservative base for quite a while over the deficit along with some other issues.

    It’s coming to the fore with the Miers nomination.

    I don’t think Bush was ever that strong with the Congress since he struggled for years to get things like his energy bill and ANWR done. Social Security was something only a truly dominant President could have gotten done and Bush showed he was nowhere near that level. Other than right after 9/11, Bush has had very little bipartisan support whatsoever. Luckily for him, he’s benefitted from having both houses under GOP control.

    That is all.

  • http://www.diablog.us Dave Nalle

    A recent poll showed Bush with 80% approval among Republicans, which I find hard to believe. Forget the Iraq war and disaster management. We want our damned Tax and Social Security reform.

    Dave

  • http://dumpsterbust.blogspot.com Eric Berlin

    Only to uninformed political observers. Bush has been in danger of losing his legislative and popular conservative base for quite a while over the deficit along with some other issues.

    Bob, that’s simply not the case. The deficit has never been a significant issue, even if it should be (and it should be). Thus the runaway spending and era of Conservative Big Government.

    I like to shorten Conservative Big Government to Don’t-Tax-and-Spend.

  • http://dumpsterbust.blogspot.com Eric Berlin

    Dave — Bush has had remarkably high support from within his own party throughout his presidency, which helped to drive the historical unity I mentioned, along with Karl Rove’s successful strategy of tacking right on social issues during the ’04 presidential campaign.

  • http://none.com Bob A. Booey

    Bush has gotten a lot of cover for spending because of 9/11 and the war, but there have been lots of grumbles from fiscally conservative Republicans about his record spending and deficits for a couple of years.

    Bush has maintained his party’s support, but not so much more remarkably than most other Presidents have.

    That is all.

  • http://www.diablog.us Dave Nalle

    He’s also gotten a lot of slack on spending because of the growth in GDP. That makes the spending less horrible in the short run.

    Dave

  • http://www.bookner.com/ Jason Gonzales

    Let’s first and see if Leandro is actually guilty before jumping to conclusions. Whatever happened to innocent until proven guilty?

  • http://www.bhwblog.com bhw

    Interesting how the quoting of the ABC article ended right before the sentence:

    In 2000, Aragoncillo worked on the staff of then-Vice President Al Gore.

    But when is the spying alleged to have started? That’s the key question — I wonder how far back it goes. Scary thought.

  • Stanley Jackson

    To Eric Berlin,

    Your headline says “Spy in the House of Bush”, and then you say “it isn’t about Democrats vs. Republicans”. Well, you could have fooled me. The original story is written to conveniently obscure the fact that the spy operated in the White House from 1999 to 2001. Last time I checked Cheney took office on JANUARY 20TH, 2001. Let’s get real.

  • http://paperfrigate.blogspot.com DrPat

    “He has admitted to spying while working on the staff of Vice President Cheney’s office.”

    All you need to do is click on the link, guys! And it is not about Cheney, or Gore, Bush or Clinton, IMHO — it’s an issue of security either way. The guy wasn’t caught until he went to work for the FBI.

  • http://www.djradiohead.com DJRadiohead

    Everything that happens in Washington D.C. is inevitably going to come back to politics.

    In the current climate, if Bush supporters can find a way to spin it in his favor they will. In the current climate, if Bush opponents can find a way to spin it to his detriment they will.

    Whether either group is right is almost entirely irrelevant. That is nearly as big a problem as espionage under various administrations.

  • http://biggesttent.blogspot.com/ Silas Kain

    And it is not about Cheney, or Gore, Bush or Clinton, IMHO — it’s an issue of security either way. The guy wasn’t caught until he went to work for the FBI.

    I agree. The main issue is security, DrPat. However, the Administrations have all of the tools at their disposal to insure that these things do not happen. One must wonder if the ‘turf war’ is alive and well between the Secret Service, FBI and CIA.

  • http://dumpsterbust.blogspot.com Eric Berlin

    Because Aragoncillo was arrested in 2005 while most recently working for the Vice President’s office, it’s a political problem for an already weakened administration.

    In terms of politics, the exact moment when the spying began doesn’t matter all that much.

  • http://blogcritics.org/author.php?author=Cerulean Cerulean

    What does the Phillipines need to know that bad? I thought that they were our allies.

  • http://dumpsterbust.blogspot.com Eric Berlin

    It’s a not-so-dirty little secret that everyone spies on everyone else.

    And the U.S. has lots and lots and lots of information that nearly every country in the world would love to get their hands on.

  • http://home.comcast.net/~chickyraptor/ted_hooters.jpg Dave

    Because Aragoncillo was arrested in 2005 while most recently working for the Vice President’s office, it’s a political problem for an already weakened administration.

    This statement and the title of this thread are misleading. He worked for Gore’s office in 1999 and 2000 and carried over to Cheney’s office for part of 2001.

    He was caught e-mailing classified material to the Phillipines while working for the FBI in 2005.

  • http://dumpsterbust.blogspot.com Eric Berlin

    Thanks for the details, Dave. However, that doesn’t change the political equasion.

  • ss

    Cerulean:

    This is from memory and I really haven’t been following what’s been going on in the Phillipines to closely, I couldn’t even tell you the name of the woman running the country, but I remember something about there being months of political gridlock, protests over corruption, the legislature being temporarily overrun with protestors, some sort of whisper campaign carried out over instant messaging on cell phones-
    basicly, somebody over there can’t beat her at the polls but they really want her out. Where the Marine fits into this, I can only speculate…
    Hired to dig up dirt by one side or the other in this quasi-democratic coup/counter-coup mess going on in the Phillipines?

  • http://dumpsterbust.blogspot.com Eric Berlin

    Dave — I’m quoting the original ABC News story here:

    Both the FBI and CIA are calling it the first case of espionage in the White House in modern history.

    So I don’t see my piece as misleading.

  • http://biggesttent.blogspot.com/ Silas Kain

    You’re right, Eric. As a matter of fact I watched an interview with the former #2 man at Homeland Security (his name escapes me) and he stated unequivocally last night that this is the first case of espionage from within the White House in modern times. I also heard, off the Internet, that Anderson Cooper at CNN is going to be coming out with some related news in the next few days. On the surface the whole thing seems pretty tame, and judging by past performance, the tamer it looks, the stinkier it will get.

  • http://biggesttent.blogspot.com/ Silas Kain

    OK, boys and girls, here’s one for you. Go to GOOGLE and type in failure. Then click on the “I’m Feeling Lucky Button”.

  • http://dumpsterbust.blogspot.com/ Eric Berlin

    Silas, I don’t think this is a huge story unless more comes out (which, as you’ve alluded to, might happen). However, when added to all of the bad news afflicting the White House over the past few months, it does Team Bush no favors.

  • http://home.comcast.net/~chickyraptor/ted_hooters.jpg Dave

    OK, boys and girls, here’s one for you. Go to GOOGLE and type in failure. Then click on the “I’m Feeling Lucky Button”.

    …and find out that the Bushcrazed lefties have nothing better to do than to Google-bomb.

  • http://biggesttent.blogspot.com/ Silas Kain

    Have you watched any of the cable news coverage, Eric? There seems to be an air of defiance among a lot of the press toward this White House at the moment. Maybe I’m reading more into it than I should but I hear the same thing coming through on talk radio. As long as the President had the ultra right hammering away on his behalf, things seemed pretty controlled. Conservatives are shying away from him now. His White House doesn’t seem to have a grip on everything that it’s getting hit with these days. Perhaps it’s not a huge story and, then again, perhaps it doesn’t deserve any attention. That being said, as I watch and read the news in the last few days a word keeps getting whispered in the back of my mind. So, I did a little research and came up with this:

    What you see too often in Washington and elsewhere around the country is a system of government that seems incapable of action. You see a Congress twisted and pulled in every direction by hundreds of well-financed and powerful special interests. You see every extreme position defended to the last vote, almost to the last breath by one unyielding group or another. You often see a balanced and a fair approach that demands sacrifice, a little sacrifice from everyone, abandoned like an orphan without support and without friends.

    Eric, that snippet was given in the Malaise Speech by President Jimmy Carter on July 15, 1979. A quarter century later, many points he made in that speech apply to life today. We’ve gone a full generation since Carter. We’ve had the hopes of Reagan; the uncertainty of Bush; the confusing Clinton era; and, George W. Bush. Regardless of where you stand on the Carter Presidency, there are things that can be learned from him. Back in 1979 he talked about our collective lack of self-confidence:

    It is the idea which founded our nation and has guided our development as a people. Confidence in the future has supported everything else — public institutions and private enterprise, our own families, and the very Constitution of the United States. Confidence has defined our course and has served as a link between generations. We’ve always believed in something called progress. We’ve always had a faith that the days of our children would be better than our own.

    I’d suggest that many of you go back and read President Carter’s speech. How much have we changed as a nation? Did we learn anything at all from the gas crisis of the 70′s? Have we healed the wounds of Viet Nam? Is Ronald Reagan’s vision of that City on a Hill dead? Have George H.W. Bush’s Thousand Points of light been extinguished – or were they ever there at all? Is Bill Clinton the only one left in America who believes in a place called Hope? Instead of Compassionate Conservative, how about Compassionate Citizen? If we stopped bitching at each other and took a little time to listen, just how different would we be? If we want political polarization to cease at all levels of government, we better start in our own homes and communities.

  • http://dumpsterbust.blogspot.com/ Eric Berlin

    Yes Silas, ABC’s The Note quoted Carter’s famous crisis of confidence speech several weeks ago. There are now some strange parallels to the late 70s… which is interesting because some are, particularly in a post-Katrina environment, proclaiming an end to the Reagan Revolution.

    I catch Hardball whenever I can, but that’s about it for me and cable news.

  • Stanley Jackson

    To Eric,

    Regarding your headline, the political equation is not the issue, accuracy is. If I didn’t know the details of the story I’d think the spy came to work for the White House after Jan 20, 2001 and had no connection whatsoever with anyone in the Clinton Administration. Your headline is true, but misleading. This might not be so aggravating if it was isolated. But deceptive headlines are very common these days, too common to be coincidental.

  • http://dumpsterbust.blogspot.com/ Eric Berlin

    Let’s take a look at some related headlines:

    Spy Stole Papers From Cheney – Arab News, Saudi Arabia
    Investigation Continues: Security Breach at the White House – ABC News
    Ex-Marine suspect in White House, FBI spy case – Seattle Times
    Suspected spy stole secrets in White House – Asbury Park Press
    Ex-Cheney aide investigated in spy case – Austin American-Statesman
    Spy probe widens against Filipino – American San Francisco Chronicle

    I don’t think my headline is inconsistent with the facts or spirit of the story.

  • http://biggesttent.blogspot.com/ Silas Kain

    And now the headlines read, “Terrorist Bomb Plot in NY Subway Thwarted” — This has got to be the luckiest Presidential Administration in our history.

  • Stanley Jackson

    To Eric,

    Your recitation of headlines proves my point…deceptive headlines are common. Funny you mentioned the Austin American Statesman. They changed the headline to “Is There a Spy in the White House?” later in the day, after the misleading nature of their original headline was pointed out to them.

  • http://dumpsterbust.blogspot.com Eric Berlin

    Okay, if the headline of every major publication that covered this story is also misleading, than at least I don’t feel singled out.

  • Stanley Jackson

    Eric,

    Let me make sure I’ve got this streaight. If the Washington Post (or the NY Times, AP or Reuters) puts out a slanted or misleading headline and/or story, and 600 media outfits INCLUDING YOURS follow their lead, with no independent corroboaton whatsoever, THAT to you is good journalism. The weight of numbers validates the initial reporting. Is that it?

  • Bennett

    Whaaaaat? Mr. Jackson, Are you someone that comments here regularly? Or just on this post? What are you expecting to achieve from this? Are you contacting all of the outlets/writers that chose to go with a headline that had “Spy” and “Bush” or “White House” in it?

    You’ve voiced your disapproval, what are you trying to gain here by commenting more on this matter?

  • http://dumpsterbust.blogspot.com Eric Berlin

    Stanley — No. I’m saying that I felt I used sound judgement, and then used 600 other media sources to backup my assessment.

  • http://www.nrlc.org/ Anthony Grande

    Inside the mind of Bennett:

    When someone has an argument that condtradicts mine, ask him or her why are you going to accomplish by being here???

    Because ya know we all want this to be a 100% liberal site so we can talk about how much Bush, the War, and Republicans suck without being disturbed.

  • http://dumpsterbust.blogspot.com/ Eric Berlin

    Everyone: We’re trying to create a site where people from the left and right (and whatever) come together to chat and ruminate, etc.

    This is a pretty unique feature of Blogcritics… but it’s important for everyone to try and be as respectful to others as you can.

  • http://www.nrlc.org/ Anthony Grande

    I totally agree!!! But me very good freind Bennett thinks otherwise.

  • http://dumpsterbust.blogspot.com Eric Berlin

    Anthony — I guarantee that if you lead by example, 98% of the people here will applaud and encourage you, even if they disagree with your argument.

  • Bennett

    Aw Anthony, now I’m your “good friend”?

    I was respectfully trying to find out what motivates a seventeen year old to abandon social interaction with a teenage peer group in favor of meaningless rants to an group of adults who aren’t even close to being a target audience, don’t make the laws that govern our country, and who regularly disemble any argument you might come up with to back your fantasy notions and hysterical positions.

    What gives with wanting that type of negitive feedback on a daily basis?

  • http://dumpsterbust.blogspot.com Eric Berlin

    Bennett, seriously: let’s try and start with a clean slate.

  • Bennett

    You got it, Eric.

  • http://dumpsterbust.blogspot.com Eric Berlin

    Thanks! Same goes for me…

  • http://www.nrlc.org/ Anthony Grande

    >Aw Anthony, now I’m your “good friend”?<

    That’s right, I believe everyone is my freind.

    Now for your comments about my social interaction: I threw all those arguments down freind.