Someone other than Edward Snowden is leaking classified documents about the United States’ surveillance operations.
According to CNN, government officials have concluded that there’s a new fount of secret documents, following the publication Tuesday of an article on the Intercept, the site led by Glenn Greenwald, who’s reported the bulk of Snowden-connected stories. The new article looks at the Terrorist Screening Database, or TIDE, an interagency list of “known or suspected” terrorists that has ballooned from 500,000 names in 2009 to 1.1 million last year, 680,000 of whom are on government watchlists. Of that latter figure, more than 40 percent are listed as not having any affiliation to any recognized terror group. The article also features details on the federal government’s no-fly list, which has expanded to 47,000 people under President Obama, ten times its reported peak under George W. Bush.
The Intercept’s story, by Jeremy Scahill and Ryan Deveraux, does not name its source, but it includes a slide from the National Counterterrorism Center dated August 2013, several weeks after Snowden went into exile in Russia. But Greenwald himself hinted last month that there are other sources of classified intelligence documents after Snowden.
Today’s Intercept story also landed with a side dish of media drama. The Associated Press, which had also been chasing the story of TIDE’s expansion, published a report about 12:30 PM, a few minutes before Scahill and Deveraux posted their more detailed version. The timing was not accidental, the Huffington Post reports. The NCTC, perhaps knowing the AP’s prose would be less stinging, tipped off the wire service to “spoil” the Intercept’s scoop. To wit: The AP frames the growth in anti-terror watchlists as a reaction to the failed “underwear bomber” who attempted to bring down an airliner over Detroit on Christmas in 2009; the Intercept paints it as surveillance run amok.
Find Benjamin Freed on Twitter at @brfreed.
Metro’s new Silver Line is turning out to be pretty popular a little more than a week into its service. Over the new route’s first seven days, Metro recorded nearly 220,000 trips beginning or ending at one of the five dedicated Silver Line stations in Tysons Corner and Reston, according to figures released Monday evening.
Before the $2.9 billion route opened, Metro said about 25,000 people would board every weekday at the five new stations, and it’s already closing in on that projection, with an average of 15,942 people a day swiping into the system last week between Monday and Friday.
Who are these Silver Line pioneers, though? Metro says between 8,000 and 9,000 Silver Line riders switched from trekking to less convenient Orange Line stations, while the remainder are people who are new Metro commuters.
The Wiehle-Reston East station at the end of the Silver Line is the most crowded by far, with more than 18,000 trips beginning or ending every weekday. The Tysons Corner station is second, with nearly 7,000 swipes in and out a day.
Here’s the station-by-station breakdown of the Silver Line’s first work week:
Total Weekday Trips to/from the Five New Silver Line Stations
- Monday: 30,846
- Tuesday: 33,287
- Wednesday: 32, 939
- Thursday: 34,364
- Friday: 33,118
Weekday Entry/Exit Breakdown by Station
- Monday: 1,614
- Tuesday: 1,678
- Wednesday: 1,773
- Thursday: 1,865
- Friday: 1,605
- Monday: 2,668
- Tuesday: 3,045
- Wednesday: 3,012
- Thursday: 3,222
- Friday: 2,870
- Monday: 2,681
- Tuesday: 2,879
- Wednesday: 2,862
- Thursday: 2,858
- Friday: 2,718
- Monday: 6,658
- Tuesday: 6,959
- Wednesday: 6,811
- Thursday: 6,803
- Friday: 7,699
- Monday: 17,225
- Tuesday: 18,726
- Wednesday: 18,481
- Thursday: 19,616
- Friday: 18,226
Find Benjamin Freed on Twitter at @brfreed.
The Army Corps of Engineers announced yesterday that the project to clean up chemical weapons and toxic waste in Spring Valley will take another three years. Since 1993, the Army has been cleaning up World War I bombs and chemical agents buried from experiments at American University in 1918. In 2012, it said the project would finish this year. The new target is 2017.
The Army has estimated the cleanup cost at $250 million, but that number is likely to increase with the extended schedule. The Corps now says the project will cost $256 million, according to Andrea Takash, a spokesperson for the Army Corps’ Baltimore District, which is handling the cleanup.
“This is heading to $300 million,” says Harold G. “Buzz” Bailey, an environmental lawyer who’s followed the Spring Valley project and represented residents dealing with the federal government.
If the Army actually finishes its excavation and restoration by 2017, the cleanup of toxic waste will have taken 24 years since contractors stumbled upon a cache of bombs with traces of chemical agents.
In those 24 years, the Army has cleaned up 177 yards and lots where it discovered high levels of arsenic and other chemicals. It has found more than 1,000 “ordnance items, including rounds filled with chemical agents.” Army contractors have sunk 53 wells to monitor ground water and found high levels of arsenic and perchlorate, according to the Army Corps website, and are planning to drill two more.
Dan Snyder gave a rare interview yesterday when he appeared on WTEM-AM after a day spent at his NFL team’s training camp in Richmond. After spouting off some optimism about the team’s chances in the upcoming season, Snyder’s conversation with tight end-cum-radio yakker Chris Cooley turned to the ongoing criticism about the name of Snyder’s team.
The 49-year-old owner didn’t deliver a full-throated “NEVER—you can use caps,” as he did in 2013, but Snyder hasn’t really moved on the issue at all in the past year.
“It’s honor. It’s respect. It’s pride,” Snyder told Cooley. “And I think that every player here sees it, feels it, every alumni feels it, and it’s a wonderful thing, it’s a historic thing. It’s a very historic franchise, it’s been a pleasure.” (DC Sports Bog has the full transcript.)
Snyder also said that criticism of his team’s name, which most dictionaries define as a racial slur against Native Americans, overlooks the outreach he’s been making this year to native communities through the team’s new “Original Americans Foundation,” which he says has included several visits to reservations around the country.
“What I did see that got me and touched me and really moved me, and I think you know because you’ve visited a lot of reservations yourself, is the plight of Native Americans,” Snyder said. “Things that people don’t talk about. You know, it’s sort of fun to talk about the name of our football team, because it gets some attention for some of the people that write it, that need clicks, or what have you.”
Once again, Native American leaders who have been whaling on Snyder since the last NFL season took issue with the Washington owner’s latest statements.
“Washington team owner Dan Snyder’s comments are proof that he is living in a bigoted billionaire bubble,” the National Congress of American Indians said in a press release. “For him to claim that a racial slur is ‘fun’ is grotesque. There is nothing ‘fun’ about his desire to continue promoting, marketing and profiting from a term screamed at Native Americans as they were dragged at gunpoint off their lands.”
It’s good that someone of Snyder’s net worth is making charitable contributions to communities that suffer from extreme unemployment, poor public health, and crippling poverty, though the burst of financial generosity isn’t actually divorced from the controversy about the team’s name. Snyder’s put up burgundy-and-gold playgrounds on underserved reservations, but he’s also had his money thrown back in his face by tribes like Arizona’s Fort Yuma Quechans, who rejected Snyder’s offer to build a skate park as “bribe money.”
Before ending the interview yesterday, Snyder insisted again that it’s all sincere:
“And this is not PR, we don’t have PR people doing this stuff, this is really genuine, and from that standpoint, just like our foundation here locally, it’s 16 years running that we’ve been doing this. You talk about the millions of dollars this year, it’s been every year, and we don’t really brag about it, it’s not something that we’re going out doing.”
Snyder probably should have stopped when he called out statistics like the 67 percent unemployment rate he says encountered on a visit to a Pueblo tribe in New Mexico, because when it comes to public relations, few people employ more spin doctors and attempt more soft-touch community initiatives than Snyder. In the past year, it’s been reported that Snyder has sought advice from the likes of über-fixer Lanny Davis, wedge-issue wordsmith Frank Luntz, and Iraq War pitchman Ari Fleischer. He also briefly employed Virginia political consultant (and occasional Washingtonian contributor) Ben Tribbett with the specific purpose of defending his team’s name.
And don’t forget to whom Snyder gave this interview: Cooley, who agreed with Snyder’s every word, works for a station owned by Red Zebra Broadcasting, which is owned by none other than Dan Snyder. The former tight end is also one of the ex-players attached to RedskinsFacts.com, ostensibly launched last month by a grassroots network of team alumni but, in actuality, set up for the team by spin factory Burson-Marsteller.
What was that about not having PR people do this stuff?
Find Benjamin Freed on Twitter at @brfreed.
For bookish types, August—not April—is the cruelest month, as it usually means few new releases and less book chatter than usual. I often counsel readers to save a big fat novel for these literary doldrums, like The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt. However, if you’ve been there, done that or (blasphemy!) decided to skip the Pulitzer-anointed third Tartt novel, I’ve got a great list of books out this month—and they’re nearly all by Washington area writers. When you’re tired of reading (more blasphemy!), you can check your local literary calendars and come out for readings and signings by these authors.
As usual, by “Top 10” I don't mean that I’ve read all the books and deemed this group The Best; I mean that I’ve read a lot of the books and these are excellent and well worth your time. If you know of a book you believe should be on this list and isn’t, please tell us in the comments, or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I hope your August is filled with lots of reading time.
Woodroof’s debut is one of those books you might easily pass by in the bookstore, with its humble title and simple (though vibrant) jacket art. Do not pass Go; pick up Small Blessings and prepare for a delight. When Tom, a small-town academic, experiences two lifechanging events in two days, one of which involves a new ward who arrives with a money-stuffed backpack, things start to happen in his sleepy environs—including some odd adventures told with great mordant wit.
In the Russian city of Petroplavilsk, night and day are eradicated by growth-enhancing “space mirrors.” Are you still with me? Never fear, new novelist Weil quickly involves you in his near-future vision, where the citizens of Petroplavilsk become “ceaselessy productive,” including twin brothers Yarik and Dima. One man will become disenchanted with the 24/7 status quo; the other will grab a billionaire’s brass ring. Seeing their fates unspool is a timeless trope made fresh by Weil’s excellent writing.
Rita Carmichael and her 13-year-old daughter Ruthie wind up in small Pennsylvania town after their car breaks down en route from California to Boston. Rita has big dreams: She wants Ruthie to wind up at Harvard, and so she gamely engages with life in Fat River, taking a waitress job and making friends. This isn’t a Gilmore Girls tale, however; Weatherwax (an accomplished visual artist) throws bombs in her characters’ paths, bombs that flash and illuminate the lives of today's working poor. A must read.
Huddy Marr, proprietor of the Bluff City Pawn shop in Memphis, wants to move to a better part of town (although he believes his shop should remain on the “seedy side”). He sees a big opportunity when a widow offers to sell her husband's gun collection—but to take advantage of it, he needs help from a family member. Before long, another relative is involved, and chaos ensues. The method in Schottenfeld’s madness is to use this chaos to talk about social class, property, and the nature of value.
Elizabeth Gaffney’s second novel is all about place, World-War-II-through-Korean-War Brooklyn, to be exact. Nine-year-old Wally Baker lives in Brooklyn Heights with her mother, and her maternal grandparents, although she is closest to her family’s African-American maid, Loretta, and Loretta’s son Ham. Wally’s father is fighting in WWII, and when a male boarder moves in and takes a kindly paternal interest in her, Wally doesn’t realize what else this might portend.
We know that our social lives have changed with the rise of social media—but have we considered how detrimental that change might be to our nationhood? Marc Dunkelman has, and even if his book could use more statistics in support of our diminishing “second circle” of community members, his points about how this can affect everything from innovation to eldercare have their merits. Losing touch with the people next door isn’t just about losing bridge partners; it could change the fabric of our society and government.
Rick Perlstein’s The Invisible Bridge should be required reading; it’s that big, that comprehensive, and that incisive. The title comes from a remark President Nixon made to Russian Premier Nikita Kruschev: “If the people believe there’s an imaginary river out there, you don’t tell them there’s no river there. You build an imaginary bridge over the imaginary river.” This saying explains something about conservative politics in the USA. Perlstein explains almost all of the rest; highly recommended.
Burgeoning waistlines and thundering thighs affect more than our heart health and glucose levels; fat takes a toll on love and sex, too. Journalist Sarah Varney’s XL Love is about much more serious stuff than plus-size lingerie; according to Varney, our country’s obesity epidemic also takes a toll on our sex and love lives. Excess weight leads to everything from the horrific-sounding “buried penis syndrome” to early puberty in girls that can result in early sex and a host of physical and emotional consequences.
Spivack, who pens the Threaded blog for the Smithsonian, has collected short “sartorial memoirs” about clothing from figures like author Piper Kerman, artist Martina Abramovic, filmmaker Albert Maysles, and many others, creating a moving and visually arresting volume that will remind all readers of their own stories woven into various garments and accessories. The book also reminds us of how we create identity through costumes, whether simple (a father's shirt) or ceremonial (a Girl Scout sash).
Cognard-Black and her co-authors Melissa Goldthwaite and Marion Nestle have concocted a delicious salmagundi in this combination of cookbook and literary tribute. The volume includes poems, stories, and essays, along with recipes, and some of each are original. There are beloved bits, too, from Laurie Colwin’s classic piece on three repulsive meals to Maya Angelou’s caramel cake. The perfect gift for your summer hostess who loves to read, cook, and consider.
James Brady, the White House press secretary who was critically wounded in the 1981 assassination attempt on President Ronald Reagan and became an advocate for gun control, died Monday in Alexandria at the age of 73, his family announced. The cause was not disclosed.
Brady barely survived a bullet fired by John Hinckley Jr., whose attack outside the Washington Hilton left Brady with permanent brain damage, partial paralysis, and short-term memory loss. While Reagan left the hospital within two weeks, Brady’s convalescence took a nine-month stay followed by years of physical therapy. As recounted in the March 1983 issue of Washingtonian, Brady’s life was very likely saved because of an argument between another White House staffer and an ambulance driver over which hospital he should have been taken to.
The driver insisted he was taking Brady to Washington Hospital Center, four miles away. [White House advance man Rick] Ahearn wanted George Washington University Hospital, less than a mile from the hotel. The driver refused to change direction, and then suddenly admitted he didn’t know the way to Washington Hospital Center. Incredulous at this news, Ahearn, with the backing of a Secret Service agent, prevailed, and the ambulance sped off toward GW.
The doctor who operated on Brady told Washingtonian that Brady, who was in the GW emergency room ten minutes after the shooting, would have died on the longer drive to Washington Hospital Center.
He returned to the White House on a very limited basis by the end of Reagan’s first term, although he could never resume his press-secretary duties.
Instead, Brady and his wife, Sarah, became tireless promoters of enhanced gun control, particularly concerning handguns like the $29 revolver Hinckley used. The couple became the leaders of the gun violence-prevention group now called the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence and pushed for a federal law, also named for Brady, that requires computer background checks on handgun purchases.
“I wouldn’t be here in this damn wheelchair if we had some commonsense legislation,” he said on Capitol Hill in 2011 after needling Congress to improve federal gun-control measures. Sadly, Brady’s message to Congress went unheeded, as Congress neglected to pass gun-control measures following mass shootings in Aurora, Colorado; Oak Creek, Wisconsin; Newtown, Connecticut; and DC’s Navy Yard, among many other incidents.
A Maryland man pleaded guilty Monday to scamming drunk Washingtonians by offering them late-night rides and convincing them to give him their ATM cards and personal banking information, racking up more than $200,000 in the process. The twist? Nyerere Mitchell conducted his scheme wearing a woman’s wig and padded breasts, pretending to be a female taxi driver behind the wheel of his silver Land Rover.
Mitchell, 50, ran his faux-taxi operation from April 2009 to November 2013, says the office of US Attorney Ron Machen. After donning his disguise, Mitchell drove to bar-heavy neighborhoods including Chinatown, Adams Morgan, and Dupont Circle, offering rides to young people who appeared to be intoxicated and looking for a way home. In order to get cash from his victims, Mitchell would pull up to drive-through ATMs that could only be accessed from the driver’s side. Mitchell would then ask his passengers to turn over their ATM cards and personal identification numbers and withdraw several hundred dollars rather than the $10 to $40 fares he advertised. He would then usually give back a different card he had stolen from someone else and use freshly swiped cards over the next several days to withdraw more money. Prosecutors say Mitchell conned enough people that he could easily substitute similar-looking bank cards so his victims didn’t realize until they sobered up.
Police turned up a shoebox containing 205 stolen ATM cards when they arrested Mitchell last November. They also found a wig he appeared to be wearing in a bank surveillance video. Mitchell pleaded guilty to five counts of felony fraud, each of which is punishable by up to ten years in prison. He was ordered to repay $228,036, and will remain behind bars pending his sentencing in October.
While President Obama’s unprecedented US-Africa 2014 Summit is likely to make global news as it rolls along in Washington through Wednesday, at the local level—the level of residents and commuters—it has a different impact. No, not regarding the Ebola virus, though there’s certainly anxious chatter on that subject. The more pressing impact for Washingtonians is the annoyance of road closures and parking restrictions enforced by the Secret Service and the Metropolitan Police Department. “The morning commute begged patience,” noted a DC tourism executive on Monday. On the other hand, it’s a windfall for the hospitality industry as almost 50 African heads of state and their delegations fill up hotels and restaurants at a usually sleepy time of year. “It’s a great boost to the August revenue,” said caterer Bill Homan, owner of Design Cuisine, who has been booked by the State Department, Bloomberg, and “several” restaurants.
Think of any high-end downtown DC hotel, and it is likely the hub of one or more African delegations. The Four Seasons is cordoned off with barriers and tents, signs that say “Caution: Police Checkpoint,” and strategically parked MPD vehicles; adjacent 29th Street, Northwest, is closed from M Street down to K. (We don’t know who is staying in the hotel’s over-the-top “royal suite,” booked in the past by Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie, and P. Diddy.) There are official events at State, the World Bank, on Capitol Hill, and at various government agencies, and a dinner at the White House on Tuesday. But there are also related private social events going on across the area, hosted by the visiting countries and designed to promote their interests.
The event onslaught started in earnest on Sunday night, with a number of dinners and receptions around town, at venues as diverse as Mount Vernon Estate (hosted, we’re told, by a nonprofit), the tony and private Metropolitan Club (for the President of Somalia), and a small, plush meeting room at the Ritz-Carlton (for the President of Nigeria.) Spotted at a Willard Hotel party was Ward 8 Council member Marion Barry, the night after being hospitalized for a diabetic episode and related fender bender. Mayor Vincent Gray was there, too. We stopped by the Somalia party briefly, before dinner at the Ritz with President Goodluck Jonathan of Nigeria.
37: Conversations with Nixon about Watergate. Conversations with Nixon after being fired on April 30, 1973: 0.
4: Months served at Maryland’s Fort Holabird for conspiracy to obstruct justice, in a reduced sentence for cooperating with prosecutors.
540: Days spent in the US Marshals Service’s witness-protection program during Watergate. (Marshals guarded his home in Old Town.)
1,005: Conversations transcribed for his new book, The Nixon Defense. He still wants to know: “How could anyone as savvy as Richard Nixon make the mess of his presidency that he did? It doesn’t fit.”
30: Hours testifying before the Watergate Committee, despite which the FBI branded him the “master manipulator of the cover-up.”
80 milion: Approximate TV audience for Dean’s weeklong Watergate testimony.
5: Books Dean has published on Watergate, out of ten total. Following disbarment, he became an investment banker and popular speaker.
Throwing a coin into a fountain for good luck may date to the Roman Empire, when life-giving spirits were thought to dwell in water. These days, fountains in Washington are still magnets for coins that provide a lift to local charities or the fountains’ owners.
Gaylord National Resort & Convention Center
Number of fountains: Four.
Take: Josh Wample of Cascade Fountains says a UN’s worth of currency is found, from euros to Canadian pennies.
Annual haul: Less than $1,000.
Goes to: Children’s Miracle Network.
National Building Museum
Number of fountains: One, in the Great Hall.
Cleaned: As needed.
Annual haul: About $500 in 2013.
Goes to: The museum’s general fund.
National Gallery of Art
Number of fountains: Nine.
Cleaned: East and West Garden Court fountains in West Building are cleaned with a Shop-Vac monthly; West Building’s Rotunda, Garden Café, and Sculpture Garden fountains as needed.
Annual haul: $5,000.
Goes to: Classified as unrestricted gift to the museum.
Cleaned: Once a year.
Annual haul: $60.
Goes to: Buckets of collected coins are turned over to Alexandria Vocational Services, which uses it for picnics and other parties for clients.
Number of fountains: 17.
Cleaned: Fountains are turned off for the winter; passersby take coins before National Park Service employees can collect them.
Annual haul: Unknown.
Goes to: National Mall fund.
This article appears in the August 2014 issue of Washingtonian.