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- June 22: The US says that once the Iraqi government has taken power, it will transfer legal custody of Saddam Hussein to the new government's judiciary once the proper papers have been filed; however, it will retain physical custody of Hussein for the immediate future. (News24)
- June 22: John Kerry leaves the campaign trail to return to Washington to cast his Senate vote for a massive veterans health care appropriations bill, but is stymied when Senate Republicans postpone the vote. The game is to ensure that Kerry cannot vote for the bill and then use his vote as a campaign plank. This is not the first time that Kerry, who has missed 80% of Senate votes during the campaign, has been denied the opportunity to vote because of Republican gamesmanship. "It's politics at its silliest," Kerry says. "It speaks for itself." Last month, a proposal to extend unemployment benefits to jobless Americans, which Democrats had championed for months, fell one vote short of passage, while Kerry was campaigning in Kentucky. Bush's re-election campaign jumped on the missed vote, saying Kerry was "too busy playing politics" to do his job. But Kerry accused Republicans of "playing a game," saying one of the 11 GOP senators who voted for the measure would have switched sides to defeat it if he had been there to vote for it. Then, last week, another Democratic proposal to make war profiteering a crime failed by two votes. Kerry was in the Capitol just a short distance from the floor at a meeting, but he did not vote. A senior Democratic aide said Kerry had made a decision not to cast votes unless absolutely necessary to prevent Republicans from engineering close votes to highlight his absences. GOP aides conceded that even if Kerry had voted for the war profiteering measure, Republicans would have switched their votes to make sure it failed anyway. (CNN)
New Iraqi government revealed to be little more than a US puppet regime
- June 22: University of Michigan professor Juan Cole, an expert on the Middle East, writes that the impending transfer of sovreignity to an Iraqi government is little more than a symbolic act that will not improve the steady destabilization of Iraqi society and will not improve the deteriorating security situation in that embattled country. "The caretaker government, appointed by outsiders, does not represent the will of the Iraqi people," writes Cole. "some 138,000 US troops remain in the country and the US embassy in Baghdad will be the largest in the world, both of which bode ill for any exercise of genuine sovereignty by Prime Minister Iyad Allawi." Cole says that five separate and critical issues face the new caretaker government, any one of which could be potentially devastating. The government must "jumpstart the creation of an Iraqi army that could hope to restore security. It must find a way to hold free and fair elections by next January, a difficult trick to pull off given the daily toll of bombings and assassinations. It must get hospitals, water treatment plants and other essential services back to acceptable levels. It must keep the country's various factions from fighting one another or from pulling away in a separatist drive. And it must negotiate between religious and secularist political forces." Separatism is an issue already facing the new government. Shi'ites under the leadership of Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani insisted that the new government not honor the temporary constitution passed under US auspices in February that gives the Kurds veto power over the permanent constitution; the Kurds insist that US promises of veto power and semi-autonomy be honored, and some threaten to secede from Iraq if those promises are not honored. And the UN's involvement is limited and undermined by the US.
- Cole writes, "Early last January a member of the US-appointed Interim Governing Council (IGC) in Iraq, Mahmoud Osman, gave a revealing interview to Al-Hayat of London. He said that officials of the Bush administration in Iraq had been 'extremely offended' when the IGC called for UN involvement in the transition to Iraqi sovereignty. The [Bush] administration, he explained, did not want any international actor to participate in this process; rather it wanted to reap the benefits in order to increase President Bush's political stock in the months leading up to the November election. He added: 'The fundamental issue for Iraqis is the return of sovereignty. The Americans are in a hurry for it, as well, though for their own interests. The important thing for the Americans is to ensure the reelection of George Bush. The achievement of a specific accomplishment in Iraq, such as the transfer of power, increases, in the eyes of the Republican Party, the chances that Bush will be reelected.' In the end, Sistani and other Iraqi politicians forced Bush to involve the United Nations and to seek a Security Council resolution. He also was forced to give away far more actual sovereignty to the caretaker government than he would have liked in order to get the UN resolution he had not originally wanted. In particular, the US military must now consult with the Iraqi government before undertaking major military actions." The government is anything but representative of the Iraqi people: the four top officers of state and the cabinet are appointees made by the Bush administration in consultation with UN envoy Lakhdar Brahimi. This group of appointees will then be declared the sovereign government of Iraq. The overlap between the "new" government and the US-appointed Iraqi Governing Council is heavy. Allawi is a powerful member of the IGC, as is President Ghazi al-Yawar. The two vice presidents and several cabinet members are either former IGC members or representatives of the political party that held that seat.
- Cole writes, "In effect, the Bush administration is playing a shell game to create the illusion of progress. The IGC is simply being renamed. The only significant change is that previous Department of Defense and neoconservative favorite Ahmad Chalabi has been disgraced as an Iranian intelligence asset, and he and his relatives and cronies have lost their positions." The government is not an elected governing body. It doesn't represent the major political forces in Iraq; for one, former Ba'ath party members are completely excluded from any governing role. Few Sunni Muslims, formerly the power holders in Iraq under Hussein, are barely represented in the new government. The militant Shi'ite Sadrist movement is not represented. Cole concludes, "The exclusionary policies of the Americans are likely to fade away when there are elections, unless they and Allawi continue to attempt to shape the political scene by trying to disqualify candidates on various pretexts. Should they do so, they will likely prolong the various insurgencies in the country. The price of the kind of political inclusion that might bring stability, however, may well be a complete American departure from Iraq." (In These Times)
- June 22: It just now comes to light that in March 2004 the Department of Homeland Security briefly removed the policy director for the department's intelligence division from his job when the FBI discovered he had failed to disclose his association with Abdur Ahman Alamoudi, a jailed American Muslim leader. Alamoudi was indicted last year on terrorism-related money-laundering charges and now claims to have been part of a plot to assassinate Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Abdullah. Policy director Faisal Gill has been allowed to resume his job after a flurry of interagency meetings. Gill is a White House appointee with no background in intelligence, but close ties to Republican power broker Grover Norquist. As policy director for intelligence, Gill has access to top-secret information on the vulnerability of America's seaports, aviation facilities and nuclear power plants to terrorist attacks. The FBI found that Gill failed to list on security clearance documents his work in 2001 with the American Muslim Council. The AMG, controlled by Alamoudi, has been under scrutiny in an investigation of terrorism financing. The lead agent in that investigation works for an arm of Homeland Security. Gill's omission of the information on his "standard Form 86" national security questionnaire is a potential felony violation. Gill listed Norquist as a reference on employment documents; he also worked in 2001 for a Muslim political outreach organization that Norquist co-founded with a former top aide to Alamoudi. Mark Zaid, a lawyer who specializes in security clearance cases, says it would be unusual for an agency to overlook omissions on a security clearance application. "Most agencies get really upset and suspicious and act antagonistically toward applicants if they find they withheld information," he notes. If the issue concerned failing to list employment at "a terrorist organization or one that's being investigated, all sorts of red flags would go up."
- Gill's placement in the sensitive intelligence job has alarmed government officials because it fits the operating theory of prosecutors and investigators that Alamoudi was part of a long-term scheme by Islamic extremists to place friendly, if perhaps unwitting, associates in key US government positions. Alamoudi is close to South Florida professor Sami al-Arian, who is in jail on charges that he was the leader of a terrorist organization called Palestinian Islamic Jihad, a group that has carried out suicide bombings in Israel. Investigators believe Al-Arian and Alamoudi were part of a broader political Islamic movement in the United States that connects sympathizers of Hamas, Islamic Jihad and al-Qaeda. This movement, the Muslim Brotherhood, is the umbrella under which terror groups have forged "a significant degree of cooperation and coordination within our borders," former White House counterterrorism chief Richard Clarke told the Senate Banking Committee last year. "The common link here is the extremist Muslim Brotherhood -- all of these organizations are descendants of the membership and ideology of the Muslim Brothers." Alamoudi, for example, has spoken openly of his admiration for the anti-Israeli Hamas, which evolved from a branch of the Muslim Brotherhood. Al-Arian's circle of associates, meanwhile, overlaps with members of the Brooklyn, NY precursor to al-Qaeda that was responsible for the 1993 World Trade Center bombing. The ties among Alamoudi, the Muslim Brotherhood and Gill help explain why officials are concerned about whether Gill was adequately vetted. "There's an overall denial in the administration that the agenda being pushed by Norquist might be a problem," one official says. "It's so absurd that a Grover Norquist person could even be close to something like this. That's really what's so insidious."
- In 1999, a group of reformers ousted Alamoudi as AMC executive director amid questions about the group's opaque finances and mysterious Middle Eastern funding sources. Alamoudi took a position at the affiliated American Muslim Foundation but remained in control of the AMC through friendly board members, the reformers said. "I had concerns about the reluctance to reveal information about the finances," said one reformer, surgeon Ikram Khan. "They said they're not doing well, that they needed more money, but I looked at their office [in Washington], and it was very big." Khan resigned from the AMC board when his friend, Nazir Khaja, a Pakistani-American physician from California who was trying to open the group's books, told him that Alamoudi was not cooperating. "I said, 'If this is the case, I cannot continue to serve in the group,' and I sent in my resignation letter." Then, last August, a man with a Libyan accent left a suitcase with $340,000 in cash for Alamoudi outside his hotel room in London, according to the October 2003 indictment of the American Muslim leader. Alamoudi was then arrested upon his return to the United States. The Alamoudi mystery deepened on June 10, when the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal reported that he had told authorities he was part of an alleged plot by Libyan leader Moammar Qaddafi to assassinate Crown Prince Abdullah, the Saudi leader. Now, the Justice Department is examining whether Alamoudi was conspiring with a London group the Saudi government says is linked to Osama bin Laden. "Who is Abdurahman Alamoudi? We really don't know," one of the concerned government officials says. "so how can we say there is not a problem with his former aide? He [Gill] has access to information about all our vulnerabilities -- aviation, ports. He knows what is protected and what is not."
- Gill continues to enjoy the protection of Norquist, the architect of the 1994 Republican power sweep that heralded the "Gingrich Revolution." Norquist speaks of "crushing" his political opponents and dismisses those who don't agree with his anti-tax, anti-government agenda as "Bolsheviks." His power derives from a formidable coalition of evangelical, business and other conservative groups that he controls to push favored GOP issues, as well as from his close relationship with White House political chief Karl Rove. In 1998, Norquist and a former deputy to Alamoudi at the AMC co-founded the nonprofit Islamic Institute as part of a drive to win Muslim voters for Bush in 2000. Alamoudi donated $35,000 to the institute. Soon, the Islamic Institute, the AMC and Al-Arian were all working together on a top priority for American Muslims: an end to the use of classified intelligence to jail noncitizens as national-security threats. Al-Arian's brother-in-law had been jailed on the basis of such secret evidence linking him to Palestinian Islamic Jihad, and Al-Arian lobbied heavily on Capitol Hill to end the practice. In October 2000, through the efforts of Norquist and Rove, Bush came out against secret evidence in a debate with Al Gore, and the AMC endorsed Bush for president. Al-Arian would later claim that the Muslim votes he rounded up for Bush in Florida helped decide the election. Gill was in the middle of these advocacy efforts. As director of government affairs at Norquist's Islamic Institute, Gill lobbied against the use of secret evidence. A Washington Post article from May 2001, meanwhile, identified Gill as a spokesman for the "fledgling" Taxpayers Alliance of Prince William County, Virginia, which is affiliated with Norquist's Americans for Tax Reform. According to the Post article, Norquist was slated to appear with Gill at an anti-tax rally.
- Gill is one of several former Alamoudi associates who have shuffled in recent years among Norquist's operations, the AMC, and government and politics. They include Abdulwahab Alkebsi, a former executive director of the Islamic Institute and a spokesman for the AMC who is now a program director for the National Endowment for Democracy, where he is responsible for administering millions of dollars in grant money for Iraq. What's more, in 2003 Norquist held a fundraiser at his Capitol Hill home for Alamoudi's former lawyer, Kamal Nawash, who was running for a Virginia state Senate seat. And Norquist's co-founder of the Islamic Institute, former AMC deputy director Khaled Saffuri, works closely with the White House on Muslim outreach issues. These outreach efforts have put Norquist in an unusual defensive position. Former Bush speechwriter David Frum, conservative investigative journalist Kenneth Timmerman, and Center for Security Policy president Frank Gaffney, among others, have criticized Norquist's alliances. There are other unexplained threads connecting Muslim leaders who are under investigation to Norquist's influence-peddling operation. In 2000 and 2001, for example, a firm with which Norquist has been registered as a lobbyist, Janus-Merritt Strategies, reported that Alamoudi had paid the company a total of $40,000 for lobbying on human rights issues and Malaysia. But in a December 17, 2001, letter to the secretary of the US Senate, which administers public lobbying records, a managing partner of the firm wrote that Janus-Merritt had erred in identifying Alamoudi as its client. The letter said the actual client was another Muslim leader who could be reached at 555 Grove St. in Herndon, Virginia. Three months later, dozens of federal agents, with their guns drawn, burst through the doors of that office building in Herndon, seizing evidence in the United States' ongoing investigation of international terrorist financial networks. (Salon)
- June 22: Former Illinois governor George Ryan wins approval for his trial on corruption charges to be postponed to September 2005 so that he can be represented by trial lawyer Dan Webb. Webb is currently defending Philip Morris in the tobacco giant's own court battles. Judge Rebecca Pallmeyer grants the request after Ryan's co-defendant, Republican businessman Lawrence Warner, who had urged a speedy trialm dropped his request and joined with Ryan in a request for a postponement. (Chicago Sun-Times)
- June 22: Republican Senate candidate Jack Ryan, a pro-family, anti-gay politician, is fending off accusations from his ex-wife, actress Jeri Ryan, that he has bizarre sexual tastes that run to whips and cages. Jeri Lynn Ryan alleged during divorce proceedings between the couple that Jack Ryan took her to sex clubs in New York, New Orleans and Paris for long weekends that were "supposed 'romantic' getaways." She said Ryan had done research and took her to two clubs in New York during the day. One club she refused to go in because it had "mattresses in cubicles." In the records she then described the other club in detail. "It was a bizarre club with cages, whips and other apparatus hanging from the ceiling. [He] wanted me to have sex with him there, with another couple watching," she charged. The allegations, which Ryan denies, were made in 2000 during a bitter child custody battle between the two, who had been divorced for a year. The documents were released when California judge Robert Schnider unsealed records of the divorce and child custody case. (Illinois Republicans falsely accuse Schnider of partisanship, saying that he was appointed to the bench by Jerry Brown, "the most liberal governor of California in history." Schnider, the 2000 recipient of the Los Angeles County Bar Association's Outstanding Jurist Award, was first appointed to the bench in 1981 by superior court judges in Los Angeles. He was named a full judge only two years ago by Governor Gray Davis, a moderate Democrat.)
- Ryan has said he sought to keep the files sealed to protect the interests of the couple's son, but in September 2000, Anne Kiley, an attorney for Jeri Ryan, said in a court filing that one of Jack Ryan's attorneys had told her a few months earlier that Jack Ryan wanted parts of the file blacked out, removed or sealed because he was "concerned [it] would negatively impact his political aspirations and embarrass him. ...The request did not have to do with the minor child," Kiley said in the filing, "rather, it related to [Ryan's] concerns about the impact of this information on his future political career." Illinois Republican Ray LaHood, a US representative, says he is "shocked" that Ryan would run for public office carrying such baggage and calls on him to get out of the race. Reaction from other Republicans ranges from caution to outright defense of Ryan. "We're not looking at trying to replace Jack Ryan. He's an excellent candidate," says Dan Allen, a spokesman for the National Republican Senatorial Committee. "We feel this race will be decided on the issues." Other Republicans acknowlege that Ryan's political future is in doubt. An adviser to President Bush says the revelation makes it likely that the Bush-Cheney campaign will steer clear of Illinois. Ryan faces Democrat Barack Obama in the November general election to replace retiring US senator Peter Fitzgerald. a Republican. Obama says it would not be "appropriate" for him to comment on the revelations. "Obviously Mr. Ryan and his supporters will be discussing this and I don't think that's my role," Obama says.
- Ryan says the charges are untrue and charged his ex-wife during the proceedings of trying to ruin his then-promising political career. "I was faithful and loyal to my wife throughout our marriage," he said in the filing. "I did arrange romantic getaways for us but that did not include the type of activities she describes. We did go to one avant-garde nightclub in Paris, which was more than either one of us felt comfortable with. We left and vowed never to return." Instead, said his ex-wife, after swearing that he had "gotten it out of his system" and promising never to take her to any other sex clubs, Ryan took her to a club in Paris without telling her what it was. "I told him I thought it was out of his system," she testified. "I told him he had promised me we would never go. People were having sex everywhere. I cried. I was physically ill. [He] became very upset with me and said it was not a 'turn-on' for me to cry. I could not get over the incident and my loss of any attraction to him as a result. [Ryan] knew this was a serious problem. I told him I did not know if we could work it out." She also said he was too controlling, an accusation Ryan admitted to. Ryan has lost support among state Republicans, in part because he swore to chairman Judy Baar Topinka that there was nothing damaging in those divorce files. "she stuck her neck out for him and he assured her nothing in those files was embarrassing to him or to the Republican Party," says a source within the party. "There's a general feeling by a lot of people that they've been lied to." Other state Republicans dismiss the charges as "nothing serious." Ryan himself says, "There's no breaking of any laws. There's no breaking of any marriage laws. There's no breaking of the Ten Commandments anywhere. And so I think if that's the worst people can say about me in the heat of a difficult dispute I think it speaks very well about my character." (Chicago Tribune, Chicago Daily Herald/AmericaBlog, NBC5-Chicago/AmericaBlog, Chicago Tribune)
- June 22: Rumors about George W. Bush's increasing mental instability are swirling around Washington. Bush has been displaying "increasingly erratic behavior and mood swings," reports Capitol Hill Blue, an Internet news site. Reporters Doug Thompson and Teresa Hampton, who once wrote a scathing piece about Bill Clinton's serial groping and sexual attacks on women, have written an account that raises serious concerns about Bush's state of mind these days. "It reminds me of the Nixon days," one longtime GOP political consultant with White House links says. "Everybody is an enemy; everybody is out to get him. That's the mood over there." White House aides say that Bush is now micromanaging to the extreme, spending hours reviewing attack ads against John Kerry and denouncing Democrats he calls "enemies of the state." According to the report, Secretary of State Colin Powell has fallen from grace because of his doubts about the war against Iraq. One White House aide reveals, "We lost focus. The president got hung up on the weapons of mass destruction and an unproven link to al-Qaeda. We could have found other justifiable reasons for the war, but the president insisted on those two tenuous items." And Katherine van Wormer, co-author of Addiction Treatment: A Strengths Perspective, writes in Counterpunch that Bush exhibits many of the symptoms of a so-called "dry drunk." Van Wormer writes, "Dry drunk is a slang term used by members and supporters of Alcoholics Anonymous and substance abuse counselors to describe the recovering alcoholic who is no longer drinking, one who is dry, but whose thinking is clouded. Such an individual is said to be dry but not truly sober. Such an individual tends to go to extremes." She observes that Bush's obsessions, tunnel vision, single-mindedness and grandiosity point to the same kind of thinking patterns commonly found in dry drunks. (Capitol Hill Blue/Niagara Falls Reporter)
- June 22: Economist Paul Krugman accuses Attorney General Ashcroft of ignoring real terrorist threats because of his ideological biases, and cites the case of Texan William Krar as evidence. In April 2003, Krar was arrested in Noonday, Texas; FBI agents found a weapons cache containing fully automatic machine guns, remote-controlled explosive devices disguised as briefcases, 60 pipe bombs and a chemical weapon -- a cyanide bomb -- big enough to kill everyone in a 30,000-square-foot building. Yet Ashcroft has made virtually no public announcements about the arrest and has shown little interest in pursuing the case. Krar was not the focus of an intensive manhunt; his arrest was a fluke, prompted by his sending a package containing counterfeit UN and Defense Intelligence Agency credentials to the wrong address. "Luckily, the recipient opened the package and contacted the FBI," writes Krugman. "But for that fluke, we might well have found ourselves facing another Oklahoma City-type atrocity." Ashcroft has trumpeted the USs's determination to root out Islamic terrorists, but has done virtually nothing to pursue similar terrorist activities from domestic white supremacists. Ashcroft even stopped a provision to allow the FBI to investigate background checks on gun purchasers for terrorist ties, though he insisted that other lists -- voter registration, immigration and driver's license lists -- be thoroughly combed. Ashcroft told Congress that the law prohibits the use of those background checks for other purposes, but he didn't tell Congress that his own staff had concluded that no such prohibition exists. Ashcroft issued a directive, later put into law, requiring that records of background checks on gun buyers be destroyed after only one business day. Krugman writes, "[W]e needn't imagine that Mr. Ashcroft was deeply concerned about protecting the public's privacy. After all, a few months ago he took the unprecedented step of subpoenaing the hospital records of women who have had late-term abortions. After my last piece on Mr. Ashcroft, some readers questioned whether he is really the worst attorney general ever. It's true that he has some stiff competition from the likes of John Mitchell, who served under Richard Nixon. But once the full record of his misdeeds in office is revealed, I think Mr. Ashcroft will stand head and shoulders below the rest." (New York Times/CommonDreams)
- June 22: Liberal pundit Bernard Weiner reports that his high-level anonymous Republican source, whom he has facetiously nicknamed "Shallow Throat," tells him that the Bush campaign realizes the battle it is facing in getting Bush re-elected, and predicts, in Weiner's words, "[p]urging the election rolls of more Democrat voters, especially minorities; encouraging fiddled-with software programs for the computer-voting machines in the toss-up states; starting another war in the Middle East, and/or looking the other way again as Al Qaida launches another major terrorist attack inside the US...to try to obtain the rally-'round-the-President support in a time of fright and confusion." Weiner's source says, "all the signs point to a Kerry victory. But your Dem friends can't risk a slim victory, because those close elections are easy to fix. Unless Kerry takes him down in a landslide, it's risky." (Crisis Papers)
Widespread torture of prisoners in Afghanistan confirmed
- June 23: Testimony from former Bagram prisoners, senior US military sources and human rights monitors in Afghanistan shows a pattern of torture and abuse at US detention facilities in Afghanistan similar to stories emanating from Iraq's Abu Ghraib prison and the US detention camp in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. Prisoners tell of being beaten, stripped naked and photographed, attacked with dogs, being hooded and chained in small spaces, not allowed to sleep, denied needed medicine, and other atrocities. None of the prisoners were ever charged with any crimes. One detainee says that, in order to be released after nearly two years, he had to sign a document stating that he had been captured in battle when, in fact, he was arrested while driving his taxi with four passengers in it. At least five prisoners have died during detention in Afghanistan; three of those deaths have been classified as homicides, and two of those deaths, at the Bagram Air Force Base detention facility, were determined to have been caused by what investigators term "blunt-force trauma." At least 19 facilities exist in Afghanistan, many of which were only recently acknowledged to exist and have been closed to Red Cross and human rights organizations' inspections.
- "In some ways, the abuses in Afghanistan are more troubling than those reported in Iraq," says John Sifton, the Human Rights Watch representative in the area. "While it is true that abuses in Afghanistan often lacked the sexually abusive content of the abuses in Iraq, they were in many ways worse. Detainees were severely beaten, exposed to cold and deprived of sleep and water. Moreover, it should be noted that the detention system in Afghanistan, unlike the system in Iraq, is not operated even nominally in compliance with the Geneva conventions. The detainees are never given an opportunity to see any independent tribunal. There is no legal process whatsoever and not even an attempt at one. The entire system operates outside the rule of law. At least in Iraq, the US is trying to run a system that meets Geneva standards. In Afghanistan, they are not." Some of the prisoners have been transferred to Guantanamo; others have been "RP'ed," or "Rumsfeld Processed," which means that in essence they have been made to disappear. Some are "rendered" to Egypt and other countries which allow full-blown torture. Democratic senator Patrick Leahy, who is pushing for full investigations of US torture allegations in Afghanistan and Iraq, says, "Prisoners in Afghanistan were subjected to cruel and degrading treatment, and some died from it. These abuses were part of a wider pattern stemming from a White House attitude that 'anything goes' in the war against terrorism, even if it crosses the line of illegality. Not only should these incidents be thoroughly investigated and the perpetrators punished, but we need rules to prevent it from happening again." (Guardian)
- June 23: The Project On Government Oversight (POGO) sues Attorney General John Ashcroft and the US Department of Justice over the DoJ's reclassification of information that alleges corruption, incompetence and cover-ups in an Federal Bureau of Investigations translation unit. The lawsuit, filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, asks the court to find the DoJ's May reclassification of information unlawful and unconstitutional and require the agency to declassify the information. The information relates to allegations made by whistleblower Sibel Edmonds, a former FBI linguist who was fired after reporting to superiors numerous instances of wrongdoing in the FBI translation unit where she worked. This information was presented by the FBI during two unclassified 2002 briefings held by the Senate Judiciary Committee and was referenced in letters from Senators Patrick Leahy and Charles Grassley to DOJ officials. The letters were posted on the senators' Web sites, but were removed after the DOJ reclassified the information. POGO has the letters and wants to post them on the Web to initiate public debate. "We believe the Department of Justice reclassified the information to stifle congressional oversight of the department and shield it from legitimate public inquiry," says Danielle Brian, POGO's executive director. "It is absurd to reclassify information that has been in the public domain for so long. This is an entirely inappropriate use of the classification system." The reclassification of the documents "has stifled public discussion regarding the adequacy of the FBI's translation capabilities and Ms. Edmonds' reports of problems in the translation unit," says the lawsuit.
- Ashcroft says in response, "The national interests of the United States would be seriously impaired if information provided in one briefing to the Congress were to be made generally available." Public Citizen got involved in this case because "the reclassification of information that is so widely available to the public is a new step in John Ashcroft's push for secrecy," says Michael Kirkpatrick, the Public Citizen attorney handling the case. "We have been doing national security litigation for more than 30 years, and in our view, this is the most egregious misuse of the classification authority we've seen. Classification is to keep secret information that is sensitive. It is not to suppress debate over widely public information. Yet that is exactly what Ashcroft is doing." (POGO, Boston Globe)
House Ethics Committee agrees to investigate DeLay
- June 23: The House Ethics Committee accepts a complaint filed against House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, a Republican widely known as "the most corrupt politician in Congress," by Democrat Chris Bell. Bell, like DeLay, is from Texas; unlike DeLay, Bell lost his seat in the House in the recent elections after DeLay's redistricting plan took effect. The committee has 45 days to review the complaint, which alleges "serious criminal acts," including the following charges. First, that DeLay illegally solicited and accepted political contributions from Kansas-based Westar Energy Corp. in return for legislative favors; Westar executives, at the time in 2002 the company was lobbying for a provision in a major energy bill, contributed $58,200 to various campaigns and political action committees, including $25,000 to DeLay's PAC, Texans for a Republican Majority. Second, that DeLay's PAC in September 2002 sent $190,000 in corporate money to the Republican National Committee "in an apparent money-laundering scheme" intended to provide money for GOP candidates to the Texas state legislature. Third, that in 2003, when the Texas legislature was battling over the GOP redistricting plan, DeLay abused his office by asking the Federal Aviation Administration to track down a private plane that carried some Democratic legislators away from Austin to prevent Republicans from getting a quorum to vote on the plan. DeLay calls the complaint a baseless charge filed by a disgruntled election loser, and pledges not to try to influence the committee, which is headed by Republicans and not expected to seriously pursue the complaint. Bell calls the committee's move "an important first step in the long journey to restore integrity and ethics to the people's House and to hold the House majority leader accountable for his actions." DeLay is also believed to have bribed House members for their votes on legislation, most notably on the November 2003 Medicare bill, when Republican Nick Smith charged that DeLay both offered him a bribe and threatened his son's political career in return for his vote. Bell's complaint follows a raft of charges from the nonpartisan watchdog organization Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics (CREW). DeLay also faces an investigation launched by the Democratic District Attorney in Travis County, Texas, who has convened a grand jury to investigate charges that DeLay used his political action committee to raise millions in corporate campaign contributions and then spent some of this money on polling, fundraising and get-out-the-vote activities in violation of Texas law, which says that corporate contributions can be used only for general administrative purposes. (AP/Burlington County Times, The Nation/AlterNet)
- June 23: Three letters written by Saddam Hussein to his family have been delayed by American censors since his capture, and the International Red Cross is pressuring the US to release the letters. Section V, article 71 of the Geneva Convention on prisoners of war says, "Prisoners of war shall be allowed to send and receive letters and cards. Such letters and cards must be conveyed by the most rapid method at the disposal of the Detaining Power; they may not be delayed or retained for disciplinary reasons," the convention reads. US authorities in Iraq have no explanation for the delay in delivering the letters. (CBS)
- June 23: John Conyers, the ranking Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee, calls for a formal inquiry into the White House's refusal to release documents showing its support of torture to be used against detainees in Iraq and Guantanamo. "Two weeks ago, we publicly requested that the White House release all documents concerning the growing Iraq prison abuse scandal," Conyers writes. "We were ignored, so today we are (1) offering a Resolution of Inquiry which formally requests that the White House to release the documents, and (2) calling upon the Speaker to appoint a select committee to review the ever growing prison abuse scandal. We are in the midst of one of the most serious incidents of human rights abuses in our nation's history. In Iraq, Afghanistan and Guantanamo, it is increasingly clear that our nation's military and civilian contractors -– at the behest of the very highest officials in the Administration -– engaged in physical, psychological and sexual abuse on a widespread basis. Scores of detainees were murdered. Numerous warnings were ignored. The Justice Department provided the legal cover necessary to justify torture. The resolution I am offering today will ensure that the Administration no longer picks and chooses what information it will share with us. The Select Committee will guarantee that a Republican majority cannot prevent members from asking the hard questions and getting real answers. These are common sense steps that I hope all of our colleagues will support. We've given the President and the Republican Majority every opportunity to participate in what any decent society demands -– accountability for inhuman and degrading acts committed in our name. Yesterday's release was selective and only included documents favorable to the White House, it does not include the full set of materials needed to fully assess responsibility for the scandal. ...The prison scandal is a stain on our nation and an impediment to the prosecution of the war against terror. If this Congress can't find the will to investigate an abuse of this magnitude, it calls into question our entire constitutional system of checks and balances."
(House Judiciary Democratic Committee)
- June 23: Republican senator Rick Santorum, a vocal advocate of "family values," says that fellow Republican Ray LaHood is "out of line" for criticizing Chicago senate candidate Jack Ryan over allegations that he tried to force his ex-wife to commit bizarre sex acts in public clubs, and says the media attention over the allegations is "outrageous." While a raft of Republicans have come to Ryan's defense, Illinois Republicans are discussing replacing Ryan on the ballot with former governors Jim Thompson or Jim Craig. They concede that any candidate they field will have a difficult time defeating Democratic candidate Barack Obama, who if he wins will be the first African-American in the Senate, and is described by his opponents as an "intelligent, articulate candidate." (The Hill)
- June 23: One of the most vocal opponents of Michael Moore's film Fahrenheit 9/11 is David Bossie, who made a name for himself during the late 90s by leading the group "Citizens United" in a smear campaign against then-President Clinton. Bossie has produced ads critical of the film, which have run during 60 Minutes and other prominent network broadcasts, and has made the talk-show circuits attacking Clinton's biography My Life and promoting his own book, Intelligence Failure, which blames 9/11 on the Clinton administration. Bossie is preparing a complaint for the Federal Election Commission demanding that the film be restricted due to its possible impact on the November presidential election. Others, including California assemblyman Howard Kaloogian, have joined Bossie; Kaloogian's "Move America Forward" launched a letter-writing campaign last week against a number of theaters that planned to show the film. "Move America Forward" purports to be a grass-roots organization, but in reality it was created by Douglas Lorentz, an employee of the public relations firm Russo, Marsh, and Rogers. Lorentz is well-known in California GOP circles, and both Lorentz and the firm itself has deep ties to the state GOP. So far, the anti-Moore movement has done little except stir up publicity for the movie. Moore was recently unsuccessful in securing a PG-13 rating for the movie (it is rated R for profanity). (Salon)
Bush interviewed by Fitzgerald over Plame leak
- June 24: Bush is interviewed for an hour by special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald in regard to the outing of CIA agent Valerie Plame Wilson by White House sources, in a session the White House calls an "interview" and not "questioning." Bush is not placed under oath and is accompanied by his lawyer, James Sharp. Other officials recently interviewed include Vice President Cheney and White House counsel Alberto Gonzalez. "The leaking of classified information is a very serious matter," says White House press secretary Scott McClellan, adding that Bush was "pleased to do his part" to aid the probe. "No one wants to get to the bottom of this matter more than the president of the United States, and he has said on more than one occasion that if anyone -- inside or outside the government -- has information that can help the investigators get to the bottom of this, they should provide that information to the officials in charge." The investigation has been marked by stonewalling and refusals to cooperate from numerous White House officials. Neither Bush nor Fitzgerald have ever spoken about the content of Bush's "conversation" with Fitzgerald. (Washington Post, Michael Isikoff and David Corn)
Cheney tells Democratic senator Leahy to "go f*ck yourself" on the floor of the Senate
- June 24: Earlier in the week, during a "terse discussion" between Vice President Dick Cheney and Democratic senator Patrick Leahy, Cheney tells Leahy to "go f*ck yourself." According to Senate aides, the discussion touched on politics, religion, and money, and began with Cheney "ripping into" Leahy for the senator's criticism of Halliburton's involvement in war profiteering. Leahy retorts that Democrats "have not appreciated White House collusion in smears" that Democrats were anti-Catholic for blocking judicial nominees such as William Pryor. It is then that Cheney lets the expletive fly. "I think he was just having a bad day," Leahy later says. "I was kind of shocked to hear that kind of language on the floor." Cheney's office initially denies that he cursed Leahy: "That doesn't sound like language that the vice president would use, but there was a frank exchange of views," says Cheney spokesman Kevin Kellems, but later Cheney confirms his verbal attack on Leahy and actually seems to relish making the remark. Religious conservatives, who might be expected to lambast Cheney for such profanity, instead celebrate Cheney's attack. Ironically, the Senate passes the "Defense of Decency Act" the same day, including many of those who roundly criticized John Kerry for using the same epithet to describe Bush's policy in Iraq. GOP senator Orrin Hatch, a Mormon, defends Cheney, saying, "I don't blame anyone for standing up for his integrity." Republicans were quick to lambast John Kerry for using the epithet in a recent Rolling Stone interview: Dennis Prager wrote, "If you are a Democrat and it troubles you that...Senator Kerry uses the F-word in a magazine interview, you might want to reconsider your party affiliation. The Democratic Party has earned a reputation as a poor defender of our civilization against external threats. In fact, it has become a poor defender of our civilization. Period." And in a op-ed piece in the Washington Times, someone wrote, "Certainly Mr. Kerry set a new low for American presidential contests when he used the F-word in regards to Mr. Bush in an interview with Rolling Stone magazine. These low-level attacks could backfire. Americans hold the office of the presidency in high esteem. While voters appreciate a good debate on policies, they are offended by relentless expressions of contempt for the man who sits in the Oval Office. Even though a majority of Americans thought Bill Clinton's adulterous affairs were wrong, they were nonetheless repelled by the unbridled personal vendetta Republicans orchestrated against him. Mr. Kerry seems to be making the same mistake." Yet the same Republicans who were outraged by Kerry's use of the word are coming to Cheney's defense. (MSNBC, Washington Post, Intervention Magazine)
- June 24: The US's immunity from prosecution by Iraqi courts over the killing of civilians or the destruction of personal property will extend past the June 30 takeover, according to the administration. The administration will extend an order that has been in place during the year-long occupation of Iraq. Order 17 gives all foreign personnel in the US-led Coalition Provisional Authority immunity from "local criminal, civil and administrative jurisdiction and from any form of arrest or detention other than by persons acting on behalf of their parent states." US administrator Paul Bremer is expected to extend Order 17 as one of his last acts before shutting down the occupation next week, US officials say. The order is expected to last at least an additional six or seven months, until the first national elections are held. Some US officials and countries in the multinational force still want greater reassurances on immunity. Bush's top foreign policy advisers, including Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, Secretary of State Colin Powell and national security adviser Condoleezza Rice, are still debating the scope of immunity to be granted. "The debate is on the extent or parameters of coverage -- should it be sweeping, as it is now, or more limited," says a senior US official familiar with discussions.
- In Baghdad, US officials have been engaged all week with interim Prime Minister Iyad Allawi and national security adviser Mowaffak Rubaie. Both sides hope to finalize the terms before Bush leaves for the NATO summit in Istanbul at week's end. The administration is taking the step in an effort to prevent the new Iraqi government from having to grant a blanket waiver as one of its first acts, which could undermine its credibility just as it assumes power. But US officials say Washington's act could also create the impression that the United States is not turning over full sovereignty -- and giving itself special privileges. The administration's move comes when issues of immunity are particularly sensitive, in light of the scandal over the abuse of US detainees in Iraq and Afghanistan. Yesterday at the United Nations, the administration, citing opposition on the Security Council, withdrew a resolution that would have extended immunity for US personnel in UN-approved peacekeeping missions from prosecution before the International Criminal Court. In Iraq, US officials are already concerned about the potential fallout after June 30 among key players, from Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani, Iraq's most powerful religious cleric, to militant insurgents. But the Bush foreign policy team concluded that there are few alternatives until elections select a government that will be powerful enough to negotiate a formal treaty.
- The issue of immunity for US troops is among the most contentious in the Islamic world, where it has galvanized public opinion against the United States in the past. A similar grant of immunity to U.S. troops in Iran during the Johnson administration in the 1960s led to the rise of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, who used the issue to charge that the shah had sold out the Iranian people. "Our honor has been trampled underfoot; the dignity of Iran has been destroyed," Khomeini said in a famous 1964 speech that led to his detention and then expulsion from Iran. The measure "reduced the Iranian people to a level lower than that of an American dog." Ironically, Khomeini went into exile in Iraq, where he spent 12 years in Najaf -- the Shiite holy city that is now home to Sistani and his followers and where Iraqis still remember the flap that led the shah to deport a cleric who later led Iran's 1979 Islamic revolution. In Iraq, Washington had originally hoped to achieve a formal Status of Forces Agreement to grant immunity, but that was effectively vetoed when Sistani and other Iraqi politicians said no unelected Iraqi government could enter into a treaty with other countries. The United States now hopes to negotiate a status agreement next year, after a government is elected.
- In the current negotiations over Order 17, a senior Iraqi official said, the basic concept is to cover "soldiers and foreign nationals working in operations conducted by mutual consent or understanding with the Iraqi interim government and the command of the multinational force. But what that means remains to be seen." The United States hopes to include some foreign contractors, many of whom are engaged in security operations, the Iraqi official adds, while Iraq is pressing to retain sovereignty. "It's going to be a political hot potato, and we're worried it'll be used as a hot potato in a way that is not good for either the interim government or the multinational force," the official says. As a legal basis, Iraq's transitional law, which was worked out between Bremer and the now-disbanded Iraqi Governing Council, may be considered too weak a foundation for granting immunity. Sistani argued against it because it was not the work of elected officials. The UN resolution also has no direct reference to immunity for foreign troops. The only reference is in a letter from Powell to the Security Council attached to the resolution, which says contributing states in the multinational force must "have responsibility for exercising jurisdiction over their personnel" but does not mention prosecution or other specific activity. (Washington Post)
- June 24: A group of Army reservists rarely ever used will be called up for duty in Iraq later this year, says the Pentagon. As many as 6,500 Individual Ready Reserve (IRR) troops will be called up to fill holes in existing units. The IRR consists of troops who have past military service but still are under mandatory service obligations. The move is because the Army is stretched thin. (CNN)
Supreme Court agrees to let Cheney energy task force hide documents
- June 24: The Supreme Court rules that Vice President Cheney's energy task force can keep its documents and proceedings secret, an about-face from a 1993 appellate court ruling that prohibited Hillary Clinton from keeping secret the information from her health care task force. If people who were not government employees were effectively acting as members of the group, the appeals court wrote in 1993, federal law required certain disclosures. What's more, groups suing the task force to get access to its proceedings were entitled to discovery to find out what role those outside figures were actually playing. Now, the Supreme Court seems to be saying that the rules are different for the Bush administration. The Washington Post observes, "The Clinton administration was subjected in a range of cases to intrusive discovery that, it frequently complained, burdened executive confidences. The Supreme Court okayed personal sexual harassment litigation against the president with blithe disregard for its potential impact on the presidency. Now, by contrast, the high court bends over backward to emphasize, even at the risk of tension with its own precedents, the president's special needs in fighting off lawsuits. In this case, it goes so far as to allow an extraordinary appeal procedure to make sure those needs get accommodated. Ms. Clinton is entitled to wonder why the rules seem so unstable." (Washington Post)
- June 24: Former presidential candidate Al Gore accuses Bush and Cheney of outright lying over what the administration calls evidence of a link between Iraq and al-Qaeda. "They dare not admit the truth lest they look like complete fools for launching our country into a reckless, discretionary war against a nation that posed no immediate threat to us whatsoever," he says during a speech at Georgetown University's law center. Predictably, the Bush campaign's counter to Gore's statement includes a slap at 2004 presidential candidate Kerry: "Al Gore's history of denial of the threat of terrorism is no less dangerous today in his role as John Kerry's surrogate than it was in the 1990s in his role as vice president, a time when Osama bin Laden was declaring war on the United States five different times," says RNC spokesman Jim Dyke. Gore accuses Bush and Cheney of deliberately ignoring warnings from international intelligence services, the CIA and the Pentagon before the Iraq war that their claim of a link between al-Qaeda and Saddam was false. "so when the bipartisan 9/11 commission issued its report finding 'no credible evidence' of an Iraq-al-Qaeda connection, it should not have come as a surprise. It should not have caught the White House off guard." Gore says Bush and Cheney won't acknowledge what he calls their fabrication because of the "harsh political consequences" of admitting there's no evidence of a link. "If they believe these flimsy scraps, then who would want them in charge? Are they too dishonest or too gullible? Take your pick." Gore also accuses Bush of abusing his presidential powers by invading Iraq without a war declaration from Congress, allowing Americans deemed "unlawful enemy combatants" to be held without being charges, and authorizing "what plainly amounts to the torture of prisoners." He also calls on the administration to disclose all of its interrogation policies -- including those used in Iraq and Afghanistan, and by the CIA -- and analyses about them. "We deserve to know what and why it's being done in our name," Gore says. Gore is an important ally for Kerry because he can criticize Bush in harsher terms than Kerry, this year's Democratic presidential candidate. Aides said Kerry must temper his critiques of Bush to avoid alienating the independent and swing voters who will influence the outcome in November. Gore does not clear his speeches or schedule through Kerry's staff, but Kerry's aides welcome his attacks on Bush. They say Gore's red-meat rhetoric helps fire up the Democratic base and underscores criticisms Kerry makes in a more muted fashion. (AP/San Francisco Chronicle)
- June 24: Solicitor General Theodore Olson, the administration's top lawyer and a key figure in the smear campaign against the Clintons, submits his resignation. He says he will leave in July and return to private practice. Olson's most prominent moment in recent memory is his successful argument in the 2000 Bush v. Gore election case before the Supreme Court. His deputy, Paul Crutcher, will replace him on an interim basis. (San Francisco Chronicle)
- June 24: A lawyer for the Associated Press says it is "curious," but not surprising, that his organization has had to sue for access to Bush's military records. AP reporters want the microfilm of Bush's records because they believe that the paper documents provided by the Bush campaign may have been tampered with. The suit, filed in federal court in New York on June 22, seeks access to a copy of Bush's microfilmed personnel file from the Texas State Library and Archives Commission in Austin. The White House has said it has already released all records of Bush's military service. The Air National Guard has control of the microfilm, which should be disclosed under the Freedom of Information Act, the lawsuit claims. AP says the records "are being unlawfully withheld from the public." The lawsuit adds that no one has looked at any of the Bush military records at the state archives since 1996. (Editor and Publisher)
- June 24: Chilean Veronica de Negri, a victim of imprisonment and torture by the death squads of Augosto Pinochet, says the photographs and rhetoric of Abu Ghraib are all too similar to what Pinochet's regime carried out. Pinochet was roundly criticized by nations and organizations around the world for gross and egregrious human rights violations. "That kind of abuse was what I lived in Chile under Pinochet," says de Negri, who was raped and tortured in Chile. Even the vocabulary carried an echo: "They told us, too, they were trying to soften us up." Americans are "very naive," she says. "They don't want to see" the involvement of the United States in torture over the years. The Abu Ghraib scandal "is nothing new," she says. "This has been happening behind your eyes for many years."
- "If we had photographs of what our so-called allies in Honduras and El Salvador and Chile were doing, based on training they had received from us in the 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s, the American public would have been even more horrified," says Peter Kornbluh of the National Security Archive in Washington, DC. This was torture by proxy, but it was at the direction of Washington. "The only difference between this kind of conduct now and in the past is that there wasn't somebody with a digital camera back then keeping track of what was going on," says Kornbluh.
- A. J. Langguth was "stunned and repulsed" by the pictures of the abuse at Abu Ghraib. "But it wasn't a big surprise to me," he says. Langguth is the author of Hidden Terrors, which chronicles the U.S. involvement in torture in Brazil and Uruguay in the 1960s and early 1970s. "I first heard about our policies in torture when I was in Brazil in the '70s," Langguth says. "A friend of mine in the Brazilian military told me of the kinds of things going on, and when I chastised the Brazilians for doing that, he said, 'Come on, you know who's teaching us.'"
- "This is an open secret," says Alex Taylor of the Torture Abolition and Survivors Support Coalition International. "It has been happening for decades. The American public needs to educate itself about how widespread it's been. Since the 1950s, the United States has used torture as policy first in the war against communism and now in the war against terrorism. ...The United States helped the Guatemalan military with the techniques of torture," he says. Taylor is Guatamalan; his mother was among the thousands tortured and killed. William Blum, author of Rogue State, confirms the role of the US military. "From the 1960s through the 1980s, Guatemalan security forces, notably the Army unit called G-2, routinely tortured 'subversives,'" he writes. "The CIA advised, armed, and equipped the G-2, which maintained a web of torture centers." Blum also notes in that book that some of the more lurid activities at Abu Ghraib and in Afghanistan are not new. "At the US Navy's schools in San Diego and Maine during the 1960s and 1970s, students were supposedly learning about methods of 'survival, evasion, resistance, and escape' which they could use," he writes. "A former student, Navy pilot Lieutenant Wendell Richard Young, claimed...that students were tortured into...masturbating before guards, and, on one occasion, engaging in sex with an instructor." At these schools, Blum says, students were introduced to a "torture device called the 'water board:' the subject strapped to an inclined board, head downward, a towel placed over his face, and cold water poured over the towel; he would choke, gag, retch, and gurgle as he experienced the sensation of drowning." On May 13, the New York Times reported that CIA interrogators used this same "water-boarding" technique on al-Qaeda operative Khalid Shaikh Mohammed. Amnesty International said, "This would be a clear case of torture," and added that "water submersion is a technique that has been used by countries notorious for their use of torture," including Indonesia under Suharto, the Congo under Mobutu, and Chile under Pinochet. In Latin America, where the technique was commonplace, it was called "el submarino." "That U.S. interrogators or their proxies have been subjecting prisoners to 'water-boarding' and other forms of mock drowning is alarming," says William Schulz, executive director of Amnesty International USA. "Who instructed neophyte guards and interrogators in these techniques?"
- US torture instructors have often gone by the manual. The CIA put out at least two manuals on torture, according to the National Security Archive. The first was entitled "KUBARK Counterintelligence Interrogation, July 1963." It says that "the electric current should be known in advance, so that transformers and other modifying devices will be on hand if needed." The manual delineates "the principal coercive techniques of interrogation," which include "deprivation of sensory stimuli through solitary confinement or similar methods, threats and fear, debility, pain, heightened suggestibility and hypnosis, narcosis, and induced regression." The authors of this manual were aware of the illegality of these methods. "Interrogations conducted under compulsion or duress are especially likely to involve illegality and to entail damaging consequences" for the CIA. "Therefore prior approval" is required "if bodily harm is to be inflicted" and "if medical, chemical, or electrical methods or materials are to be used." A third category requiring prior approval was redacted. The second manual, entitled "CIA, Human Resource Exploitation Manual-1983," repeated passages verbatim from the first one and instructed interrogators "to create unpleasant or intolerable situations, to disrupt patterns of time, space, and sensory perception" -- tactics that US personnel used in Iraq and Afghanistan. The most infamous manuals were the ones that the School of the Americas used between 1987 and 1991. There were at least seven of these army interrogation manuals, which were translated into Spanish for the Latin American military officers who were attending. These manuals, which were widely used, gave instruction on false imprisonment, blackmail, beatings, torture, and assassination. In light of the controversy over the legal status of prisoners in Iraq and Afghanistan, the following passage from one of the manuals is particularly relevant. The insurgent "does not have a legal status as a prisoner of war under the Geneva Convention," it says. Father Roy Bourgeois is the founder of SOA Watch, which has been campaigning to shut down the School of the Americas, now called the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation, for the past fourteen years. "We see a real close connection between the torture we're reading about in Iraq and the torture that has been connected with the School of the Americas," he says. "These were not a few bad apples. Apples do not torture. These were real soldiers at the School of the Americas and Iraq that we trained in the techniques of torture."
- "The idea that we have no past history of torture is amnesia," says Blum. The Chilean American writer Ariel Dorfman calls such historical amnesia a "false innocence" and explores its roots. "It is entirely functional to the sort of empire that the United States has become," he says. "It is true that the media does not serve up enough analysis and information to allow people here to judge what is happening. But it is also true that too many people are willingly blinding themselves to truths that are looking them in the face." Langguth agrees that torture is an integral part of being an empire. "We are the beneficiaries of an empire, and the empire rests on a number of props that we don't care to look at," he says. "And torture has been, and I'm afraid will continue to be, one of the tools." Discarding this tool may not be easy, says Dorfman. "If Americans were to truly acknowledge (let me emphasize that word 'truly') what is being done in their name, they would have to change the way they live and remember, work and play," he says. "Or give up seeing themselves as ethical." (The Progressive)
- June 25: A federal appeals courts rules that the FCC went too far in its rewrite of media ownership regulations that allow large corporations to control ever-larger portions of the nation's media. The courts orders the commission to revisit the issue with an eye toward protecting, rather than undermining, the public interest in diverse ownership or local and national media. The ruling is seen as a significant setback to the Bush administration, which favors monopolistic corporate control of the media. The appeals court panel, which last year stayed implementation of the rule changes, writes that the FCC had relied on flawed reasoning and reached contradictory conclusions to justify rule changes that would have allowed the consolidation of media ownership in local markets across the country. One of the FCC approved rule changes would have allowed a single corporation to own the daily newspaper, as many as eight radio stations and as many as three television stations in the same community. "The court ruling affirmed what many of us have been saying for a long time," says House Democrat Maurice Hinchey, one of the most ardent Congressional critics of the rule changes. "Chairman [Michael] Powell's gift to media conglomerates was made without basis in legitimate research. He cannot show that the commission's decision was made in the public's best interest. On the contrary, it threatens the ability of the public to have its voice heard and to have access to other diverse voices." Independent House member Bernie Sanders, another voice against centralized corporate media control, adds, "This is a major victory in preventing a handful of huge corporations from controlling what the American people see, hear and read. It also vindicates the millions of Americans from across the political spectrum who spoke out and contacted the FCC on this issue. The law unequivocally stands with the public values of localism, diversity and competition in the media, and that's what the court maintained." The FEC is currently split 3-2, with three Republicans supporting special-interest demands for relaxation of ownership rules and two Democrats siding with public-interest groups that oppose the lifting of limits on media monopoly. More than two million Americans have contacted the FCC and members of Congress demanding retention of limits on media monopoly at the local level and controls on consolidation of broadcast media ownership nationally. (Nation/CommonDreams)
GOP Senate candidate Jack Ryan drops out of the race after revelations that he tried to force his ex-wife to have bizarre sex acts in public
- June 25: Illinois senate candidate Jack Ryan, a Republican, drops out of the race after revelations that he tried to force his ex-wife to perform bizarre sex acts in public become widespread. Ryan blames the news media for the controversy, saying its interest in his personal life had gotten "out of control." Ryan says in a written statement, "It's clear to me that a vigorous debate on the issues most likely could not take place if I remain in the race. What would take place, rather, is a brutal, scorched-earth campaign -- the kind of campaign that has turned off so many voters, the kind of politics I refuse to play. Accordingly, I am today withdrawing from the race." Illinois Republicans are scrambling to find a replacement candidate to challenge Democratic candidate Barack Obama. The winner will take the seat vacated by retiring Republican Peter Fitzgerald. (CNN)
- June 25: During his visit to her country, Irish reporter Carole Coleman, of the state-owned RTE network, grills President Bush over the Iraq war and the so-called weapons of mass destruction. A rattled Bush gives what many in Europe see as a "testy and defensive" set of answers. (It is obvious Bush is unused to aggressive reporters, having become accustomed to the well-behaved and deferential White House press corps.) In retaliation, the Bush entourage cancels a scheduled interview between Coleman and First Lady Laura Bush, saying that Coleman was "rude" and "badgered" the president. Coleman interrupts Bush more than once when he tries to steer away from the posed question into a standard boilerplate answer, an interrogative tactic Bush obviously finds objectionable. Writing for the libertarian Web site, Reasononline, Jesse Walker claims Coleman "wasn't rude to Bush at all," but was "fair and professional." The president simply "seemed unfamiliar with the idea that a journalist might want some say in the direction of an interview." He notes that at one juncture, Bush "expressed his displeasure by emitting one of those deliberately audible mouth-noises that worked so well for Al Gore in 2000's first presidential debate." Coleman herself admits, "There were a few stages at which I had to move him along for reasons of timing and he's not used to being moved along by the American media. Perhaps they're a bit more deferential." The White House staff had its own ideas about the content of Coleman's questioning. Their suggestion: ask the president about the outfit that Irish Prime Minister Bertie Ahern wore to the recent G8 summit (Ahern wore a pair of canary-yellow trousers). (Editor and Publisher)
- June 25: Liberal columnist E.J. Dionne writes a profile of the closest thing this year's election has to a "media darling," Illinois senatorial candidate Barack Obama. Obama is a 42-year old African-American state senator who is currently the favorite to replace a retiring Republican for the Illinois senate seat. His father, a Kenyan, married an American, then left the family when Obama was 2. Obama graduated from Columbia, worked as a community organizer, and graduated from Harvard Law School where he was the first black president of the law review. His last election experience was in losing a bid to be a US representative. Dionne writes, "But Obama would not be getting the ink and the swoons with only a great bio, or just by being smart. Brainy guys often lose in politics. His is a political mind that can incorporate the opposition's best arguments into his own -- by way of answering them -- and then take clear and unequivocal positions. Obama is someone who can make staunchly progressive positions sound moderate by being quietly reasonable. And he breaks with his own side's conventional wisdom not in search of a phony bipartisanship, but to advance a stronger critique of the status quo." Obama says that Republican economic policies have done little else besides aggravate inequalities, but Democrats have responded fearfully and timidly to the challenge of opposing Republican policies with ideas of their own. Democrats are reluctant to talk about big things, he says, because they're so fearful that "we'll be labeled tax-and-spend." If Democrats worry most about what Republicans will say about them, he says, Democrats will be left with "this tepid, tired and rudderless message, one that can't move a lot of ordinary citizens who feel they're grinding it out, day in and day out, and not making any progress." He frames the basic issue of our politics this way: "We need some balance between community and mutual obligation on the one side and the need for competitiveness and market incentives on the other. The biggest challenge for the Democrats is to articulate a plausible solution to this problem." Dionne writes, "Is the guy for real? Consider: Obama worked hard in the Illinois Legislature to get a bill passed to reform the state's death penalty. Political opportunists don't challenge the death penalty. Obama is interested in people who are hurting and problems that are serious. That, even more than his biography, is why he'll hit the big time." (Working for Change)
- June 25: The Bush campaign releases an attack ad on Kerry and Democrats in general, titled "The Faces of John Kerry's Democratic Party: The Coalition of the Wild-Eyed," which features multiple images of Adolf Hitler among excerpts from speeches by, among others, Kerry, Al Gore, Howard Dean, and Richard Gephardt. Both segments are from an amateur ad repudiated by MoveOn.org which compared Bush to Hitler, but the second one is barely identifiable as a "campaign ad" snippet and appears to the casual viewer to be a direct set of images of Hitler. The ad goes on to falsely claim that the Hitler images come from an ad "sponsored by Kerry supporters," when in fact the ad in question was repudiated by MoveOn (an organization that, at the time, supported Howard Dean, not Kerry) and removed from its Web site within hours of its appearance. Slate's William Saletan and Jacob Weisberg call the ad "despicable." Weisberg writes, "This ad is the campaign equivalent of The Producers -- an idea so egregiously tasteless and stupid that it might just succeed as camp," and wryly observes, "Aimed as it is at the surviving members of various John Birch splinter organizations, this ad will win over no one, while alienating and offending many potential Bush supporters. Republicans will spend much time on the defensive trying to explain why their ad is not as revolting and preposterous as it obviously is. This sets Bush back. He's going to need better gutter tactics than this to stop Hitler in Ohio." (George W. Bush, Slate)
- June 25: Fox News's Sean Hannity responds to guest Reverend Franklin Graham's comment, "I don't think God is a Republican or a Democrat" by saying, "He's [God] no Democrat, Reverend." The same evening, CNBC's Dennis Miller quips, "And yet, I have it on good word that He [Jesus Christ] far prefers Bush to Kerry." Hannity's and Miller's remarks recall a January 2 pronouncement by Christian Coalition of America founder Reverend Pat Robertson: "I think George Bush is going to win in a walk. I really believe I'm hearing from the Lord it's going to be like a blowout election in 2004. It's shaping up that way. The Lord has just blessed him." On the May 25 edition of Hannity & Colmes, Hannity asked a guest, "Can we pray for the reelection of George Bush?" (Media Matters)