U.S. President George W. Bush speaks with Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice in the background.
I (Jonathan Melle) receive a monthly mailing from my old college friend, Shelly Stern, from my Spring Semester of 1996 at American University in Washington, D.C. The name of the mailing is called, "Joyful Dissent" out of Charlottesville, Virginia.
Over a decade ago now, Shell and I were students together in a Peace Studies seminar whereby we studied the United States Government's role in Peacekeeping throughout the World. What we learned is that "Human Rights" is a dirty word on Capitol Hill. Instead of pursuing Peace and Justice in the World, the U.S. Government pursues its national interests under the pretense of free markets and democracies. We learned that "the Corporate Elite" is sometimes more powerful than national governments, including the U.S. Government, because its economic policies are more effective than a national government's ability to control their actions. The outcome of studying Peace Studies was learning that the powerful, both in the corridors of Capitol Hill and in the Corner Offices of the Corporate Elite, want anything but Peace and Justice because such lofty goals conflict with their desires for military and economic power.
In Shelly's latest "Joyful Dissent" flyer, postmarked 17-September-2007, a man named Jeremy Scahill ("Bush's Mercenary Revolution") and others are cited for their facts about the powerful's military and economic fascistic power-grabs. Above his list of facts, a question is asked: "Did you know there are 160,000 U.S. troops in Iraq and 180,000 private contractors?"
* As of July 2007, there were more than 630 war contracting companies working in Iraq for the U.S. (Scahill)
* Some Congress-persons estimate that up to 40-cents of every tax dollar spent on the war goes to corporate contractors. (Scahill)
* At present, the U.S. spends about $2 Billion a week on its Iraq operations. (Scahill)
* Blackwater USA has won $750 million in State Department contracts alone for Diplomatic security". (Scahill)
* Number of Bush appointees who regulate industries they used to represent as lobbyists: 85. (Harper's Index, August 2007)
* A new Congressional Report has revealed that the Pentagon has lost track of about 190,000 AK-47 assault rifles and pistols given to Iraq security forces. (Democracy Now, August 2007)
* Up to 800,000 Iraq & Afghanistan veterans are said to suffer or risk developing post-traumatic stress disorder. (Democracy Now, August 2007)
* In 2003, all of Murdoch's 175 newspapers supported the Iraq invasion. There were 649 reporters in Vietnam on March 16, 1968 the day of the My-Lai massacre. None of the reporters reported the story. (Democracy Now)
* More than 10,000 overseas companies and 400 US universities grow fat on Pentagon contracts. These contracts are a legacy of the Truman Administration & its post World War II decision to bail out military industries. (Atlantic Life Community)
* The U.S. alone spends as much on the military as the other 196 nations of the world combined. (Frida Berrigan, A Nation of Firsts Arms in the World, In "Simplicity", Summer 2007)
In the Summer of 1996 through the Summer of 1997, I (Jonathan Melle) was very inspired by the renewed commitments to Peace and Justice after my Spring 1996 Peace Studies semester at American University in Washington, D.C. In these two summers, I would read hard copies of the New York Times. I loved that newspaper as a young man college student! In the New York Times, there were numerous news articles concerning the U.S.' biggest export: Arms. The Cold War between the former U.S.S.R. and the U.S.A. ended in 1991. By the mid-1990's, the N.Y. Times was reporting that due to the collapse of the Russian economy, the U.S. Arms Contractors picked up about 17 percentage points of the market share on selling military weapons to foreign nations. During the Cold War, the market share was just about evenly split between the Soviet Union and the U.S. By the Summer of 1997, the U.S. Market Share for exporting military Arms to foreign nations shot up to about 67%.
During the late 1990's, the U.S. Economy had one of the best bull runs in American History. Yields on investments averaged about 24%, which meant the Corporate Elite doubled their money every 3-years; 72/24 = 3. The masses or have-nots were sold on these doubly high business yields by being told that the technology stocks were red hot. However, I disagree with the tech-bubble causing such high yields, as American Corporate Defense Cycle Business were able to increase their Arms inventories and sell foreign countries American made military weapons at a lucrative price.
Last evening, I watched World News Tonignt with my parents prior to the Boston Red Sox went on to defeat the Cleveland Indians at Fenway Park by a score of 10-3. Apparently, Russian Dictator Vladimir Putin was not very diplomatic to President George W. Bush's cabinent members on 12-October-2007. One of the criticisms of Russian Dictator Putin was that he is selling military Arms to Muslim nations. I thought to myself, 10-years earlier we took a big chunk of Russia's Arms sales with record-setting yields on Wall Street's equity markets. Why did not the news report our power-grab of Arms sells after Russia's economy was in ruins?
In closing, the U.S. Government chooses military and economic power over Peace and Justice. Our nation's poor leadership after the end of the Cold War has set a bad model for the World to follow, especially for industrialized foreign nations like Russia, China, Iran and the like. The U.S. had a choice, and tragically, we did NOT choose Human Rights for All Peoples. That is why I (Jonathan Melle) am someday going to be a powerful political leader for Peace and Justice.
Candidates spoke to hiring personnel (at tables) about 200 job openings during a job fair Tuesday at BAE Systems in Nashua. (David Kamerman/Globe Staff)
"One thriving sector: The business of war: Pentagon's contractors are looking for help"
By Robert Weisman, Boston Globe Staff, December 6, 2008
SOUTH NASHUA, N.H. - Across the nation, companies are lopping off hundreds of thousands of jobs, retailers are shuttering stores, and automakers are tottering on the edge of bankruptcy.
But here in the Merrimack River Valley, and over the state line at several industrial sites around Massachusetts, defense contractor BAE Systems is hoisting "Help Wanted" signs.
BAE develops technology in fields like electronic warfare and cybersecurity, sophisticated systems that are key to combating a new wave of threats around the globe. At a time when 1.7 million jobs have been lost in the United States this year, the company is hiring 200 engineers and manufacturing workers in Nashua, Hudson, and Merrimack, N.H., and Burlington, Lexington, and Marlborough, Mass.
Other defense electronics contractors, such as Waltham's Raytheon Co. and General Dynamics Corp.'s communications systems center in Taunton, also continue to ramp up. Such companies remain awash in orders from the Pentagon and American allies increasingly worried about terrorism and missile proliferation. They are also facing the pending retirement of many baby boomers in their labor force, a factor lending greater urgency to their hiring efforts.
"We're acting very aggressively when we find a good match," said Christopher Sherman, engineering manager at BAE's Electronics & Integrated Solutions division here.
The company has already hired 475 people in New Hampshire and Massachusetts this year, mostly to meet growing demand, but in some cases, to replace departing workers.
Back-to-back BAE job fairs Tuesday and Wednesday drew 1,462 candidates, including recent college graduates in pressed suits, Cold War-era defense industry veterans with salt-and-pepper hair, and commercial engineers who had previously worked at computer software or telecommunications companies. All hoped to land jobs at BAE's electronics programs, some of which are highly classified.
"I've challenged my team to hire 70 people out of this crowd tonight," said Amanda Arria, the company's Northeast regional talent acquisition manager, pointing to lines of applicants waiting to meet with hiring managers in the BAE cafeteria Tuesday night.
Patricia Heckley, 50, a software engineer from nearby Tyngsborough, Mass., stood in one of the lines. Heckley said she had never worked in the defense industry, but was confident her skills were transferable in a period when high-tech companies are scaling back. "It's a jump, but I think it's a reachable jump," she said.
Hunting for his first job was Curtis Jerry, 22, of Sanbornton, N.H., who graduated from Worcester Polytechnic Institute earlier this year. "I love defense in general, because that's where all the interesting technology is now," Jerry said. "I'd really like to work testing guidance and navigation systems, but I'd do just about anything."
BAE and other military contractors have become islands of growth in a national job market that is underwater.
The growth in defense may not continue for long. Industry analysts are projecting budget cuts in major US weapons programs as the war in Iraq winds down and the incoming administration of President-elect Barack Obama wrestles with other priorities. Defense spending has climbed steadily during the Bush administration, reaching $671.7 billion in the 2008 fiscal year, including emergency supplemental appropriations for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. That represents a 72 percent increase from fiscal 2000, after adjusting for inflation.
But the budget reductions are not likely to start until next fall, when President Obama's national security team will be in place and the next federal budget year begins, suggested Loren B. Thompson, chief operating officer at the Lexington Institute, an Arlington, Va., think tank.
"There will be breathing space because of the rhythm of the budget cycle," Thompson said.
"And even when the cuts come, some companies, because of what they do or because of emerging threats, will fare pretty well. Companies in Massachusetts and New Hampshire will weather the downturn better than others are likely to."
One reason is that, rather than building entire jets, ships, tanks, or ground installations, many of the region's defense firms develop the electronics, combat, and communications systems they use. Even when a massive weapons program is cut back, as the Navy's $20 billion DDG 1000 destroyer program was last summer, contractors like Raytheon can market their combat systems for use in other new ships or in older vessels in the Navy fleet.
Area contractors, for instance, work on electronic eavesdropping, signal processing for radar systems, and equipment used to integrate intelligence from different sources, technologies critical to helping the US military and allies battle terrorists in multiple countries. General Dynamics, at its Taunton site, is developing a new generation of command, control, and communications systems that enable the Army to coordinate simultaneous operations at far-flung locations.
The economic downturn has given defense contractors a boost by expanding the pool of potential employees, since workers from civilian industries have lost jobs due to cutbacks.
But the ongoing housing slump has made it difficult for workers from other states to sell their homes and move to New England, forcing contractors here to compete with one another for local talent.
"To move people right now is problematic," said Keith J. Peden, senior vice president of human resources at Raytheon headquarters. "That makes the universe we recruit from smaller."
Raytheon, which is sitting on a $37 billion order backlog, has added more than 200 jobs so far this year at more than a dozen sites in Massachusetts, from Tewksbury to Marlborough. The company projects that it could add another 400 jobs in 2009, in programs ranging from border security and training systems to radar and Patriot missiles.
Over the past year, US allies such as Kuwait, Taiwan, South Korea, and Japan, jittery over the missile threat from Iran and North Korea, have placed orders for Raytheon's antimissile Patriot weapon systems.
Robert Weisman can be reached at email@example.com.
The Corporate Elite have redesigned "The System" to enrich themselves at the expense of the people, masses, have-nots, poor and middle-class families.
Source: Manchester (NH) Daily Express, Monday, October 29, 2007
“Manchester (NH), prepare to pay more for gas: Local retailers: We are forced to raise prices”
World oil prices surpassed $90 a barrel recently. At the close of business on October 29, 2007, oil closed at a RECORD HIGH of $93.53 a barrel, while the national average price for a gallon of gas was at approximately $2.87.
Breakdown of gas prices:
. Approximately 52% of the cost per gallon of gas pays for the crude oil
. Approximately 24% of the cost per gallon of gas pays for the refineries, which turn the crude oil into gasoline
. Approximately 15% of the cost per gallon of gas pays for all of the TAXES, which include (a) Crude Oil is TAXED when it leaves the Producer, (b) Gasoline is TAXED when it leaves the Refinery, (c) the State and Federal Governments TAX it at the point of sale at the pump.
. Approximately 9% of the cost per gallon of gas pays for the transportation and marketing costs
The point of the story is that the gas station, especially locally owned, retail owners receive the smallest percentage of the enormous profits on gasoline, which is usually only about 2% of the very marginal cut. Gas prices are slightly influenced depending on the prices being offered by their retail competitors.
Oil Price Rise Causes Global Shift in Wealth
Iran, Russia and Venezuela Feel the Benefits
By Steven Mufson
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, November 10, 2007; A01
High oil prices are fueling one of the biggest transfers of wealth in history. Oil consumers are paying $4 billion to $5 billion more for crude oil every day than they did just five years ago, pumping more than $2 trillion into the coffers of oil companies and oil-producing nations this year alone.
The consequences are evident in minds and mortar: anger at Chinese motor-fuel pumps and inflated confidence in the Kremlin; new weapons in Chad and new petrochemical plants in Saudi Arabia; no-driving campaigns in South Korea and bigger sales for Toyota hybrid cars; a fiscal burden in Senegal and a bonanza in Brazil. In Burma, recent demonstrations were triggered by a government decision to raise fuel prices.
In the United States, the rising bill for imported petroleum lowers already anemic consumer savings rates, adds to inflation, worsens the trade deficit, undermines the dollar and makes it more difficult for the Federal Reserve to balance its competing goals of fighting inflation and sustaining growth.
High prices have given a boost to oil-rich Alaska, which in September raised the annual oil dividend paid to every man, woman and child living there for a year to $1,654, an increase of $547 from last year. In other states, high prices create greater incentives for pursuing non-oil energy projects that once might have looked too expensive and hurt earnings at energy-intensive companies like airlines and chemical makers. Even Kellogg's cited higher energy costs as a drag on its third-quarter earnings.
With crude oil prices nearing $100 a barrel, there is no end in sight to the redistribution of more than 1 percent of the world's gross domestic product. Earlier oil shocks generated giant shifts in wealth and pools of petrodollars, but they eventually faded and economies adjusted. This new high point in petroleum prices has arrived over four years, and many believe it will represent a new plateau even if prices drop back somewhat in coming months.
"There's never been anything like this on a sustained basis the way we've seen the last couple of years," said Kenneth Rogoff, a Harvard University economics professor and former chief economist at the International Monetary Fund. Oil prices "are not spiking; they're just rising," he added.
The benefits, to the tune of $700 billion a year, are flowing to the world's oil-exporting countries.
Two of those nations -- Iran and Venezuela -- may be better able to defy the Bush administration because of swelling oil revenue. Venezuela has used its oil wealth to dispense patronage around South America, vying for influence even with longtime U.S. allies. And Iran could be less vulnerable to sanctions designed to pressure it into giving up its nuclear program or opening it to inspection.
The world's biggest oil exporter, Saudi Arabia, is using its rejuvenated oil riches to build four cities. Projects like these are designed to burnish the country's image, develop a non-oil economy and generate enough employment to maintain social stability.
One is King Abdullah Economic City, a mega-project on the kingdom's west coast. According to Emaar, a real estate development firm in Dubai, the city will cost $27 billion and be spread across an area three times the size of Manhattan. A contractor who works there said a wide, palm tree-lined boulevard cuts a dozen miles across an ocean of sand and ends at the Red Sea. Construction workers in hard hats are navigating excavators, dredging land and digging foundations for a power plant, a desalinization plant and a port. The project will eventually include an industrial district, a financial island, a university and a residential area, and is expected to house 2 million people.
Despite mega-projects like this, Saudi Arabia is running a budget surplus. It has paid down much of the foreign debt it accumulated in the late 1990s and is adding to its foreign-exchange reserves.
Russia, the world's No. 2 oil exporter, shows oil's transformational impact in the political as well as the economic realm. When Vladimir Putin came to power in 2000, less than two years after the collapse of the ruble and Russia's default on its international debt, the country's policymakers worried that 2003 could bring another financial crisis. The country's foreign-debt repayments were scheduled to peak at $17 billion that year.
Inside the Kremlin, with Putin nearing the end of his second and final term as president, that sum now looks like peanuts. Russia's gold and foreign-currency reserves have risen by more than that amount just since July. The soaring price of oil has helped Russia increase the federal budget tenfold since 1999 while paying off its foreign debt and building the third-largest gold and hard-currency reserves in the world, about $425 billion.
"The government is much stronger, much more self-assured and self-confident," said Vladimir Milov, head of the Institute of Energy Policy in Moscow and a former deputy minister of energy. "It believes it can cope with any economic crisis at home."
With good reason. Using energy revenue, the government has built up a $150 billion rainy-day account called the Stabilization Fund.
"This financial independence has contributed to more assertive actions by Russia in the international arena," Milov said. "There is a strong drive within part of the elite to show that we are off our knees."
The result: Russia is trying to reclaim former Soviet republics as part of its sphere of influence. Freed of the need to curry favor with foreign oil companies and Western bankers, Russia can resist what it views as American expansionism, particularly regarding NATO enlargement and U.S. missile defense in Eastern Europe, and forge an independent approach to contentious issues like Iran's nuclear program.
The abundance of petrodollars has also led to a consumer boom evident in the sprawling malls, 24-hour hyper-markets, new apartment and office buildings, and foreign cars that have become commonplace not just in Moscow and St. Petersburg but in provincial cities. Average income has doubled under Putin, and the number of people living below the poverty line has been cut in half.
But many economists have called petroleum reserves a bane, saying they enable oil-rich countries to avoid taking steps that would diversify their economies and spread wealth more equally. Russia, for example, has rising inflation, soaring imports and a lack of new investment in the very industry that is fueling the boom.
'Our Oil Wealth Is a Curse'
The problems are worse in Nigeria, which is battling an insurgency that has curtailed output in the oil-rich Niger River Delta. The central government has been disbursing its remaining oil revenue, though corruption has undermined the program's effectiveness. The government has also cut domestic gas subsidies, raising prices several times over in the name of improving health, education and infrastructure.
"Our oil wealth is a curse rather than a blessing for our country," said Halima Dahiru, a 36-year-old housewife, as she waited for a bus near a Texaco station in Kano, the commercial capital of northern Nigeria. Billows of dust enveloped the gas station as vehicles frenetically cruised along the laterite-covered road, adding to the harmattan haze that blankets the city.
"You go to bed and wake up the next morning to hear the government has increased the price of petrol, and you have to live with it," she said. "The only sensible thing to do is to adjust to the new reality because nothing will make the government listen to public outcry."
Newly oil-exporting countries such as Sudan and Chad and the companies operating there -- including Malaysia's Petronas and France's Total -- are winners. Sudan's capital, Khartoum, is booming, with new skyscrapers and five-star luxury hotels, despite U.S. and European sanctions aimed at pressuring the country to halt attacks against people in the western Darfur region.
Chad's government has used some of its oil revenue to buy weapons rather than develop the country's economy. In eastern Chad, there are hardly any gas stations; people buy their gas -- often for motorcycles, not cars -- from roadside stands that sell it out of glass bottles.
Oil-importing countries face their own challenges. The hardest hit are the poorest. Last year, Senegal's budget deficit doubled, inflation quickened and growth slowed. The cash-strapped state-owned petrochemical business had to shut down for long periods.
In China, the government increased domestic pump prices on Oct. 31 by nearly 10 percent with shortages, rationing and long lines throughout the country. Violence broke out at some gas stations, including an incident last week in Henan province in which one man killed another who had chastised him for jumping to the front of a line for gas.
A scarcity of diesel fuel even hit China's richest cities -- Beijing, Shanghai and trading ports on the east coast -- which in the past have been kept well supplied. In Ningbo, a city south of Shanghai, the wait at some gas stations this week was more than three hours, and lines stretched more than 200 yards.
Rumors circulated that gas stations or the government was hoarding fuel in anticipation of further price increases, prompting the official New China News Agency to warn that anyone caught spreading rumors about fuel-price increases will be "severely punished."
Li Leijun, 37, a taxi driver, said he was so angry that he was unable to buy fuel that he argued with gas station attendants and called the police. "I still didn't get any diesel," he said.
Since shedding orthodox Maoist economic policies, China's leaders have unleashed decades of pent-up demand. China consumes 9 percent of world oil output, up from 6.4 percent five years ago, according to the International Energy Agency. Yet it still subsidizes fuel. As a result, consumption this decade has skyrocketed at an 8.7 percent annual rate despite soaring prices and concerns about the environmental impact of profligate fuel use.
Consumption in South Africa is also defying high prices as long-impoverished blacks join the middle and upper classes. Cars are a status symbol, and gasoline consumption jumped 39 percent in the decade after the end of apartheid in 1994. New-vehicle sales last year rose 15.7 percent over 2005.
Highly developed consumer nations have been better able to adapt. In Japan, which relies on imports for nearly 100 percent of its fuel, nearly everyone is a loser -- with the big exception of Toyota.
Yet Japan has been weaning itself off oil for years. It now imports 16 percent less oil than it did in 1973, although the economy has more than doubled. Billions of dollars were invested to convert oil-reliant electricity-generation systems into ones powered by natural gas, coal, nuclear energy or alternative fuels. Japan accounts for 48 percent of the globe's solar-power generation -- compared with 15 percent in the United States. The adoption rate for fluorescent light bulbs is 80 percent, compared with 6 percent in the United States.
Still, rising fuel prices are pushing up the prices of raw and industrial materials, as well as food, which relies on fertilizers and transportation. Because of rising wheat prices, Nissin Food Products, the instant-noodle industry leader, will increase prices 7 to 11 percent in January, the first price hike in 17 years.
Greasing Toyota's Gears
A winner is Toyota. Soaring gasoline prices have buffed the image of the hybrid Prius and Toyota's other fuel-efficient models, such as the Camry and Corolla. Although stagnant in Japan, sales were strong in North America, Europe, Asia and emerging markets. In October, Prius sales stood at 13,158 vehicles, up 51 percent from 8,733 in October last year. Worldwide, the number of hybrid cars sold by Toyota surpassed 1 million in May.
Britain's national average gasoline price topped 1 pound per liter, or about $8 a gallon, for the first time this week because of record oil prices.
"But there is very little publicity about it -- you don't see many headlines saying, 'Oil at all-time record high,' " said Chris Skrebowski, editor of Petroleum Review, a published by the Energy Institute in London. "It's different from the United States. Here, everyone has just accepted that it is expensive."
While British drivers are feeling the pinch, the government is gaining revenue, Skrebowski said, because about 80 percent of the cost of gas is tax. Because Britain produces almost all the oil it consumes, its economy has been cushioned against increasing oil prices, Skrebowski said.
But Britain's North Sea oil production is dwindling, having peaked in 1999 at 2.6 million barrels per day. Today, production is 1.4 million to 1.6 million barrels per day, Skrebowski said, while domestic oil consumption is about 1.7 million barrels a day. Prime Minister Gordon Brown, who took office in June, has made energy independence a priority.
Meanwhile, analysts said, Europeans buying oil priced in dollars are finding the rising prices somewhat cushioned by the strength of their currency. The value of the dollar has been sliding to record lows against the euro and the British pound.
Argentina has tried to keep fuel prices for consumers at artificially low levels.
President NÂ¿stor Kirchner in recent years has leaned heavily on energy companies to keep prices down, going so far as to call for a public boycott of Royal Dutch Shell when the company raised pump prices. Individual suppliers -- wary of attracting the ire of the government -- have adopted a policy of raising prices gradually and by small amounts.
As the market pressures have mounted, Kirchner has signed a series of agreements with Venezuelan President Hugo ChÂ¿vez. This year, the two created a project called Petrosuramerica, a joint venture designed to promote cooperative energy projects and provide energy security to Argentina.
In Brazil, the region's largest economy, high oil prices have had a different political effect. Last year, the country became a net oil exporter, thanks to major increases in domestic oil exploration and the country's broad use of sugar-based ethanol as a transport fuel.
But new oil wealth can trickle away even more easily than it comes. Last month, Standard & Poor's downgraded Kazakhstan's credit rating after the country's banks lost billions on purchases of subprime mortgages.
Correspondents Peter Finn in Moscow, Blaine Harden in Tokyo, Ariana Eunjung Cha in Shanghai, Kevin Sullivan in London, Craig Timberg in Johannesburg, Stephanie McCrummen in Nairobi, Monte Reel in Buenos Aires and Faiza Saleh Ambah in Jiddah, Saudi Arabia, and special correspondents Aminu Abubakar in Kano, Nigeria, and Alia Ibrahim in Beirut contributed to this report.
The Washington Post - Editorial
Mr. Mukasey and Torture
The Senate should confirm the former and ban the latter.
Friday, November 2, 2007; A20
IT IS EXTRAORDINARY that a man who rightly would have been confirmed with overwhelming support had he been President Bush's first nominee for attorney general may now be denied that post in the waning months of the administration. Just as extraordinary is Mr. Bush's campaign to salvage the nomination of Michael B. Mukasey. Yesterday, in a rare Oval Office meeting with reporters and later in a speech before the Heritage Foundation, Mr. Bush bemoaned the imperiled state of Mr. Mukasey's nomination without one iota of self-awareness that the nomination is in trouble because of the president's own warped policies on torture.
Mr. Mukasey is being judged not on his merits but as a proxy for Mr. Bush. Yet critics of the nomination, while understandably disturbed by Mr. Mukasey's unwillingness to label waterboarding illegal, may be working against the last, best hope to see the rule of law reemerge in this administration.
Mr. Mukasey's 172 pages of written responses to senators' questions leave no doubt that he is a staunchly conservative lawyer. He believes the Second Amendment bestows an individual right to bear arms. He recoils at the idea of appointing a special prosecutor when, in his words, the "members of the Department have the integrity and ability to discharge whatever responsibilities they may have." He embraces an expansive vision of presidential power that allows the president to ignore an "unconstitutional law" if it infringes on the powers of the executive.
This last view, when put into action by unqualified sycophants such as former attorney general Alberto R. Gonzales, leads to extreme and dangerous power grabs, not to mention grotesque distortions of the law that produce such results as the notorious 2002 "torture memo."
But there are key differences between Mr. Gonzales and Mr. Mukasey. Mr. Gonzales, whose confirmation we opposed, had a hand in crafting the policy that encouraged Mr. Bush to ignore U.S. law and treaty obligations on torture prohibitions. Mr. Mukasey did not. Mr. Gonzales endorsed the go-it-alone approach that cut Congress out of a significant role in warrantless surveillance and the creation of military tribunals. While jealously guarding the president's prerogatives, Mr. Mukasey seems to understand that the president's power is strengthened -- not diminished -- when he acts in concert with Congress, and he has vowed to advocate such an approach. Mr. Gonzales lacked the moral compass to challenge Mr. Bush and some of his stronger-willed advisers. Mr. Mukasey has demonstrated the ethical fortitude required of an independent attorney general.
As we said this week, it is a shame for America to be led by a president who has countenanced waterboarding and other interrogation methods that most Americans would understand as torture. Mr. Mukasey got it right when he called waterboarding "repugnant"; like many senators, we wish he had also clearly stated that it is illegal. But to do so would have been likely to bring him into conflict with existing Justice Department memorandums that have been used by CIA interrogators and others to legitimize their actions. Mr. Mukasey has promised a careful review of each of those memorandums; if he is rejected, no nominee is likely to promise more in advance of confirmation.
Those senators who truly want to bring the nation back from the disgrace of Mr. Bush's interrogation policies should do two things. They should confirm Mr. Mukasey, who is far more independent and qualified than either of Mr. Bush's previous two nominees. And they should do something which, for all the rhetoric, they have so far declined to do: ban torture, by passing the National Security with Justice Act sponsored by Sen. Joseph R. Biden (D-Del.). The act would limit all United States personnel -- military and civilian -- to using only interrogation techniques authorized by the U.S. Army Field Manual on Intelligence Interrogation, which expressly prohibits waterboarding and which military leaders have said gives them the tools they need to get reliable information from difficult subjects.
The View From the Waterboard
A former Justice lawyer did his homework -- and raised a red flag.
Tuesday, November 6, 2007; A18 – The Washington Post
ATTORNEY GENERAL nominee Michael B. Mukasey may have his doubts about what constitutes waterboarding and whether it is illegal. Daniel Levin has no such questions.
Mr. Levin was acting head of the Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel in 2004 when he volunteered to be waterboarded, according to a remarkable Nov. 2 report by Jan Crawford Greenburg and Ariane de Vogue of ABC News. In the midst of revising the Justice Department's legal rationale on interrogation methods after the repudiation of the infamous "torture memo," Mr. Levin wanted to experience waterboarding, or simulated drowning, to determine whether it triggered the legal definition of torture. After being subjected to the technique at a Washington area military installation, Mr. Levin concluded that waterboarding could be illegal unless performed under the strictest supervision and in the most limited of ways. Mr. Levin finished drafting the new legal memorandum in December 2004.
According to the ABC report, Mr. Levin's findings did not sit well with the administration. Then-White House Counsel Alberto R. Gonzales insisted that Mr. Levin add a footnote to the memo that made clear that the revised memo did not make the administration's previous opinions illegal. Mr. Levin was forced out of the Justice Department a few months after Mr. Gonzales was confirmed as attorney general in early 2005.
Mr. Levin, now in private practice with a Washington law firm, declined to discuss the matter. But his name can be added to the roster of accomplished conservative lawyers, including former deputy attorney general James B. Comey and former Office of Legal Counsel chief Jack L. Goldsmith, who found themselves fighting to sustain the rule of law in an administration too often eager to suspend it. If Mr. Mukasey is confirmed, as we believe he should be, the eradication of this kind of disregard for principle and law should be his first priority.
Manuveur gave Bush a conservative rights panel
By Charlie Savage, (Boston) Globe Staff | November 6, 2007
WASHINGTON - The US Commission on Civil Rights, the nation's 50-year-old watchdog for racism and discrimination, has become a critic of school desegregation efforts and affirmative action ever since the Bush administration used a controversial maneuver to put the agency under conservative control.
Democrats say the move to create a conservative majority on the eight-member panel violated the spirit of a law requiring that no more than half the commission be of one party. Critics say Bush in effect installed a fifth and sixth Republican on the panel in December 2004, after two commissioners, both Republicans when appointed, reregistered as independents.
"I don't believe that [the law] was meant to be evaded by conveniently switching your voter registration," said Commissioner Michael Yaki, one of the two remaining Democrats.
The administration insists that Bush's appointments were consistent with the law because the two commissioners who reregistered as independents no longer counted as Republicans. The day before Bush made the appointments, the Department of Justice approved the move in a memo to White House counsel Alberto Gonzales's office.
Other presidents have been able to create a majority of like-minded commissioners, but no president has done it this way. The unusual circumstances surrounding the appointments attracted little attention at the time. But they have had a sweeping effect, shifting the commission's emphasis from investigating claims of civil rights violations to questioning programs designed to offset the historic effects of discrimination.
Before the changes, the agency had planned to evaluate a White House budget request for civil rights enforcement, the adequacy of college financial aid for minorities, and whether the US Census Bureau undercounts minorities, keeping nonwhite areas from their fair share of political apportionment and spending. After the appointments, the commission canceled the projects.
Instead, the commission has put out a series of reports concluding that there is little educational benefit to integrating elementary and secondary schools, calling for closer scrutiny of programs that help minorities gain admission to top law schools, and urging the government to look for ways to replace policies that help minority-owned businesses win contracts with race-neutral alternatives.
The conservative bloc has also pushed through retroactive term limits for several of its state advisory committees. As a result, some longtime traditional civil rights activists have had to leave the advisory panels, and the commission replaced several of them with conservative activists.
The commission has also stopped issuing subpoenas and going on the road to hold lengthy fact-finding hearings, as it previously did about once a year. The commission had three planned hearings in the works when the conservative bloc took over and canceled them. Instead, the panel has held only shorter briefings, all but one of which was in Washington, from invited specialists.
Commissioner Abigail Thernstrom, who dropped her GOP registration six weeks before Bush's appointments, said the selection of conservatives to the state civil rights advisory committees provided "intellectual diversity." She also said the commission's recent briefings and reports have been rigorous.
"They are completely balanced in a way they haven't been for years," said Thernstrom, a former member of the Massachusetts Board of Education who until recently lived in Lexington.
A core mission of the Civil Rights Commission is to use its bipartisan fact-finding power in racial disputes to "gather facts instead of charges [and to] sift out the truth from the fancies," as Senate majority leader Lyndon Johnson said in August 1957.
In its early days, the commission's work of collecting evidence of voter discrimination and police brutality laid the groundwork for major civil rights laws. But the panel has stayed on the sidelines in recent controversies with civil rights overtones.
For example, the panel did not investigate allegations that black neighborhoods in Ohio received too few voting machines in the 2004 election or the murky circumstances surrounding a racially charged assault case in Jena, La.
Kenneth Marcus, the commission's staff director, said the panel has not issued subpoenas because they are time-consuming and "disrupted" its relations with other government agencies.
Marcus also said that members of the panel considered investigating the 2004 Ohio election dispute, but decided it would not be "the best use of their resources." The commission staff, he added, was recently briefed by the Justice Department about the Jena case and is monitoring the situation.
Democrats say Bush's appointments threw the commission out of balance, violating the bipartisan intent of the law that forbids the panel from having more than four members of one party. Five commissioners must agree before the agency approves a report or recommendation.
But Marcus, a Bush appointee, said "it's not true" that the panel has become a party instrument.
"The commission is guided by four Republicans, two independents, and two Democrats, which is consistent with the statute governing the agency," Marcus said. "Certainly, we have a majority of conservatives right now, and that majority is taking the commission in a direction that is different than what we've seen in the past."
The commission - half appointed by the president and half by congressional leaders - has been under a 6-to-2 control by both liberals and conservatives before. Especially since the 1980s, presidents and lawmakers have tried to tilt the panel by appointing independents who shared their party's views on civil rights.
But until Bush's 2004 appointments, no president used reregistrations by sitting commissioners to satisfy the law that forbids presidents from appointing a fifth commissioner of the same party. Bush's move , represented an unprecedented "escalation" in hardball politics, said Peter Shane, Ohio State University law professor.
No court has ever ruled on the meaning of the political balance law, which does not say whether a commissioner's party identity is fixed at appointment, or whether a commissioner who reregisters no longer counts toward the party cap.
In a two-page memo Dec. 6, 2004, the day before Bush's appointments, the Justice Department said it was "clear" that it only matters what commissioners say their party identity is when a president makes appointments.
But Peter Strauss, an administrative law professor at Columbia University, said he believed a court would reject the administration's interpretation, especially if a judge decided that a commissioner reregistered "to manipulate the process" rather than because his or her ideology sincerely changed.
One of the extra Republican slots opened Oct. 27, 2004, when Thernstrom asked the town clerk of Lexington to change her voter registration to independent from GOP. Six weeks later, Bush promoted Thernstrom to be the commission's vice chairwoman.
Thernstrom acknowledged speaking with the White House about the impending vacancies.
"The discussion was who were the possible candidates and what did their [party] identification have to be," she said.
But Thernstrom said that no one asked her to reregister and that her decision had nothing to do with making space for another Republican. Instead, she said, she decided she would be "most comfortable" as an independent, having registered as a Democrat and as an independent in times past.
In more recent years, Thernstrom had been a consistent Republican. She voted in the March 2000 and March 2004 Republican primaries, gave $500 to the Bush-Cheney campaign in July 2004, and on Oct. 18, 2004, published an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal calling herself a Republican appointee - just nine days before she dropped her Republican registration.
The other GOP slot opened in 2003, when Republican Commissioner Russell Redenbaugh switched to independent. He had been an independent when Senate Republicans first appointed him to the commission in 1990, but registered GOP before being reappointed because, he said, "I felt it was dishonest to call myself an independent when I was so clearly a conservative."
Redenbaugh said he switched back to independent in 2003 because he leans libertarian, and the GOP's stance on social issues annoyed him. He called Bush's use of his switch to appoint a Republican "inappropriate" and "wrong."
Redenbaugh resigned in 2005, dropping the conservative majority to five. In early 2007, Senate Republicans restored the 6-to-2 bloc by appointing Gail Heriot, a member of the conservative Federalist Society who opposes affirmative action.
Heriot was an alternate delegate to the 2000 Republican National Convention and was a registered Republican until seven months before her appointment. In an interview, Heriot said her decision to reregister as an independent in August 2006, making her eligible to fill the vacancy, "had nothing to do with the commission."
"I have disagreements with the Republican Party," she said. Asked to name one, she declined.
Deaths mark grim Afghan, Iraq milestones, By JASON STRAZIUSO, Associated Press Writer, 11/11/2007
Militants ambushed and killed six U.S. troops walking in the mountains of eastern Afghanistan — the most lethal attack in a year that has been the deadliest for the U.S. military here since the 2001 invasion.
The number of U.S. deaths in Afghanistan this year mirror the record toll in Iraq. Both conflicts have seen an increase in troop levels this year that has put more soldiers in harm's way, including those killed Friday while returning from a meeting with village elders in Nuristan province. Militants wielding rocket propelled grenades killed the six Americans and three Afghan soldiers. Eight U.S. troops were wounded.
"They were attacked from several enemy positions at the same time," Lt. Col. David Accetta, a spokesman for NATO's International Security Assistance Force and the U.S. military, said Saturday. "It was a complex ambush."
The six deaths brings the number of U.S. troops killed in Afghanistan this year to at least 101, according to an Associated Press count, surpassing the 93 troops killed in 2005. About 87 died last year. The toll echoes the situation in Iraq, where U.S. military deaths this year surpassed 850, also a record.
Launched in the aftermath of the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks, the war in Afghanistan quickly ousted al-Qaida chief Osama bin Laden and his Taliban protectors and appeared to have been a swift military victory.
But insurgent attacks — advanced ambushes and suicide and roadside bombs — have risen sharply the last two years, and analysts say the counterinsurgency battle U.S. and NATO forces now face will take a decade or more to win.
Critics of the Bush administration say the Pentagon turned its attention away from Afghanistan during the build-up to the invasion in Iraq, leaving the military with too few resources here to back up that initial victory with an adequate security presence.
Though attacks in Iraq have dropped in recent months, U.S. troops there have also faced a rising number of suicide and roadside bombs since the 2003 invasion, known as asymmetric attacks in military circles.
Seth Jones, an expert on Afghanistan at the Washington-based RAND Corp., said the power of the U.S. military has forced insurgent groups into relying on such bombings.
"It's an irony that the United States far and away has the most powerful military in the world," said Jones. "I think the current levels of attacks in Iraq and Afghanistan show, however, that the key vulnerability to the United States both in Afghanistan and Iraq is the asymmetric attacks."
U.S. forces have two combat brigades — more than 8,000 troops — in eastern Afghanistan this year, up from one last year. The U.S. has about 25,000 forces in Afghanistan today — 15,000 under NATO and 10,000 under the U.S.-led coalition.
Accetta said U.S. forces this year have pushed into new areas that traditionally have been militant safe havens.
"If you look back, last year we didn't have a significant presence in Nuristan and now we do," he said. "That all contributes to the fact there have been more casualties this year than there have been in previous years."
Violence is at record levels across the board. Insurgents have launched more than 130 suicide attacks, a record number, and Afghanistan last week saw its deadliest attack since 2001, a suicide bombing in Baghlan province that killed about 75 people, including 59 students and six members of parliament.
"It certainly is disturbing that U.S. casualty figures, though they are low in general, are increasing," Jones said. "But I think the most significant concern is the growth that is affecting Afghans, the whole panoply of raids, IEDs, suicide attacks, and the attack in Baghlan this week."
More than 5,800 people, mostly militants, have died due to insurgency-related violence this year, also a record, according to an AP count based on figures from Western and Afghan officials.
Anthony Cordesman, an expert on the U.S. military, said in a report this month that the average number of attacks in Afghanistan each month has risen 30 percent this year, from 425 in 2006 to 548 this year.
He labeled the Afghan conflict a "war of attrition that can last 15 or more years" that militants can win simply by outlasting U.S. and NATO efforts.
"As in Vietnam, tactical victory can easily become irrelevant," he wrote in a report for the Washington-based Center for Strategic and International Studies that called for greater development of the Afghan government and military.
Friday's ambush resulted in the highest number of U.S. casualties from a battle this year, Accetta said.
"With Sunday being Veterans Day, this is a reminder of the sacrifices that our troops and our Afghan partners make for the peace and stability of the Afghan people," Accetta said.
Fighter aircraft and troops using artillery and mortars at nearby outposts fired on the militants' positions, Accetta said. It wasn't immediately clear how many militants were involved in the ambush, he said.
Mohammad Daoud Nadim, Nuristan deputy police chief, said the ambush happened in the remote province's Waygal district, about 40 miles from the border with Pakistan, which militants are known to use as a sanctuary.
Arabs and other foreign fighters from Chechnya and Uzbekistan are known to operate in the Nuristan region, but the provincial governor, Tamin Nuristani, blamed the attack on Taliban militants. Nuristani said the combined troops searched two houses after the meeting with village elders and were ambushed while walking to their base afterward.
Nuristan province has seen heavy fighting recently. Two U.S. soldiers were killed and 13 wounded by an ambush in July, while militants disguised in Afghan army uniforms wounded 11 U.S. troops in August.
The attack Friday was the deadliest incident for U.S. troops since a Chinook crashed in February in Zabul province, killing eight Americans. Officials ruled out enemy fire as the cause of that crash.
Associated Press reporter Amir Shah contributed to this report.
November 08, 2007
Would Tehran Do the Unthinkable?
By Gregory Scoblete
Since the terrorist attacks of 9/11, the bloody Palestinian intifada, and scores of jihadist murders around the world, the image of the suicide bomber has been seared into Western consciousness. We have rightly come to fear this instrument of Islamic terrorism that is both difficult to detect and nearly impossible to deter.
So it's not surprising that advocates for a war with Iran raise a novel apparition to rally support: the nation-as-suicide bomber.
The case for a war against the Iranian regime draws on many arguments: Iran's use of terrorist proxies, the regime's evident desire for regional hegemony, the risks that a nuclear Iran might spark a regional arms race, and the country's proximity to the Strait of Hormuz, where nearly a quarter of the world's oil supply transits daily.
Serious reasons all, but even when weighed collectively, it's difficult to see how Iran's nuclear program constitutes such a singular threat to the U.S. that it requires military force to redress - especially at a time when America has two open-ended (and far from stabilized) military commitments in Iraq and Afghanistan. After all, the Soviet Union was vastly more powerful than Iran and considerably more hostile to U.S. interests at the time it developed its atomic weaponry. Ditto China. Nor did the U.S. use military force to roll back the Pakistani nuclear program, despite that country's support for Islamic terrorists.
Perhaps sensing the flaccidity of the conventional argument, advocates for war with Iran like Norman Podhoretz (a patriarch of the neoconservative movement and an advisor to the Giuliani campaign) invoke the nightmare scenario: that Iran would become the first nation in over half a century to actually use a nuclear weapon in anger.
"The fact of the matter is that, with a religious fanatic like Ahmadinejad and the "mullahcracy" ruling Iran generally, there's no assurance that self-preservation or the protection, preservation of the nation, will deter them," Podhoretz said during a PBS Newshour interview.
It is an alarming claim. No nation in the history of the nuclear era has ever launched an unprovoked nuclear attack. Nor has any nation passed a functioning nuclear device to a terrorist subsidiary. Indeed, as the history of the Cold War, and even the Indian/Pakistan conflict have demonstrated, nuclear weapons tend to have a stabilizing effect on the countries involved. The doctrines of deterrence and mutually assured destruction have successfully transcended cultural, political, ideological and religious boundaries, sobering the minds of even the most belligerent adversaries.
Such history is of little relevance to strike advocates. Iran, they assert, would break this mold. Armed with a nuclear weapon and infused with an implacable fundamentalism, Iranian leaders would turn their nation into a nuclear suicide bomb, willing to court annihilation to deliver a death blow to Israel or even America, "The Great Satan."
Indeed, conservative columnists such as Cliff May and Charles Krauthammer routinely invoke the terror of a "second Holocaust" when discussing Iran's nuclear ambitions. The subtext of such rhetoric is clear: Iran's leaders are genocidal and suicidal, irrational and unstoppable. They are suicide bombers at the helm of a nation state.
But are they?
No one in their right mind would argue that the Iranian regime is a peaceful and beneficial force in Middle Eastern affairs, but are they therefore willing to start World War III, as President Bush suggested in a recent news conference? Are they prepared, as a nation, to become a nuclear suicide bomb just to deal a grievous blow to the United States?
No one can know for sure, but we do have a precedent here. After all, Islamic fundamentalists have ruled Iran for more than a generation, more than enough time to take the measure of their behavior. Here's what we know: since seizing power, the Mullahs ruling Iran have been aggressive. Their first act upon taking power was the seizing of American hostages. They have violently lashed out against America's influence in the region, using their Hezbollah surrogate to attack a Marine barracks in Lebanon in 1983 and a housing complex occupied by U.S. airmen in Saudi Arabia in 1996.
The fact that Iran has wielded force through proxies and not through its conventional military, however, is a strong indication that the regime understands its strengths and weaknesses. What's more, these signature acts of Iranian violence against the United States were aimed at military targets with the political goal of reducing America's influence in the Middle East. The regime's support for anti-American insurgent elements inside Iraq has a similar purpose. Despicable as this violence is, it differs from al Qaeda's genocidal ambition to kill as many Americans as possible in mass casualty attacks against civilian infrastructure inside the U.S.
What's more, since the Iran/Iraq war, Iran has developed a chemical and biological weapons capability, according to GlobalSecurity.org. Such weapons, while not as singularly destructive as an A-bomb, are much better suited to surreptitious deployment. An Iranian-instigated chemical or biological attack against Israel or the United States has been within the capability of the Iranian regime for at least a decade, and yet they have not launched one. Nor have the Iranians committed 9/11-style terrorist spectaculars against the U.S. homeland despite the relative ease and low cost of such attacks.
All this suggests that Iran understands, and respects, the limits of its aggression. Despite the end times rhetoric issuing forth from its demagogic president, the country has assiduously avoided acts that would invite a massive military retaliation. This is not indicative of a nation longing for a nuclear conflagration.
To argue that Iran does not have the hallmarks of a suicidal state is not to argue for complacency in the face of its nuclear ambitions. Clearly a nuclear-armed Iran would complicate America's involvement in the Middle East, raising the costs of our alliances and minimizing our leverage with the region's autocratic oil pumpers. That's not ideal, but nor is it a harbinger of the apocalypse.
America has a long, and largely successful, history of containing and deterring nations much stronger and much more viscerally hostile to America than Iran. With two ongoing wars in the region, the untamed menace of a reconstituting al Qaeda in an unraveling (nuclear) Pakistan, a rising China, budget deficits as far as the eye can see, and a strained Army, the U.S. should resort to non-military tools to curtail Iran's nuclear pursuit.
Gregory Scoblete is a freelance writer based in New Jersey.
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Pakistan Nuclear Security Questioned
Lack of Knowledge About Arsenal May Limit U.S. Options
By Joby Warrick
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, November 11, 2007; A01
When the United States learned in 2001 that Pakistani scientists had shared nuclear secrets with members of al-Qaeda, an alarmed Bush administration responded with tens of millions of dollars worth of equipment such as intrusion detectors and ID systems to safeguard Pakistan's nuclear weapons.
But Pakistan remained suspicious of U.S. aims and declined to give U.S. experts direct access to the half-dozen or so bunkers where the components of its arsenal of about 50 nuclear weapons are stored. For the officials in Washington now monitoring Pakistan's deepening political crisis, the experience offered both reassurance and grounds for concern.
Protection for Pakistan's nuclear weapons is considered equal to that of most Western nuclear powers. But U.S. officials worry that their limited knowledge about the locations and conditions in which the weapons are stored gives them few good options for a direct intervention to prevent the weapons from falling into unauthorized hands.
"We can't say with absolute certainty that we know where they all are," said a former U.S. official who closely tracked the security upgrades. If an attempt were made by the United States to seize the weapons to prevent their loss, "it could be very messy," the official said.
Of the world's nine declared and undeclared nuclear arsenals, none provokes as much worry in Washington as Pakistan's, numerous U.S. officials said. The government in Islamabad is arguably the least stable. Some Pakistani territory is partly controlled by insurgents bent on committing hostile acts of terrorism in the West. And officials close to the seat of power -- such as nuclear engineer A.Q. Khan and his past collaborators in the Pakistani military -- have a worrisome track record of transferring sensitive nuclear designs or technology to others.
That record, and the counterterror prism of U.S. policymaking since the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, have led the Bush administration to worry less that Pakistan's nuclear arsenal might be used in a horrific war with India than that it could become a security threat to the U.S. homeland in the event of any theft or diversion to terrorist groups.
Because the risks are so grave, U.S. intelligence officials have long had contingency plans for intervening to obstruct such a theft in Pakistan, two knowledgeable officials confirmed. The officials would not discuss details of the plans, which are classified, but several former officials said the plans envision efforts to remove a nuclear weapon at imminent risk of falling into terrorists' hands.
The plans imagine, in the best case, that Pakistani military officials will help the Americans eliminate that threat. But in other scenarios there may be no such help, said Matt Bunn, a nuclear weapons expert and former White House science official in the Clinton administration. "We're a long way from any scenario of that kind. But the current turmoil highlights the need for doing whatever we can right now to improve cooperation and think hard about what might happen down the road."
Former and current administration officials say they believe that Pakistan's stockpile is safe. But they worry that its security could be weakened if the current turmoil persists or worsens. They are particularly concerned by early signs of fragmented loyalties among Pakistan's military and intelligence leaders, who share responsibility for protecting the arsenal.
"The military will be stretched thin if the level of protest rises," said John E. McLaughlin, the No. 2 official at the CIA from 2000 to 2004. "If the situation becomes more volatile, the conventional wisdom [about nuclear security] could come into question." He noted that Pakistan's army has become increasingly diverse, reflecting the country's ethnic and religious differences, "and that is different from the way it was years ago."
Former and current intelligence officials said the focus of U.S. concerns is the stability of Pakistan's army, which was already showing strain from Western pressures to upgrade its counterinsurgency work when President Pervez Musharraf declared a state of emergency last week, unleashing riots and a police crackdown on political opposition groups. The officials said the military might not remain a loyal, cohesive force if violence becomes sustained or widespread.
Anytime a nation with nuclear weapons experiences "a situation such as Pakistan is at present, that is a primary concern," said Lt. Gen. Carter Ham, director of operations for the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, during a Pentagon news conference last week. "We'll watch that quite closely, and I think that's probably all I can say about that at this point."
Concerns about possible thefts if the government's authority erodes or disintegrates extend to nuclear components, design plans and special materials such as enriched uranium. Twice in the past six years, Pakistan has acknowledged that its nuclear scientists passed sensitive nuclear information or equipment to outsiders -- including, in one case, members of al-Qaeda.
Two retired Pakistani nuclear scientists traveled to Afghanistan in August 2001 at the request of al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden. He pressed the scientists for details on how to make nuclear weapons, and the scientists replied with advice and crude diagrams, according to U.S. officials at the time.
Officials at the Pakistani Embassy declined to comment for this story.
Pakistan, which tested its first warhead in 1998, began developing nuclear weapons in the 1970s with help from Khan, the Pakistani engineer who years later became the leader of an international nuclear smuggling ring. Khan covertly acquired sensitive nuclear information and equipment from several European countries, helped build the stockpile and later profited personally by providing materials to Libya, North Korea and Iran.
Pakistan has repeatedly asserted that its government and army were unaware of Khan's proliferation activities until 2003. However, numerous published accounts have described extensive logistical support that military officials provided to Khan, including the use of military aircraft.
In the weeks after the 2001 terrorist attacks, the Bush administration dispatched Deputy Secretary of State Richard L. Armitage and other senior officials to Islamabad to raise the issue of safeguarding the country's nuclear arsenal. Musharraf agreed to policy changes and security upgrades, starting with the dismissal of some Pakistani intelligence officials suspected of ties to the Taliban, bin Laden's ally.
Musharraf also agreed to move some nuclear weapons to more secure locations and accepted a U.S. offer to help design a system of controls, barriers, locks and sensors to guard against theft.
Unlike U.S. nuclear arms, which are protected by integrated electronic packages known as "permissive action links," or PALs, that require a special access code, Pakistan chose to rely on physical separation of bomb components, such as isolating the fissile "core" or trigger from the weapon and storing it elsewhere. All the components are stored at military bases.
That means would-be thieves would have to "knock over two buildings to get a complete bomb," said Bunn, now a researcher at Harvard University's Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs. "Theft would be more difficult to pull off, though presumably in a crisis that might change."
Instead of allowing U.S. officials access to its weapons facilities, the Musharraf government insisted that Pakistani technicians travel to the United States for training on how to use the new systems, said Mark Fitzpatrick, a weapons expert who recently completed a study of the Pakistani program for the London-based International Institute for Strategic Studies.
Washington is confident that Pakistan's nuclear safeguards are designed to be robust enough to withstand a "fair amount of political commotion," said John Brennan, a retired CIA official and former director of the National Counterterrorism Center. The problem, he said, is that no one can reliably predict what will happen if the country slides toward civil war or anarchy.
"There are some scenarios in which the country slides into a situation of anarchy in which some of the more radical elements may be ascendant," said Brennan, now president of Analysis Corp., a private consulting firm based in Fairfax. "If there is a collapse in the command-and-control structure -- or if the armed forces fragment -- that's a nightmare scenario. If there are different power centers within the army, they will each see the strategic arsenal as a real prize."
Other nuclear "prizes" could leak more easily if the military holds together and the bombs remain in their bunkers, according to David Albright, a former U.N. weapons inspector and president of the nonprofit Institute for Science and International Security. He said individuals working inside nuclear facilities could make a quick fortune by selling bomb components or "fissile" material -- the plutonium or enriched uranium needed for building bombs.
"If stability doesn't return, you do have to worry about the thinking of the people with access to these things," said Albright, whose Washington-based institute tracks global nuclear stockpiles. "As loyalties break down, they may look for an opportunity to make a quick buck. You may not be able to get the whole weapon, but maybe you can get the core."
Bush, Rice Defend Musharraf as an Ally
Desire for Pakistani Elections Made Clear
By Michael Abramowitz
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, November 11, 2007; A13
CRAWFORD, Tex., Nov. 10 -- President Bush and his senior advisers offered Saturday perhaps their most extensive defense of Gen. Pervez Musharraf as an ally in the battle against Islamic extremists a week after the Pakistani president declared emergency rule and began a crackdown on human rights activists, lawyers and journalists.
Bush and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice made clear their continuing desire for Musharraf to hold elections and to resign from the Pakistani army, with Rice bluntly calling his assumption of emergency powers a "bad decision." But they mixed criticism with sympathy for what they termed Musharraf's past efforts to cultivate democracy and to help the United States go after al-Qaeda leaders in the border regions between Afghanistan and Pakistan.
"President Musharraf, right after the attacks on September the 11th, made a decision, and the decision was to stand with the United States against the extremists inside Pakistan," Bush told reporters here after meeting with German Chancellor Angela Merkel. "In other words, he was given an option: Are you with us, or are you not with us? And he made a clear decision to be with us, and he's acted on that advice."
Bush noted that several senior al-Qaeda leaders "have been brought to justice" and that "that would not have happened without President Musharraf honoring his word."
Bush spent last night and this morning at his ranch here in intensive consultations with Merkel on a variety of issues, especially his continuing drive to intensify the diplomatic and financial pressure on Iran over its nuclear activities. U.S. officials have considered Germany something of a weak link in this effort, but Merkel made clear that she is open to a new round of international sanctions and to possibly further reducing Germany's extensive commercial ties with Iran.
Bush was forceful in repeating several times his desire to solve the problem diplomatically, a nod to Merkel's evident distaste for any talk of military action.
"I'm deeply convinced that the diplomatic possibilities have not yet been exhausted," Merkel said through a translator.
The comments on Pakistan Saturday from Bush, Rice and national security adviser Stephen J. Hadley underscored that the administration does not appear willing to risk a break with Musharraf over his actions thus far, as troubling as they may be. Musharraf said this week that he plans to go ahead with parliamentary elections in February and indicated that he would step down from the army before being sworn in again as president, assuming the Pakistani Supreme Court certifies his election. Yet, he has also dismissed many of the country's judges, curbed the news media, rounded up opposition figures and generally sought to smash elements of Pakistan's civil society.
Briefing reporters after Saturday's meeting, Hadley seized on Musharraf's comments on elections and his plans to give up his uniform as an indication that the Pakistani president has followed through on U.S. pleas that he disclose his intentions about putting Pakistan on a path to full democracy. "President Musharraf has been responsive to calls from his own people for clarity on these subjects," Hadley said.
Rice, meanwhile, in an interview with the Dallas Morning News editorial board released yesterday, described Musharraf as "someone with whom you can talk and reason. He is someone who has tried to fight terrorism and has tried to unravel some of the extremist elements." She said the United States must "remain engaged" with Pakistan or risk the possibility of greater extremism, like what happened in the 1990s.
"It is interesting to me and important that, after several days, they did finally come out and unequivocally promise to have the elections -- and not a year from now, a few months from now. That's an important thing," Rice added.
Bush's meeting with Merkel at his Crawford ranch, a visit reserved for his closest international counterparts, was a sign of how much U.S.-German relations have improved since Bush feuded with Merkel's predecessor, Gerhard Schroeder, over the Iraq war. The two leaders went out of their way to mute potential differences over Afghanistan and global warming. Merkel is battling German public opinion that opposes the presence of more than 3,000 German troops in Afghanistan, and she would like to see much more aggressive efforts to curb carbon dioxide emissions than those favored by Bush.
"I assured Angela that I care deeply about the issue," Bush said, referring to climate change. "The United States is willing to be an active participant and try to come up with solutions that bring comfort to people around the world; that it is possible to have the technologies necessary to deal with this issue without ruining our economies."
But Iran may be the biggest source of potential contention between the two countries, given Germany's extensive commercial interests in that country, as well as Merkel's concern that a timetable of steadily tougher sanctions could become a pathway to war. "From Merkel's standpoint, the less that is done is better," said Simon Serfaty, an authority on Europe at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.
Under pressure from the United States, Germany has been reducing trade with Iran over the past 20 months after that reached a high-water mark of 4.4 million euros in exports in 2005. Some of the reduction is coming as the government scales back export guarantees and exerts informal pressure on German companies to reduce investments in Iran out of concern that the situation there may be unstable.
Merkel said Germany "needs to look somewhat closer at the existing business ties with Iran," noting that she plans to talk with German companies again "on further possible reductions of those commercial ties."
A Bush Veto Is Overridden for the 1st Time
With Action on Spending Bills, Hill Signals Fight With White House Over Priorities
By Jonathan Weisman
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, November 9, 2007; A04
A year after Democrats won control of Capitol Hill, Congress delivered its clearest victory yet over President Bush yesterday, resoundingly overturning his veto of a $23 billion water resources measure -- the first veto override of Bush's presidency.
The 79 to 14 vote in the Senate was followed last night by final passage of a huge, $151 billion health, education and labor spending bill. House and Senate negotiators also reached agreement on a transportation and housing bill that increases spending on highway repair in the wake of the Minneapolis bridge collapse and boosts foreclosure assistance in the midst of a housing crisis.
Moreover, the House unveiled a four-month, $50 billion Iraq war-funding bill that would give the president 60 days to present a plan to complete U.S. troop withdrawals by Dec. 15, 2008. The measure would limit the troops' mission to counterterrorism and the training of Iraqi forces and would extend a torture ban to the CIA.
In short, the long-awaited battle between Congress and Bush over federal spending and the size and reach of government is now on.
"I hope that the Congress feels good about what we've done," said Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.). "I believe in the institution of the legislative branch of government. I think it should exist, and for seven years this man has ignored us."
The day's events highlighted the growing divide between Congress and the White House over the use of taxpayer resources, especially their differences over domestic programs and war spending.
The Senate last night moved toward final congressional approval of a $459.3 billion defense funding bill that would increase military spending by $35.7 billion -- or 9.5 percent -- over the previous fiscal year. The president has said he will sign that legislation.
But Bush has vowed to veto the newly approved domestic spending bill, which includes $10 billion more than he requested for community health centers, rural health insurance, higher-education grants, education aid, job training and low-income heating assistance. Nor is he likely to accept the new transportation and housing bill.
Republican leaders vowed to round up enough votes to sustain Bush's domestic-spending vetoes, though they acknowledged that many Republicans will probably break with the White House. The domestic-spending bill passed 274 to 141, with the support of 51 Republicans, just three votes short of a veto-proof tally.
The contrast was not lost on Democrats, who promised to highlight the White House's willingness to spend billions of dollars on a war abroad every time Bush and Republicans object to any spending at home.
"He somehow has disassociated himself from the amounts he's spending overseas," said Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.). "We cannot overlook the needs of our country. We are a generous and decent and good people. Our people need help as well."
The Senate's veto-override vote on the water bill included 34 Republicans who abandoned the president. Just 12 stood by him. The Senate vote followed one in the House, which rejected the veto on Tuesday, 361 to 54. Both tallies far surpassed the two-thirds majorities needed to overcome Bush's disapproval.
"We have said today as a Congress to this president, 'You can't just keep rolling over us like this. You can't make everything a fight, because we'll see it through,' " said Boxer, chairman of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works and a primary architect of the legislation.
Yesterday's action was the 107th override of a presidential veto in the nation's history. Congress overrode two of Bill Clinton's 22 vetoes and just one of George H.W. Bush's 44. At the other end of the spectrum, Gerald R. Ford, who vetoed 66 bills, and Harry S. Truman, who vetoed 250, each had 12 overridden, the most of any president besides Andrew Johnson.
Both parties sounded a discordant note on fiscal rectitude yesterday. House Democratic leaders -- defending a tax measure, scheduled to come to a vote today, that contains offsetting tax increases, largely for Wall Street titans -- contended that theirs is the party of fiscal responsibility, even as they were pushing through some of the largest domestic spending increases in years.
"We are making the hard decisions that Republicans refused to make and continue to refuse to make," said House Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer (D-Md.).
Republicans said theirs is the party of small government and austerity, even as they abandoned the White House in droves to push through a water bill that, if fully funded, would support more than 900 projects that would cost a total of $38 billion, according to the White House.
"Sadly, because the authors of this bill have rained a few earmarks to every member's district, Congress didn't have the courage to stop this reckless overspending," said Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.), whose dissent on the measure was a lonely one.
The water bill authorizes billions of dollars in coastal restoration, river navigation and dredging projects; levee and port construction; and other Army Corps of Engineers public works efforts. Seven years in the making, the measure took on particular political resonance in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, as Gulf Coast lawmakers secured nearly $2 billion in restoration and levee construction projects for the region.
The bill also authorizes the continuation of projects such as the restoration of the Everglades and the dredging of the upper Mississippi River, while expanding oversight of the Army Corps.
The measure authorizes $30 million to reduce nitrogen flowing from the Washington area's Blue Plains sewage-treatment plant into the Chesapeake Bay. It also authorizes $40 million for other Chesapeake Bay pollution-reduction projects.
An additional $192 million is authorized for the expansion of the bay's Poplar Island project, which involves rebuilding the island with dredged material from the channels serving the Port of Baltimore. The measure includes a $30 million increase for Chesapeake oyster restoration and an additional $20 million for other environmental protection projects for the bay.
Steve Ellis, vice president of Taxpayers for Common Sense and a longtime critic of water measures, said in a statement that the legislation has "more pork than a Carolina BBQ joint, with millions going to water project slush funds nationwide, millions more for pumping sand on beaches to protect vacation homes and navigation boondoggles."
But the law merely authorizes such projects. Lawmakers backing the projects must now secure funding through the House and Senate appropriations committees, with no guarantees. Senate Republicans repeatedly justified their votes yesterday by saying that the law does not actually spend a cent, but Boxer made it clear that the authorizations would speed the allocation of funds.
That was a point on which the White House agreed.
"Even though authorizations don't actually spend money, they say something about priority setting and making tough decisions, which is what all good budgeting is about," said White House spokesman Tony Fratto. He added, however, that Republican lawmakers "have been very clear on appropriations, and I think they'll hold strong."
War funds absent from Pentagon budget By ANNE FLAHERTY, Associated Press Writer,
Tuesday November 6, 2007, 5:08 PM ET.
House and Senate negotiators agreed Tuesday on a $460 billion Pentagon bill that bankrolls pricey weapons systems and bomb-resistant vehicles for troops, but does not pay for combat operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Republicans said the omission would impose an unnecessary strain on troops, but the Democratic majority said it wouldn't leave the military in the lurch.
"We'll take it step by step," said Rep. John Murtha, chairman of the House Defense Appropriations Subcommittee. "The public wants this war over."
House Democrats said they were considering separate legislation that would allot some $50 billion in war spending. Murtha, D-Pa., said the measure also would likely impose restrictions on the money, such as demanding that troops leave Iraq sometime next year.
The money would be enough to keep the wars afloat for a few more months, providing only about a quarter of the $196 billion requested by President Bush.
The House planned to vote on the two bills on Thursday.
Debate comes as Congress remains deeply divided on the Iraq war. Noting a decline in enemy attacks, Republicans are optimistic that the war recently turned a corner and conditions will steadily improve before next year's elections.
For their part, Democrats are struggling to fulfill an election mandate to end the war. They lack enough votes to overcome procedural hurdles in the Senate or override a presidential veto. And while they are united against the U.S. presence in Iraq, Democrats are split on whether to cut off money for combat as a means of forcing troop withdrawals.
By dividing the Pentagon's budget in two — annual spending versus war money — Democrats will be able to vote against paying for an unpopular war and still say they support the troops, by agreeing to the military's core budget.
The approach also puts Senate Republicans in a tough position. If the House passes a bill, as expected, that pays for the war but sets a timetable on troop withdrawal, Republicans will have to decide how far to go to oppose it.
"I don't think people will want to be in a position to filibuster money for the troops," said Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee.
Republicans said the Democratic-majority was playing a dangerous game.
"I do believe that Congress would break the Army if it refuses to fund the troops with what they need now," said Sen. Ted Stevens of Alaska, the top Republican on the Senate Defense Appropriations Subcommittee.
Stevens said the Army would run out of money by January unless Congress approved war spending. He suggested adding $70 billion to the bill for the wars, but Democrats, who control the panel, declined.
"This amendment would send to the president additional funding for his horrible, misguided war in Iraq without any congressional direction that he change course. No strings attached," said Sen. Robert Byrd, D-W.Va., chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee.
Since the 2003 invasion of Iraq, Congress has approved some $412 billion for the war there (IRAQ), according to the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office. Most of the money has paid for military operations, while $25 billion went to diplomatic operations and foreign aid. About $19 billion has gone toward training Iraqi security forces.
While the Pentagon spending bill omits money for the war, it does include $11.6 billion for Mine-Resistant Ambush Protected Vehicles. MRAPs are being used by troops in Iraq to protect against improvised explosive devices buried beneath the roads.
The bill also funds the Pentagon's major modernization programs, including $3.2 billion for 20 F-22 fighters and $3.4 billion for the Army's Future Combat System.
Lawmakers boosted funding for several politically popular programs, including $900 million for defense health and $980 million for National Guard and Reserve equipment. A 3.5 percent pay raise for military personnel also was included, representing a half percent increase to the president's request.
Appropriators also agreed to $8.6 billion to pay for Bush's missile defense program. But the amount does not include $85 million requested by Bush to begin construction on interceptors in Poland as part of a European missile defense system, which has roiled relations with Russia.
Democrats: Bush hinders new Iraq course
By Kimberly Hefling, Associated Press Writer
November 17, 2007
WASHINGTON --A Democratic senator on Saturday accused President Bush and congressional Republicans of hindering his party's attempts to chart a new course in Iraq even though U.S. troops are fighting violence "they cannot possibly resolve."
Sen. Bob Casey, D-Pa., said increased troop levels ordered earlier this year to give Iraqi politicians breathing space to meet political and diplomatic goals have not had the intended result.
"That means our troops are fighting for a peace that we seem more interested in achieving than the Iraqi politicians do themselves," Casey said while delivering the Democrats' weekly radio address.
The White House has said there have been positive developments in Iraq, such as a reduction in violence and increased economic capacity.
On Friday, Senate Republicans blocked a $50 billion Democratic bill that would have paid for several months of combat. It also would have ordered troop withdrawals from Iraq to begin within 30 days and set a goal of ending combat in December 2008.
Democrats now plan to sit on Bush's $196 billion request for war spending until next year, which pushes the Pentagon toward an accounting nightmare.
Bush has said Congress should not be telling military leaders what to do.
Casey said the war is costing Americans at all levels. More than 3,800 U.S. troops have died in Iraq -- 178 from his home state of Pennsylvania. Democrats on Congress' Joint Economic Committee estimated this past week that about $1 trillion has been spent on the war, he said.
About 170,000 troops will spend Thanksgiving in Iraq, he said.
"They will face hatred they did not create and sectarian violence they cannot possibly resolve," Casey said. "They are doing a remarkable job, a heroic job, but the Iraqi leaders are not holding up their end of the bargain."
House Democrats have made AMT (alternative minimum tax) proposals to change tax rules affecting CORPORATE TRANSACTIONS.
Congressional Republicans joined the Bush II White House in expressing concern about the carried interest provision because it would cost the Corporate Elite $.
THE WASHINGTON POST: EDITORIAL
"A Bad Patch: Congress prepares to pass a $50 billion tax cut -- and to abandon its promise to pay for it."
Saturday, December 8, 2007; A16
"I'M NOT in favor of waiving pay-go rules," said Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) "I think we cannot waver on that." But that was last month. The end of the congressional session is looming. So is the prospect of a tax increase that would hit more than 23 million Americans if the alternative minimum tax (AMT) is not adjusted. Republicans -- who might as well rename themselves the Grand Old Party of Fiscal Irresponsibility -- refuse to pay the $50 billion tab for the one-year fix. They refuse to do away with the "carried interest" loophole that lets venture capitalists and hedge fund operators pay lower capital gains rates on ordinary income, and they refuse to countenance any other method. So Mr. Reid wavered, and the Senate passed the AMT patch with no offset by a vote of 88 to 5. The measure ensures that millions of reasonably well-off taxpayers -- as Len Burman of the Tax Policy Center points out, 85 percent of the benefit goes to those earning $100,000 or more -- will avoid a tax hike. Their grandchildren will have to pick up the tab.
Now the venue for wavering moves to the House, where Democratic leaders have tried hard to live by the pay-go rules they imposed on themselves at the start of this Congress -- have tried, that is, to pay for tax cuts or increases in mandatory spending with offsetting spending reductions or tax increases. The House proposed paying for the tax fix by clamping down on the "carried interest" loophole; when that ran into resistance, Ways and Means Committee Chairman Charles B. Rangel (D-N.Y.) offered to come up with a different, less controversial set of offsets. The House is expected to take that up next week and send it to the Senate.
But the die, sadly, already appears cast. In the end, the House will take up and pass an AMT without paying for the fix. House Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer (D-Md.), in a visit to The Post yesterday, was refreshingly frank about the trade-off involved. "It is a loss for the country if we don't pay for it," said Mr. Hoyer, who plans to vote against it. But it is a political gain for Democrats; it will, Mr. Hoyer said, "preclude a political defeat in terms of demagoguery about taxes" from Republicans. Asked why Democrats shouldn't be criticized for this choice, Mr. Hoyer said, "I think you are right to rake us over the coals for passing an unpaid-for AMT."
The majority leader later called to revise and extend his remarks, saying he had been "too glib and too quick." Senate Democrats, he noted, only abandoned pay-go "after it was impossible to move anything else, after Republican opposition" and in the face of a presidential veto threat. We understand that Democrats tried; we understand the political pressures they face. We also agree with what Mr. Hoyer said the first time -- and with his plan to vote against the fix.
November 29, 2007
Bush Presses Congress for Iraq Money
By DAVID STOUT of The NY Times Online
WASHINGTON, Nov. 29 — President Bush began a new offensive against Congressional Democrats today over money for the Iraq war, calling on the lawmakers to give American troops “what they need to succeed in their missions” and pass a bill without strings attached.
“The American people expect us to work together to support our troops,” Mr. Bush said at the Pentagon this afternoon after meeting with top Defense Department officials. “They do not want the government to create needless uncertainty for those defending our country, and uncertainty for their families. They do not want disputes in Washington to undermine our troops in Iraq, just as they’re seeing clear signs of success.”
The White House issued a statement before the president’s remarks, citing sharp declines in terrorist attacks, civilian fatalities and fatalities to Iraqi security forces since the increase, or “surge,” of United States troops began in June. As a result of this “return on success,” the White House said, about 5,700 American troops will come home by year’s end.
The president has repeatedly accused the Democratic-controlled Congress of dithering for months about money for the war in Iraq and the Afghanistan campaign. Mr. Bush prodded the legislators today to move quickly when they return to Washington next week and provide money for the war before adjourning for Christmas.
Senator Harry Reid of Nevada, the Democratic majority leader, pounced on the Mr. Bush’s words. “The president demands more money to continue his failed war policy, yet he and his enablers in Congress have rejected our proposal for an additional $50 billion provided they work with us to change course in Iraq,” Mr. Reid said in a statement. “He cannot have it both ways.”
“Democrats have and will continue to ensure our troops have the resources they need to do their jobs and will continue to fight for a war strategy worthy of their sacrifices,” Mr. Reid said.
The Senate Democratic leadership office said Congress had appropriated some $450 billion for the Iraq war so far and that despite the White House image of a “return on success” in the form of a troop withdrawal, there are 162,000 American troops in Iraq now and there are still expected to be 130,000 by next July.
The last time the money issue flared up, just over a week ago, the Democrats accused the administration of using scare tactics to try to get its way on the money bill. A bill approved recently by the House would provide $50 billion for the Iraq and Afghanistan campaigns — but would call for pulling American troops out of Iraq by the end of 2008 and narrowing their mission in the meantime. The president’s Republican allies in the Senate stalled the bill in that chamber.
Democrats have described the conditions attached to the bill as prudent and reasonable; the president and his allies have disdained them as attempts to micromanage military operations from afar.
“We have nearly 200,000 troops in combat in Iraq and Afghanistan, and they are relying on this Congress to send them the funding they need to complete their mission,” the White House said today. “We also have about 100,000 civilian workers at bases across the country who will be receiving furlough notices if Congress continues to delay action.”
The Pentagon has enough money to continue operations in Iraq and Afghanistan for the time being. It can shift money between accounts, although that can be complicated. And notices of layoffs do not necessarily mean they will actually happen.
But the president said Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates had put things in perspective when he said: “The Defense Department is like the world’s biggest supertanker. It cannot turn on a dime, and I cannot steer it like a skiff.”
"CIA destroyed interrogation tapes: Severe methods were used on terror suspects"
By Mark Mazzetti, New York Times News Service | December 7, 2007
WASHINGTON - The CIA in 2005 destroyed at least two videotapes documenting the interrogation of two Al Qaeda operatives in the agency's custody, a step it took in the midst of congressional and legal scrutiny about the CIA's secret detention program, according to current and former government officials.
The videotapes showed CIA operatives in 2002 subjecting terror suspects - including Abu Zubaydah, the first detainee in CIA custody - to severe interrogation techniques. They were destroyed in part because officers were concerned that tapes documenting controversial interrogation methods could expose agency officials to greater risk of legal jeopardy, several officials said.
The CIA said yesterday that the decision to destroy the tapes had been made "within the CIA itself" and that its purpose was to protect the safety of undercover officers. They said they no longer had intelligence value. The agency was headed at the time by Porter J. Goss.
The existence and subsequent destruction of the tapes is likely to reignite the debate over the use of certain interrogation techniques on terror suspects, and raises questions about whether CIA officials withheld information from the courts and from the Sept. 11 Commission about aspects of the program.
The New York Times informed the CIA on Wednesday evening that it planned to publish in today's editions a story about the destruction of the tapes. Yesterday, the CIA director, General Michael V. Hayden, sent a letter to CIA employees explaining the matter.
The recordings were not provided to a federal court hearing the case of the terror suspect Zacarias Moussaoui or to the Sept. 11 Commission, which had made formal requests to the CIA for transcripts and other documentary evidence taken from interrogations of agency prisoners.
CIA lawyers told federal prosecutors in 2003 and 2005, who relayed the information to a federal court in the Moussaoui case, that the CIA did not possess recordings of interrogations sought by the judge in the case. It was unclear whether the judge had explicitly sought the videotape depicting the interrogation of Zubaydah.
Moussaoui's lawyers had hoped that records of the interrogations might provide exculpatory evidence for Moussaoui - showing that the Al Qaeda detainees did not know Moussaoui and thus clearing him of involvement in the Sept. 11 plot.
Hayden's statement said that the tapes posed a "serious security risk" and that if they were to become public they would have exposed CIA officials "and their families to retaliation from Al Qaeda and its sympathizers."
"What matters here is that it was done in line with the law," he said. He said in his statement that he was informing agency employees because "the press has learned" about the destruction of the tapes.
Staff members of the 9/11 commission, which completed its work in 2004, expressed surprise when they were told that interrogation videotapes existed until 2005.
"The commission did formally request material of this kind from all relevant agencies, and the commission was assured that we had received all the material responsive to our request," said Philip D. Zelikow, who served as executive director of the Sept. 11 Commission and later as a senior counselor to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. "No tapes were acknowledged or turned over, nor was the commission provided with any transcript prepared from recordings," he said.
Daniel Marcus, a law professor at American University who served as general counsel for the 9/11 commission and was involved in the discussions about interviews with Al Qaeda leaders, said he had heard nothing about any tapes being destroyed. If tapes were destroyed, he said, "it's a big deal, it's a very big deal," because it could amount to obstruction of justice to withhold evidence being sought in criminal or fact-finding investigations.
Hayden said the tapes were originally made to ensure that agency employees acted in accordance with "established legal and policy guidelines."
Hayden said the agency had stopped videotaping interrogations in 2002.
In October, federal prosecutors in the Moussaoui case were forced to write a letter to the court amending those CIA declarations. The letter stated that in September, the CIA notified the US attorney's office in Alexandria, Va., that it had discovered a videotape documenting the interrogation of a detainee. After a more thorough search, the letter stated, CIA officials discovered a second videotape and one audiotape.
Analysis: Few homeowners will get help from Bush's bailout
By JEANNINE AVERSA
The Associated Press
December 7, 2007
WASHINGTON – President Bush acknowledges it's "no perfect solution." Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson says it's "no silver bullet."
The plan negotiated by the Bush administration to freeze the low introductory rates on subprime home loans appears likely to help only a fraction of the homeowners who face huge jumps in their mortgage payments.
After that, they could be in the same position again.
Homeowners dialing up their mortgage company to get their current rate frozen could be disappointed. The White House plan doesn't force mortgage companies to give eligible homeowners a break. It is voluntary.
President Bush, announcing the initiative yesterday, said 1.2 million homeowners could be eligible for relief, which includes the rate freeze and helping people refinance into more affordable mortgages. The Center for Responsible Lending, a group that promotes homeownership and works to curb predatory lending, estimates that only 145,000 households will qualify for the rate freeze. The criteria is too strict, it says.
The White House plan is aimed at stemming foreclosures that have shot up to record highs as the housing market has gone from boom to bust.
Subprime borrowers -- those with tarnished credit or low incomes -- have been hardest hit by the meltdown. Initially low interest rates that reset to much higher rates have clobbered those borrowers. Nearly 2 million adjustable-rate subprime mortgages will reset from introductory rates of around 7 percent to 8 percent to much higher rates this year and next, raising the specter of even more people being forced out of their homes because they cannot keep up with their monthly payments.
Rising home foreclosures are a headache for politicians and a danger for the economy.
The White House's plan aimed to curb future foreclosures but there are questions about how effective it will prove to be.
The rate freeze offer would be available only to people who have not missed any mortgage payments at their introductory interest rate. It also would apply only to loans taken out between 2005 and this past July 30 and scheduled to rise to higher rates in 2008 and 2009. To ensure that speculators don't get the break, the rate freeze offer applies only to people living in their homes.
The idea behind the administration-negotiated plan is that the five-year freeze will buy time for housing sales and prices to start rising again. Such a rebound would enable homeowners to refinance their current adjustable rate mortgages into fixed-rate loans with more affordable monthly payments. But some people who want to buy homes and have been priced out of the market are upset there's no help in sight for them.
Of the nearly 3 million subprime adjustable-rate loans surveyed by the Mortgage Bankers Association in the third quarter, a record 4.72 percent of them entered the foreclosure process during that period. At the same time, a record 18.81 percent of the subprime adjustable-rate loans were past due.
A call was placed to the hot line set up to help distraught borrowers -- 1-888-995-HOPE -- to find out how to take advantage of the 5-year rate freeze.
The caller was advised that "the criteria for that is going to be pretty slim" and that there are "lots of hoops to jump through."
Who wins and who loses?
By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
December 7, 2007
WASHINGTON – By prodding the mortgage industry to help troubled borrowers, the Bush administration's response to the housing crisis has reshuffled the likely winners and losers -- except no one can agree on who they are.
The mortgage industry and government officials who took part in crafting the plan are united in saying it's the borrowers who benefit. Meanwhile, consumer groups and Democrats say it's industry that was really bailed out.
If fully implemented, some mortgage lenders and a portion of borrowers with poor credit could see their financial situations stabilized, while investors around the world who bought securities backed by U.S. mortgage loans could see lower profits.
Many, though, were quick to say that the plan helps businesses more than the 1.2 million homeowners it is in theory supposed to aid.
President Bush, in announcing a plan to freeze interest rates for five years for homeowners whose mortgages are scheduled to rise in the coming months, maintained that the plan, negotiated with industry groups, should not be seen as a government solution to the mortgage crisis. Instead, he called it "a sensible response to a serious challenge."
But some analysts say that loan servicing companies, which collect and distribute payments to investors in mortgage loans, are being intensely pressured to make changes that don't benefit the long-term financial goals of the investors whose best interests they are bound to represent.
This is a complete catch-22. On one hand you have the people that bought within their means in the last two years and did not speculate that the market was going to rise and that they could simply resell their home at a profit if rates got to high. On the other hand you have the uneducated, poor souls that were duped into believing they could afford a house that was simply much to expensive for them. Now they cannot make payments and are facing forclosure. Bush's plan is great to help them. But what about the people that did not overbuy and bought a more modest home while others are living in the lap of luxury on a now five year reprieve of a low rate. If the government can forgive this then what is next? I can't pay my taxes because I bought a new car. Personally, I can accept the freeze of the low rate, provided they tack on the interest lost to the end of the loan. Their should be no free pass here because of poor decisions.
- Tom, Manchester, NH
A Boston Globe Editorial
"Too graphic for the CIA?"
December 12, 2007
ONCE the CIA got hold of Abu Zubaydah and Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, two leading Al Qaeda operatives, agents interrogated them harshly in 2002 and taped the sessions as an instruction video for future grillings. Then-chief of CIA operations Jose Rodriguez was wrong to order the tapes destroyed in 2005, but the true outrage is that the president and vice president of the United States gave the CIA permission to use torture.
George Bush and Dick Cheney deny that's what it was. But the two Al Qaeda men, according to The New York Times, were subjected to loud noise, put in painful positions, isolated, and waterboarded. That's torture. The administration acknowledged as much when it issued a new policy this year for CIA interrogations. The allowable methods remain severe, but government officials told the Times that they forbid waterboarding.
Authorization for the CIA's use of torture came from on high, in the days just after the Sept. 11 attacks. "It's going to be vital for us to use any means at our disposal, basically, to achieve our objective," Cheney said on Sept. 16, 2001. Four years later, with the disclosure of mistreatment of prisoners at Abu Ghraib prison, Rodriguez realized that release of the 2002 tapes would have serious legal implications for the agents involved and represent a public-relations debacle for the CIA.
Bush contends that these interrogations produced valuable information. Perhaps they did, but that does not justify the use of torture. This barbaric practice violates the basic dignity owed every human being, defies international law, puts future American prisoners at risk of the same treatment, diminishes US standing in the world, and preempts the use of less coercive techniques that might yield the same or better information.
And the harsh methods also coarsen CIA agents. Rodriguez should know. According to Time magazine, he was an agent in Latin America in the 1980s, when the CIA was complicit in major human rights violations, including murder. Torture is a step or two away from that, and needs to be stopped before it becomes a CIA habit.
Senator Joseph Biden has called for the appointment of a special counsel. But congressional committees have the ability now to investigate the destruction of the tapes, which apparently occurred without the authorization of higher-ups, and the CIA and Attorney General Michael Mukasey need to press their own inquiries.
Lawmakers should focus most intently on the underlying issue: that CIA agents have engaged in torture. Congress needs to approve a measure, now before a conference committee, that would ban any interrogation techniques not in the Army Field Manual, which prohibits abusive methods. If a CIA spymaster can't allow anyone to see what his agents are doing to prisoners, Congress should not allow the agents to do it.
"Control sought on military lawyers: Bush wants power over promotions"
By Charlie Savage, (Boston) Globe Staff, December 15, 2007
WASHINGTON - The Bush administration is pushing to take control of the promotions of military lawyers, escalating a conflict over the independence of uniformed attorneys who have repeatedly raised objections to the White House's policies toward prisoners in the war on terrorism.
The administration has proposed a regulation requiring "coordination" with politically appointed Pentagon lawyers before any member of the Judge Advocate General corps - the military's 4,000-member uniformed legal force - can be promoted.
A Pentagon spokeswoman did not respond to questions about the reasoning behind the proposed regulations. But the requirement of coordination - which many former JAGs say would give the administration veto power over any JAG promotion or appointment - is consistent with past administration efforts to impose greater control over the military lawyers.
The former JAG officers say the regulation would end the uniformed lawyers' role as a check-and-balance on presidential power, because politically appointed lawyers could block the promotion of JAGs who they believe would speak up if they think a White House policy is illegal.
Retired Major General Thomas Romig, the Army's top JAG from 2001 to 2005, called the proposal an attempt "to control the military JAGs" by sending a message that if they want to be promoted, they should be "team players" who "bow to their political masters on legal advice."
It "would certainly have a chilling effect on the JAGs' advice to commanders," Romig said. "The implication is clear: without [the administration's] approval the officer will not be promoted."
The new JAG rule is part of a set of proposed changes to the military's procedures for promoting all commissioned officers, a copy of which was obtained by the Globe. The Pentagon began internally circulating a draft of the changes for comments by the services in mid-November, and the administration will decide whether to make the changes official later this month or early next year.
The JAG rule would give new leverage over the JAGs to the Pentagon's general counsel, William "Jim" Haynes, who was appointed by President Bush. Haynes has been the Pentagon's point man in the disputes with the JAGs who disagreed with the administration's assertion that the president has the right to bypass the Geneva Conventions and other legal protections for wartime detainees.
A Pentagon spokeswoman said that Haynes was traveling and unavailable for an interview, and she did not respond to other written questions submitted by the Globe. In the past, Haynes has made several proposals that would bring the JAGs under greater control by political appointees.
As part of the uniformed chain of command, the JAGs are not directly controlled by civilian political appointees. But Haynes has long promoted the idea of making each service's politically appointed general counsel the direct boss of the service's top JAG, a change Haynes has said would support the principle of civilian control of the military.
One of Haynes' allies on the Bush administration legal team, former Justice Department lawyer John Yoo, recently coauthored a law review article sharply critical of the JAGs' unwillingness to endorse the legality of the administration's treatment of wartime detainees.
Yoo, who wrote a series of controversial legal opinions about the president's power to bypass the Geneva Conventions and antitorture laws before leaving government in 2003, called for some kind of "corrective measures" that would "punish" JAGs who undermine the president's policy preferences.
Yoo's law review article did not specifically discuss injecting political appointees into the JAG promotions process, and Yoo said in an e-mail that he did not know anything about the new Pentagon proposal. But several retired JAGs said they think the proposed change is an attempt by the Bush administration to turn Yoo's idea into a reality.
Under the current system, boards of military officers pick who will join the JAG corps and who will be promoted, while the general counsels' role is limited to reviewing whether the boards followed correct procedures. The proposed rule would impose a new requirement of "coordination" with the general counsels of the services and the Pentagon during the JAG appointment and promotion process.
The proposal does not spell out what coordination means. But both JAGs and outside legal specialists say that it is common bureaucratic parlance for requiring both sides to sign off before a decision gets made - meaning that political appointees would have the power to block any candidate's career path.
"It only makes sense to put this in if you want [general counsels to exercise the power to give] thumbs up or thumbs down, in order to intimidate JAGs," said retired Colonel Gordon Wilder, who was the Air Force's top JAG specialist in administrative law until last January.
Stephen Saltzburg, a George Washington University law professor who is also general counsel to the National Institute of Military Justice, agreed that the regulation boils down to giving political appointees the power to veto JAG promotions.
"The message would be clear to every JAG, which is that when you have been told that the general counsel has a view on the law, any time you dare disagree with it, don't expect a promotion," Saltzburg said, adding "I don't think that would be in the best interest of the country. We've seen how important it can be to have the JAGs give their honest opinions when you look at the debates on interrogation techniques and the like."
Key members of the Bush administration legal team have pushed to subject the JAGs to greater political control for years.
In the early 1990s, both Haynes and Vice President Cheney's top aide, David Addington, were politically appointed lawyers in the Pentagon during the Bush-Quayle administration. On their advice, Cheney proposed making each service's general counsel the boss of his JAG counterpart, but the Senate Armed Services Committee forced the administration to back down.
In 2001, Haynes and Addington were restored to power in the Bush-Cheney administration, and the conflict over JAG independence resumed amid the fights over such war on terrorism policies as harsh interrogations.
Responding to the conflicts, in 2004 Congress enacted a law forbidding Defense Department employees from interfering with the ability of JAGs to "give independent legal advice" directly to military leaders. But when President Bush signed the law, he issued a signing statement decreeing that the legal opinions of his political appointees would still "bind" the JAGs.
And throughout the past several years, the administration has repeatedly proposed changes that would impose greater control over the JAGs, such as letting political appointees decide who should be the top service JAGs. Each previous proposal has died amid controversy in the Pentagon or Congress.
The new proposal goes further than anything the administration has pushed before because it would affect all military lawyers, not just the top JAGs.
"Bush's Budget Wins May Cost Him: Victories Over Democrats Could Increase Debt and Impede His Own Agenda"
By Jonathan Weisman
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, December 15, 2007; A01
As Congress stumbles toward Christmas, President Bush is scoring victory after victory over his Democratic adversaries. He has beaten back domestic spending increases, thwarted an expansion of children's health insurance coverage, defeated tax hikes, won funding for the war in Iraq and pushed Democrats toward shattering their pledge not to add to the federal deficit with new tax cuts or rises in mandatory spending.
But the cost of those wins could be high, both for the federal debt and for the president's own priorities.
Bush's steadfast stand against Democratic spending, coupled with his equally resolute opposition to tax increases, could raise the federal debt this fiscal year by nearly $240 billion. As Democrats struggle to meet his demands, they are jettisoning renewable-energy and conservation incentives that Bush championed, and they may ax some of his most cherished programs.
Even some Republicans bristle at the president's inflexibility. Bush has pledged never to sign bills with tax increases, even tax increases that he once supported.
"I see the president trying to play catch-up in two years for not vetoing anything in the first six years, and probably regretting that he treated the Republican Congress with softer gloves than he did a Democrat Congress," said Sen. Charles E. Grassley (Iowa), the conservative ranking Republican on the Senate Finance Committee. "He's kind of waking up to the necessity of having a certain policy that ought to be consistently followed, even if it's irrational."
White House officials -- and virtually every other Republican in Congress -- are not about to apologize. "The Democrats are learning this isn't the early 1970s, when the Republican Party was Gerald Ford and 140 of his friends," said Rep. Tom Cole (R-Okla.), chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee. "There are 201 of us, and we will be heard."
In his first six years in office, Bush accepted domestic discretionary spending increases from Republican-controlled Congresses that averaged 7 percent a year, said Brian Riedl, a conservative budget analyst at the Heritage Foundation. In his showdown with the current Democratic Congress, the president is insisting on spending growth of 4 percent at most.
But as he stood his ground, first against $22 billion in additional domestic spending, then against $11 billion, Bush steadfastly opposed Democratic efforts to raise taxes to recoup the cost of a $50 billion measure that would stave off the growth of the alternative minimum tax (AMT). The parallel tax system was created in 1969 to ensure that a few rich Americans could not avoid paying taxes altogether, but because it was not indexed to inflation, it now threatens more than 20 million upper-middle-income households.
If, as expected, Congress passes a bill without making up the lost revenue, the cost to the Treasury would swamp the savings from Bush's spending fight.
The president also has taken to the White House's bully pulpit week after week to demand nearly $200 billion for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, without tax increases or spending cuts. If the president prevails on all three fronts, he will end up adding about $239 billion to the federal deficit this fiscal year.
"I have difficulty seeing how $11 billion or $22 billion in discretionary spending on the domestic side of the equation is so fiscally irresponsible when juxtaposed against these major AMT provisions of $50 billion, or certainly against the $70-plus billion they want for the global war on terror, Iraq and Afghanistan," said G. William Hoagland, a Republican budget adviser to former Senate majority leader Bill Frist (Tenn.). "It doesn't pass the sensible man's test."
As Democrats shuffle funds to meet Bush's bottom line, the White House also is likely to lose half of the $3 billion the president requested for his Millennium Challenge Corp., an effort to increase development assistance to some poor nations. Bush's program to resume the reprocessing of nuclear waste will be cut dramatically. A $579 million increase for math and science instruction under the No Child Left Behind initiative will be cut, and the Reading First program will be reduced, Democratic aides said Friday.
Bush's victory against much of the Democrats' energy bill also came at a price. A comprehensive bill will be signed into law, but the president defeated $21 billion in revenue increases that would have paid for tax incentives to support renewable energy, conservation and other programs that he has vocally supported.
"It's ridiculous," Grassley fumed. "He has compromised his own position."
The biggest revenue-raiser would have done away with a tax incentive that the five largest oil companies have enjoyed for three years. That break came about as Congress was considering tax incentives to spur manufacturing exports; the oil companies -- among the largest importers in the country -- successfully lobbied to be declared manufacturers, making them eligible for a new tax break.
At the time, Bush opposed more tax incentives. "I will tell you, with $55 oil, we don't need incentives to oil and gas companies to explore," he told a gathering of newspaper editors. "There are plenty of incentives." Grassley said Bush personally reiterated that position to him in 2006, during a private White House session on taxes.
This time around, Bush and Republican leaders declared that a repeal of such incentives would amount to a "massive" tax increase.
"What is clear is that raising taxes on oil producers will not lower the price of gasoline," said White House spokesman Tony Fratto. "And raising the price of gasoline is not what Americans need today. . . . We do not need a tax increase."
Bush's aversion to any tax increase -- no matter the size or the target -- has led directly to the death of a number of measures. Bush opposed a Democratic plan to pay for the AMT "patch" largely by forcing wealthy managers of hedge and private-equity funds to pay ordinary income tax rates on their earnings. Currently that income is classified as capital gains and taxed at 15 percent.
When that measure fell to a filibuster, House Democrats tried again, this time paying for the AMT bill by preventing hedge fund managers from putting compensation in offshore tax havens. Again, Bush opposed it.
Fratto called such proposals "very typical of tax policy based on populism and class warfare, rather than sound economic policy."
Democrats said Bush was not nearly so averse in the past to using tax increases to deal with losses from the AMT. In 2005, he empaneled a tax reform commission, entrusting it to, among other things, repeal the AMT without costing the Treasury any revenue.
That would have meant eliminating a tax that brings in $1 trillion over 10 years and making up the lost revenue with tax increases somewhere, said Tom Kahn, Democratic staff director of the House Budget Committee.
The CIA said its director, Michael V. Hayden, center, is ready to "cooperate fully" with investigations by the administration of the Congress. (By Chip Somodevilla -- Getty Images)
"Congress's Probe of CIA Tapes Resisted: Both Parties Decry Justice Dept. Move"
By Dan Eggen and Joby Warrick
Washington Post Staff Writers
Saturday, December 15, 2007; A01
The Justice Department moved yesterday to delay congressional inquiries into the CIA's destruction of interrogation videotapes, saying the administration could not provide witnesses or documents sought by lawmakers without jeopardizing its own investigation of the CIA's actions.
Congressional leaders from both parties alleged that Justice is trying to block their investigation and vowed to press ahead with hearings.
A pair of letters from Justice and CIA officials to leaders of the House and Senate intelligence committees intensified the conflict between the Bush administration and Congress, which is seeking to force current and former CIA leaders to testify as early as next week. The lawmakers want CIA officials to account for the decision to destroy tapes that depicted the use of harsh interrogation tactics on terrorism suspects.
The growing feud is the first major confrontation with Congress for new Attorney General Michael B. Mukasey, who was narrowly confirmed last month amid controversy over his refusal to describe waterboarding -- a severe interrogation tactic that simulates drowning -- as torture.
"We fully appreciate the committee's oversight interest in this matter, but want to advise you of concerns that actions responsive to your request would represent significant risk to our preliminary inquiry," Kenneth L. Wainstein, assistant attorney general for national security, and CIA Inspector General John L. Helgerson wrote in a letter to House intelligence committee leaders.
The top Democrat and Republican on the House intelligence committee issued a joint statement that labels Justice's stance an effort to obstruct the congressional probe.
"We are stunned that the Justice Department would move to block our investigation," Reps. Silvestre Reyes (D-Tex.) and Peter Hoekstra (R-Mich.) said in the statement. "Parallel investigations occur all of the time, and there is no basis upon which the Attorney General can stand in the way of our work."
They vowed to "use all the tools available to Congress, including subpoenas" to compel the CIA to produce documents and require key officials to testify about the tapes.
The exchange followed a letter earlier in the day from Mukasey that rebuffed congressional demands for details about the joint Justice-CIA inquiry into the tapes' destruction and rejected calls for the appointment of an independent prosecutor. Mukasey said that providing the information to Congress would make it appear that the department is "subject to political influence."
"At my confirmation hearing, I testified that I would act independently, resist political pressure and ensure that politics plays no role in cases brought by the Department of Justice," Mukasey wrote in a letter to Sens. Patrick J. Leahy (D-Vt.) and Arlen Specter (R-Pa.), chairman and ranking minority member of the Judiciary Committee.
In recent weeks, lawmakers, primarily Democrats, have showered the Justice Department with demands for investigations or information on topics including baseball's steroids scandal and allegations of rape by a former military contractor employee.
Mukasey replaced Alberto R. Gonzales, who left office in September after the furor over his handling of the firings of nine U.S. attorneys and allegations that he misled Congress in sworn testimony.
The CIA disclosed last week that it destroyed videotapes in 2005 depicting interrogation sessions for alleged al-Qaeda operative Zayn al-Abidin Muhammed Hussein, commonly known as Abu Zubaida, and another suspect, later identified by officials as Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri. Administration officials have said that lawyers at the Justice Department and the White House, including then-counsel Harriet E. Miers, advised the CIA against destroying the tapes but that CIA lawyers ruled their preservation was not required.
CIA officials said the agency's director, Michael V. Hayden, is prepared to cooperate with all investigators.
"Director Hayden has said the Agency will cooperate fully with both the preliminary inquiry conducted by DOJ and CIA's Office of Inspector General, and with the Congress," agency spokesman Mark Mansfield said. "That has been, and certainly still is, the case."
The Justice Department announced Dec. 8 that it had joined the CIA's inspector general in launching a preliminary inquiry into the tape destruction. Prosecutors asked the CIA to preserve any related evidence.
Leahy and Specter asked Mukasey on Dec. 10 for "a complete account of the Justice Department's own knowledge of and involvement with" the tape destruction. The two senators included a list of 16 separate questions, including whether the Justice Department had offered legal advice to the CIA about the tapes or had communicated with the White House about the issue.
Mukasey wrote to the lawmakers that Justice "has a long-standing policy of declining to provide non-public information about pending matters.
"This policy is based in part on our interest in avoiding any perception that our law enforcement decisions are subject to political influence," Mukasey wrote to lawmakers.
The tape investigation is being led by Wainstein, who held his first substantive meeting on the case Wednesday with the CIA inspector general's office, according to a law enforcement official.
Several Democrats have raised questions about the propriety of an inquiry run by the Justice Department, whose lawyers were involved in offering legal advice about the tapes, and the CIA inspector general, whose office reviewed the tapes before they were destroyed.
Hayden said last week that the inspector general's office examined the tapes in 2003 "as part of its look at the agency's detention and interrogation practices."
Among those whom lawmakers want to testify is the CIA official who made the decision to destroy the tapes, Jose Rodriguez. The former director of clandestine operations has obtained private counsel and is studying his options.
His attorney, Robert Bennett, said: "If I determine that he has a good story, we're going to tell it. But I'm not going to let him be a piÂ¿ata for people with a political agenda during an election year."
Staff researcher Julie Tate contributed to this report.
A 19th-century image shows federal troops employing several forms of torture. One man stood on a barrel for several hours; another carried a large log, his leg weighted with a ball and chain; a third was bound to a tree with his arms raised above his head; a fourth sat on the ground, tied. (Corbis)
"Torture, American style: The surprising force behind torture: democracies"
By Darius Rejali, December 16, 2007, THE BOSTON GLOBE: IDEAS
NEARLY EVERY MONTH, it seems, news reports carry disturbing revelations about torture by American soldiers, intelligence officers, or allies. Just by reading the news we learn things we never wanted to know about waterboarding, forced standing for hours, and sleep deprivation; most recently the CIA has destroyed videotapes showing a suspected terrorist being interrogated with techniques that an agent called torture.
Behind these disclosures, as they reach our ears, runs a powerful current of disbelief and shock: it is hard to imagine that such things would be done by Americans.
We think torture is mainly the province of dictators and juntas - the kind of thing that happens behind the iron doors of repressive regimes. In a democracy, with open courts and a free press, torture should be a relic. In the words of an American World War II poster, torture is "the method of the enemy."
But a closer look at the modern history of torture suggests that exactly the opposite is true. Torture isn't an alien force invading our democracy from the benighted realms of dictatorships. In fact, it is the democracies that have been the real innovators in 20th-century torture. Britain, France, and the United States were perfecting new forms of torture long before the CIA even existed. It might make Americans uncomfortable, but the modern repertoire of torture is mainly a democratic innovation.
In one instance after another, democracies developed new torture techniques, refined them, and then exported them to more authoritarian regimes. Americans didn't just develop electric power; they invented the first electrotorture devices and used them in police stations from Arkansas to Seattle. Magneto torture, a technique favored by the Nazis involving a portable generator, was actually developed and spread by the French. Waterboarding and forced standing owe their wide use to the Americans and British.
None of this is to say that democracies have a worse record of torture than authoritarian states: dictators deserve their reputation for violence and cruelty. But the role of democracies is central. Painful as it is to confront, knowing how - and why - democracies have played such an important role in torture also has a hopeful side: it suggests that democracies can also halt torture. In fact, they have a special responsibility to do so.
. . .
The word "torture" still evokes medieval images - the rack, the iron maiden, thumbscrews. Authoritarian states historically chose torture techniques that were as painful as possible, and torturers often scarred their victims deliberately, using their damaged bodies as a deterrent and an advertisement of state power. Kings used torture to demonstrate that they could take lives or show mercy as they willed.
For centuries, the whip was the preferred tool of state torture, and some were nastier than others. The Great Russian Knout, for example, had a hook on the end of it that tore out chunks of flesh with each blow. Even the Nazis, well into the era of modern torture, favored whips, as they scarred their way across thousands of victims in prisons and concentration camps during World War II.
In recent times states have outlawed open spectacles of torture, and torture has ceased to be an exhibit of kingly power. But its basic uses remain the same: extracting information, forcing false confessions, and keeping prisoners docile and compliant.
So torture hasn't really disappeared in the modern age. What have disappeared are forms of torture that leave marks. The police, military investigators, and governments in democratic societies can count on the press and people watching. They know that if a prisoner can't show any marks of torture, people are far less likely to believe his or her story. So as societies have become more open, the art of torture has crept underground and evolved into the chilling new forms - often undetectable - that define torture today.
Take electrotorture. In the early days of electric power, most authorities avoided using electricity for torture because it was too dangerous: it tended to kill its victims, and dead subjects yield no information. But in 1899, two research teams, one American and one Swiss, correctly identified the biological processes that caused electrical death. This knowledge proved to be critical: A proper torture device, it appeared, had to deliver painful high voltages with low amperage.
The earliest recorded electortorture device was an American machine called the "hummingbird" (1908), likely nicknamed because it hummed with electrical current as it was applied to the body. We know little about it; it appears in the writings of the anarchist philosopher Emma Goldman, who received letters from prisoners describing its use.
Early 20th-century America was a breeding ground for new ideas in electric torture, many documented by American Bar Association investigators in their 1931 Report on Lawlessness in Law Enforcement. Between 1922 and 1926, the Seattle police chief got his confessions from a cell with a wall-to-wall electrified carpet. "The prisoner leaps, screaming in agony, into the air....It is not fatal, its effects are not lasting, and it leaves no marks," remarked the ABA report. And until 1929, the police in Helena, Ark., used an improvised electrical chair to extract confessions. At the time, the sheriff testified that the chair came with other office furniture, and he had inherited it from "a long line of former county sheriffs."
Still, these devices were rather crude compared with what electrotorture would become. The most famous electrotorture device was adjustable, portable, and based on the magneto, a simple generator that produces a high-voltage spark. The idea of using a magneto generator for torture came to be closely associated with the Nazis, who employed it ruthlessly in France and Belgium during World War II. But it wasn't the Germans who developed it: It was the French colonial police, the Sûreté, who pioneered the technique and used it throughout the 1930s fighting Vietnamese nationalists. The Nazis learned about the technology from a Vichy police officer, Inspector Marty of Toulouse, in 1942.
Although the Gestapo carried magneto torture to Paris and Belgium, the key distributors of magneto torture after the war were the United States and France. The French resumed magneto torture in Vietnam as early as 1947, passing it to the South Vietnamese, who passed the technique to American military interrogators during the Vietnam War. The Americans introduced magneto torture into Brazil in the late 1960s, and - just as the French had - the Americans eventually brought it home. Chicago police used magneto torture in the 1970s and 1980s to extract confessions. Most alleged incidents implicated Commander Jon Burge, a decorated veteran of the Vietnam War, and the detectives he supervised.
Electrotorture is only one example of how torture spreads via democracies. "Forced standing" is a technique used in the Soviet Union and made famous by the hooded men of Abu Ghraib: They were forced to stand for hours, balanced on a box with the threat of electric torture if they collapsed. It is not nearly as harmless as it sounds: Humans are not designed to stand utterly immobile, and accounts of the practice from Soviet-era victims and psychologists hired by the CIA describe immense pain.
Though forced standing is often associated with the interrogations of Stalin's secret police, the British had already refined the use of forced standing to intimidate and coerce prisoners. From 1910 to 1930, the practice was well known in Irish prisons and in British Indian penal colonies in the Andaman Islands in the Bay of Bengal. The British colonial police also used it in Mandatory Palestine, where they were especially concerned about keeping torture "clean": They knew scarred victims would create a scandal at home, and they knew the Nazi publicity machine would use evidence of torture for German advantage in the Middle East. Forced standing was also known in French contexts, and, in the United States, was a standard slave punishment that by the 1920s became part of American police interrogations and prison punishments. Before the 1930s, then, forced standing was the special province of democratic, not authoritarian states. W.G. Krivitsky, an Soviet secret police agent who defected, described Soviet interrogation techniques in 1939 as "improved by Stalin on the model of the latest American methods."
Some techniques date to well before the 20th century, but still owe their modern forms to the innovations of democratic states. The use of water in torture, for example, is quite old, but most historical autocrats liked to boil their prisoners. The modern use of waterboarding can be traced back to the Philippines, where in 1902 American troops were fighting the insurgency. Returning soldiers brought water torture back to their civilian jobs as policemen in the 1910s, and it soon appeared in military prisons and police stations in large cities and small towns, especially in the American South.
By the 1920s, one can find the full encyclopedia of modern water torture already written up in American newspaper accounts and trial transcripts. One technique involved choking the victim, either with full body immersion, by covering the face with a handkerchief, or simply ladling water on the face of a prisoner as he is tilted head downward. This is the basis of modern waterboarding, and it would subsequently appear worldwide.
When we examine the history of modern torture technique by technique - and there are dozens of examples - we find that newer, "cleaner" tortures first appear in conditions of public monitoring, usually in democratic states. It is only afterward that we find authoritarian states adopting them.
If the spread of torture techniques suggests a blurry line between "us" and "them," it also teaches that there's no real boundary between "there" and "here." It would be ignoring history to assume that what happens in an American-run prison in Iraq will stay in Iraq. Soldiers who learn torture techniques abroad get jobs as police when they return, and the new developments in torture you read about today could yet be employed in a neighborhood near you.
In Chicago, in the decade after Vietnam, the use of magnetos and other clean tortures left a disaster: At least 11 men were sentenced to death and many others given long-term prison sentences based on confessions extracted by torture, and in 2003, Governor George Ryan of Illinois commuted the death sentences of all 167 death row inmates. Earlier this month the City of Chicago agreed to pay nearly $20 million to settle lawsuits filed by four former death row inmates who claimed they were tortured and wrongly convicted.
Everything torture represents - intimidation, abuse of public trust, extraction of false confessions, the blind eye of officials - is antithetical to the way democratic societies are supposed to work. But "clean" torture, leaving few marks and practiced behind closed doors, permits a kind of public silence or amnesia. The facts of Abu Ghraib were already known through testimony, but there was no public outcry until the scandalous photographs made it impossible to ignore. Even after Abu Ghraib, lawyers for Guantánamo detainees doubted allegations of torture until FBI e-mails confirmed them. Today, American authorities still shy away from the T-word, preferring terms such as "abuse" and "enhanced interrogation."
The disturbing political implication of clean torture is that we are less likely to complain about violence if it is committed by stealth. Indeed, we are less likely even to have the opportunity to complain. This is not because we are indifferent (thought it is certainly possible), but because we are often uncertain whether violence occurred at all. We are, in effect, illiterate in stealth torture, and this has political consequences. When people can't speak intelligently about cruelty, they aren't likely to be able to protect themselves against tyranny at home.
Still, history shows that the cycle of torture can be broken. Americans put an end to most domestic torture between 1930 and 1950. We did this, in part, by exposing torture. The American Bar Association's 1931 report transformed American law and policing. The document was cited in court decisions; newspapers and true crime books drew on the group's investigations to educate the public as to what the modern face of torture was. And police chiefs instituted more checks on police behavior, including clear punishments for violations of the law and regular medical inspections for detainees.
Many European states now have reasonably good records on torture precisely because they call torture techniques by their proper names, give them histories, and institute strong domestic and international monitoring of police, prisons, and asylums. The French have a far better human rights record now than they did in the 1960s, even if it is by no means perfect. There is no reason why America cannot restore its own reputation.
The biggest surprise, perhaps, is that torturers care what the public thinks. For more than a century torturers have voted with their hands: Governments that continue to use torture have moved to techniques that leave little trace. The same public pressure - built on unequivocal disapproval - should eventually be able to bring an end to this sorry history. Strange as it may seem, torturers and their apologists really do care.
Darius Rejali, a professor of political science at Reed College, is the author of "Torture and Democracy," out this month.
THE WASHINGTON POST: EDITORIAL
"The Torture Tapes: The CIA may have destroyed evidence of crimes."
Saturday, December 8, 2007; A16
WHEN IT destroyed at least two videotapes of the interrogation of captured al-Qaeda operatives, the Central Intelligence Agency may have eliminated evidence of criminal activity. Abu Zubaida, one of the two detainees whose questioning was taped, is known to have been subjected to waterboarding. The United States has prosecuted as criminals practitioners of that ancient torture technique for more than a century. Political appointees in the Justice Department prepared a notoriously twisted brief in 2002 justifying this barbaric practice as legal. But by 2005, when the tapes were destroyed, the White House had been forced to repudiate that "torture memo" and the CIA had stopped waterboarding under pressure from Congress. At the time, multiple investigations of the illegal abuse of prisoners were underway.
In that context, CIA Director Michael V. Hayden's assertion that the tapes were purged because of concerns they would leak and be used by al-Qaeda to track down interrogators is not credible. The CIA is skilled at keeping secrets and protecting agents without destroying valuable material. It is far more plausible that CIA officials eliminated evidence that could have been used to hold interrogators accountable for illegal acts of torture -- as well as the more senior administration officials who ordered or approved those acts.
Gen. Hayden's account of the tapes, which apparently was hastily prepared after the New York Times inquired about them, also asserts that top congressional leaders and committees were informed of the tapes' existence and of the decision to destroy them. This was quickly contradicted by a parade of Republicans and Democrats who said they were not told about the tapes' destruction in advance. Rep. Jane Harman (D-Calif.) said she warned in a 2003 letter against the destruction of any videotapes. The executive director of the Sept. 11 commission said it asked the CIA for such material in 2004 but did not receive it.
Congress has already immunized CIA staffers for the acts of torture they may have committed against al-Qaeda prisoners. But destruction of the evidence could still be a crime. Sen. John D. Rockefeller IV (D-W.Va.) said Thursday that the Senate intelligence committee he chairs has asked "for a complete and accurate chronology of events related to the tapes, including how the tapes were used, when and why they were destroyed, who was notified of their destruction and when, and any communication about them that was provided to the courts and Congress." Attorney General Michael B. Mukasey, who promised Congress he would uphold the law in just this sort of case, should order a criminal inquiry by the Justice Department.
In the meantime Congress must act to ensure that the CIA will no longer practice torture. On Wednesday a conference committee approved an amendment to an intelligence funding bill that would require that the recently revised Army interrogation manual, which bans waterboarding and other torture methods, apply to detainees held by U.S. intelligence agencies. Many senior military commanders -- including, most recently, Gen. David H. Petraeus -- have said that the techniques in the manual have proven effective in obtaining intelligence and that harsher methods are counterproductive. Senators who have trumpeted their faith in Gen. Petraeus's judgment in Iraq should listen to this counsel as well.
Central Intelligence Agency:
"9/11 panel requested CIA documents: Memo cites need for more review of tapes; Inquires if law was broken"
By Mark Mazzetti, New York Times News Service, December 22, 2007
WASHINGTON - A review of classified documents by former members of the Sept. 11 commission shows that the panel made repeated and detailed requests to the Central Intelligence Agency in 2003 and 2004 for documents and other information about the interrogation of operatives of Al Qaeda, and were told by a top CIA official that the agency had "produced or made available for review" everything that had been requested.
The review was conducted earlier this month after the disclosure that in November 2005, the CIA destroyed videotapes documenting the interrogations of two Al Qaeda operatives.
A seven-page memorandum prepared by Philip D. Zelikow, the panel's former executive director, concluded that "further investigation is needed" to determine whether the CIA's withholding of the tapes from the commission violated federal law.
The two chairmen of the commission, Lee H. Hamilton and Thomas H. Kean, said in interviews that their reading of the report had convinced them that the agency had made a conscious decision to impede the Sept. 11 commission's inquiry.
Kean said the panel would provide the memorandum to the federal prosecutors and congressional investigators who are trying to determine whether the destruction of the tapes or withholding them from the courts and the commission was improper.
A CIA spokesman said that the agency had been prepared to give the Sept. 11 commission the interrogation videotapes, but that commission staff members never specifically asked for interrogation videos.
The review by Zelikow does not assert that the commission specifically asked for videotapes, but it quotes from formal requests by the commission to the CIA that sought "documents," "reports" and "information" related to the interrogations.
Kean, a Republican and a former governor of New Jersey, said of the agency's decision not to disclose the existence of the videotapes, "I don't know whether that's illegal or not, but it's certainly wrong." Hamilton, a former Democratic representative from Indiana, said that the CIA "clearly obstructed" the commission's investigation.
A copy of the memorandum, dated Dec. 13, was obtained by The New York Times.
Among the statements that the memorandum suggests were misleading was an assertion made on June 29, 2004, by John E. McLaughlin, the deputy director of central intelligence, that the CIA "has taken and completed all reasonable steps necessary to find the documents in its possession, custody or control responsive" to formal requests by the commission and "has produced or made available for review" all such documents.
Both Kean and Hamilton expressed anger after it was revealed this month that the tapes had been destroyed.
However, the report by Zelikow gives them new evidence to buttress their views about the CIA's actions and will probably put new pressure on the Bush administration over its handling of the matter.
In an interview yesterday, McLaughlin said that agency officials had always been candid with members of the commission, and that information from the CIA proved central to their work.
"We weren't playing games with them, and we weren't holding anything back," he said. The memorandum recounts a December 2003 meeting between Kean, Hamilton, and George J. Tenet, then the director of central intelligence. At the meeting, it says, Hamilton told Tenet that the CIA should provide all relevant documents "even if the commission had not specifically asked for them."
According to the memorandum, Tenet responded by alluding to several documents that he thought would be helpful to the commission, but made no mention of existing videotapes of interrogations.
The memorandum does not draw any conclusions about whether the withholding of the videotapes was unlawful, but it notes that federal law penalizes anyone who "knowingly and willfully" withholds or "covers up" a "material fact" from a federal inquiry or makes "any materially false statement" to investigators.
Yesterday, the leaders of the Senate Judiciary Committee sent a letter to Mukasey and to Mike McConnell, the director of national intelligence, asking them to preserve and produce to the committee all remaining video and audio recordings of "enhanced interrogations" of detainees in American custody.
Signed by Senator Patrick Leahy, Democrat of Vermont, and Senator Arlen Specter, Republican of Pennsylvania, the letter asked for an extensive search of the White House, CIA, and other intelligence agencies to determine whether any other recordings existed of interrogation techniques "including but not limited to waterboarding."
THE BOSTON GLOBE: OP-ED: ANDY ZELLEKE
"Bush's game of chess in Iraq"
By Andy Zelleke, December 22, 2007
THE NEWS out of Iraq has become much more upbeat - a welcome relief for war-weary Americans. Fewer US soldiers are dying, and the car bombings and gruesome sectarian killings are down as well. In response, politicians and pundits are backing away from earlier conclusions that the war is unwinnable. Victory, certainly not yet at hand, has at least begun to look attainable.
President Bush, football fan that he is, probably sees himself as being on the verge of quarterbacking a come-from-behind, John Elway-style, fourth-quarter victory in Iraq - preparing to delight, as Elway did on so many memorable occasions for the Denver Broncos, in proving wrong the many of little faith who had concluded, prematurely, that the cause was lost.
The problem is that the analogy between the Iraq war and a football game that can be meaningfully "won" is misplaced. In a football game, the only thing that matters is the final score, and the only game that matters is the one being played. True, the athletes and coaches are human beings who go home to the full range of life's problems once they leave the stadium; but from a fan's perspective, it's all about the game and the final score. If your team has more points when the final whistle is blown, all the anxieties that may have preceded the moment of victory - falling behind, sustaining injuries, losing composure - are forgotten.
Instead of a football game, the more apt analogy for America's predicament in Iraq is to a chess match. More precisely, to the scenario in which a chess master takes on a dozen challengers - simultaneously - at an outdoor park, shuttling from table to table to make his moves, while each of the challengers has only a single match to worry about.
On the Iraq chess board, seen in isolation from all the others, the prospects now look less desperate than they did pre-surge, in that a "victory" - in the sense of a minimally acceptable, and sustainable, status quo - no longer seems beyond the pale. But there is still no reason to believe that even that minimalist "victory" can be achieved without a wildly disproportionate commitment of soldiers, money, and White House attention for far longer than anyone could deem to be strategically worthwhile in light of America's global and domestic interests. Meanwhile, as we obsess over one chess board to keep from losing that particular match, our challengers seated at the 11 other tables gleefully exploit our government's utter and continuing failure of perspective.
General David Petraeus's success in improving the situation on the ground in Iraq now presents a real strategic opportunity for the United States. But it is almost certainly not the opportunity that Bush perceives it to be, which is to "win" by remaining in Iraq in very large numbers until such time (which may never come) that a reasonably pro-US Iraqi government can function reasonably well without that presence.
Rather, what Petraeus has contributed is the competence to turn chaos into relative stability, which helps deprive Al Qaeda and the anti-American propagandists of the claim that the United States was chased out of Iraq. Bush has the opportunity to take measure of American interests around the world (and at home), and use this relative calm as an opportunity to reclaim strategic initiative and purposefully shift away from the present course in Iraq - not because our adversaries in Iraq are succeeding against us, but because we have more pressing business elsewhere.
Bush has not simply made a poor decision on an important foreign policy matter; if that were all, he would be in good company that would include modern-day icons John F. Kennedy and Ronald Reagan. His greater leadership failure is in lacking the judgment to recognize the nature of the game he is playing, and the strategic recklessness of persisting in playing it to "win."
Andy Zelleke is a lecturer in public policy at Harvard University's Kennedy School of Government and co-director of its Center for Public Leadership.
President Bush and his wife, first lady Laura Bush wave, as they walk with Mrs. Bush's mother Jenna Welch, second from left, past Brig. Gen. Margaret H. Woodward, obscured, right, on their way to board Air Force One at Andrews Air Force Base in Maryland, Wednesday Dec. 26, 2007, enroute to Crawford, Texas. (AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana)
Bush signs $555 billion spending bill
Associated Press Writer / December 26, 2007
CRAWFORD, Texas—President Bush, still voicing concern about special project spending by Congress, signed a $555 billion bill Wednesday that funds the Iraq war well into 2008 and keeps government agencies running through next September.
more stories like thisBush's signed the massive spending bill as he flew on Air Force One to his Texas ranch here to see in the new year. His signature on the legislation caps a long-running fight with the Democratic-run Congress.
"I am disappointed in the way the Congress compiled this legislation, including abandoning the goal I set early this year to reduce the number and cost of earmarks by half," the president said in a statement. "Instead, the Congress dropped into the bill nearly 9,800 earmarks that total more than $10 billion. These projects are not funded through a merit-based process and provide a vehicle for wasteful government spending."
"There is still more to be done to rein in Government spending," Bush said. "In February I will submit my budget proposal for fiscal year 2009, which will once again restrain spending, keep taxes low, and continue us on a path towards a balanced budget. I look forward to working with the Congress in the coming year to ensure taxpayer dollars are spent wisely.
A Bush spokesman, Scott Stanzel, had told reporters en route to Texas earlier that the president remained concerned about "Congress' addiction to earmarks."
Bush, who had used his veto power to remain relevant in the debate with Democrats on national spending priorities, had agreed to sign the measure, which includes $70 billion for military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, after winning concessions on Iraq and other budget items. The bill bankrolls 14 Cabinet departments and federal agencies and funds foreign aid for the budget year that began on Oct. 1.
Bush and his Senate GOP allies forced the Iraq money upon anti-war Democrats as the price for permitting the year-end budget deal to pass and be signed.
Democrats tried to use war spending legislation to force a change in Bush's Iraq policy, chiefly by setting a withdrawal goal with dates such as Dec. 15, 2009. But Bush and Republicans held a powerful hand. They knew Democrats would not let money lapse for troops overseas. That allowed a Bush veto in May and GOP stalling tactics to determine the outcome.
On the domestic budget, Bush's GOP allies were divided over whether the overall spending bill was a victory for their party in the long fight with Democrats over agency budgets.
Conservatives and outside watchdog groups criticized the bill for having about $28 billion in domestic spending that topped Bush's budget and was paid for by a combination of "emergency" spending, transfers from the defense budget and other maneuvers.
Stanzel noted Wednesday that Bush had asked for options the White House might have to abrogate some or a large degree of the special interest spending.
"So no decisions have been made on that front," Stanzel added, "but certainly as you noted in the president's press conference last week, he talked about directing the OMB director, Jim Nussle, to look at ways -- or look at avenues by which the federal government can address those earmarks."
I was sleeping in this Saturday morning when someone buzzed my apartment bell. 5-minutes later a jubilant mailman met me at the first floor elevator. He held a large manilla envelope from The White House, and said the President gave him instructions not to bend the envelope so he was headed upstairs to hand deliver me the piece of mail. I said thank you and wished the mailman a happy new year. I went upstairs and opened the envelope, and President Bush had written to me a most beautifully written Christmas message. I had misty eyes. I believe George W. Bush is a good man!
Jonathan Alan Melle
"Bush OKs child health program extension"
By BEN FELLER, Associated Press Writer
President Bush on Saturday signed legislation that extends a popular children's health insurance program after twice vetoing attempts to expand it.
Politically, the move was a victory for Bush, although Democrats say it will come back to hurt Republicans at the polls.
The extension of the State Children's Health Insurance Program is expected to provide states with enough money to cover those enrolled through March 2009. Bush and some Republican lawmakers say the program will still serve those that it should: children from families who earn too much to qualify for Medicaid but cannot afford private insurance.
"We're pleased that the program will be extended and that states can be certain of their funding," White House spokesman Tony Fratto said.
Yet many Democrats — with help from other Republicans — wanted to give the program a significant cash infusion and broaden coverage to an estimated 4 million children. They overwhelmingly supported use of a tobacco tax increase to pay for the expansion.
The matter came to dominate legislative debate and further sour relations between the Democratic leadership and Bush this year. Twice, Bush vetoed bills that would have expanded the government-provided health insurance for children.
The Democratic-pushed bills would have expanded the program by $35 billion. Bush said the legislation did not put the neediest children first. He opposed the tax increase and, more broadly, fought against what he saw as a movement toward more government health coverage.
The joint federal-state program currently provides benefits to roughly 6 million people, mostly children. Democratic lawmakers plan to try again to expand enrollment.
THE BOSTON GLOBE - JOHN TIRMAN
"The murky toll of the Iraq war"
By John Tirman, January 19, 2008
ONCE AGAIN, a controversy has erupted over how many people are being killed in Iraq. It's an important debate, not only for beleaguered Iraqis, but for Americans seeking stability and a timely exit.
Mortality figures alone can tell a compelling story. Add to that other numbers that fill in our understanding even more - such as the scale of the flow of refugees or the women widowed by the war - and we have useful information.
So what are these statistics, and what do they tell us about this nearly five-year-old conflict?
Two kinds of accounts have emerged on the question of mortality. One is a literal count, body by body, from reports in the English language press. Because the media, mostly based in Baghdad, cannot grasp most of the violence, this is an undercount (now about 84,000) even by the reckoning of its authors, the UK-based Iraq Body Count.
The second method is to go out and ask the question in surveys of randomly selected households. This has been done five times under very dangerous conditions. Surveys of this kind during war are relatively new, and, as a result, it's not surprising that the numbers they've produced have varied. But there is significant congruence.
The surveys agree that mortality is much higher than is typically held in political discussions about Iraq. The highest figure, from Opinion Business Research, a private survey firm in London, is 1.2 million through August 2007. It is also the most recent.
About 15 months ago, a survey commissioned by my center at MIT and published in The Lancet found that 601,000 had died by violence through June 2006. This figure has created a firestorm of criticism, but the methods are sound and none of the many peer reviews found anything greatly amiss. (One recalculation brought the death-by-violence total down to 450,000.)
Then last week, Iraq's Ministry of Health released its large survey, also ending in June 2006, finding that 151,000 had died by violence. But their data tables show an enormous "excess death" total of nearly 400,000 caused by the war, and a peculiarly flat rate of violence throughout the war. Because the interviewers worked for the government, it's likely that many respondents attributed deaths to nonviolent causes, in order to protect themselves from unwanted attention.
What to make of all this? The first conclusion is that hundreds of thousands of people have died as a result of the war - this seems incontrovertible. It is buttressed by the large number of displaced - some 3 million to 3.5 million caused by the war - and a reported total of 500,000 war widows.
The second conclusion, which helps us understand the violence, is that such a human catastrophe accounts for the insurgency in ways that no other explanation does. Whatever one makes of these insurgents, they appear to be fighting to defend their towns and tribes (apart from Al Qaeda's foreign operation). Violence begets violence, especially when foreigners are involved.
The third conclusion is that Iraq's devastation runs deep and wide. A generation of young men is being wiped out. Many of the most educated have left. The poverty of widespread widowhood may become chronic. The healthcare system is in shambles. Neighborhoods and towns ethnically cleansed means long-lasting displacement for tens of thousands. The humanitarian aid challenge is vast, and will last for many years.
How this affects US strategy is complex, of course, but two things stand out. First is that strategies to reduce violence against civilians and to increase economic and physical security are paramount. US leaders seem to grasp this, but their actions (arming Sunni militias, for example) may prove foolhardy.
Second, Iraq's neighbors must be part of the solution, given the scale of misery. President Bush has never embraced this idea, but it seems more and more obvious as the war drags on. Yet on Bush's recent trip to the region, Iraq was nearly absent from his agenda.
The lessons from the killing fields and refugees and widows won't go away. The sooner we fully realize the scale of this catastrophe, the better we may be able to work on reconstructive remedies.
John Tirman is executive director and a principal research scientist at MIT's Center for International Studies.
"Bush 2009 budget to freeze many programs"
By KEVIN FREKING, Associated Press Writer, January 31, 2008
President Bush's 2009 budget will virtually freeze most domestic programs and seek nearly $200 billion in savings from federal health care programs, a senior administration official said Thursday.
The Bush budget also will likely exceed $3 trillion, this official said.
Bush on Monday will present his proposed budget for the new fiscal year to Congress, where it's unlikely to gain much traction in the midst of a presidential campaign.
The president will propose nearly $178 billion in savings from Medicare — a number that's nearly triple what he proposed last year. Much of the savings would come from freezing reimbursement rates for most health care providers for three years. Another $17 billion would come from the Medicaid program, the state-federal partnership that provides health coverage to the poor. The cuts would come over five years.
The official, whose spoke on condition of anonymity because the budget has not yet been released, said the budget for domestic programs would look like last year's.
"It's a very small increase," he said. "Very small."
A second official, who also spoke on condition of anonymity, said that domestic discretionary spending would increase by less than 1 percent under Bush's proposal.
The budget is likely to have deficits of about $400 billion for this year and next.
Economists say the best measure of the deficit is to compare it against the size of the economy. By that standard, a $400 billion deficit represents almost 3 percent of the gross domestic product. By contrast, President Clinton was facing deficits in the 4 percent range when he felt compelled to tackle the issue in 1993.
One official made that clear that Medicare would continue to grow, but not as quickly as had been expected. "Medicare will grow at 5 percent. It just won't grow over 7 percent," said this official.
Savings also would come by charging wealthier people higher monthly premiums for Medicare's drug program.
He said that Medicare's rapid growth, especially as the baby boomers become eligible for the program, must be addressed. He said critics of the Bush administration's proposals should come up with their own plan.
President Bush said Congress's prohibition on building permanent military bases in Iraq infringes on his executive powers.
"Bush asserts authority to bypass defense act: Calls restrictions unconstitutional"
By Charlie Savage, Boston Globe Staff, January 30, 2008
WASHINGTON - President Bush this week declared that he has the power to bypass four laws, including a prohibition against using federal funds to establish permanent US military bases in Iraq, that Congress passed as part of a new defense bill.
Bush made the assertion in a signing statement that he issued late Monday after signing the National Defense Authorization Act for 2008. In the signing statement, Bush asserted that four sections of the bill unconstitutionally infringe on his powers, and so the executive branch is not bound to obey them.
"Provisions of the act . . . purport to impose requirements that could inhibit the president's ability to carry out his constitutional obligations to take care that the laws be faithfully executed, to protect national security, to supervise the executive branch, and to execute his authority as commander in chief," Bush said. "The executive branch shall construe such provisions in a manner consistent with the constitutional authority of the President."
One section Bush targeted created a statute that forbids spending taxpayer money "to establish any military installation or base for the purpose of providing for the permanent stationing of United States Armed Forces in Iraq" or "to exercise United States control of the oil resources of Iraq."
The Bush administration is negotiating a long-term agreement with Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. The agreement is to include the basing of US troops in Iraq after 2008, as well as security guarantees and other economic and political ties between the United States and Iraq.
The negotiations have drawn fire in part because the administration has said it does not intend to designate the compact as a "treaty," and so will not submit it to Congress for approval. Critics are also concerned Bush might lock the United States into a deal that would make it difficult for the next president to withdraw US troops from Iraq.
"Every time a senior administration official is asked about permanent US military bases in Iraq, they contend that it is not their intention to construct such facilities," said Senator Robert P. Casey Jr., Democrat of Pennsylvania, in a Senate speech yesterday. "Yet this signing statement issued by the president yesterday is the clearest signal yet that the administration wants to hold this option in reserve."
Several other congressional Democrats also took issue with the signing statement.
"I reject the notion in his signing statement that he can pick and choose which provisions of this law to execute," said Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Democrat of California. "His job, under the Constitution, is to faithfully execute the law - every part of it - and I expect him to do just that."
Bush's signing statement did not explain the specific basis for his objection to the prohibition on establishing permanent military bases in Iraq.
But last year, the White House told Congress that a similar provision in another bill "impermissibly infringes upon the president's constitutional authority to negotiate treaties and conduct the nation's foreign affairs."
Some legal specialists disagreed with the administration's legal theory.
"Congress clearly has the authority to enact this limitation of the expenditure of funds for permanent bases in Iraq," said Dawn Johnsen, an Indiana University law professor who was the head of the Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel during the Clinton administration.
Bush's frequent use of signing statements to advance aggressive theories of executive power has been a hallmark of his presidency. Previous presidents occasionally used the device, but Bush has challenged more sections of bills than all his predecessors combined - among them, a ban on torture.
Bush signing statements prompted widespread controversy when his record came to light in 2006. After Democrats took over Congress in 2007, Bush initially issued fewer and less aggressive signing statements. But his new statement returned to the previous approach, observers said.
The signing statement also targeted a provision in the defense bill that strengthens protections for whistle-blowers working for companies that hold government contracts. The new law expands employees' ability to disclose wrongdoing without being fired, and it gives greater responsibility to federal inspectors general to investigate complaints of retaliation.
In addition, Bush targeted a section that requires intelligence agencies to turn over "any existing intelligence assessment, report, estimate or legal opinion" requested by the leaders of the House and Senate armed services committees within 45 days. If the president wants to assert executive privilege to deny the request, the law says, White House counsel must do so in writing.
Finally, Bush's signing statement raised constitutional questions about a section of the bill that established an independent, bipartisan "Commission on Wartime Contracting in Iraq and Afghanistan" to investigate allegations of waste, mismanagement, and excessive force by contractors.
The law requires the Pentagon to provide information to the panel "expeditiously" upon its request.
The signing statement did not make clear whether Bush is objecting to the creation of the commission because some of its members will be appointed by Congress or whether he is reserving the right to turn down its requests for information - or both.
Phillip Cooper, a political science professor at Portland State University, noted that Bush's statement does not clearly spell out the basis for any of his challenges. Cooper, who has been a pioneer in studying signing statements, said the vague language itself is a problem.
"It is very hard for Congress or the American people to figure out what is supposed to happen and what the implications of this are," Cooper said.
The White House did not respond to a Globe request to explain the objections in greater detail. But the Bush administration has repeatedly insisted that its use of signing statements has been both lawful and appropriate.
Still, the signing statement makes one thing clear, according to David Barron, a Harvard law professor. The White House, he said, is pressing forward with its effort to establish that the commander in chief can defy laws limiting his options in national security matters. The administration made similar assertions in recent disputes over warrantless wiretapping and interrogation methods, he said.
"What this shows is that they're continuing to assert the same extremely aggressive conception of the president's unilateral power to determine how and when US force will be used abroad, and that's a dramatic departure from the American constitutional tradition," said Barron, who was a Justice Department official in the 1990s.
In 2006, the American Bar Association condemned signing statements as "contrary to the rule of law and our constitutional separation of powers."
Among the presidential candidates, Mitt Romney, Hillary Clinton, and Barack Obama have said they would issue signing statements if elected. John McCain said he would not.
"The imperial presidency rears its head again"
The Boston Globe, Letters, February 1, 2008
TAME AS he sounded in his State of the Union address, President Bush is not going to give up promoting his war in Iraq. The signing statements he made before his speech are dangerous signals that he intends to raise the stakes in Iraq ("Bush asserts authority to bypass defense act," Page A1, Jan. 30). Claiming the authority to build permanent bases in Iraq is only one of the plans he has; another, apparently, is maintaining troop levels by keeping soldiers there that were originally slated to come home, so that a year from now troop numbers will be the same or higher than they are now. We will have to confront Bush's determination to override the people's will and to make this war last much longer.
THANKS FOR another reminder that the US Constitution is in shreds. A war based on lies, warrantless wiretapping, the outing of an undercover agent, signing statements that disavow any responsibility to obey the laws, yada, yada - all these high crimes and misdemeanors raise the question: Why doesn't Congress act to impeach?
More specifically, what are the Democrats protecting by refusing to honor their oath to uphold the Constitution and hold the perpetrators accountable? Perhaps part of the answer lies in the last sentence of the article, which states that Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton have said they would issue signing statements if elected.
As Daniel Ellsberg (remember him?) said recently, the coup has happened. We now have an imperial presidency.
TWO HEADLINES in the Jan. 30 edition - "President says his faith helped him overcome alcohol 'addiction' " and "Bush asserts power to bypass defense act" - confirm my view that President Bush is drunk with power and should go into detox or be impeached now.
A Boston GLOBE EDITORIAL
"The CIA's criminal admission"
February 7, 2008
THE Central Intelligence Agency and the Pentagon have both banned the use of waterboarding in interrogations, but a spokesman for President Bush said yesterday that Bush could still authorize its use in the future. Congress, which already passed a broadly worded ban on torture in 2006, has no choice but to specifically prohibit this technique.
White House deputy spokesman Tony Fratto made the statement that Bush still retains the right to use waterboarding after congressional testimony Tuesday by CIA Director Michael Hayden. With the approval of the president, Hayden had told Congress that his agency had used the simulated-drowning technique on three Al Qaeda suspects in 2002 and 2003. Hayden's testimony was the first official acknowledgement by the government that it had waterboarded suspects.
Senator Dick Durbin of Illinois has called on Attorney General Michael Mukasey to investigate the CIA waterboarding. Durbin has said he will delay confirmation of Mukasey's deputy until the attorney general responds to this and other issues.
In legislating an explicit ban on waterboarding, Congress should get testimony from the director of national intelligence, Mike McConnell. He recently told The New Yorker that "whether it's torture by anybody else's definition, for me it would be torture." Congress should also hear from its own Senator John McCain, the most vocal supporter on Capitol Hill of the anti-torture law, who has noted that waterboarding was used during the Spanish Inquisition and during Pol Pot's genocide in Cambodia.
In 1901 in the United States, the military court-martialed and sentenced to 10 years hard labor a US major who had waterboarded a prisoner in the Philippines during the Spanish-American War. The United States officially outlawed the practice after World War II, when the Germans and Japanese had both used it against Allied troops. The Allies executed eight Japanese officers for waterboarding British prisoners and sentenced another to 15 years hard labor for waterboarding a US civilian, among other crimes.
The United Nations' Convention Against Torture prohibits any treatment of prisoners causing long-term physical or mental damage, which human-rights advocates believe includes waterboarding. The Bush administration points to the value of information provided by the Al Qaeda suspects after waterboarding, but outside analysts have questioned the validity of statements by one of the three, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed.
The Spanish Inquisition, Nazi Germany, militarist Japan, Pol Pot - this is the roster that Bush wants the United States to join. Congress should act to make sure that the United States does not once again stoop to using tortura del agua (water torture). That's what it was called during the Inquisition.
"AG won't probe CIA on torture laws: Says Justice Dept. memos signed off on waterboarding"
By Charlie Savage, Boston Globe Staff, February 8, 2008
WASHINGTON - Attorney General Michael B. Mukasey said yesterday that he will not allow the Justice Department to investigate whether CIA interrogators broke an antitorture law when they subjected detainees to simulated drownings, a controversial interrogation technique known as waterboarding that the Bush administration this week acknowledged it has used in the war on terrorism.
Testifying before the House Judiciary Committee, Mukasey said it would be inappropriate to investigate the interrogators because the Justice Department had issued secret memos concluding that President Bush's wartime powers made waterboarding and warrantless surveillance legally permissible.
"Essentially, it would tell people, you rely on a Justice Department opinion as part of a program, then you will be subject to criminal investigation when and if the tenure of the person who wrote the opinion changes or, indeed, the political winds change," Mukasey said. "And that's not something that I think would be appropriate, and it's not something I will do."
The question of whether the Justice Department would open a criminal investigation into the CIA's interrogation practices arose earlier this week, after CIA director Michael V. Hayden told Congress that agency interrogators had subjected three detainees to waterboarding in 2002 and 2003.
A White House spokesman later confirmed Hayden's testimony, adding that Bush reserved a right to allow the CIA to use the technique again if circumstances warrant it.
The administration support for such interrogation techniques has been a flashpoint since the Abu Ghraib prison scandal in 2004, and Mukasey's confirmation was nearly derailed when he refused to say whether he thought waterboarding is legal in hearings last fall before the Senate Judiciary Committee.
The administration had previously sidestepped legal questions about waterboarding by refusing to discuss whether its classified interrogation program included the technique, which dates back to the Spanish Inquisition. Many in Washington - including Senator John McCain of Arizona, the presumptive 2008 Republican presidential nominee - consider waterboarding a form of torture.
The White House insists waterboarding is not torture. But the controversy surrounding Bush's counterterrorism policies on such matters as interrogation and surveillance has centered on whether the Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel, a small group of politically-appointed attorneys who advise the president, has correctly interpreted the law.
After the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, the office issued a series of secret opinions that provided legal cover for a broad range of Bush's counterterrorism policies, including surveillance without court permission, withholding Geneva Conventions abuse protections, and such interrogation techniques as waterboarding.
Most of the opinions were written by John Yoo, a former assistant deputy attorney general who, along with David Addington, Vice President Dick Cheney's top aide, was a chief architect of the administration's legal strategy for the war on terrorism. Yoo, who returned to the University of California at Berkeley's law school in 2003, relied upon aggressive theories about the president's alleged wartime power to bypass statutes and ratified treaties at his own discretion.
Many legal scholars have disagreed with Yoo's theories. In 2004, the administration retracted several of Yoo's opinions, including memos declaring that Bush could authorize harsh interrogations against terrorism suspects and warrantless surveillance on international communications and e-mails.
Mukasey, who became attorney general last fall after Alberto R. Gonzales resigned, said it would be wrong to investigate officials who relied upon such memos when waterboarding prisoners or conducting warrantless surveillance, in part because officials would stop trusting other legal opinions from the department.
But Representative William D. Delahunt, Democrat of Massachusetts, said Mukasey was essentially giving "immunity from any criminal culpability" to anyone who breaks a law, so long as the Office of Legal Counsel secretly signs off on the conduct - even if the legal advice was "inaccurate."
But Mukasey said government officials should be able to rely on the advice of the Justice Department without fear that they might face an investigation if department lawyers changed their position on what is permissible.
Tom Malinowski, the Washington advocacy director of Human Rights Watch, said he was "not surprised, but certainly disappointed" by Mukasey's decision not to investigate either the interrogators or the officials who authorized the waterboarding.
"They don't want to start asking these questions because the inevitable result of answering them is that . . . a crime was committed," he said.
Some legal scholars who are generally critical of the Bush administration's legal theories said they agreed with Mukasey that officials should not be prosecuted for conduct the Office of Legal Counsel had authorized.
"People who rely on good faith on an Office of Legal Counsel opinion should not be prosecuted even if it turns out that the opinion was wrong," said Dawn Johnsen, an Indiana University law professor who ran the office during the Clinton administration. "To prosecute a government employee who relied upon that opinion is not the way to fix the problem."
The way to fix that problem, she said, was through more aggressive congressional oversight - including by lawmakers insisting they be shown any memos that conclude that a president's constitutional powers trump a statute.
Yesterday, the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, Representative John Conyers, Democrat of Michigan, asked to see the waterboarding memos, saying he and his colleagues had top-secret security clearances. Mukasey refused, saying the memos discussed a classified program.
Bush explains veto of waterboarding bill
By JENNIFER LOVEN, Associated Press Writer
March 8, 2008
President Bush said Saturday he vetoed legislation that would ban the CIA from using harsh interrogation methods such as waterboarding to break suspected terrorists because it would end practices that have prevented attacks.
"The bill Congress sent me would take away one of the most valuable tools in the war on terror," Bush said in his weekly radio address taped for broadcast Saturday. "So today I vetoed it," Bush said. The bill provides guidelines for intelligence activities for the year and includes the interrogation requirement. It passed the House in December and the Senate last month.
"This is no time for Congress to abandon practices that have a proven track record of keeping America safe," the president said.
Supporters of the legislation say it would preserve the United States' ability to collect critical intelligence and raise country's moral standing abroad.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Congress would work to override Bush's veto next week. "In the final analysis, our ability to lead the world will depend not only on our military might, but on our moral authority," said Pelosi, D-Calif.
But based on the margin of passage in each chamber, it would be difficult for the Democratic-controlled Congress to turn back the veto. It takes a two-thirds majority, and the House vote was 222-199 and the Senate's was 51-45.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said Bush often warns against ignoring the advice of U.S. commanders on the ground in Iraq. Yet the president has rejected the Army Field Manual, which recognizes that harsh interrogation tactics elicit unreliable information, said Reid, D-Nev.
"Democrats will continue working to reverse the damage President Bush has caused to our standing in the world," Reid said.
Jennifer Daskal, senior counterterrorism counsel at Human Rights Watch, said Bush "will go down in history as the torture president" for defying Congress and allowing the CIA to use interrogation techniques "that any reasonable observer would call torture."
"The Bush administration continues to insist that CIA and other nonmilitary interrogators are not bound by the military rules and has reportedly given CIA interrogators the green light to use a range of so-called 'enhanced' interrogation techniques, including prolonged sleep deprivation, painful stress positions, and exposure to extreme cold," Daskal said. "Although waterboarding is not currently approved for use by the CIA, Attorney General Michael Mukasey has refused to take it off the table for the future."
The intelligence bill would limit CIA interrogators to the 19 techniques allowed for use by military questioners. The Army field manual in 2006 banned using methods such as waterboarding or sensory deprivation on uncooperative prisoners.
Bush said the CIA must retain use of "specialized interrogation procedures" that the military does not need. The military methods are designed for questioning "lawful combatants captured on the battlefield," while intelligence professionals are dealing with "hardened terrorists" who have been trained to resist the techniques in the Army manual, the president said.
"We created alternative procedures to question the most dangerous al-Qaida operatives, particularly those who might have knowledge of attacks planned on our homeland," Bush said. "If we were to shut down this program and restrict the CIA to methods in the field manual, we could lose vital information from senior al-Qaida terrorists, and that could cost American lives."
The 19 interrogation techniques include the "good cop/bad cop" routine; making prisoners think they are in another country's custody; and separating a prisoner from others for up to 30 days.
Among the techniques the field manual prohibits are:
_hooding prisoners or putting duct tape across their eyes.
_stripping prisoners naked.
_forcing prisoners to perform or mimic sexual acts.
_beating, burning or physically hurting them in other ways.
_subjecting prisoners to hypothermia or mock executions.
It does not allow food, water and medical treatment to be withheld. Dogs may not be used in any aspect of interrogation.
But waterboarding is the most high-profile and contentious method in question.
It involves strapping a person down and pouring water over his cloth-covered face to create the sensation of drowning. It has been traced back hundreds of years to the Spanish Inquisition and is condemned by nations around the world and human rights organizations as torture.
The Detainee Treatment Act of 2005 includes a provision barring cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment for all detainees, including CIA prisoners, in U.S. custody. Many people believe that covers waterboarding.
There are concerns that the use of waterboarding would undermine the U.S. human rights efforts overseas and could place Americans at greater risk of being tortured when captured.
The military specifically prohibited waterboarding in 2006. The CIA also prohibited the practice in 2006 and says it has not been used since three prisoners encountered it in 2003.
But the administration has refused to rule definitively on whether it is torture. Bush has said many times that his administration does not torture.
The White House says waterboarding remains among the interrogation methods potentially available to the CIA.
"Because the danger remains, we need to ensure our intelligence officials have all the tools they need to stop the terrorists," Bush said.
"Fact Check: Bush offers rosy view"
By TOM RAUM, Associated Press Writer
Saturday, March 8, 2008, 7:36 AM ET
President Bush put the best face on Friday's grim employment report, claiming a recently passed economic stimulus package should provide a "booster shot" to an economy he acknowledged was in decline — but on track, he said, to prosper in the future.
Economists, for the most part, don't share his rosy outlook.
The Labor Department reported Friday that the economy lost 63,000 payroll jobs in February, the deepest cut in five years, after losing 22,000 jobs in January. The February figure would have been even higher — over 100,000 lost jobs in the private sector — had it not been for an offsetting increase in government jobs of 38,000.
Bush sought to ease fears that the U.S. is slipping into a recession, saying he is taking action to get the economy back on track.
"I know this is a difficult time for our economy, but we recognized the problem early and provided the economy with a booster shot," Bush told reporters at the White House on Friday. "We will begin to see the impact over the coming months."
"In the long run, we can have confidence that so long as we pursue pro-growth, low-tax policies that put faith in the American people, our economy will prosper," he said.
Bush also noted that "the unemployment rate improved to 4.8 percent."
A White House "fact sheet" boasts that the economy has added "more than 8.1 million jobs since August 2003."
In his remarks, Bush said the $152 billion stimulus package passed last month by Congress would give the economy a needed jolt. Rebate checks of $600 for individuals, $1,200 for couples, plus $300 each for dependent children for all but the highest-paid Americans will start appearing in consumers' mailboxes in May.
"We expect they will use it to boost consumer spending and that will spur job creation as well," Bush said.
The "improvement" in the monthly unemployment rate to 4.8 percent is not really good news. The statistic was largely driven by the fact that so many adults have become discouraged and stopped looking for work, contributing to a drop in the total number of adults either employed or looking for work.
University of Maryland economist Peter Morici calculates that, factoring in the decline in adults looking for work, the unemployment rate is actually 6.8 percent.
As to job growth during Bush's term, do you wonder why the administration picked August 2003 as a starting point?
That's because it was a low point for job creation.
When Bush took office in January 2001, there were 132.5 million non-farm workers. In August 2003, the number had fallen to 129.8 million. As of February, there are 138 million in the work force — for a net increase since Bush took office of 5.5 million.
That barely keeps pace with population growth, economists suggest.
Many economists say the U.S. economy is already in recession — even though it hasn't met the classic definition of two back-to-back quarters of declining gross domestic product — and say the White House is trying to sugarcoat the statistics.
The U.S. economy grew at a 0.6 percent annual rate in the October-December 2007 quarter.
"They're certainly trying to put the best face on the situation. They're spinning it their way," said Standard and Poor's chief economist David Wyss, who suggests the economy dipped into recession sometime last month.
"I don't think they're falsifying the data. Presidents always play cheerleaders. I don't think I've ever heard a president say that we were in a recession until we were just about out of it," Wyss said.
Bush's top economic adviser, Edward Lazear, acknowledged Friday that the economy may dip into negative territory in the current quarter.
As for the stimulus package, economists say the rebates, in fact, could help keep the recession shallow, or even lift the economy out of recession. Some suggest, however, that such a "recovery" could be short-lived, with the economy slipping back into recession at the end of this year or early next year.
That could have an important bearing on the presidential election in November. Economic distress is generally seen as hurting Republican candidates more than Democrats.
"Bush pushes for seed money for missiles in space"
By Jim Wolf, April 9, 2008
COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (Reuters) - The Bush administration and Republican allies in Congress are again pushing for seed money to explore options for putting a multibillion-dollar layer of ballistic-missile interceptors in space.
Last year, the Democratic-controlled Congress rejected the administration's request for $10 million to resume studies on the idea, first floated in the 1980s as part of then-President Ronald Reagan's Strategic Defense Initiative.
Derided by critics as "Star Wars," the concept has been embraced by missile-defense backers as potentially more effective than sea- and ground-based parts of an emerging shield against missiles that could be tipped with chemical, germ or nuclear warheads.
Any such space project would be a boon for U.S. missile-defense contractors such as Boeing Co, Lockheed Martin Corp, Northrop Grumman Corp, Raytheon Co and Orbital Sciences Corp.
Air Force Lt. Gen. Henry Obering, head of the Pentagon's Missile Defense Agency, told Congress recently that the administration was again seeking $10 million to study interceptors in space.
"I think it's very prudent that out of a $9.3 billion request (for the Missile Defense Agency in the 2009 budget year), that we allocate at least $10 million to maintaining our options with respect to the future," Obering said at an April 1 hearing of the Senate Armed Forces strategic forces subcommittee.
"And that future -- in terms of flexibility, of not knowing which axis the threat may come from -- is in space," Obering said.
A space-based missile-defense layer could involve some 1,000 orbiting interceptors at an estimated cost of $16.4 billion, according to a 2006 report by leading missile-defense advocates who call themselves the Independent Working Group.
Critics such as Philip Coyle, the Pentagon's top weapons tester under former President Bill Clinton, has said putting such interceptors in space would probably cost some $40 billion.
At a space symposium in Colorado Springs, Sen. Wayne Allard, a Colorado Republican on the Senate Appropriations Committee, said Tuesday that the time had come to start the project despite the big price tag and long-standing opposition from China, Russia and others.
"A layer of space-based interceptors would enable a global on-call missile defense capability that could produce a timely response to rapidly evolving situations and would enable the U.S. to be prepared for all types of threats that could develop out of unpredictable locations," he told the symposium, which drew more than 7,000 rocket scientists, corporate executives, military officers and others.
The Bush administration says its $10 million request is for a space-based "test bed" to start "concept analysis in preparation for certain small-scale experiments," according to Sen. Jeff Sessions. The Alabama Republican, who backs the funding, is on the Armed Services panel.
Asked about this at the space conference, Roger Krone, president of the Boeing business unit that manages the core ground-based missile-defense system, told Reuters: "If that's what the customer wants, we'll be happy to write a proposal."
Sen. Jon Kyle, an Arizona Republican who is another prominent booster of space-based interceptors, dismissed critics' contentions that the project would cross a threshold by putting weapons in space for the first time.
In using a ground-based ballistic missile to shoot apart one of its satellites in polar orbit in January 2007, China had already joined in "weaponizing" space, Kyle told an American Foreign Policy Council seminar on March 10.
"By the way, it was a weapon that traveled through space to hit its target then," he said. He added that the U.S. destruction of a crippled satellite bearing an unused supply of deadly propellant in February "would classify as the same weaponization of space, if that is the issue."
(Editing by Lisa Von Ahn)
"Top Bush advisers said to vet harsh interrogation tactics: Met repeatedly at White House, ex-official says"
By Lara Jakes Jordan and Pamela Hess, Associated Press, April 11, 2008, (via The Boston Globe Online).
WASHINGTON - Bush administration officials from Vice President Dick Cheney on down signed off on using harsh interrogation techniques against suspected terrorists after asking the Justice Department to endorse their legality, the Associated Press has learned.
The officials also took care to insulate President Bush from a series of meetings where CIA interrogation methods, including waterboarding, which simulates drowning, were discussed and ultimately approved.
A former senior US intelligence official familiar with the meetings described them yesterday to confirm details first reported by ABC News on Wednesday. The intelligence official spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to publicly discuss the issue.
Between 2002 and 2003, the Justice Department issued several memos from its Office of Legal Counsel that sought to justify using the interrogation tactics, including ones that critics call torture.
"If you looked at the timing of the meetings and the memos you'd see a correlation," the former intelligence official said. Those who attended the dozens of meetings agreed that "there'd need to be a legal opinion on the legality of these tactics" before using them on Al Qaeda detainees, the former official said.
The meetings were held in the White House Situation Room in the years immediately following the Sept. 11 attacks. Attending the sessions were Cheney; John Ashcroft, then attorney general; Colin Powell, then secretary of state; George Tenet, then director of the CIA; and Condoleezza Rice, then national security adviser and now secretary of state.
The White House, Justice and State departments, and the CIA refused to comment yesterday, as did a spokesman for Tenet. A message for Ashcroft was not immediately returned.
Senator Edward M. Kennedy of Massachusetts lambasted what he described as "yet another astonishing disclosure about the Bush administration and its use of torture."
The American Civil Liberties Union called on Congress to investigate.
"With each new revelation, it is beginning to look like the torture operation was managed and directed out of the White House," ACLU legislative director Caroline Fredrickson said. "This is what we suspected all along."
The former intelligence official described Cheney and the top national security officials as deeply immersed in developing the CIA's interrogation program during months of discussions.
At times, CIA officers would demonstrate some of the tactics, or at least detail how they worked, to make sure the small group of "principals" fully understood what the Al Qaeda detainees would undergo. The principals eventually authorized physical abuse such as slaps and pushes, sleep deprivation, or waterboarding.
The small group then asked the Justice Department to examine whether using the interrogation methods would break domestic or international laws.
"People wanted to be assured that everything that was conducted was understood and approved by the folks in the chain of command," said a second former senior intelligence official.
The Office of Legal Counsel issued at least two opinions on interrogation methods. In one, dated Aug. 1, 2002, torture was defined as covering "only extreme acts" causing pain similar in intensity to that caused by death or organ failure. A second, dated March 14, 2003, justified using harsh tactics on detainees held overseas, provided military interrogators did not specifically intend to torture their captives.
Both legal opinions have been withdrawn.
"Auditors: Administration overstepped on child health program"
4/18/2008, 3:56 p.m. EDT, The Associated Press
WASHINGTON (AP) — The Bush administration overreached last year when it limited states' ability to extend health coverage to moderate-income children, government auditors said in a letter released Friday.
The auditors' opinion may not bode well for the administration as it battles multiple lawsuits challenging changes it made to the State Children's Health Insurance Program.
The policies made it harder for states to extend government-sponsored health insurance to children whose family's income exceeds 250 percent of the poverty level, or $44,000 for a family of three. Several states want to expand their programs to cover families above that income level.
The Government Accountability Office advised Sen. Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va., that the administration's policy changes amounted to a rule that should have been submitted to Congress and the comptroller general before going into effect. Instead, the administration sent a letter to state health officials informing them of the changes they were making to the program, which it described as a clarification of existing law.
Nearly a decade ago, Congress passed legislation that gives it the ability to disapprove of broad regulatory rules by passing a joint resolution of disapproval. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services did not follow the process that would allow Congress to take such action, the GAO told Rockefeller.
"CMS now has a critical choice to make: rescind the rule or continue to spend taxpayer money defending a growing list of lawsuits it is unlikely to win," Rockefeller said in a press release he issued along with Sen. Olympia Snowe, R-Maine.
The Boston Globe's "Quotes of Note", Saturday, May 17, 2008
"Some seem to believe we should negotiate with the terrorists and the radicals, as if some ingenious argument will persuade them they have been wrong all along. We have heard this foolish delusion before . . . We have an obligation to call this what it is - the false comfort of appeasement."-- PRESIDENT BUSH, in a speech to the Knesset in Jerusalem
"It is sad that President Bush would use a speech to the Knesset on the 60th anniversary of Israel's independence to launch a false political attack . . . George Bush knows I have never supported engagement with terrorists."-- Senator BARACK OBAMA, responding to Bush's criticism, which many believe was directed at the Illinois senator
The NY Times Online, May 28, 2008
"In Ex-Spokesman’s Book, Harsh Words for Bush"
By ELISABETH BUMILLER
PHOENIX — President Bush “convinces himself to believe what suits his needs at the moment,” and has engaged in “self-deception” to justify his political ends, Scott McClellan, the former White House press secretary, writes in a critical new memoir about his years in the West Wing.
In addition, Mr. McClellan writes, the decision to invade Iraq was a “serious strategic blunder,” and yet, in his view, it was not the biggest mistake the Bush White House made. That, he says, was “a decision to turn away from candor and honesty when those qualities were most needed.”
Mr. McClellan’s book, “What Happened: Inside the Bush White House and Washington’s Culture of Deception,” is the first negative account by a member of the tight circle of Texans around Mr. Bush. Mr. McClellan, 40, went to work for Mr. Bush when he was governor of Texas and was the White House press secretary from July 2003 to April 2006.
The revelations in the book, to be published by PublicAffairs next Tuesday, were first reported Tuesday on Politico.com by Mike Allen. Mr. Allen wrote that he bought the book at a Washington store. The New York Times also obtained an advance copy.
Mr. McClellan writes that top White House officials deceived him about the administration’s involvement in the leaking of the identity of a C.I.A. operative, Valerie Wilson. He says he did not know for almost two years that his statements from the press room that Karl Rove and I. Lewis Libby Jr. were not involved in the leak were a lie.
“Neither, I believe, did President Bush,” Mr. McClellan writes. “He too had been deceived, and therefore became unwittingly involved in deceiving me. But the top White House officials who knew the truth — including Rove, Libby, and possibly Vice President Cheney — allowed me, even encouraged me, to repeat a lie.”
He is harsh about the administration’s response to Hurricane Katrina, saying it “spent most of the first week in a state of denial” and “allowed our institutional response to go on autopilot.” Mr. McClellan blames Mr. Rove for one of the more damaging images after the hurricane: Mr. Bush’s flyover of the devastation of New Orleans. When Mr. Rove brought up the idea, Mr. McClellan writes, he and Dan Bartlett, a top communications adviser, told Mr. Bush it was a bad idea because he would appear detached and out of touch. But Mr. Rove won out, Mr. McClellan writes.
A theme in the book is that the White House suffered from a “permanent campaign” mentality, and that policy decisions were inextricably interwoven with politics.
He is critical of Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice for her role as the “sometimes too accommodating” first term national security adviser, and what he calls her deftness at protecting her reputation.
“No matter what went wrong, she was somehow able to keep her hands clean,” Mr. McClellan writes, adding that “she knew how to adapt to potential trouble, dismiss brooding problems, and come out looking like a star.”
Mr. McClellan does not exempt himself from failings — “I fell far short of living up to the kind of public servant I wanted to be” — and calls the news media “complicit enablers” in the White House’s “carefully orchestrated campaign to shape and manipulate sources of public approval” in the march to the Iraq war in 2002 and 2003.
He does have a number of kind words for Mr. Bush, particularly from the April day in 2006 when Mr. Bush met with Mr. McClellan after he learned he was being pushed out. “His charm was on full display, but it was hard to know if it was sincere or just an attempt to make me feel better,” Mr. McClellan writes. “But as he continued, something I had never seen before happened: tears were streaming down both his cheeks.”
The Boston Globe, Quotes of Note, May 31, 2008
"As I worked closely with President Bush, I would come to believe that sometimes he convinces himself to believe what suits his needs at the moment. It is not unlike a witness in court who does not want to implicate himself in wrongdoing, but is also concerned about perjuring himself."-- Former White House press secretary SCOTT McCLELLAN, in a new memoir due out next week
"Big-oil tax blocked"
By H. Josef Hebert, Associated Press
Wednesday, June 11, 2008
WASHINGTON — Saved by Senate Republicans, big oil companies dodged an attempt yesterday to slap them with a windfall profits tax and take away billions of dollars in tax breaks in response to the record gasoline prices that have the nation fuming.
GOP senators shoved aside the Democratic proposal, arguing that punishing Big Oil won't do a thing to lower the $4-a-gallon-price of gasoline that is sending economic waves across the country. High prices at the pump are threatening everything from summer vacations to Meals on Wheels deliveries to the elderly.
The Democratic energy package would have imposed a 25 percent tax on any "unreasonable" profits of the five largest U.S. oil companies, which together made $36 billion during the first three months of the year. It also would have given the government more power to address oil market speculation, opened the way for antitrust actions against countries belonging to the OPEC oil cartel, and made energy price gouging a federal crime.
"Americans are furious about what's going on," declared Sen. Byron Dorgan, D-N.D. He said they want Congress to do something about oil company profits and the "orgy of speculation" on oil markets.
But Republican leaders said the Democrats' plan would do harm rather than good — and they kept the legislation from being brought up for debate and amendments.
On world markets, oil prices retreated a bit yesterday but remained above $131 a barrel. Gasoline prices edged even higher to a nationwide record average of $4.04 a gallon.
At the Capitol, Democratic leaders needed 60 votes but received only 51 senators' support, including seven Republicans who bucked their party leaders. Sen. Mary Landrieu of Louisiana, a state tied closely to the oil industry, was the only Democrat opposing the bill.
"We are hurting as a country. We're hurting individually as Americans ... and the other side says, 'Do nothing. Don't even debate the issue,' " complained Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y.
"Average citizens are scratching their heads and saying, 'What's wrong with Washington?' " Schumer said.
GOP opponents argued that little was to be gained by imposing new taxes on the five U.S. oil giants: Exxon Mobil Corp., Chevron Corp., Shell Oil Co., BP America Inc. and ConocoPhilips Co.
Although these companies may be huge, they don't set world oil prices, and raising their taxes would discourage domestic oil production, the Republicans said of the Democrats' plan.
"In the middle of what some are calling the biggest energy shock in a generation ... they proposed as a solution, of all things, a windfall profits tax," Republican leader Mitch McDonnell of Kentucky chided the Democrats. He called their proposal "a gimmick" that would not lower gasoline prices and only hold back domestic oil production.
"The American people are clamoring for relief at the pump," agreed Sen. Pete Domenici, R-N.M., but "they will get exactly what they don't want" under the Democrats' plan — higher prices and an increase in oil imports.
The bill's supporters argued that their proposal was different from the windfall profits taxes of the early 1980s that thwarted domestic production and led to a rise in imports. The oil companies could avoid the tax by using their "windfall" to push alternative energy programs or refinery expansions, they said.
Shortly after the oil tax vote, Republicans blocked a second proposal that would extend tax breaks that have either expired or are scheduled to end this year for wind, solar and other alternative energy development, and for the promotion of energy efficiency and conservation. Again Democrats couldn't get the 60 votes to overcome a GOP filibuster.
Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada complained of "a pattern of obstruction" that has produced weeks of Senate gridlock.
"There's a presidential election going on," Reid noted, suggesting that the GOP standard bearer, Sen. John McCain, had not done enough to persuade more Republicans to cooperate. Neither McCain nor his Democratic rival, Sen. Barack Obama, were in Washington to cast votes on the energy issue yesterday.
Election-year politics hung over the debate. Democrats know their energy package has no chance of becoming law. Even it were to overcome a Senate GOP filibuster — a longshot at best — and the House acted, President Bush has made it clear he would veto it.
But there was nothing to lose by taking on Big Oil when people are paying $60 to $100 to fill up their gas tanks.
The oil companies have been frequent targets of Congress. Twice this year, top executives of the largest U.S. oil producers have been brought before congressional committees to explain their huge profits. And each time the executives urged lawmakers to resist punitive tax measures, blaming high costs on global supply and demand.
Besides the proposed windfall profits tax, the Democrats' bill also would have rescinded tax breaks that are expected to save the oil companies $17 billion over the next 10 years. The money would have been used to provide tax incentives for producers of wind, solar and other alternative energy sources as well as for energy conservation.
In an attempt to dampen oil market speculation, the legislation would require traders to put up more collateral in the energy futures markets and would provide authority to regulate U.S.-based trading in foreign markets. And it would make oil and gas price gouging a federal crime, with stiff penalties of up to $5 million during a presidentially declared energy emergency.
After yesterday's defeat, Democrats did not rule out pushing the issue again.
"This was politics at its worst," complained Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo. "This was a refusal to debate the biggest problem confronting the American people. ... That takes nerve."
"White House Tried to Silence EPA Proposal on Car Emissions: Agency Was Responding to Ruling About Clean Air Act"
By Juliet Eilperin. Washington Post Staff Writer, Thursday, June 26, 2008
White House officials last December sought to stop the Environmental Protection Agency from submitting a proposed rule that would limit greenhouse-gas emissions on the grounds they pose a threat to public welfare, agency sources said yesterday. And upon learning that EPA had hit the "send" button just minutes earlier, the White House called again to demand that the e-mail be recalled.
The EPA official who forwarded the e-mail, Associate Deputy Administrator Jason Burnett, refused, said the sources, who insisted on anonymity in order to discuss internal deliberations.
The proposed rule was EPA's response to an April 2007 Supreme Court ruling that the agency had violated the Clean Air Act by refusing to take up the issue of regulating automobile emissions that contribute to global warming.
Burnett, who resigned from the agency this month, sent the e-mail to the White House Office of Management and Budget at 2:17 p.m. Dec. 5 and received the call warning him to hold off at 2:25 p.m., the sources said. The EPA is expected to release a watered-down version of its original proposal within a week, highlighting the extent to which Bush administration officials continue to resist mandatory federal limits on emissions linked to global warming.
The New York Times reported Wednesday that White House officials never opened EPA's e-mail. In March, the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee disclosed documents showing that the White House had overruled EPA's findings on the impact of vehicle emissions on climate change.
Burnett refused to comment on the White House calls but said in an interview, "In early December, I sent an e-mail with the formal finding that action must be taken to address the risk of climate change," adding that he resigned his political appointment because the agency had been stymied in its efforts to respond to the Supreme Court. "The White House made it clear they did not want to address the ramifications of that finding and have decided to leave the challenge to the next administration. Some [at the White House] thought that EPA had mistakenly concluded that climate change endangers the public. It was no mistake."
The Supreme Court ruling held that the Clean Air Act compelled the government to determine whether greenhouse gases endanger public health or the environment. Agency Administrator Stephen L. Johnson is expected to issue an "advance notice of proposed rulemaking" this week or next that outlines the issues but takes no stand on whether to regulate carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases.
White House spokesman Tony Fratto declined to comment on the exchange, saying in an e-mail: "We don't comment on internal deliberations. As Steve Johnson said, both publicly and in congressional testimony, this was a decision he made on his own."
Congressional Democrats and several public health and environmental advocates said the fact that EPA changed its proposal under White House pressure will delay implementation of a national cap on carbon emissions and affect upcoming rules on fuel economy standards for automobiles.
Less than two weeks after EPA submitted its proposed rule on greenhouse gases, President Bush signed legislation that raises the fleetwide average fuel economy standard to 35 miles per gallon by 2020, arguing that this step would be more effective in limiting emissions. On Dec. 19, Johnson cited that law in denying California's petition for a waiver to allow it to directly limit greenhouse gases from vehicles.
EPA's original December proposal included language saying that climate change poses a threat to public welfare, but the draft that Johnson is preparing to issue will seek comments only on "whether" it poses such a danger, the sources said. It will also be shorter than the original document, which ran about 250 pages and included detailed alternative approaches on how to regulate greenhouse gases from fuels, vehicles and stationary sources such as power plants.
One EPA official said agency staff had encountered fierce opposition from Bush appointees on several of these sections. "They don't even want us to talk about alternatives," the official said, adding that Johnson and his top aides have been in an "intense negotiation" with White House officials on how much to alter the rulemaking, with Johnson working to resist major changes.
"The White House has found EPA's draft finding to be radioactive in three key areas," said S. William Becker, executive director of the National Association of Clean Air Agencies. "It validates the approval of California's waiver to regulate greenhouse gases from motor vehicles. It demonstrates that the Transportation Department's proposed fuel economy standards fall far short of what is technologically feasible and cost-effective. And it makes a strong case supporting how the existing Clean Air Act can be used to regulate greenhouse gases."
"Bush hails work by both parties on $162b war bill: Funds should last well into 2009"
By Ben Feller, Associated Press, July 1, 2008
WASHINGTON - President Bush signed legislation yesterday to pay for the war operations in Iraq and Afghanistan for the rest of his presidency and beyond, hailing the $162 billion plan as a rare product of bipartisan cooperation.
"This bill shows the American people that even in an election year, Republicans and Democrats can come together to stand behind our troops and their families," Bush said in an Oval Office ceremony.
Bush made a clear effort to thank members of both parties in Congress, singling out some sponsors of the long-delayed, compromise measure for praise. His positive comments contrasted with the confrontational tone that has dominated the debate between Congress and his administration over Iraq.
The legislation will bring to more than $650 billion the amount Congress has provided for the Iraq war since it began more than five years ago. For operations in Afghanistan, the total is nearly $200 billion, according to congressional officials.
"Our nation has no greater responsibility than supporting our men and women in uniform - especially since we're at war," Bush said. "This is a responsibility all of us in Washington share, not as Republicans or Democrats, but as Americans."
The package approved by Congress includes a doubling of GI Bill college benefits for troops and veterans. It also provides a 13-week extension of civilian unemployment benefits, $2.7 billion in emergency flood relief for the Midwest, and tens of billions of dollars for food aid, antidrug enforcement, Louisiana levee repairs, and other items.
The bill will fund the wars well into next year, after Bush has left office.
It also gives the next president several months to set Iraq policy after taking office in January - and spares lawmakers the need to cast more war funding votes closer to Election Day.
"Though it took more than 500 days for the new Congress to get it done, the combat forces serving in Iraq and Afghanistan will now have sufficient funding to carry out their missions through next spring," Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the Senate Republican leader, said in a statement.
The Democratic majority in Congress has tried, unsuccessfully, to force troop withdrawals and other limits on Bush's ability to conduct the war.
"I appreciate that Republicans and Democrats in Congress agreed to provide these vital funds without tying the hands of our commanders and without an artificial timetable of withdrawal from Iraq," Bush said.
Many war opponents in Congress have expressed frustration at having to yield to the lame-duck president.
No lawmakers attended the ceremony, White House press secretary Dana Perino said, because "they're all out of town." Congress is in recess.
The new GI Bill essentially would guarantee a full scholarship at any in-state public university, along with a housing stipend, for people who serve in the military for at least three years. The measure was written by Senator Jim Webb, Democrat of Virginia.
"A Backlog Of Cases Alleging Fraud: Whistle-Blower Suits Languish at Justice"
By Carrie Johnson, Washington Post Staff Writer, Wednesday, July 2, 2008; A01
More than 900 cases alleging that government contractors and drugmakers have defrauded taxpayers out of billions of dollars are languishing in a backlog that has built up over the past decade because the Justice Department cannot keep pace with the surge in charges brought by whistle-blowers, according to lawyers involved in the disputes.
The issue is drawing renewed interest among lawmakers and nonprofit groups because many of the cases involve the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, rising health-care payouts, and privatization of government functions -- all of which offer rich new opportunities to swindle taxpayers.
Since 2001, 300 to 400 civil cases have been filed each year by employees charging that their companies defrauded the government. But under the cumbersome process that governs these cases, Justice Department lawyers must review them under seal, and whistle-blowers routinely wait 14 months or longer just to learn whether the department will get involved. The government rejects about three-quarters of the cases it receives, saying that the vast majority have little merit.
Disputes can stay buried for years more while the government investigates the allegations.
"Even if no new cases are filed, it might take 10 years for the Department of Justice to clear its desk. Cases in the backlog represent a lot of money being left on the table," said Patrick Burns, a spokesman for Taxpayers Against Fraud, which advocates for Justice to receive more funding to support cases by whistle-blowers and their attorneys.
Supporters of federal intervention in the cases say the dividends are substantial: In recent years, verdicts and settlements have returned nearly $13 billion to the U.S. government.
At issue in most of the cases is whether companies knowingly sold defective products or overcharged federal agencies for items sold at home or offered to U.S. troops overseas. Under the Civil War-era False Claims Act, workers who file lawsuits alleging such schemes cannot discuss them or even disclose their existence until Justice decides whether to step in.
By its own account, the 75-lawyer unit in Washington that reviews the sensitive lawsuits is overloaded and understaffed. Only about 100 cases a year are investigated by the team, which works out of the commercial litigation branch of Justice's civil division.
Critics argue that the delays are at least partly the result of foot-dragging by Justice and the federal agencies whose position it represents, especially in the touchy area of suppliers that may have overbilled the government for equipment, food and other items used by troops in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Justice lawyers have rejected about 19 cases involving contractor fraud in Iraq and Afghanistan, registering five settlements that resulted in $16 million, officials said. Government officials said this week that they are considering whether to dive into 32 more whistle-blower cases involving Iraq or the Middle East.
"It's just flatly absurd for us to be five years into this war" with so few public cases, said Alan Grayson, a whistle-blower lawyer in Florida who has criticized the Justice effort and who is running for Congress as a Democrat.
In a statement, Justice spokesman Charles Miller said that career lawyers and supervisors base their determinations on merit, not on political sensitivities. "Our decisions to intervene or decline in cases involving Iraq and the Middle East are entirely consistent with our record in [whistle-blower] cases generally," he said.
Help from Justice greatly enhances the chances that a complicated fraud scheme can be unraveled, lawyers say. And department statistics show that cases Justice turns away win paltry, if any, financial recoveries.
Key lawmakers have called on Justice to make false-claims investigations a priority.
"Whistle-blowers are the key to the secrets locked in closets throughout the federal bureaucracy and government contractors," said Sen. Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa). "These patriotic Americans stick their necks out, against all odds, to help the federal government pursue fraud and save taxpayers tens of billions of dollars that would otherwise be lost."
Last month, Deputy Assistant Attorney General Michael F. Hertz told Congress that "the number and increased complexity of the fraud schemes presented to the department, combined with the volume of cases now under review, certainly present challenges."
Among the largest false-claims cases to date are a $650 million settlement earlier this year by drugmaker Merck in connection with an alleged failure to repay Medicaid rebates; a $515 million deal with Bristol-Myers Squibb to cover illegal drug pricing and marketing; and a $98 million agreement with software maker Oracle over pricing.
If their claims are successful, whistle-blowers can receive a hefty slice of the settlements or verdicts, sometimes as much as 20 percent of the award. A former Merck sales manager collected $68 million earlier this year for his role in exposing an alleged drug-pricing scheme.
Even bigger lawsuits containing potentially explosive allegations are waiting in the wings. The vast majority, more than 500 cases, involve the health-care and pharmaceutical industries and often involve Medicare and Medicaid funds.
Only a few hints of the Iraq and Afghanistan disputes have erupted publicly. One is a suit filed by two former employees of Custer Battles, a defense contracting company in Fairfax. The workers accused the company of inflating expenses on a contract it won to replace the Iraqi currency. After a three-week trial in 2006, a jury found in favor of the plaintiffs and awarded them $10 million. But U.S. District Judge T.S. Ellis III later tossed out the case, ruling that the money at issue, controlled in the early years of the Iraq conflict by the Coalition Provisional Authority, belonged to the Iraqi government, not U.S. taxpayers.
Justice declined the whistle-blowers' request to intervene before the case went to trial, plaintiffs' lawyers said. The government eventually weighed in with a court brief on behalf of the whistle-blowers when the case was appealed.
Frederick M. Morgan Jr., a Cincinnati lawyer who represents whistle-blowers, said that the numbers of lawyers willing to take on cases involving defense contractors has dwindled, in part because of Justice's slow decisions.
One of Morgan's lawsuits, against contractors hired by the Navy to build nuclear submarines and an Ohio company that manufactured submarine valves, took five years to resolve.
Another case, involving the manufacture of the F-22 fighter, was filed in early 1999. It was late 2006 before Justice decided not to intervene. The case is now in active litigation.
"The impact of a 7 1/2 -year delay in the litigation of a case is difficult to quantify but impossible to discount," Morgan said.
Whistle-blower lawyers say other factors can contribute to long delays, including the difficulty in investigating claims in war-torn areas and complications that arise when military officials contend that technology or other products at issue in the lawsuits are classified. In addition, Justice lawyers who handle civil cases often cannot proceed until authorities decide whether a case merits criminal prosecution, the lawyers said.
Even when older cases are pushed into the open, the passage of time can present courtroom challenges.
Last year, a D.C. jury awarded whistle-blower Richard Miller more than $30 million, a figure that now-Chief Judge Royce C. Lamberth tripled to $90 million. But in the dozen years since the suit was filed, witnesses' memories of events had dimmed and the U.S. Agency for International Development had tossed its investigative files.
The judge blasted civil division lawyers for "doing virtually nothing" to follow up for four years after Miller brought forward allegations in 1995 about bid rigging on construction contracts in Egypt. The delays meant "loss of evidence, fading memories, disappearance of documents," he wrote.
Justice spokesman Miller said that the civil case was stalled for years because criminal proceedings in the matter took priority. He added that the whistle-blower did not object to the government's repeated entreaties for more time.
Last week, Lamberth denied defense motions for a new trial. But the verdict is likely to be appealed, according to lawyers who participated.
"I have a feeling we're some way away from resolution," said Charles S. Leeper, a lawyer for B.L. Harbert International, the main construction company involved in the case.
The Boston Globe, Op-Ed, ANDREW J. BACEVICH
"What Bush hath wrought"
By Andrew J. Bacevich, July 1, 2008
FEW AMERICANS, whatever their political persuasion, will mourn George W. Bush's departure from office. Democrats and Republicans alike are counting the days until the inauguration of a new president will wipe the slate clean.
Yet in crucial respects, the Bush era will not end Jan. 20, 2009. The administration's many failures, especially those related to Iraq, mask a considerable legacy. Among other things, the Bush team has accomplished the following:
. Defined the contemporary era as an "age of terror" with an open-ended "global war" as the necessary, indeed the only logical, response;
. Promulgated and implemented a doctrine of preventive war, thereby creating a far more permissive rationale for employing armed force;
. Affirmed - despite the catastrophe of Sept. 11, 2001 - that the primary role of the Department of Defense is not defense, but power projection;
. Removed constraints on military spending so that once more, as Ronald Reagan used to declare, "defense is not a budget item";
. Enhanced the prerogatives of the imperial presidency on all matters pertaining to national security, effectively eviscerating the system of checks and balances;
. Preserved and even expanded the national security state, despite the manifest shortcomings of institutions such as the CIA and the Joint Chiefs of Staff;
. Preempted any inclination to question the wisdom of the post-Cold War foreign policy consensus, founded on expectations of a sole superpower exercising "global leadership";
. Completed the shift of US strategic priorities away from Europe and toward the Greater Middle East, the defense of Israel having now supplanted the defense of Berlin as the cause to which presidents and would-be presidents ritually declare their fealty.
By almost any measure, this constitutes a record of substantial, if almost entirely malignant, achievement.
Bush's harshest critics, left liberals as well as traditional conservatives, have repeatedly called attention to this record. That criticism has yet to garner mainstream political traction. Throughout the long primary season, even as various contenders in both parties argued endlessly about Iraq, they seemed oblivious to the more fundamental questions raised by the Bush years: whether global war makes sense as an antidote to terror, whether preventive war works, whether the costs of "global leadership" are sustainable, and whether events in Asia rather than the Middle East just might determine the course of the 21st century.
Now only two candidates remain standing. Senators John McCain and Barack Obama both insist that the presidential contest will mark a historic turning point. Yet, absent a willingness to assess in full all that Bush has wrought, the general election won't signify a real break from the past.
The burden of identifying and confronting the Bush legacy necessarily falls on Obama. Although for tactical reasons McCain will distance himself from the president's record, he largely subscribes to the principles informing Bush's post-9/11 policies. McCain's determination to stay the course in Iraq expresses his commitment not simply to the ongoing conflict there, but to the ideas that gave rise to that war in the first place. While McCain may differ with the president on certain particulars, his election will affirm the main thrust of Bush's approach to national security.
The challenge facing Obama is clear: he must go beyond merely pointing out the folly of the Iraq war; he must demonstrate that Iraq represents the truest manifestation of an approach to national security that is fundamentally flawed, thereby helping Americans discern the correct lessons of that misbegotten conflict.
By showing that Bush has put the country on a path pointing to permanent war, ever increasing debt and dependency, and further abuses of executive authority, Obama can transform the election into a referendum on the current administration's entire national security legacy. By articulating a set of principles that will safeguard the country's vital interests, both today and in the long run, at a price we can afford while preserving rather than distorting the Constitution, Obama can persuade Americans to repudiate the Bush legacy and to choose another course.
This is a stiff test, not the work of a speech or two, but of an entire campaign. Whether or not Obama passes the test will determine his fitness for the presidency.
Andrew J. Bacevich is professor of history and international relations at Boston University. His new book is "The Limits of Power: The End of American Exceptionalism."
COUNTDOWN TO CRAWFORD, TEXAS: The last days of the Bush Administration
Will history be kinder to Bush than we are?
It is fashionable these days, even popular, to question President Bush's standing in history. Critics assail the White House for a war that has cost the United States blood, treasure and international standing. At home, civil libertarians bemoan the loss of rights for both the law-abiding and the terrorist.
But there are some signs that history may judge Bush as a more substantial president than he is viewed by many Americans.
Progress in turning North Korea's dictator against nuclear weapons is, in some quarters, credited to Bush's resolute stance. The legacy in Africa is undeniable -- from an unprecedented $15 billion to confront AIDS to a staunch line against dictators like Zimbabwe's Robert Mugabe. And some believe that historians may come to regard Bush's decision to go to war in Iraq as critical to U.S. security. As British writer Andrew Roberts wrote recently in the Daily Telegraph:
"No one -- least of all Bush himself -- denies that mistakes were made in the early days after the (unexpectedly early) fall of Baghdad, and historians will quite rightly examine them. But once the decades have put the stirring events of those years into their proper historical context, four great facts will emerge that will place Bush in a far better light than he currently enjoys -- the overthrow and execution of a foul tyrant, Saddam Hussein; the liberation of the Afghan people from the Taliban; the smashing of the terrorist networks of al-Qa'eda in that country and elsewhere and, finally, the protection of the American people from any further atrocities on US soil since 9/11, is a legacy of which to be proud."
Even Bush critic Andrew J. Bacevich, writes in today's Boston Globe that the president's "many failures" are likely to produce "a considerable legacy" of accomplishments, what he calls a record of "substantial if almost entirely malignant achievement."
In a piece called "What Bush Hath Wrought," Bacevich argues that Bush has implanted in U.S. foreign policy certain concepts that will be difficult for a new president to shake: the concept of a global war on terrorism, the doctrine of pre-emptive war, the national security need for White House secrecy and the shift of U.S. strategic priorities away from Europe and toward the Middle East, "the defense of Israel having now supplanted the defense of Berlin" as the heart of U.S. foreign policy.
Let the debate begin.
-- Johanna Neuman
"Cheney 'hiding the facts': EPA official: Cheney's office tried to delete climate testimony"
By H. Josef Hebert, Associated Press, Wednesday, July 09, 2008
WASHINGTON — To play down the effects of global warming, Vice President Dick Cheney's office pushed to delete from congressional testimony references about the consequences of climate change on public health, a former senior EPA official claimed yesterday.
The official, Jason K. Burnett, said the White House was concerned that the proposed testimony last October by the head of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention might make it tougher to avoid regulating greenhouse gases emitted into the atmosphere.
Burnett's assertion, which he made in a July 6 letter to Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., chairwoman of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, conflicts with the White House explanation at the time that the deletions reflected concerns by the White House Office of Science and Technology over the accuracy of the science.
Burnett, until last month a senior adviser on climate change at the Environmental Protection Agency, wrote that Cheney's office was involved in getting nearly half of the CDC's original draft testimony removed.
At a news conference, Boxer maintained that the heavy editing of the testimony given by CDC Director Julie Gerberding last fall was the first part of "a master plan" aimed at "covering up the real dangers of global warming and hiding the facts from the public."
Burnett declined to comment beyond what he described in the letter.
White House Deputy Press Secretary Tony Fratto said the White House stands by its explanation for the deletions, and noted that science adviser John Marburger had raised concerns.
Marburger issued a summary of his concerns at the time, but at a Senate hearing a few weeks later said he had not recommended deleting six of the 14 pages as was done.
Burnett, 31, a lifelong Democrat, resigned his post last month as associate deputy EPA administrator because of disagreements over the agency's response to climate change. Currently a supporter of Barack Obama for president, he has contributed nearly $125,000 to Democratic candidates since 2000, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.
Burnett, an economist who had written a number of papers on government regulation while at the Center for Regulatory Study, a joint effort by the American Enterprise Institute and the Brookings Institution, first joined the EPA in 2004. He resigned two years later because of objections to an EPA rule on soot.
He was asked to return in 2007 by EPA Administrator Stephen Johnson, who put him in charge of coordinating the agency's response to a Supreme Court ruling on whether to regulate carbon dioxide emissions.
"Blissful ignorance" - RICHMOND, Massachusetts
By Milton Bass, Sunday, July 06, 2008, The Berkshire Eagle, Op-Ed
Conservative pundit David Brooks of The New York Times started putting on airs last week over President George W. Bush's alleged success in creating the Iraq "surge" because it has produced "large, if tenuous gains." Brooks described Bush as "a stubborn man" and "an outrageously confident man" but said it paid off when he disregarded the naysayers and went with the recommendations of generals Petraeus and Odierno and senators McCain and Graham, who advocated the "surge." How quickly Brooks forgets.
Before the war began in Iraq, then-chief of staff Gen. Eric K. Shinseki testified before the Senate Armed Services committee about the Iraq situation. When asked how many troops would be needed, he answered that "something in the order of several hundred thousand soldiers" would be required to control post-war Iraq because it contained 24 million Iraqis in a country the size of California and it had "porous borders."
Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and one of his assistant secretaries, Paul Wolfowitz, both Bush bully boys, derisively disagreed with Shinseki, claiming that the general was "widely off the mark." They stated that only a small force would be needed and our troops would be greeted with flowers by the grateful Iraqis.
Although they didn't publicize it, they also felt that our control of Iraq would have us swimming in oil for who knows how many years to come and all of the Middle East would finally be shipshape. How wrong can you be?
If you ever thought that President George W. Bush would admit he was the one who took the cookie, let the dog get loose, broke the vase in the living room, burnt the toast or created a world-wide disaster, then you are also very wrong. The president and his wife were recently interviewed by a friendly television reporter who asked them how it felt to have the president so unpopular at the time he was about to leave office. Laura Bush admitted it was not nice to hear people saying dreadful things about her husband when he had tried so hard to do things right.
Bush was philosophical about his heritage. "When I finish my job and look in the mirror," he said, "I will see a man who did not compromise his core principles for the sake of politics or a popularity poll." The bloggers of the world immediately jumped on this assessment and delivered their own reflections. They variously attributed the faces looking back at Bush as those of "the ghost of Lyndon Johnson," Herbert Hoover, Woodrow Wilson, Saddam Hussein and "the leader of a regime which practices torture."
Bush, however, is supremely confident that history will judge him to have been as perfect in his decisions as he thinks he is right now. He is the man who when asked if he had ever made a mistake since he has been president, paused for an inordinately long time before answering that he couldn't think of one.
This is the president who was shocked to learn that gas was going up to $4 a gallon. This is the man who went to war without having any idea what he was getting into. This is the man whose administration put politics before any other priority; who ran a surplus into an unimaginable deficit; whose philosophy is basically minimum taxes for the rich and spend as much as you want on whatever while the poor, the sick and the old go without; who has outsourced nearly all our capabilities; who OK'd torture; who has only recently discovered that it might be getting a little warm; who thinks Jesus talks to him; and who sees only his own face in the mirror rather than the reflections of the dead, the wounded, the mentally traumatized and the uprooted. It is going to take decades of good government and luck to get our country back on the right track, because he has infiltrated legacies in every branch of government.
David Brooks ended his commentary with this paragraph: "Life is complicated. The reason we have democracy is that no one side is right all the time. The only people who are dangerous are those who can't admit, even to themselves, that obvious fact." It is just as obvious that Brooks in his paean to Bush did not understand the irony of that conclusion.
Milton Bass is a regular Eagle contributor.
"Bush asserts executive privilege on compliance in CIA leak case"
By Laurie Kellman, Associated Press, July 17, 2008
WASHINGTON - President Bush has asserted executive privilege to prevent Attorney General Michael Mukasey from having to comply with a House panel subpoena for material on the leak of CIA operative Valerie Plame's identity.
A House committee chairman, meanwhile, held off on a contempt citation of Mukasey - who had requested the privilege claim - but only as a courtesy to lawmakers not present.
Among the documents sought by House Oversight Chairman Henry Waxman are FBI interviews of Vice President Dick Cheney.
They also include notes about the 2003 State of the Union address, during which President Bush made the case for invading Iraq in part by saying Saddam Hussein was pursuing uranium ore to make a nuclear weapon. That information turned out to be wrong.
Waxman rejected Mukasey's suggestion that Cheney's FBI interview on the CIA leak should be protected by the privilege claim - and therefore not turned over to the panel.
"We'll act in the reasonable and appropriate period of time," Waxman, Democrat of California, said. But he made clear that he thinks Mukasey has earned a contempt citation.
"This unfounded assertion of executive privilege does not protect a principle; it protects a person," Waxman said. "If the vice president did nothing wrong, what is there to hide?"
The assertion of the privilege is not about hiding anything but rather protecting the separation of powers as well as the integrity of future Justice Department investigations of the White House, Mukasey wrote to Bush in a letter dated Tuesday. Several of the subpoenaed reports, he wrote, summarize conversations between Bush and advisers and are direct presidential communications protected by the privilege.
"I am greatly concerned about the chilling effect that compliance with the committee's subpoena would have on future White House deliberations and White House cooperation with future Justice Department investigations," Mukasey wrote to Bush. "I believe it is legally permissible for you to assert executive privilege with respect to the subpoenaed documents."
"Ashcroft details his reversal on harsh interrogation tactics"
By Lara Jakes Jordan, Associated Press, July 18, 2008
WASHINGTON - Former attorney general John Ashcroft yesterday disavowed the now-defunct legal reasoning used to justify harshly questioning terrorism suspects but defended White House officials who pressured him to approve terror surveillance programs while he was hospitalized four years ago.
At the heart of an House Judiciary Committee hearing with Ashcroft was whether US interrogators acted legally in using harsh tactics, including waterboarding, on captured terror suspects after the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks. Waterboarding involves strapping a person down and pouring water over his or her cloth-covered face to create the sensation of drowning. Critics call it torture.
Ashcroft was attorney general when he approved two Justice Department legal opinions in 2002 and 2003 that, essentially, approved the use of waterboarding and other harsh methods as long as they did not "cause pain similar in intensity to that caused by death or organ failure."
Both memos were written, in part, by former deputy assistant attorney general John Yoo. Ashcroft agreed to withdraw them a few years later after advisers said they were concerned that the legal reasoning on them overstepped the limits of executive authority.
"My philosophy is that if we've done something that we can improve, why would we not want to improve it? Why would we not want to adjust it?" Ashcroft told the committee.
Yoo, now a law professor, declined to respond yesterday.
Republicans on the panel argued that waterboarding and other harsh tactics yielded information that may have saved lives, and Ashcroft did not disagree. He also said he does not believe waterboarding or any methods allowed under the memos amounted to torture. The CIA and the Pentagon two years ago banned interrogators from using waterboarding.
On the topic of the now-infamous March 2004 hospital visit, Ashcroft demurred from giving many details about the encounter at his bedside that pitted former White House chief of staff Andy Card and counsel Alberto Gonzales against former deputy attorney general Jim Comey and FBI Director Robert Mueller.
Ashcroft said that he was "grouchy," that hadn't eaten in several days, and that doctors had been poking needles in him when Card and Gonzales asked him to approve a classified national security program against the advice of Comey and Mueller. Mueller has said the clash was about the government's warrantless wiretapping; Gonzales and the White House said it was about other intelligence activities. Ashcroft sided with Comey and Mueller, and, ultimately, President Bush agreed to change some aspects of the program to satisfy their concerns.
(A Boston) GLOBE EDITORIAL
"A new attack on birth control"
July 30, 2008
WITH JUST a few months left in office, President Bush is still doing the bidding of social conservatives who oppose women's reproductive freedoms. Under the guise of rules to protect antiabortion nurses and doctors from discrimination in hiring, a proposed new regulation would expand the definition of abortion to include any form of contraception that can work by stopping implantation of a fertilized egg in the uterus. This can include common birth-control pills, emergency contraception, and the intra-uterine device, or IUD. Doctors who refuse to perform abortions for reasons of personal conscience already are protected by law.
The potential impact of this new rule on the more than 500,000 hospitals, family planning clinics, and medical offices that receive any form of federal funding could be dramatic. The rule could also undercut many state laws - including one in Massachusetts requiring hospitals to provide emergency contraception for rape victims - and laws requiring prescription drug insurance plans to include contraceptives. Massachusetts passed such a law in 2002.
The draft proposed rule highlights the fact that many antiabortion groups also oppose one good method of preventing the unplanned pregnancies that lead to abortions - birth control. At some point in their lives, 98 percent of US women use birth control.
The proposed rule, while claiming to protect the rights of nurses and doctors, would interfere with patients' rights. A woman seeking treatment could be denied birth control and not even be aware that the service was available - only denied to her because of the unexpressed personal beliefs of the practitioner.
Last November, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists said gynecologists must provide "accurate and unbiased information" to patients and "have the duty to refer patients in a timely manner to other providers" if the doctors do not want to perform an abortion or prescribe birth control. The US secretary of health and human services, Michael Leavitt, said he thought this statement went too far in forcing doctors to choose between their beliefs and the prospect of professional sanctions.
The administration does not need approval of Congress to put this rule into effect. But about 100 members of the House, including all representatives from this state except Stephen Lynch of South Boston, have signed a letter protesting it. In the Senate, Patty Murray of Washington and Hillary Clinton of New York are leading the opposition. The administration should take heed and drop its ideological attack on contraception.
"HHS: Doctors can refuse abortions: Proposed rule cites religious, moral objections"
By Rob Stein, Washington Post, August 22, 2008
WASHINGTON - The Bush administration announced plans yesterday to implement a controversial regulation designed to protect doctors, nurses, and other healthcare workers who object to abortion from being forced to deliver services that violate their personal beliefs.
The rule empowers federal health officials to pull funding from more than 584,000 hospitals, clinics, health plans, doctors' offices, and other entities if they do not accommodate employees who refuse to participate in care they find objectionable on personal, moral, or religious grounds.
"People should not be forced to say or do things they believe are morally wrong," Health and Human Services Secretary Mike Leavitt said. "Healthcare workers should not be forced to provide services that violate their violates their own conscience."
The proposed regulation, which could go into effect after a 30-day comment period, was welcomed by conservative groups, abortion opponents, and others as necessary to safeguard workers from being fired or penalized.
Women's health advocates, family planning advocates, abortion-rights activists, and others, however, condemned the regulation, saying it could create sweeping obstacles to a variety of health services, including abortion, family planning, end-of-life care, and possibly a wide range of scientific research.
"It's breathtaking," said Robyn Shapiro, a bioethicist at the Medical College of Wisconsin. "The impact could be enormous."
The regulation drops the most controversial language in a draft version that would have explicitly defined an abortion for the first time in a federal law or regulation as anything that interfered with a fertilized egg after conception. But both supporters and critics said the regulation remained broad enough to protect pharmacists, doctors, nurses, and others from providing birth control pills, Plan B emergency contraception, and other forms of contraception, and explicitly allows workers to withhold information and refuse to refer patients elsewhere.
"The Bush administration's proposed regulation poses a serious threat to women's healthcare by limiting the rights of patients to receive complete and accurate health information and services," said Cecile Richards of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America. "Women's ability to manage their own healthcare is at risk of being compromised by politics and ideology."
Leavitt said he requested the new regulation after becoming alarmed by reports that healthcare workers were being pressured to perform duties they found repugnant. He cited moves by two professional organizations for obstetricians and gynecologists that he said might require doctors who object to abortions to refer patients to physicians who would.
A draft of the regulation that leaked in July triggered a flood of criticism from women's health activists, family planning advocates, members of Congress, and others. Concern focused on fears the definition of abortion could be interpreted to include many forms of widely used contraception.
The Boston Globe, Editorial: Short Fuse, August 25, 2008
"Abortion: Ignorance isn't bliss"
One of George W. Bush's first acts as president was to impose a gag order on family planning agencies overseas, prohibiting them from mentioning abortion services to women with unwanted pregnancies, even in countries where abortion is legal. Now he wants a gag order in the United States. Under the guise of a conscience clause, a new Bush regulation would "protect" doctors and nurses who oppose abortion not just from participating in one, but even from informing women of the option or referring them elsewhere. Antiabortion activists are forever pushing "right to know" regulations requiring women to be shown pictures of their developing fetus, but when it comes to a safe and legal abortion, it is better to be kept in the dark.
The Boston Globe, Letters: "Hippocratic oafs at HHS", August 25, 2008
THE HEALTH and Human Services position advanced by Secretary Mike Leavitt is but another in the seven-year Bush administration continuum of monumental stupidity ("HHS: Doctors can refuse abortions," Page A2, Aug. 22). Granting healthcare professions the option to cherry pick which procedures they perform is insane. Shall it be fair game for healthcare providers to deny care to the product of a consanguineous relationship based on a "religious" belief in genetic purity?
Speaking on behalf of the sane measure of civilization, denial of medical care for any reason other than medical necessity should result in loss of license, and if injury is a byproduct of denial, fine and or prison. Any person entering a medical facility should have complete confidence that care will be based on medical reasons, not denied by some bozo standing behind a cardboard mockup of Bush or one of his minions.
Mont Vernon, N.H.
"Proposal hurts low-income women"
The Berkshire Eagle - Letters, Wednesday, August 27, 2008
In the closing days of the Bush administration, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has proposed new regulations that would severely hamper Tapestry Health and other health organizations from delivering comprehensive family planning services and utilizing appropriate staff. Proposed rules would allow institutions and individuals receiving federal funding to deny access to common forms of contraception to patients seeking medical care and counseling. Providers would no longer be bound to delivering the best possible care to each individual patient, and instead would be legally protected if they refused to disclose all options, information and resources due to personal convictions.
These changes would be devastating to the over 9,500 clients of Tapestry Health across our 15 sites in Western Massachusetts, including North Adams and Pittsfield. Not surprisingly, these new rules will affect a disproportionate number of low-income women and families in these communities who rely on federal funded family planning programs for the health care they deserve.
If instated, these regulations will be a legacy that will harm women and families right here in Western Massachusetts, as well as across the nation.
A 30-day public comment period has already begun and will end on Sept. 21. Comments are essential to stop this travesty from occurring. Voice your opinion at href="http://www.regulations.gov">www.Regulations.gov or send a comment to firstname.lastname@example.org.
To find out more, visit www.tapestryhealth.org or www.nfprha.org.
LESLIE TARR LAURIE
The writer is president and CEO of Tapestry Health.
"CIA More Fully Denies Deception About Iraq"
By Joby Warrick, Washington Post Staff Writer, Saturday, August 23, 2008; A03
The controversy over a best-selling author's account of forgery and deception in the White House deepened yesterday with a new CIA denial that it helped the Bush administration produce phony documents suggesting past links between al-Qaeda and Saddam Hussein.
Author Ron Suskind's book "The Way of the World," released earlier this month, contends that the White House learned in early 2003 that the Iraqi president no longer possessed weapons of mass destruction but went to war regardless. Suskind wrote that the information was passed to British and U.S. intelligence officials in secret meetings with Tahir Habbush, Iraq's spy chief at the time.
Moreover, in an allegation that implies potentially criminal acts by administration officials, the author wrote that White House officials ordered a forgery to influence public opinion about the war. The book contends that the CIA paid Habbush $5 million and resettled him in Jordan after the war. Then, it says, in late 2003, the White House ordered the CIA to enlist Habbush's help in concocting a fake letter that purported to show that Iraq helped train Mohamed Atta, the Egyptian-born al-Qaeda terrorist who led the 19 hijackers in the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. Such a letter surfaced in Iraq in December 2003, but its authenticity quickly came into question.
The CIA and White House denied Suskind's account when the book was first released. But yesterday, the CIA issued a more extensive rebuttal based on what the agency called an internal investigation involving a records search and interviews with junior and senior officers who were directly involved in the agency's Iraq operations at the time. As for the claim that the White House ordered the CIA to forge a letter, the agency said: "It did not happen."
"CIA has made its own inquiries overseas and no one -- no individual and no intelligence service -- has substantiated Suskind's account of Habbush or the bogus letter," the agency said in a prepared statement. "At this point, the origins of the forgery, like the whereabouts of Habbush himself, remain unclear. But this much is certain: Suskind is off the mark."
Suskind, whose claims are now the subject of two congressional investigations, yesterday continued to stand by his book and accused the CIA and White House of orchestrating a smear campaign. "It's the same old stuff," said Suskind, who said his findings are supported by hours of interviews, some of them taped. "There's not a shred of doubt about any of it."
The CIA statement noted that any covert action intended to influence U.S. public opinion about the war would be illegal under the National Security Act. "To state what should be obvious, it is not the policy or practice of this Agency to violate American law," the agency stated.
Former CIA director George J. Tenet, whom the book depicts as passing along White House forgery requests to his deputies, echoed the agency's denial. "It is ridiculous to think that the White House would give me such an order and even more ridiculous to think that I would carry it out," Tenet said in a statement e-mailed to journalists. He noted that, during his time as CIA chief, he had "consistently fought with some Administration officials to prevent them from overstating the case for Iraqi involvement in international terrorism."
The book's claims are the subject of official inquiries by House and Senate oversight committees. On Thursday, House Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers Jr. (D-Mich.) issued letters to former and current CIA officials asking for information about the alleged forgeries.
In his book, Suskind names several CIA and British intelligence officials as sources for his accounts of the secret Habbush meetings and alleged forgery. But four of the quoted officials have since disputed portions of Suskind's account. Suskind fired back by publishing what his Web site says is a partial transcript of an interview with Rob Richer, a former CIA official who appears to express knowledge of the forged letter. Richer, who has since retired from the agency, has said the book misrepresents his conversations with Suskind.
Richer said he agreed with the CIA's statement and contended that the forgery narrative described by Suskind "never happened."
Suskind, a former Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter for the Wall Street Journal, said he believes his sources have been pressured to contradict him. "The White House is focusing on this because there may be legal complications for the administration," he said.
"Federal deficit to reach $407b"
September 10, 2008, Washington, D.C.
WASHINGTON - Weak revenue growth and accelerated spending - including an economic stimulus package that returned billions to taxpayers - will drive the federal deficit to $407 billion in the fiscal year that ends this month, more than double last year's $161 billion, congressional budget analysts said yesterday. With the economy expected to stay sluggish for at least the next several months, the next president will take office facing a deficit of $438 billion, budget analysts predict - the largest in dollar terms in US history. (Washington Post)
"U.S. strike hit civilians, Iraqis say"
By Leila Fadel and Laith Hammoudi, McClatchy Newspapers
Friday, September 19, 2008, 11:00 AM ET
BAGHDAD — At least eight civilians, all from one family and including women, were killed in a U.S. raid and airstrike Friday near Tikrit , Iraqi police and witnesses said.
The attack, which a U.S. military statement said targeted a "terrorist" accused of running a bomb-making ring, was in the town of Dawr, northwest of Baghdad .
American forces surrounded a building early Friday morning and called for the people inside to come out. They refused, the statement said. An armed man appeared in the doorway, and the U.S. troops shot him. American aircraft struck later, killing three more suspected terrorists and three women, according to the statement. A child was rescued from the rubble, but no children were killed, the statement said.
Two people were seen running from the home and into a nearby mosque. Iraqi forces went into the mosque and arrested one man.
Witnesses and police contested that story, however, saying that the men targeted were civilians.
Khaleel al Doori , a neighbor, said his home was raided during the operation and that the American forces had used a loudspeaker to order people not to leave their homes. Doori said the U.S. troops shot a man and his wife.
After Friday prayers, hundreds of residents took to the streets condemning the incident and chanting, "There is no God but one God, and America is the enemy of God."
(Hammoudi is a McClatchy special correspondent.)
More from McClatchy :
U.S. soldier in Iraq shoots 2 American sergeants
Odierno: Former door-kicker now reflects Iraq progress
Suicide bomber attacks coming-home party in Iraq
President Bush, right, talks with Colombian President Alvaro Uribe during a meeting in the Oval Office of the White House, Saturday, Sept. 20, 2008, in Washington. (AP Photo/Haraz N. Ghanbari)
"Rescue plan seeks $700B to buy bad mortgages"
By Julie Hirschfeld Davis, Associated Press Writer, September 20, 2008
WASHINGTON --The Bush administration is asking Congress to let the government buy $700 billion in toxic mortgages in the largest financial bailout since the Great Depression, according to a draft of the plan obtained Saturday by The Associated Press.
The plan would give the government broad power to buy the bad debt of any U.S. financial institution for the next two years. It would raise the statutory limit on the national debt from $10.6 trillion to $11.3 trillion to make room for the massive rescue. The proposal does not specify what the government would get in return from financial companies for the federal assistance.
"We're going to work with Congress to get a bill done quickly," President Bush said at the White House. Without discussing details of the plan, he said, "This is a big package because it was a big problem."
The White House and congressional leaders hoped the developing legislation could pass as early as next week.
Administration officials and members of Congress were to negotiate throughout the weekend. The plan is designed to let faltering financial institutions unload their distressed mortgage-related assets on the government, and in turn the taxpayer, in a bid to avoid dire economic consequences.
Bush said he worried the financial troubles "could ripple throughout" the economy and affect average citizens. "The risk of doing nothing far outweighs the risk of the package, and over time we're going to get a lot of the money back."
He added, "People are beginning to doubt our system, people were losing confidence and I understand it's important to have confidence in our financial system."
"In my judgment, based upon the advice of a lot of people who know how markets work, this problem wasn't going to be contained to just the financial community," the president said. He said he was concerned about "Main Street" and that what happens on "Wall Street" affects "Main Street."
Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., called the proposal "a good foundation," but raised concerns it "includes no visible protection for taxpayers or homeowners."
Democrats are insisting the rescue include mortgage help to let struggling homeowners avoid foreclosures. They also are also considering attaching additional middle-class assistance to the legislation despite a request from Bush to avoid adding controversial items that could delay action. An expansion of jobless benefits was one possibility.
Asked about the chances of adding such items, Bush sidestepped the question, saying only that now was not the time for political posturing. "The cleaner the better," he said about legislation he hopes Congress sends back to him at the White House.
If passed by Congress, the plan would give the Treasury secretary broad power to buy and sell the mortgage-related investments without any additional involvement by lawmakers. The proposal, however, would require that the congressional committees with oversight on budget, tax and financial services issues be briefed within three months of the government's first use of the rescue power, and every six months after that.
While the proposal contains no requirement that the government receive anything from banks in return for unloading their bad assets, it would allow the Treasury Department to designate financial institutions as "agents of the government," and mandate that they perform any "reasonable duties" that might entail.
In a briefing to lawmakers Friday, Paulson and Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke painted a grave picture of an economy on the edge of a major recession and telling them that action was urgent and imperative.
In a session with House Democrats, they described a plan where the government would in essence set up reverse auctions, putting up money for a class of distressed assets -- such as loans that are delinquent but not in default -- and financial institutions would compete for how little they would accept for the investments, said Rep. Brad Sherman, D-Calif., who participated in the conference call.
"You give them good cash; they give you the worst of the worst," Sherman said. A critic of the plan, he complained that Bush and his economic advisers were trying to panic lawmakers into rubber-stamping it.
Paulson said the new troubled-asset relief program must be large enough to have the necessary impact while protecting taxpayers as much as possible.
"I am convinced that this bold approach will cost American families far less than the alternative -- a continuing series of financial institution failures and frozen credit markets unable to fund economic expansion," Paulson said. "The financial security of all Americans ... depends on our ability to restore our financial institutions to a sound footing."
Administration officials hoped the rescue plan could be finalized this weekend, to lend calm to Monday morning's market openings, said Keith Hennessey, the director of the president's economic council. The goal is to have something passed by Congress by the end of next week, when lawmakers recess for the elections.
"Details of $700 billion financial rescue proposal"
By The Associated Press, September 20, 2008
The Bush administration is asking Congress for $700 billion to buy up troubled mortgage-related assets from U.S. financial institutions. According to a draft obtained Saturday by The Associated Press, the proposal would:
--Give the treasury secretary broad authority to buy up to $700 billion in mortgage-related assets from any financial institution in the United States.
--Raise the $10.6 trillion statutory limit on the national debt to $11.3 trillion.
--Allow the treasury secretary to buy, hold and sell the assets in any way he sees fit. That includes the ability to go outside normal government contracting practices to hire private companies to manage them.
--Give the government power to designate financial institutions as "financial agents of the government" and require them to carry out any "reasonable duties" that entails.
--Require the government to report to congressional budget, tax-writing and financial services committees within three months of using the authority and every six months thereafter.
--Instruct the treasury secretary to consider both providing market stability and protecting taxpayers in using the bailout power.
--Expire two years after enactment.
The Boston Globe, Op-Ed, GRAHAM ALLISON & ERNESTO ZEDILLO
"The fragility of the global nuclear order"
By Graham Allison and Ernesto Zedillo, September 30, 2008
IN GOOD TIMES, unambiguous signs that the structural pillars of a system are at risk are frequently disregarded or downplayed. The current crisis in the global financial system is an apt occasion on which to pause to consider warning signs of risk to the global nuclear order.
In 1963, President John F. Kennedy warned that on the then-current trajectory there could be 25 nuclear-weapons states by the end of the 1970s. His warning helped motivate a surge of initiative culminating in the 1968 Nonproliferation Treaty. Today, 189 nations, including scores that have the technical capability to build nuclear arsenals, have renounced nuclear weapons.
However, the architecture that has for four decades held back powerful pressures for the proliferation of nuclear weapons is shaking. As the UN High Level Panel on Threats, Challenges and Change warned, the Nonproliferation Treaty is eroding to the point of "irreversibility" beyond which there could be a "cascade of proliferation."
Global trend lines in all things nuclear are worsening. Unless the International Atomic Energy Agency member states who meet this week in Vienna can be stirred to actions as bold and imaginative as those of the 1960s, we risk the catastrophic collapse of the global nuclear order.
Consider the recent record. Since 2004, North Korea withdrew from the treaty, expanded its nuclear arsenal from two to 10 bombs worth of plutonium, and conducted a nuclear weapons test, defying demands from the United States and China that it not do so. The fact that a small, weak state ignored the great powers and international community with impunity is telling.
Iran has defied three UN Security Council resolutions demanding it suspend enriching uranium. Instead, it has built a cascade of 3,820 centrifuges that has produced 1,058 pounds of low-enriched uranium. This is three-quarters of what is required, after further enrichment, for Iran's first nuclear bomb. Pakistan has tripled its nuclear arsenal while political instability and a burgeoning Islamic insurgency put its nuclear weapons at increasing risk.
Nuclear-weapons states have reemphasized the role of nuclear weapons in international affairs, reinforcing cynicism among many non-nuclear weapons signatories about the Nonproliferation Treaty. Why, they ask, can nuclear weapons be good for the "haves," but not the "have-nots"?
In the wider world, the growing demand for energy and increasing consciousness about climate change are propelling a "nuclear renaissance." This nuclear expansion does not inherently pose a proliferation risk. But if states that buy reactors also build uranium enrichment facilities (like Iran) or reprocess spent fuel (like North Korea), they will have a convenient cover for nuclear weapons.
The global nuclear order is under severe stress. An independent international commission, on which we served, was asked to assess the global nuclear order in 2020, examine the role of the IAEA, and propose an agenda of actions to strengthen the nonproliferation regime. The commission recommends enlarging the IAEA's mandate and giving it the resources to do the job.
First, IAEA safeguards must be seriously strengthened. While traditional safeguards monitor declared nuclear facilities, the commission calls on all states to adopt the Additional Protocol immediately to increase the likelihood that undeclared nuclear facilities and activities will be discovered.
Second, the commission urges states to "negotiate binding agreements that set effective global nuclear security standards," tough enough to ensure that every nuclear weapon and every cache of plutonium or highly enriched uranium worldwide is reliably protected.
Third, the commission recommends that the current budget of $450 million grow to $900 million between now and 2020 to carry out an expanded mandate. The UN High Level Panel described the IAEA as an "extraordinary bargain." We propose funding an even better bargain.
The fact that in the four decades since the Nonproliferation Treaty was established, only three additional nations - Israel, India, and Pakistan - have acquired nuclear weapons provides no grounds for complacency. The warning lights are blinking. Governments must act now - or we will all suffer the consequences.
Graham Allison is director of the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs at Harvard's Kennedy School of Government and author of "Nuclear Terrorism: The Ultimate Preventable Catastrophe. Ernesto Zedillo, the former president of Mexico, served as chair of the International Atomic Energy Agency's Commission of Eminent Persons on the future of the IAEA. Allison served as executive director.
"US cuts off family planning group in Africa"
By Matthew Lee, Associated Press Writer, October 2, 2008
WASHINGTON --The Bush administration has taken action against an international charity in Africa over work it does in China, a step the group says is politically motivated and dangerous for poor African women and girls.
The State Department and U.S. Agency for International Development denied the charges but said Thursday that they had told six African governments to stop giving U.S.-donated contraceptives to the British-based Marie Stopes International family planning organization for distribution to their needy populations.
The move affects Ghana, Malawi, Sierra Leone, Tanzania, Uganda and Zimbabwe and follows a determination by USAID that the organization is a major player in a U.N. program in China that the administration says promotes coerced abortion and sterilization.
"Given these circumstances, USAID made the policy decision to inform governments in these countries that it does not want USAID-funded commodities to be provided to Marie Stopes International," the State Department, which oversees USAID, said in a statement.
The United States does not give any direct assistance to the group but it is a leading family planning health provider and one of several distributors of U.S.-donated "contraceptive commodities" -- including condoms and intrauterine devices -- in some of Africa's least developed countries.
Under U.S. law, the government must withhold assistance to agencies and groups found to support or participate in management of family planning programs abroad that involve abortion and coerced sterilization.
Marie Stopes International, one of the world's largest family planning organizations, complained bitterly about the step, which it said was "purely political" and "dangerous" because it could result in more abortions, maternal deaths and health problems for poor African women and girls.
"Only the Bush administration could find logic in the idea that they can somehow reduce abortion and promote choice for women in China by causing more abortion and gutting choice for women in Africa," it said. "This senseless decision is likely to have only one clear consequence: the death of African women and girls."
The State Department and USAID denied the charge, noting that the same amount of U.S.-donated contraceptive supplies would be sent to the countries in question and that they "will do everything possible," to make sure the contraceptives are distributed in the same countries by other groups.
"Any assertion that the USAID decision ... will likely increase abortions and maternal deaths is false," they said. "USAID is working with governments in the affected countries to ensure that our commodities reach the women and men who need them."
Since 2002 the Bush administration has refused to release $34 million in annual funding to the U.N. Population Fund because of its activities in China despite protests that the programs do not promote abortion or forced sterilization.
Only Republican administrations have enforced the Reagan-era Kemp-Kasten amendment and it has been a political hot potato in Congress for years, pitting abortion rights advocates against abortion foes. But it has not thus far been an issue in this year's presidential race.
"FDR, New Deal, had it right"
The Berkshire Eagle - Letters
Friday, October 03, 2008
I have to respond to Harold Bell's letter to the editor of Oct. 1 ("New Deal liberals ruined economy.") In this time of economic crisis, I think we should all stick to facts and leave out the fiction. Fiction and lies have sunk our country into an economic crisis not seen or dreamed of since the Great Depression. That is indisputable. What is disputable, however is the fiction in Mr. Bell's letter.
Mr. Bell states, "since the day of the New Deal, Democrats have encouraged massive home ownership through Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. Without those government entities the current subprime mess would never have happened." There are many fictions in this statement, but I will concentrate on the most blatant fiction — Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac are private entities, run by, in Mr. Bell's words, the "private entrepreneurs and private sector who create wealth." The same private entrepreneurs and private sector that Mr. Bell believes we "still need to bail out to rescue the banks." After all, in his opinion "it is the private entrepreneurs and private sector who create wealth."
No, the fact is that "private" Fannie and Freddie perpetuated an unstable and unethical lending process, which contributed to the escalating of home values (paper value, not sustainable value) and enabled unethical lending practices so that the upper and high income families would unknowingly overextend themselves with high mortgages and little value to their property. Not to mention those brilliant wealthy entrepreneurs whose house flipping gambles went bust. Or those equally wonderful private sectors that bundled bad loans to sell as high risk funds.
Yes, it would be best to "privatize our Social Security" with these "private entities" like Lehman Brothers at the helm. Maybe they, along with Merrill Lynch, would manage our money as well as they managed their stockholders investments?!
Let's remember that FDR's New Deal led to the building and creation of bridges, parks, lakes, roads, sidewalks and yes, your Social Security that the current administration has squandered from my generation and the generation of my children and future grandchildren with its irresponsible quest for world democracy, as well as irrefutable failed economic policies of deregulation and trickle down economics.
FDR and the New Deal offered hope. George Bush and his administration's no question, no rules, no regulation policies offered a bailout. I'm thinking FDR had it right.
Josh Brolin (right) as President George W. Bush and Richard Dreyfuss as Dick Cheney in "W." (Sidney Ray Baldwin).
"A curious George: In 'W.,' Oliver Stone frames his biopic as a provocative and uniquely American tale of family politics"
By Ty Burr, Boston Globe Staff, October 17, 2008
Is there an easier target than a lame duck? "W.," the first biopic ever made about a sitting US president, is either two years too late or 15 too early. George W. Bush hardly seems to matter anymore; attention has shifted to the two men who are vying to clean up the mess his administration has left behind. As it should. Who needs more Dubya taunting when there's work to be done?
The irony is that Oliver Stone is aiming for something rather different here, and the results still feel tentative. For his third "president" film (the others being "JFK" and the much-underrated "Nixon"), the lightning-rod director casts the life of the 43d commander in chief as a peculiarly American tragedy: The story of a child of privilege who's also the family screw-up, whose aching need to prove himself to his father delivers his country into the hands of ambitious and predatory men.
Or, as the woman behind me said as the end-credits rolled, "I . . . I felt sorry for him."
Her confusion will be shared by many - partisans of the left will never extend compassion to George W. Bush and those on the right don't want this kind of sympathy - but it's a novel approach, and when it works, "W." can take your breath away. When it doesn't, you can feel Stone still working out his feelings toward the man. There's a lot of Charles Foster Kane in "W.," and some of Shakespeare's Richard II. There's also more than a little Oliver Stone.
Josh Brolin ("No Country for Old Men") plays the president, and it's an honorable performance, wholly lacking in cheap shots. (The soundtrack full of tinny pomp-and-circumstance tunes picks up that slack.) This Dubya is simple rather than simple-minded, a good old boy who acts first and thinks later, if at all. He's a decent sort, spoiled but likably cocky, and his biggest flaw is that he doesn't have the skills to articulate what's eating his insides out.
That would be his father, George H.W. Bush, played by James Cromwell ("L.A. Confidential") as a patient but peremptory blueblood king. Dubya knows he'll never measure up to Poppy's standards - so does Poppy and so do we; anyway, brother Jeb (Jason Ritter) has been anointed heir apparent - and the frustration turns him to drink, rebellion, God, and politics, in that order.
"W." unfolds in two collage-like narrative streams: The series of White House meetings in 2003 leading up to the Iraq war and flashbacks to the many stages of George W. Bush's past. The former are where Stone pulls out the stops, and they are marvelously comic works of pseudo-history, cobbled together from the published memoirs of those who were there.
The casting here is downright fiendish: Scott Glenn as a fatuously double-talking Donald Rumsfeld ("The absence of evidence is not the evidence of absence, Mr. President"); Bruce McGill as a phlegmatic George Tenet; comedian Rob Corddry as press secretary Ari Fleischer; Toby Jones (the other Capote) as a munchkin Karl Rove; Dennis Boutsikaris, a schlumpy Paul Wolfowitz. Thandie Newton's Condoleezza Rice is the closest the movie comes to "Saturday Night Live" caricature, but it's a cruelly brilliant cartoon nonetheless, a symphony of awkward postures and nasal speech patterns.
Two of the president's men stand out: Secretary of State Colin Powell (Jeffrey Wright) and Vice President Dick Cheney (Richard Dreyfuss). The latter is a gray eminence on the sidelines until he has his Dr. Strangelove moment in front of a map of the oil fields of the Middle East, uttering the chilling (and wholly unsourced) words, "There is no exit strategy. We stay."
Wright's Powell, forever counseling caution, gets the dialogue that's the heart of the 2003 scenes, though. "Why?," he asks. "Why Iraq? Why now?" Stone provides the answer in the flashback scenes, as George the son spends years twisting in the patrician scorn of George the father. Cromwell's Poppy isn't a thunderer - Barbara Bush (a live-wire Ellen Burstyn) is the emotional bad cop of the family - but his measured, diplomatic distance is, if anything, harder to live up to.
"W." says W. would do anything to gain this man's respect, and after Saddam Hussein and the 1992 election humble the elder Bush, the prodigal son spends years planning his revenge. The tragedy, as Stone sees it (and he's hardly alone), is that the country and the world are still paying for our president's daddy issues.
Cheapjack Freudianism? Arrant fantasy? Certainly. Provocative and rudely entertaining? More than you'd think. Because "W." wants us to understand the man, though, Stone pulls his punches in ways that don't always work. I appreciate the movie's non-hysterical treatment of Bush's religious conversion - out of nowhere, Stone pulls Stacy Keach to play a composite reverend figure, and the aging lion is unexpectedly touching - and Elizabeth Banks's gentle Laura Bush softens both the movie and its protagonist.
Yet the operatic tendencies that are Stone's strength and weakness as a filmmaker are muzzled here, and it may be that this psychodrama hits too close to home for a filmmaker known for his own struggles against a larger-than-life father. Late in the film, there's a dream sequence in which Bush Sr. lets his wayward son have it right between the eyes, right in the Oval Office. It's a striking moment, but it doesn't carry the devastating impact - the Olympian fury toward one man's betrayal of family and nation - that it aims for. Stone's pity for his subject ennobles the film and hobbles it at the same time.
"W." shudders to a halt a few scenes later, its anger unresolved. Leaving the theater, you may have the sudden sense that, really, it is too early for this movie to have been made, as sharp and as complicated as some of its pieces are. Historical perspective takes years. So does therapy. You be the judge of which we'll be needing more.
Ty Burr can be reached at email@example.com. For more on movies, go to www.boston.com/movienation.
The Boston Globe, Op-Ed, LAWRENCE J. KORB AND LAURA CONLEY
"The contributions of Iran"
By Lawrence J. Korb and Laura Conley, October 24, 2008
FEW COUNTRIES were as helpful to the United States in its early involvement in Afghanistan as Iran. Yet after the fall of the Taliban, the US failed to capitalize on the possibilities of that strategic relationship. Now coalition and Afghan troops are losing ground against the same insurgents they confronted in 2001, in a war that the United States is unlikely to win unless it rethinks its relationship with Iran.
Even before the terrorist acts on Sept. 11, 2001, Iran opposed the Taliban and strongly backed the Afghan Northern Alliance. After the attacks, Tehran stepped forward to help topple Afghanistan's extremist Sunni government and pledged $560 million for reconstruction efforts.
Furthermore, Iran demonstrated an impressive ability to work with and guide the nascent Afghan government. James Dobbins, the Bush administration's first special envoy to Afghanistan, recognized Iran's substantial contributions in training and equipping the Afghan army. He also praised their contributions at the Bonn Conference in 2001.
Unfortunately, the Bush administration bungled this successful relationship by continually isolating the Iranians, rather than drawing on their influence to create a relatively stable Afghanistan.
Worse, Bush placed Iran in the "axis of evil" in his 2002 State of the Union address. While Iranian meddling elsewhere in the Middle East should be criticized, Bush's characterization made no mention of Iran's substantial aid against the Taliban. Rather, the president allowed political calculations to override strategic realities.
The United States has little to show from its diplomatic silence with Iran. Since being inducted into the axis of evil, Iran has proceeded with its nuclear enrichment program. It has also expanded its influence in the Middle East courtesy of the US invasion of Iraq and the election of a Shi'a-dominated government there. Meanwhile, the United States has faltered in Afghanistan, with troops increasingly paying the price.
Bush has asserted that the United States will not sit down with Iran without preconditions. However, asking the Iranians to cooperate in Afghanistan would not imply a resumption of diplomatic relations or a willingness to tolerate Iran's nuclear program. It would demonstrate pragmatic recognition of the need to use regional diplomacy to create stability in Afghanistan.
Others in the Middle East are leading the way. Even though the Saudis cut off diplomatic relations with the Taliban in 2001, they have reportedly conducted peace talks between the government of Hamid Karzai and the Taliban, negotiations that even Secretary of Defense Robert Gates has said are necessary. Similarly, Syria and Israel, countries that do not have diplomatic relations with each other, are moving forward with discussions through the Turks. Although the two nations will never be friends, they may find a way to make progress on a number of issues.
Seven years ago, the United States had an opportunity to act in a comparable manner. It could have reached out to Iran in the hope of capitalizing on their long experience in the Greater Middle East and their intimate knowledge of the Northern Alliance. It could have sought a working relationship, distinct from a friendship, with Iran in order to help stabilize Afghanistan. While the US failure to do so did not undermine coalition efforts in Afghanistan so much as its thoughtless race to war in Iraq, the Bush administration's unwillingness to work with a nation it dislikes has made it much harder to achieve US goals there.
While US efforts in Afghanistan do require more troops, any success will not come without a renewed commitment to diplomacy and the engagement of Afghanistan's neighbors. Iran is the indispensable player in this process.
This is a vital time for Afghanistan. US casualties are higher than at any time since the invasion, and instability in Pakistan is fueling violence across the border. The United States may have one more chance to reach out to Iran to secure its participation in stabilization efforts, diplomatic relationship notwithstanding. This time, it should make the right decision.
Lawrence J. Korb is a former assistant secretary of defense in the Reagan administration and a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress, where Laura Conley is a special assistant.
"US to borrow $550 billion for rescue"
November 4, 2008
WASHINGTON - The government will borrow a record $550 billion in the current quarter as it scrambles to fund the huge rescue programs being put in place to deal with the worst financial crisis in seven decades.
The Treasury Department said yesterday it plans to borrow more than a half-trillion dollars in the current October-December quarter and another $368 billion in the first three months of next year.
Major Wall Street bond traders estimate the government's borrowing needs for the whole year will total an unprecedented $1.4 trillion.
The bond traders predict that borrowing will be needed to cover a budget deficit that will approach $1 trillion for a single year. The major Wall Street firms are projecting a deficit of $988 billion in the current budget year, far above the $482 billion estimate that the Bush administration made in July.
The administration's estimate was before the crisis in credit markets this fall prompted the government to put together a $700 billion rescue package aimed at getting money to banks through government purchases of their stock and some of their bad assets.
The goal is to bolster banks' balance sheets to prompt them to resume lending.
A Boston GLOBE EDITORIAL
"End the gag-rule games"
November 15, 2008
BY A QUIRK of the calendar, a new president's inauguration always coincides with the anniversary of the Roe v. Wade decision of Jan. 22, 1973, which legalized abortion. Sadly, Democratic and Republican presidents alike have used that anniversary to send an early signal to their supporters on either side of the divisive issue. Forgotten in the political tug-of-war are millions of poor women overseas who desperately need decent healthcare and better lives.
The matter that has ping-ponged between presidential administrations is the so-called global gag rule, which denies US funding to any women's health clinic that offers abortion services or counseling, even in countries where abortion is legal. President Reagan first pushed the policy at a summit on world population issues in 1984, and his successor, George H. W. Bush, continued it even though Bush had once been a supporter of family planning.
When President Clinton was elected, he repealed the policy during his first days in office. And then George W. Bush reinstated the ban as his first official act, which coincided with the 28th anniversary of Roe.
Meanwhile, women in poor countries are dying in childbirth, or of botched abortions, because foreign aid is held hostage to domestic politics.
Of course Barack Obama should lift the odious gag order as soon as possible. But the world needs a new way of looking at women's health that goes beyond abortion. The clinics that lose funding also provide birth control, prenatal care, and training for midwives to improve pregnancy outcomes and infant mortality rates. Such services, along with education and economic opportunity, are the best way to prevent unwanted pregnancies - and abortion - in the first place.
"Recalling 9/11's failed precedent"
The Berkshire Eagle - Letters
Tuesday, November 18, 2008
On Nov. 11, it was reported that Nikola Kavaja had died. For those who do not remember, Kavaja had been convicted of hijacking a Boeing 707 with the intention of crashing it into the Yugoslav Communist Party headquarters in 1979. He flew across the Atlantic, abandoning his mission in Ireland, saying he was not sure where the party headquarters was.
I guess our multi-billion-dollar intelligence community was clueless that a plane could be used as a missile.
Those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it. — Santayana.
A BOSTON GLOBE EDITORIAL
"Iran's green light in Iraq"
November 18, 2008
IRAQ'S cabinet approved a status-of-forces agreement Sunday with the United States. This is a good thing, as it provides a legal basis for US forces in Iraq after a United Nations mandate for those forces runs out on Dec. 31, and sets a deadline for withdrawal of combat troops by the end of 2011.
But there is also a more ambiguous significance to the security pact. While the Bush administration is spinning the agreement as an endorsement of a continued US presence in Iraq and as the upshot of a successful policy toward that country, the ways in which Iraqi leaders were brought around to approving the measure belie much of the wishful thinking.
Recent changes in the attitude of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's government reflect the influence of Iran. After US Special Operations Forces crossed into Syria from Iraq in late September to kill an Al Qaeda figure who was smuggling fighters into Iraq, Iran's allies in the Maliki government became noticeably reluctant to vote for the security accord.
Since then, two new developments led 27 of Iraq's 28 cabinet ministers to vote for the status-of-forces agreement. The first was the inclusion of a US pledge not to launch military operations against Iraq's neighbors from Iraqi soil. This provision was intended to placate Iran, and it was insisted upon by the Shi'ite religious parties that dominate the Maliki government - parties that have a long history of fealty to Tehran.
The second key development was the election of Barack Obama, who is open to a diplomatic dialogue with Iran. By withdrawing its tacit veto of a deal that extends the legal basis for a US military presence in Iraq, Tehran is opening a door to a grand bargain with Washington, a deal that would address Iraq's future as well as Iran's regional role and its nuclear program.
Iran's green light could presage the beginning of the peaceful resolution of the standoff over Iran's pursuit of a nuclear weapons capability. Such an outcome would be welcome. But whatever comes of the Iranian gesture, it shows that what President Bush has wrought in Iraq is utterly different from what he promised. Iraq today is ruled by Iranian proteges and allies. It is deeply divided along ethnic and sectarian lines. It has some of the trappings of a democracy, but they are draped over factions and clans that show no genuine inclination to share power.
Bush failed to achieve his aim of enabling Iraq to become unified, stable, and democratic. If Obama is to prevent Iraqis from descending into civil war after US forces leave, he will have to do so with political and diplomatic prowess, not shock and awe.
"Bush won't tap rest of rescue funds: Treasury sets Dec. 8 deadline for banks"
By Boston Globe Wire Services, November 18, 2008
On the same day the government said it has supplied $33.56 billion to 21 banks in a second round of payments from the $700 billion rescue program, the Bush administration told congressional aides it won't ask lawmakers to release the second half of the $700 billion, people familiar with the matter said.
The administration of President Bush ends in less than 10 weeks, and a delay in submitting a request to lawmakers would leave it to President-elect Barack Obama to tap remaining funds in the bailout fund.
"I think it is the right thing to do," Senator Richard Shelby, top Republican on the Senate Banking Committee, said yesterday. "I think we need to debate this. I think the American people need to know where the first $350 billion went, who benefited from it."
Also, the Treasury Department set a deadline for another 3,800 banks to apply for funds. Treasury said a category of privately held banks will have until Dec. 8 to apply for the government to purchase shares of their stock.
Treasury informed Congress there would be no notification seeking the rest of the bailout funds this week, and didn't go beyond that, a department spokesman said yesterday. Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson has no timeline for accessing the second $350 billion, the spokesman said.
The department has so far committed $290 billion of the $350 billion that was released for a program aimed at injecting capital into a wide spectrum of banks and insurer American International Group. Paulson's initial proposal called for using that money to buy troubled assets from the firms, and he's been criticized for shifting the focus of the program. Last week Paulson repeatedly declined to answer when and whether he would go to Capitol Hill for the rest of the funding.
He told The Wall Street Journal he is unlikely to use what remains of the package, unless a need arises.
Meanwhile, a broad economic stimulus bill, which Obama wants Congress to pass promptly, is not likely to be approved by the Senate during its short legislative session this week, a top Senate aide said yesterday.
Jim Manley, a spokesman for Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid of Nevada, said he was hopeful, however, that the Senate would be able to pass legislation extending jobless benefits for the long-term unemployed.
Later in the day, Reid and Senate Appropriations Committee chairman Robert Byrd unveiled details of a $100 billion economic stimulus bill that they said would create 635,000 jobs and help domestic automakers.
"Judge orders 5 Guantanamo inmates released: Says they were unlawfully held nearly 7 years"
By William Glaberson, New York Times, November 21, 2008
NEW YORK - In the first hearing on the government's justification for holding detainees at the Guantanamo Bay detention camp, a federal judge ruled yesterday that five Algerian men were held unlawfully for nearly seven years and ordered their release.
The judge, Richard J. Leon of US District Court in Washington, also ruled that a sixth Algerian man was being lawfully detained because he had provided support to the terrorist group Al Qaeda.
The case was an important test of the Bush administration's detention policies, which critics have long argued swept up innocent men along with high-level and hardened terrorists.
The six men are among a group of Guantanamo inmates who won a Supreme Court ruling that said the detainees have constitutional rights and can seek release in federal court. The 5-4 decision said a 2006 law unconstitutionally stripped the prisoners of their right to contest their imprisonment in habeas corpus lawsuits.
The hearings for the Algerian men, in which all of the evidence was heard in proceedings that were closed to the public, were the first in which the Justice Department presented its full justification for holding specific detainees since the Supreme Court ruling in June.
Leon, in a ruling from the bench, said that the information gathered on the men had been sufficient to hold them for intelligence purposes, but was not strong enough in court.
"To rest on so thin a reed would be inconsistent with this court's obligation," he said. He directed that the five men be released "forthwith" and urged the government not to appeal.
Leon, appointed by President Bush, had been expected to be sympathetic to the government. In 2005, he ruled that the men had no habeas corpus rights.
Lawyers said the decision was likely to be seen as a repudiation of the Bush administration's effort to use the detention center at the American naval base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, to avoid scrutiny by American judges. President-elect Barack Obama has promised to close the prison.
"The decision by Judge Leon lays bare the scandalous basis on which Guantanamo has been based - slim evidence of dubious quality," said Zachary Katznelson, legal director at Reprieve, a British legal group that represents many of the detainees.
Because of the Bush administration's claims that most of the evidence against the men was classified, Leon ordered the entire case to be heard in a closed courtroom after brief opening statements on Nov. 5.
"We're immensely gratified that a habeas court has spoken so decisively and so eloquently about the need for these men to be freed immediately," Stephen Oleskey, a partner with the Boston-based law firm WilmerHale, said in a statement. The law firm represented the six men pro bono, and Oleskey was a leader of the case team that secured the ruling.
The government argued that the six Algerians, who were residents of Bosnia when they were first detained in 2001, were planning to go to Afghanistan to fight the United States, and that one of them was a member of Al Qaeda.
The men were initially arrested on grounds that they were plotting to blow up the United States embassy in Sarajevo, but the government later abandoned that claim and said the men planned to fight with Al Qaeda.
The five men ordered freed yesterday include Lakhdar Boumediene, for whom the landmark Supreme Court ruling in June was named. The one detainee Leon found to be lawfully held, Bensayah Belkacem, was described by intelligence agencies as a leading Al Qaeda operative in Bosnia.
Oleskey's statement said lawyers will appeal the ruling to keep Belkacem detained.
"The six men hardly fit the profile of dangerous terrorists or 'enemy combatants,' " the statement said. "They have wives and children, most worked for charities in Bosnia, thousands of miles from the battlefield of Afghanistan, and not one had directly participated in any hostilitites against the United States."
Milton J. Valencia of the Globe staff contributed to this report.
"Sadr Followers Rally Against U.S. Accord: Thousands Gather, But Protest Is Smaller Than Some in Past"
By Mary Beth Sheridan, Washington Post Staff Writer, Saturday, November 22, 2008; A10
BAGHDAD, Nov. 21 -- Thousands of followers of radical Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr demonstrated Friday against an agreement that would extend the U.S. military presence in Iraq, shouting "America out!" and burning an effigy of President Bush.
The rally was held in Baghdad's Firdaus Square, where U.S. soldiers toppled a statue of President Saddam Hussein in an iconic moment of the 2003 invasion. Friday's demonstration followed two days of boisterous protests by Sadr's loyalists in parliament, which is scheduled to vote next week on the agreement.
The Sadrists do not appear to have the strength to derail the bilateral accord, which would allow American troops to stay in Iraq for three more years. The group has only 30 seats in the 275-seat parliament. Friday's protest drew thousands of people but was smaller than a massive demonstration held by Sadr loyalists in the same central Baghdad plaza in 2005.
Sadr's movement has been weakened by arrests and attacks by the Iraqi security forces and U.S. military in recent months. In addition, the militia's reputation for brutality has alienated many Iraqis.
Still, the Sadr group could make the government pay a stiff political price for passing the agreement. Many Iraqis resent the U.S. presence, and the issue could be a potent one in provincial elections set for Jan. 31. Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's government bargained hard in the months of negotiations on the accord, pressing the Bush administration to agree to a pullout date of Dec. 31, 2011.
The Iraqi cabinet approved the accord this week, indicating that it has the support of most major parties in parliament. But the country's most revered Shiite cleric, Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani, has said the agreement must win "national consensus," raising the pressure on Maliki to get broad support in the vote expected Monday.
The prime minister emerged from months of behind-the-scenes political maneuvering to defend the agreement in two televised appearances this week. His allies have also taken to the streets, with thousands of government employees and members of tribal groups holding demonstrations in favor of the agreement in provincial cities. Such rallies were held in five cities in heavily Shiite southern Iraq on Friday.
In a thinly veiled attack on the Sadr movement this week, Maliki said that some people "were demanding a timetable for the withdrawal of American forces, but they have given that up and their slogans have swung behind negative interests." He also assailed the Sunni bloc for demanding concessions in exchange for supporting the pact.
At the rally in Baghdad on Friday, the Sadr supporters repeated their demands for an immediate pullout of American troops. "I am with you in evicting the occupier any way you see fit," Sadr said in a message read by a cleric.
The crowd, composed mostly of young men, shouted "God is greatest!" and "Yes, yes, Moqtada!" Many carried the red, white and black Iraqi flag.
Sadr is the son of one of Iraq's most revered clerics, who was slain in 1999 by Hussein's forces, and he has a passionate following among poor Shiites. He is believed to have spent the last few months in Iran. Sadr's Mahdi Army militia battled U.S. troops following the invasion, but over the last several months, its fighters have largely observed a unilateral cease-fire imposed by the cleric. He has threatened to reactivate the militia if the accord passes.
Many of those at Friday's demonstration came from the impoverished Shiite district of Sadr City, which is home to about 2 million people and is Sadr's base of support in the capital. Some said their antipathy to the U.S. presence was compounded by personal loss.
One 53-year-old protester, who identified himself by the nickname Abu Salwan, blamed the U.S.-led invasion for a collapse in security. His 6-year-old daughter was fatally wounded in a bombing by "terrorists," said the man, in a white dishdasha robe. "The Americans said they were coming to Iraq to fight terrorism. But that's not true," he said.
Falah Hussein, 35, another Sadr City resident, said his mother had been killed by a stray bullet during clashes between the Mahdi Army and U.S. troops two years ago. "We want the occupiers to leave," said the shoe-store employee.
The demonstration ended with protesters hurling empty water bottles at an effigy of Bush set in the place where the Hussein statue once stood. The Bush figure carried a cardboard briefcase bearing the slogan: "the pact of subservience and shame." Demonstrators knocked over the figure and burned it, a cloud of smoke rising over the tightly packed crowd as Iraqi soldiers and police watched attentively from rooftops and watchtowers.
Special correspondents Qais Mizher in Baghdad and Saad Sarhan in Najaf and a special correspondent in Baqubah contributed to this report.
"Bush can still do damage"
By Michelle Gillett, Op-Ed, The Berkshire Eagle, Tuesday, November 18, 2008, STOCKBRIDGE, Massachusetts
In our enthusiasm over the changes President-elect Barack Obama will bring, it's easy to forget that George W. Bush is our president for two more months, which is more than enough time for him to enact policy changes that impacts a number of our rights. We might be looking forward, but we still have to watch our backs.
I was heartened that three states defeated proposals that would change their abortion laws — South Dakota voted down Measure 11 which would have banned most abortions in the state except for women in "substantial and irreversible risk," and in cases of reported rape and incest. If it had passed, it would have undoubtedly caused a legal challenge which could have brought the debate to the U.S. Supreme Court and a reconsideration of the 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling establishing the right to abortion.
Colorado voters rejected Amendment 48, which would have defined the term "person" to include any human being from the moment of fertilization. California, voters defeated Proposition 4, which would require a waiting period of 48 hours after parental notification before allowing a minor to terminate a pregnancy.
These defeats brought renewed hope to those who think women should be making their medical decisions with their doctors not their legislators, and proved that those whose concerns about restricting women's reproductive rights exceed reality should pay attention to the facts. The number of abortions in the United States has been falling since the 1980s and this drop has had nothing to do with the party in office. It hasn't mattered whether the presiding president favored or opposed the legal right to abortion. What has mattered is affordable and accessible health care for women, and access to education and prevention.
So I find it disturbing that President Bush is intending to fix what isn't broken.
Secretary of health and human services, Michael Leavitt, is looking at new abortion regulations to put into effect before Bush leaves office. Leavitt's new rule says that abortion is "any of the various procedures — including prescription, dispensing, and administration of any drug or the performance of any procedure or any other action — that results in the termination of the life of a human being in utero between conception and natural birth, whether before or after implantation."
This broad category would include medically safe birth control devices or drugs. As a result the right to refuse to perform an abortion would be extended to unbiased counseling, emergency contraception, even for rape victims, abortion referrals and provision of birth control pills.
Under current law, recipients of federal money cannot force medical professionals to provide abortion or sterilization services if they object for moral or religious reasons. But proposed regulations would expand these laws. If new HHS regulations are adopted, family planning service providers could be forced to hire people who have moral objections to contraception and would be unable to discipline employees who refuse to provide birth control.
It is obvious that before this lame duck administration quacks its last, it wants to give a final nod to the conservative right even if it comes at the expense of women and ignores the opinions of most Americans.
President-elect Obama has acknowledged, "There is a moral dimension to abortion ... I think all of us understand that it is a wrenching choice for anybody to think about," adding, "nobody wishes to be placed in a circumstance where they are even confronted with the choice of abortion. How we determine what's right at that moment, I think, people of good will can differ. And if we can acknowledge that much, then we can certainly agree on the fact that we should be doing everything we can to avoid unwanted pregnancies that might even lead somebody to consider having an abortion."
President Bush's good will in these last days of his presidency seems to be declining as consistently as abortion rates. In addition to restricting women's access to reproductive care and information in his final days in office, he is trying to rush other changes including ones that affect the environment and our right to privacy, so they can go into effect before he leaves office on Jan. 20. He is even considering pardoning those involved in interrogation procedures that sanctioned torture.
Obviously, we need to watch more than our backs. We need to keep a both eyes on what these politically motivated and poorly considered last-minute changes will do to our civil rights and the planet.
Michelle Gillett is a regular Eagle contributor.
"Bush on His Legacy: I 'Liberated' Iraqis: President Says He Wants to Be Remembered for Liberating Iraqis and HIV/AIDS Work in Africa"
By JENNIFER PARKER, ABCNews.com, Nov. 28, 2008 —
In a personal and wide-ranging interview conducted by his sister about his legacy, his faith and the influence of his father, President George W. Bush said he hopes to be remembered as a liberator of the Iraqi people.
"I'd like to be a president [known] as somebody who liberated 50 million people and helped achieve peace," Bush told his sister, Dorothy Bush Koch, in a conversation recorded for the oral-history organization StoryCorps for the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress.
An excerpt of the interview was aired on National Public Radio Thursday, and the White House released additional excerpts with both the president and first lady Laura Bush today.
"I would like to be a person remembered as a person who, first and foremost, did not sell his soul in order to accommodate the political process," Bush said, according to White House excerpts.
"I came to Washington with a set of values, and I'm leaving with the same set of values. And I darn sure wasn't going to sacrifice those values; that I was a president that had to make tough choices and was willing to make them," he said.
Bush is ending his eight-year presidency with historically low public approval ratings, wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and a dire economic crisis.
The president told his sister he is proud of the "tough decisions" he made.
"I surrounded myself with good people," Bush said. "I carefully considered the advice of smart, capable people and made tough decisions."
Bush: No Child Left Behind a Significant Achievement
Bush said his No Child Left Behind policy, which has been widely criticized by educators as too focused on test scores, is one of his significant achievements.
"I think the No Child Left Behind Act is one of the significant achievements of my administration because we said loud and clear to educators, parents and children that we expect the best for every child, that we believe every child can learn, and that in return for Federal money we expect there to be an accountability system in place to determine whether every child is learning to read, write, and add and subtract," he said.
Laura Bush: 'I Worry About Afghanistan'
Bush said because of his administration's No Child Left Behind policy, the "achievement gap" between white children and African-American and Latinos is "narrowing."
"The promise of No Child Left Behind has been fulfilled," Bush said.
Asked how he would like to be remembered, Bush said he wants to be known as a president "that focused on individuals rather than process; that rallied people to serve their neighbor; that led an effort to help relieve HIV/AIDS and malaria on places like the continent of Africa; that helped elderly people get prescription drugs and Medicare as a part of the basic package; that came to Washington, D.C., with a set of political statements and worked as hard as I possibly could to do what I told the American people I would do." First lady Laura Bush, who seemed to gain more confidence in recent years to speak out on foreign policy issues she cares about, said her most rewarding work was on behalf of women in Afghanistan.
"It's certainly been very rewarding to look at Afghanistan and both know that the president and the United States military liberated women there; that women and girls can be in school now; that women can walk outside their doors without a male escort," the first lady said, according to White House excerpts. "I worry about Afghanistan, but I will always have a special place in my heart for the women that I've met there," she said. "I think as we look all around the Middle East, we'll see that women can be the ones who really lead the freedom movement, and that American women are standing so strongly, I think, with the women in Afghanistan and other places."
Asked by his sister to describe the influence their parents had on him, Bush said, "I think that the gift our dad gave to all of us is unconditional love. It is the greatest gift a father can give a child. And it has made life so much easier in many ways, because if you have the ultimate gift of love, then the difficulties of life can be easier handled. And to me that is a great gift."
Bush: I've Been in the Bible Every Day of My Presidency
Heaping praise on his father, former President George H.W. Bush, the president said, "He also taught me -- and I think you and Jeb and Neil and Marvin -- that you can go into politics with a set of values and you don't have to sell your soul once you're in the political system. And you can come out with the same set of values."
Bush, who is a born-again Christian, spoke about the role his faith has played in his presidency.
"I've been in the Bible every day since I've been the president, and I have been affected by peoples' prayers a lot. I have found that faith is comforting, faith is strengthening, faith has been important," Bush said.
"I would advise politicians, however, to be careful about faith in the public arena," he said.
"In other words, politicians should not be judgmental people based upon their faith. They should recognize -- as least I have recognized I am a lowly sinner seeking redemption, and therefore have been very careful about saying [accept] my faith or you're bad. In other words, if you don't accept what I believe, you're a bad person. And the greatness of America -- it really is -- is that you can worship or not worship and be equally American. And it doesn't matter how you choose to worship; you're equally American. And it's very important for any President to jealously protect, guard, and strengthen that freedom."
"Many Questions Left in Bush Scandals: Key Concern is What Role Top Administration Officials Played"
By EMMA SCHWARTZ, abcnews.go.com, Brian Ross & The Investigative Team, December 29, 2008—
As the clock winds down on the Bush administration, historians and critics are coming to grips with how little they know about some of the scandals which helped make the president one of the least popular leaders in modern U.S. history.
From the secret wiretapping program to the so-called "enhanced interrogation techniques" to the firing of a number of U.S. Attorneys, the question remains of how high up administration officials were involved in authorizing many of these scandals.
"The biggest question in all of these scandals is what is the source," said Allan Lichtman, a presidential historian at American University and authority of "White Protestant Nation: Rise of the American Conservative Movement." "We don't know how systematic it was at the highest levels of the Bush administration. Where did the orders come from? How systematic were they? And were these disparate areas tied together?"
Torture and Detention
High among those is the question of who authorized the coercive many say torturous interrogation techniques and whether they yielded important information.
"I think it's essential to ensure that America doesn't repeat this chapter, that someone tells the story of putting together all the pieces -- the question of what was actually obtained through these tactics, could the information have been obtained elsewhere, did it ultimately make America safer and what were the side effects of America's torture," said Jennifer Daskal, chief counterterrorism counsel for Human Rights Watch.
The Bush administration has long said it never tortured anyone and that the abuses of Abu Ghraib and elsewhere were the result of bad apples, not systematic policy.
But a recent report by the Senate Armed Services Committee went a long way documenting the role of top Defense Department and military officials in signing off on the use of the coercive interrogation techniques. "Senior officials in the United States government solicited information on how to use aggressive techniques, redefined the law to create the appearance of their legality, and authorized their use against detainees," the report found.
Officials Knew of Interrogation Techniques
It showed how top officials knew of the specific techniques -- including waterboarding -- and how top officials in the Defense Department, including General Council Jim Haynes and Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, defended these techniques. Top officials haven't been shy in defending them even today, despite the fact that many experts have raised questions about the legality of the many of the so-called enhanced interrogation techniques. Just this month Vice President Cheney defended his approval of the coercive interrogation tactics in an interview with ABC News.
There hasn't been a similar accounting for the CIA's detention and rendition program, no complete report on who approved the techniques, when they were used and which detainees they were used on. What's more is many of the legal memos and executive orders authorizing this treatment remain classified.
The revelation that President Bush authorized taps on phone calls and emails inside the United States was itself shocking to many people. But more than seven years after Bush gave the green light for the practice -- and nearly three years since the New York Times revealed the program's existence -- it is still unclear how broadly the warrantless wiretapping was used.
"The powers that Bush took are so broad and there has been no oversight mechanism so it's really unclear whether they actually used the powers inappropriately," said Caroline Fredrickson, legislative director for the American Civil Liberties Union.
The Bush administration has said that it has done nothing illegal, arguing that the constitution gives the president this power for the sake of national security. What's more, the administration argues that Congress essentially gave the president this power by authorizing him to use all necessary force against al Qaeda shortly after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.
But it has since rescinded the program and gone to Congress to get authorization for a more restricted wiretapping program that Bush administration officials say does not involve listening in to Americans' calls without a warrant.
NSA Wiretapping Program Declared Unconstitutional, Then Overturned
Legal challenges have faced problems too. Many plaintiffs have filed suit alleging that the government should disclose if they were wiretapped. But few have any proof that they were targeted. The ACLU led the biggest challenge to the NSA wiretapping program, which was declared unconstitutional by a district court judge. But an appeals court overturned that decision.
There is one case that may bear fruit for opponents of the NSA program: the Al-Haramain Islamic Foundation, a now-defunct Islamic charity which the Treasury Department designated as a terrorist front and tried to freeze its assets. Attorneys for the charity claim that documents turned over to them (apparently mistakrenly) during a legal challenge to the group's desination as a terrorist front were from an nsa wiretap of the organization and two of its attorneys. In July, a federal judge held that getting this information with out a warrant was against the law, a ruling now on appeal.
The U.S. Attorney Scandal
The firing of at least eight U.S. Attorneys in 2006 for apparently political reasons led to the departure of Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, and placed a dark cloud over the integrity of Justice Department that officials are still working to dispel. Despite the damage, the White House has blocked efforts by Congress and the courts to obtain documents and testimony that might help the country understand what had happened.
The central unanswered question is this: what role, if any, White House officials played in the development and approval of the firings and the inappropriate political hires at the Department of Justice and whether they played any role in overturning case decisions in the civil rights division that career attorneys opposed. E-mails released to Congress indicate that White House officials played a role in these discussions but top officials -- including White House Chief of Staff Josh Bolten, former White House Counsel Harriet Miers and former advisor Karl Rove -- have refused to testify or turn over documents.
The legal saga still continues. A federal judge has ordered Miers and Bolten -- who the House of Representatives held in contempt for defying congressional subpoenas -- begin working with Congress, but the ruling has been appealed. Meanwhile, a criminal investigation into the hirings and case decisions at the civil rights division continues.
"Home Is Where the Money Is"
A house believed to have been purchased by President Bush is seen on December 4, 2008. The White House has announced that Bush and first lady Laura Bush have purchased a home in the Preston Hollow neighborhood in Dallas, Texas where they will reside after Bush leaves office in January 2009. The home has been appraised at $2.1 million but the Dallas Morning News reports that the Bushes paid considerably more for the four-bedroom home, which is located in a quiet cul-de-sac.
"Analysis: Bush's personality shapes his legacy"
By BEN FELLER, Associated Press Writer, 1(January)-3, 2009
WASHINGTON – President George W. Bush will be judged on what he did. He will also be remembered for what he's like: a fast-moving, phrase-mangling Texan who stays upbeat even though his country is not.
For eight years, the nation has been led by a guy who relaxes by clearing brush in scorching heat and taking breakneck bike rides through the woods. He dishes out nicknames to world leaders, and even gave the German chancellor an impromptu, perhaps unwelcome, neck rub. He's annoyed when kept waiting and sticks relentlessly to routine. He stays optimistic in even the most dire circumstances, but readily tears up in public. He has little use for looking within himself, and only lately has done much looking back.
Bush's style and temperament are as much his legacy as his decisions. Policy shapes lives, but personality creates indelible memories — positive and negative.
Call it distinctly Bush.
Don't be late.
Bush demands punctuality and disdains inefficiency. Every meeting better have a clear purpose. And it better not repeat what he already knows.
He is up early and in the Oval Office by 6:45 a.m. By 9:30 to 10 at night, it's lights out. He likes to be fresh and won't get cheated on his sleep.
In sessions with policy experts, Bush tends to ask questions that get right to the nub of a sticky issue. His top aides speak regretfully about how the country never got to see that side of him, even after all this time. They describe a man who is deeply inquisitive, not blithely incurious as much of the world thinks.
When Bush wants answers, guessing isn't advised.
"He can sniff it out a mile away if you don't have the goods," said White House communications director Kevin Sullivan.
Other people write Bush's speeches, but he'll kick out phrases that he thinks stray from a logical progression. It's about discipline.
You can tell the issues that really get Bush going, because he talks about them differently, more passionately: education, AIDS relief, freedom. They happen to be ones that can be viewed more clearly through a moral lens. That's how he sees the world.
Bush reads the Bible regularly. Another devotion: exercise. He makes time for a workout at least six days a week, wherever he is. And he goes at it hard, especially on his mountain bike on the weekends, when he pushes Secret Service agents to keep up with him. He is competitive and likes to stay in command.
Even eating is approached with sheer purpose.
Bush wants his lunch ready when he is, and wolfs it down. His tastes are clear: maybe a peanut butter and honey sandwich, a BLT, or a burger. Former White House executive chef Walter Scheib learned from Bush never to serve a grilled cheese sandwich unless it came with a side of French's yellow mustard.
The man from a land of cowboy boots orders proper dress in the White House. No jeans allowed in the West Wing. Coat and tie in the Oval Office.
"Orderliness in the process gave him confidence," said Peter Wehner, a former top Bush aide and now a senior fellow at the Ethics & Public Policy Center.
And if you're in Bush's presence, turn off your cell phone. Pity the person who gets the Bush stare when a Blackberry rings at the wrong time.
Then there are his stories. He repeat his favorites. Like the one about the cheery rug in the Oval Office. Or the spectacular rainbow that day in Romania.
Who's going to stop him?
Bush's words betray him sometimes.
"They misunderestimated the compassion of our country," Bush said of the Sept. 11 terrorists. "I talk to families who die," he said, meaning the loved ones of those who perish in war. "Childrens do learn when standards are high," he said in promoting his education plan.
Ivy League educated, Bush is good-natured about his verbal trip-ups. Yet he appears to have grown a bit more methodical in public, as if searching carefully for the right words.
His tangled moments have undoubtedly helped shape an unflattering public perception; there are entire books of his "Bushisms." Invariably, though, people who talk to him privately — historians, journalists, dissidents — come away with a very different impression of a meticulous thinker.
It is a paradox of his presidency.
Some of Bush's sillier times are of his own choosing. He doesn't take himself too seriously.
Like his herky-jerky dance moves in Liberia, or his odd little tap dance while waiting for John McCain to show up one day. He likes to back-slap people. And when he's ready to move on, there are telltale signs. To end an event with visitors, he'll say, "Let's get a picture," and that's that.
Bush generally calls people by the labels of his choosing, too. Reporters, Cabinet members, heads of state — anyone is fair game for a nickname. The practice tends to add a touch of familiarity between people and the president, and Bush likes that.
As for fun, Bush is far from the first president with a love for sports, but he may have advanced the cause.
In baseball season, he often has a game on TV, even for soothing background noise while he works. He quietly welcomes ball players to the executive mansion for tours or dinnertime conversation. And regardless of the sport, he loves it every time any championship team comes to the White House.
Their moment is his moment.
Bush can flash a temper and impatience. But if he takes criticism personally — and he gets lots of criticism — he tries not to show it.
When former press secretary Scott McClellan wrote a scathing book about Bush's leadership, the president told his senior aides to let it go.
"Find a way to forgive, because that's the way to lead your life," White House press secretary Dana Perino remembers Bush advising her.
Bush is insistently — some say unforgivably — optimistic, no matter how low his poll numbers get.
"Every day has been pretty joyous," he said recently, summing up one of the hardest presidencies ever known.
The toughest moments for him come when he meets the grieving families of the troops he sent to war. Or when he meets severely wounded troops in recovery. Many of the hurting tell Bush they want to get back out in active duty. He is moved by the sacrifice.
"I do a lot of crying in this job," Bush once acknowledged.
He shows consideration to people close to him in little ways. He sends birthday notes to staff members. He remembers little details about their families. When he visits an Army post to thank the troops, he's been known to wander into the kitchen, too, to praise whoever cooked him the french fries.
The president is a proud dad of two grown daughters, Jenna and Barbara. The public got a tiny glimpse of his softer side when Jenna married Henry Hager in May. Bush said afterward that his little girl married a really good guy. First lady Laura Bush says her husband now has a son.
Bush is not much for the social scene. He and his wife will go to friends' homes but stay away from restaurants and Washington's other delights. His aides say he doesn't like to cause a security hassle for the public.
That's also why they say he speeds through his foreign travel. Even in the world's more magnificent sites, Bush often skips touristy stuff to stick to business, contributing to that incurious reputation.
"I'm a nester," Bush said.
Nowhere is that more true than at his beloved, secluded ranch in Crawford, Texas. He has spent more than a year of his presidency there.
Bush chops cedar, clears brush and builds mountain bike trails there. The summer heat doesn't bother him so much as enthrall him. He even set up a little competition, true Bush: People who work for him get a coveted T-shirt and bragging rights if they run for three straight miles on days hitting 100 degrees.
He relaxes by reading quite a bit, mostly U.S. and world history. He likes the spy-spoofing "Austin Powers" movies. He chills out with his wife.
His time will soon be his own.
"I will leave the presidency with my head held high," Bush says.
And he will leave behind a lot to remember.
EDITOR'S NOTE — Ben Feller covers the White House for The Associated Press.
"Economic reports offer no good news"
By Bloomberg News, January 7, 2009
WASHINGTON - The US economy ended the year in a steep decline, with factory orders, home sales, and service industries all contracting further, reports showed yesterday.
The Institute for Supply Management's index of nonmanufacturing businesses was 40.6 for December, a higher-than-forecast reading that was still the second-worst on record. The National Association of Realtors index of pending home resales fell 4 percent in November, and the Commerce Department said orders at factories slumped for a fourth month.
The data show the broad-based nature of the slump and may put pressure on Congress to quickly enact President-elect Barack Obama's stimulus plan. With little prospect of growth in private demand, a turnaround may hinge on the tax and spending proposals Obama is aiming at middle-class households and at businesses.
"The economy fell off a cliff in the fourth quarter and is most likely still falling," said James O'Sullivan, a senior economist at UBS Securities LLC in Stamford, Conn. "We do expect some stabilization by mid-year, partly because of Obama's plan" and partly because of the Federal Reserve's interest-rate cuts and emergency lending programs.
The ISM's index was projected to decline to 36.5, according to the median forecast in a Bloomberg News survey of 61 economists. The group said last week that its gauge of manufacturing fell to 32.4 in December, from 36.2 the previous month. Below 50 indicates a contraction.
"I don't anticipate us seeing growth any time soon," said Anthony Nieves, chairman of the ISM's nonmanufacturing survey.
"Many companies may have been waiting until after the holiday season" before paring their workforces. "We might even see deeper job cuts as we move into the first quarter."
Obama met Monday with congressional leaders to help craft a two-year plan worth about $775 billion to boost the economy. He said the plan would cut taxes for individuals and businesses and spend money on government programs to rebuild the nation's infrastructure.
The home-sales report showed declines of 7.2 percent in the Northeast, 6.7 percent in the Midwest, 2.4 percent in the West, and 2.2 percent in the South.
Orders to US factories fell 4.6 percent in November after a revised 6 percent decrease the prior month that was larger than initially estimated, the Commerce Department said. The back-to-back decline was the biggest since records began in 1992.
The bad news probably continued last month. ISM's manufacturing report, issued last week, showed the measure of new orders reached its lowest level since record-keeping began in 1948, and prices slid the most since 1949.
The economy lost jobs in December for a 12th month, economists project that the Labor Department's Jan. 9 employment report will show.
Cheney on trial?
Posted by Dan Wasserman December 18, 2008, 5:23 P.M.
THE CHENEY VICE PRESIDENT - A Washington Post Special Feature
"Memos to King George"
The Berkshire Eagle, Editorial, Sunday, March 08, 2009
It has been known for some time that the Bush administration cynically used the tragedy of September 11, 2001 as an excuse to expand the powers of the presidency in ways that made a total hash of the Constitution. The value of the Obama administration's release last week of nine previously secret Justice Department memos articulating this shameful effort, however, is the reminder they provide of how fragile our system of government is, and how the kind of jingoistic hysteria that swept America after the attacks of September 11 can provide cover for the schemes of potential tyrants.
The memos maintained that the military could be used to conduct raids without search warrants in pursuit of suspected terrorists within the United States, an argument that would have pleased Joseph Stalin. If captured, these suspects could be denied due process, including access to a lawyer and the evidence against them, assuming there was any.
Domestic wiretapping could also be conducted without gaining a warrant, and "First Amendment speech and press rights may also be subordinated," completing the damage done to the First and Fourth Amendments done by the Justice Department. The opinions also asserted that the president could unilaterally abrogate international treaties and could ignore congressional laws and Supreme Court decisions, laying siege to the fundamental concept of separation of powers that is at the root of our system of government.
The author of most of these opinions was John Yoo, a far right legal scholar who never would have escaped academia for prominence in the Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel had not his opinions found favor with Vice President Dick Cheney and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, a couple of Nixon-era dead-enders bitter about the restraints put upon the executive branch in the wake of a plethora of Nixon administration abuses. The results were a policy of torture, a disgraceful war, the undermining of our rights as Americans and the end of America's cherished role as a beacon of light in a dark world.
The "conservatives" in the Bush White House who backed these opinions with actions are not worthy of the name, as true conservatives oppose the undermining of individual rights by big government as a matter of principle. It took a true conservative, Stephen G. Bradbury, a Bush appointee who came to head the Office of Legal Counsel, to render these anti-American arguments inoperative.
While it would be satisfying to pursue criminal charges against those responsible for advocating and enacting these policies, America can't afford the resultant political circus when it is confronted with the worst economic crisis since the Depression. A better idea would be a bipartisan investigation and report so we can learn how close we came to becoming a totalitarian state and how we can assure that we never come so close again.
Re: www.berkshireeagle.com/editorials/ci_11860529 - "Memos to King George" (The Berkshire Eagle Online, Editorial, 3/7/2009), The Berkshire Eagle Editors state: "The results were a policy of torture, a disgraceful war, the undermining of our rights as Americans and the end of America's cherished role as a beacon of light in a dark world."
Did not the USA drop the Atomic Bombs on 2 civilian targets in Japan at the end of World War II? That act was not a policy of torture?
Did not the USA administer the system of Slavery from 1776 though the end of the Civil War? That act was not a policy of torture?
Did not the USA wage war against Korea without provocation, killing thousands of Korean civilians and soldiers? That act was not a policy of torture?
Did not the USA wage war against Vietnam without provocation, killing well over a million Vietnamese civilians and soldiers? That act was not a policy of torture?
Did not the USA wage war against Iraq without provocation, again killing well over a million Iraqi civilians and soldiers? That act was not a policy of torture?
My response to the Berkshire Eagle's Editorial is that Bush 2 represented the real US Government! He represented the US Government that once enslaved thousands of minority people, that was the only entity to ever use atomic weapons in war, and then went onto murder millions of innocent people in Asia and now the Middle East! Since when was the USA looked at as a "a beacon of light in a dark world"? While I hope that day will someday come to be, but I also believe that it is utterly myopic to blame the Bush 2 Administration for our nation's negative image abroad!
I am a Veteran who served our nation honorably, but I am not going to whitewash our nation's history to serve a Liberal ideological agenda that myopically scapegoats our 43rd US President. I am proud of what the USA stands for in theory, but also, I am ashamed of what the US Government has done and continued to do in reality or practice!
Peace to & Human Rights for ALL Peoples!
Jonathan Alan Melle
Santos A. Cardona, an Army dog handler involved in the abuse of Iraqi prisoners at Abu Ghraib, died last week. (family photo)
"Abu Ghraib haunted US Army dog handler: Ex-soldier dies while making bid for redemption"
By Josh White, The Washington Post, March 7, 2009
WASHINGTON - Santos A. Cardona, an Army dog handler involved in the abuse of Iraqi prisoners at Abu Ghraib, was determined to continue fighting in America's overseas battles to erase the stain of his assault conviction, his family members said.
Those closest to him said his passion for doing what he loved in the service of his country led him to try to return to Iraq in 2006, but the military kept him home after his planned deployment was publicized. Late last year, Cardona, 34, got his chance to rejoin the fight.
He traveled to Afghanistan as a government contractor, using a German shepherd to search for improvised explosive devices and weapons stockpiles. Last Saturday, Cardona and his dog, Zomie, were killed when his military convoy hit a roadside bomb, according to Cardona's employer and his family.
Cardona's death was a violent end to a quest for redemption. His loved ones said he undertook one last year at war to earn money for his young daughter, show the military that he was good at his job, and dispel the cloud caused by photographs from Abu Ghraib that circled the globe.
"He wanted to prove that he had nothing to hide, and his way of dealing with that was to go back to war," said Steven Acevedo, Cardona's uncle and close friend. "He very much believed his job was important, but he was resentful that his president and that his government had turned their back on him and tried to use him as a scapegoat."
Cardona and his tan Belgian Malinois, Duco, were shown in photographs of detainee abuse that surfaced publicly in 2004. The most notable image showed Duco growling at a cowering, naked detainee.
Cardona argued he was ordered to have Duco intimidate high-value detainees at the behest of senior officers - assertions supported by court testimony and military records - and jurors acquitted him of all but one assault charge. Cardona was ecstatic after receiving a verdict that spared him jail time and allowed him to stay in the Army.
But staying in the Army did not mean the legacy of Abu Ghraib would disappear. After his blocked attempt to return to Iraq in 2006, he worked at the Army's dog kennels at Fort Bragg, N.C. Demoted as part of his sentence and finding he was unable to sign up for the five more years it would have taken to earn a full military retirement pension, Cardona was honorably discharged on Sept. 29, 2007, according to Army records.
Though Cardona always believed he had done nothing wrong at Abu Ghraib, he carried a silent anger at those who ordered his actions but never were held to account, family members said. "I know that the accusations and the trial tore him up," said Heather Ashby, the mother of Cardona's 9-year-old daughter, Keelyn. "Emotionally, it was a huge drain on him. I don't think he ever wanted to be remembered like that, and I know he was angry that people who were giving orders didn't pay a price or defend what happened."
"Battle brews over Bush library"
Mike Allen Mike Allen, Politico, news.yahoo.com, Saturday, March 14, 2009
Former President George W. Bush is preparing for one final struggle against the odds: raising $300 million for a presidential library, museum and policy institute at a time when dollars are tight and skepticism about his presidency runs high.
The former president and first lady have already begun holding small private dinners to persuade wealthy friends to invest in a monument and incubator based on the values and events of his presidency. By this fall, he’ll be armed with architect’s renderings and will hold travel around the country to meet with groups and build support for the complex on the campus of Southern Methodist University in Dallas.
Some of his new neighbors are less than thrilled with the plan, with a handful of history and political science professors lined up to criticize it.. But SMU fought hard to win the library, as one of eight original bidders and then four semi-finalists for the honor.
“We’ve certainly had to defend our decision, but absolutely feel like it was the right one,” SMU’s president, R. Gerald Turner, told POLITICO. “The overall sentiment on the faculty is that whether they agreed with the president personally or not, it’s great to have these papers and this resource on campus.”
Bush has often gotten out of jams by dint of personal charm, and he’s trying that once again. Two weeks ago, to show he wants to get involved in the SMU community, Bush made a surprise visit to political science professor Harold Stanley’s 9:30 a.m. “Intro to American Government and Politics” class.
Turner accompanied him and asked the 29 sleepy students, “Do you recognize the 43rd president of the United States?”
Bush talked for 10 minutes and took questions for another 50, on everything from the stimulus to banking to whether he had seen the Oliver Stone movie “W” (no) to whether diversity was a goal when he was picking his Cabinet (he said he went for the best person).
One woman advised him to use lots of anecdotes when he’s writing his upcoming book about the big decisions he made during his presidency.
The personal touch worked – the kids lapped it up and hung around him afterward.
“Any professor would envy having this rapt a classroom,” recalled Stanley, the professor.
Friends say that besides writing his memoirs and embarking on a lucrative international speaking tour, Bush plans to stay active in such signature issues as combating AIDS and malaria in Africa, and supporting the families of fallen soldiers.
Groundbreaking for the George W. Bush Presidential Center is scheduled for the fall of 2010, with the grand opening expected in the spring of 2013. The center will have three parts — a library, where Bush’s papers will be stored; a museum of exhibits; and a policy institute, with plans for such novel programs as conversations with retired international leaders about their time in office.
The way presidential libraries work, the library and museum will be run by the government after they’re built by the George W. Bush Foundation, which is chaired by Donald L. Evans, the president’s longtime friend and former commerce secretary.
Evans, who has been planning the project since at least January 2005, said that Laura Bush has been very involved in creating the interpretation for the museum. He hinted that the displays will follow a format similar to the president’s book, built around five or six big decisions, such as whether to go to war with Iraq.
Evans promises “an honest presentation of the very difficult choices the president had to make, but certainly an opportunity to highlight the many accomplishments of his presidency, as well,” with an emphasis on “the values and principles that drive him.”
The most interesting – and controversial – part of the plan is the George W. Bush Policy Institute, which will remain controlled by the president’s foundation and will open well before the planned museum opening in 2013.
SMU’s president says the institute will be more “vibrant ... than simply being a museum frozen in time.”
The president’s advisers are still chewing over what topics to emphasize. Iraq is unlikely to be one of them. Advisers say they have made a specific decision to leave that verdict to history and not try to defend it at a time when Iraq could still wind up as either a democracy or a disaster.
One of the original ideas was to emphasize the president’s so-called “freedom agenda” of democracy for the Middle East, and there was even talk of calling it The Freedom Institute.
That name -- never finalized --was scrapped, in part because many people immediately associated the name with the Middle East, and the institute will have a much broader focus. And lots of other organizations already use “freedom” in their titles; the Bush planners wanted to avoid being confused with them.
Evans said an umbrella topic will be the role of government in a capitalist democracy. But even that may seem a little dated, given the rising role of government in all parts of business – a trend that began on Bush’s watch.
“The president has always had this fundamental belief that government doesn’t create jobs, doesn’t create wealth,” Evans said. “The private sector does that, and it's government’s role to create the environment for the private sector to thrive.”
Bush aides say focus areas for the institute include are likely to include AIDS relief in Africa; No Child Left Behind and other education reforms; faith-based initiatives; and combating protectionism.
Mark Langdale, president of the George W. Bush Foundation, calls the institute “a place where scholars and people who were involved in the making of history can discuss their past efforts and look forward to craft better policies for the future, regardless of party affiliation.”
“Former presidents have a unique platform to get people to come together and think about bigger ideas that transcend the partisan debate,” he said.
Langdale said one idea for distinguishing the think tank from others is to run demonstration tests or pilot projects based on ideas generated from there.
“That’s a little bit different than what other presidential libraries have done, and it’s a little bit different than defending the record,” Langdale said. “By the time the Institute is focusing on a problem, there’ll be new information and new perspectives shaping the policy debate, beyond what happened in the Bush administration.”
"Obama's New Tack: Blaming Bush: President Points to 'Inherited' Economy"
By Scott Wilson, Washington Post Staff Writer, Saturday, March 14, 2009; A01
In his inaugural address, President Obama proclaimed "an end to the petty grievances and false promises, the recriminations and worn-out dogmas that for far too long have strangled our politics."
It hasn't taken long for the recriminations to return -- or for the Obama administration to begin talking about the unwelcome "inheritance" of its predecessor.
Over the past month, Obama has reminded the public at every turn that he is facing problems "inherited" from the Bush administration, using increasingly bracing language to describe the challenges his administration is up against. The "deepening economic crisis" that the president described six days after taking office became "a big mess" in remarks this month to graduating police cadets in Columbus, Ohio.
"By any measure," he said during a March 4 event calling for government-contracting reform, "my administration has inherited a fiscal disaster."
Obama's more frequent and acid reminders that former president George W. Bush left behind a trillion-dollar budget deficit, a 14-month recession and a broken financial system have come at the same time Republicans have ramped up criticism that the current president's policies are compounding the nation's economic problems.
Obama had initially been content to leave partisan defense strategy to his proxies, but as the fiscal picture has continued to darken, he has appeared more willing to risk his image as a politician who is above petty partisanship to personally remind the public of Bush's legacy.
His approval ratings remain strong -- above 60 percent, according to the most recent Gallup poll -- but have dropped from their highs almost entirely because of falling support among Republicans since he took office.
Upon entering the White House in 2001, Bush pinned the lackluster economy on his predecessor, using the "Clinton recession" to successfully argue in favor of tax cuts that won some Democratic support. But for Obama, who built his candidacy on a promise to rise above Washington's divisive partisan traditions -- winning over many independent voters and moderate Republicans in the process -- blaming his predecessor holds special risks.
He will need support beyond his Democratic base as he begins lobbying for his $3.6 trillion budget, which proposes sweeping changes in health care, the energy sector and the public education system. The president did not receive a single House Republican vote for his stimulus plan, prompting some in his administration to view his bipartisan outreach efforts as having little hope of success.
And Republicans have seemed only more emboldened in their rhetoric. Sen. John McCain (Ariz.), for example, recently called the borrowing needed to fund the president's economic recovery plans "generational theft."
"What the administration is involved in now is the politics of attribution," said Lawrence R. Jacobs, a political scientist at the University of Minnesota. "Each week that goes by with falling job numbers and Republican criticism of the administration's flaws means falling approval ratings. What's the antidote? That the guilty party is George Bush."
"The trick," Jacobs said, "is how do you shift blame to George Bush and retain any credibility on the idea that you are looking past partisan warfare? This looks like a doubling down on a very partisan approach."
Rahm Emanuel, Obama's chief of staff, denied that the president has changed his tone toward the previous administration. He said Obama is "not trying to place blame, but he is trying to say clearly: Here's what we've got and here's our way out of it. He's offered a positive alternative to their criticism."
"The truth is that 98 percent of his speeches are about the future, and 2 percent are about inheritance," Emanuel said. "Whereas I think for Republicans it's 2 percent about the future, and 98 percent hope that the people have amnesia."
Until recently, the job of reminding the country of the Bush-era legacy had been left mostly to senior administration officials, and it sometimes ranged beyond economic matters. Referring to the military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, Vice President Biden said soon after the inauguration that "we're trying to figure out exactly what we've inherited here."
In early February, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said that "after I accepted the position, I began looking at the broad array of problems that we were going to inherit," citing the Middle East, Pakistan and Afghanistan in particular.
But most of the Bush-era blame has focused on the economy and the dismal state of the government's finances. Bush's spokesman, Rob Saliterman, declined to comment for this article.
Obama has strengthened his rhetoric gradually. Thomas E. Mann, a senior fellow at the liberal-leaning Brookings Institution, said the administration's "sharpened language is a response to the Republican argument against Obama based on huge deficits and big spending."
Six days after taking office, Obama kicked off an event on jobs, energy reform and climate change with "a few words about the deepening economic crisis that we've inherited." He lamented announced job cuts at such economic mainstays as Microsoft, Intel, Home Depot and Caterpillar, among others.
Just over a week later, Obama, arguing for his stimulus plan, said that "we've inherited a terrible mess," and a few days after that, in the economically depressed city of Elkhart, Ind., he told the audience, "We've inherited an economic crisis as deep and dire as any since the Great Depression."
During a prime-time news conference later that day, he used "inherited" twice in the same sentence to describe the deficit and "the most profound economic emergency since the Great Depression."
This month, Obama has described inheriting "a fiscal disaster" and "a real mess," as administration officials emphasized that the effects of the stimulus package have yet to be seen in paychecks and job-creating public-works projects.
"There's a fascinating behind-the-scenes trend taking place for someone who remains a very popular president," said Ari Fleischer, a former Bush press secretary, describing the decline in Obama's approval ratings and an increase in disapproval numbers. "His response to that trend is to turn up the blame on George Bush and everything that came before him. And he was the one who talked about getting past partisanship."
The economy continues to shed jobs -- 651,000 in February alone -- and the Dow Jones index is roughly 12 percent lower than when the market opened on the day of Obama's inauguration. Perhaps most damaging has been the uncertainty surrounding Obama's strategy to rescue the banking sector, a plan that has been criticized for lacking detail.
Host Chris Wallace asked on "Fox News Sunday" this month, "Can this now fairly be called the Obama bear market?"
House Republican Whip Eric Cantor (Va.) said, "I want to take the president at his word that he wants to work on these problems plaguing American families," adding that "people are looking for leadership."
"It is the Obama economy and the Obama stock market," Cantor said. "This is about today, and he's assumed his post."
Researcher Alice Crites contributed to this report.
Karim Kadim/Associated PressFollowers of radical Shi'ite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr burned an American flag during a demonstration yesterday marking the sixth anniversary of the invasion of Iraq in the Sadr City neighborhood of Baghdad. (Karim Kadim/Associated Press)
"Iraqis burn US flags to mark war anniversary: Protesters march as bombers strike in several cities"
By Hamid Ahmed, Associated Press, March 21, 2009
BAGHDAD - American flags were set on fire yesterday to chants of "no, no for occupation" as followers of an anti-US Shi'ite cleric marked the sixth anniversary of the Iraq war.
In five other Iraqi cities, supporters of cleric Moqtada al-Sadr also marched or stood in protest after prayers to demand the release of their allies detained at Iraqi and US-run prisons.
The protests came as a suicide bomber in Fallujah killed an Iraqi police officer and five other people, including civilians, in an attempted attack on the home of the local leader of Sunni security volunteers who turned against Al Qaeda.
Also, a pair of roadside bombs exploded within 10 minutes of one another after sundown yesterday, wounding four policemen and three civilians in Baghdad's Karradah district, police said. A police colonel and his aide were wounded in a bombing yesterday in Saddam Hussein's hometown of Tikrit, police said.
In the capital, Sadr aide Sheik Haidar al-Jabiri urged supporters to join an April 9 march to protest the sixth anniversary of Americans taking over the city.
"Today, a remembrance of the cruel occupation of Iraq, and on April 9, there will be a chant for liberation," Sadr aide Sheik Haidar al-Jabiri told worshipers gathered in Baghdad's Shi'ite district of Sadr City for Friday sermons.
He added: "Sayed Moqtada invites you to march by the millions on April 9, the anniversary of the cruel occupation."
Baghdad fell to US forces on April 9, 2003.
The war began with a missile and bombing attack on south Baghdad before dawn on March 20, 2003 - March 19 in Washington.
Demonstrators responded by lifting a banner reading: "To the Iraqi government, when will you be trustful and release our detainee sons?"
"No, no for occupation. Yes, yes for liberation. Yes, yes for Iraq," the demonstrators chanted.
Two American flags were set on fire.
Thousands of Sadrist followers in five other cities - Basra, Kut, Diwaniyah, Amarah, and Nasiriyah - also took to the streets in an apparent planned series of protests.
In Kut, up to 1,000 worshipers marched from the grand mosque in the center of the city to Sadrist offices a short distance away, denouncing the US occupation and calling for detainees to be released.
Outside Fallujah, an Iraqi police officer and a small group of civilians died yesterday while trying to stop a suicide bomber from reaching the home of Saadoun al-Eifan, who runs the local branch of the Sunni volunteers, the Sons of Iraq.
Police Major Hamed al-Jumaili said the bomber was trying to get past guards monitoring a bridge in rural Albu Eifan, where Eifan lives, about 6 miles south of Fallujah.
He detonated his explosives belt after bring confronted by the police officer and residents, Jumaili said.
The protests and bombings came a day after a US airstrike on a militant hideout north of Baghdad killed at least 11 insurgents, the United States said.
A search of the site by ground forces after the strike found a cache of weapons, munitions, and parts to build improvised explosive devices, US military spokesman Major Derrick Cheng said yesterday.
Cheng did not immediately know yesterday whether any civilians were killed or injured in the strike, or exactly when it occurred.
"Psychologists Helped Guide Interrogations: Extent of Health Professionals' Role at CIA Prisons Draws Fresh Outrage From Ethicists"
By Joby Warrick and Peter Finn, Washington Post Staff Writers, Saturday, April 18, 2009
When the CIA began what it called an "increased pressure phase" with captured terrorism suspect Abu Zubaida in the summer of 2002, its first step was to limit the detainee's human contact to just two people. One was the CIA interrogator, the other a psychologist.
During the extraordinary weeks that followed, it was the psychologist who apparently played the more critical role. According to newly released Justice Department documents, the psychologist provided ideas, practical advice and even legal justification for interrogation methods that would break Abu Zubaida, physically and mentally. Extreme sleep deprivation, waterboarding, the use of insects to provoke fear -- all were deemed acceptable, in part because the psychologist said so.
"No severe mental pain or suffering would have been inflicted," a Justice Department lawyer said in a 2002 memo explaining why waterboarding, or simulated drowning, should not be considered torture.
The role of health professionals as described in the documents has prompted a renewed outcry from ethicists who say the conduct of psychologists and supervising physicians violated basic standards of their professions.
Their names are among the few details censored in the long-concealed Bush administration memos released Thursday, but the documents show a steady stream of psychologists, physicians and other health officials who both kept detainees alive and actively participated in designing the interrogation program and monitoring its implementation. Their presence also enabled the government to argue that the interrogations did not include torture.
Most of the psychologists were contract employees of the CIA, according to intelligence officials familiar with the program.
"The health professionals involved in the CIA program broke the law and shame the bedrock ethical traditions of medicine and psychology," said Frank Donaghue, chief executive of Physicians for Human Rights, an international advocacy group made up of physicians opposed to torture. "All psychologists and physicians found to be involved in the torture of detainees must lose their license and never be allowed to practice again."
The CIA declined to comment yesterday on the role played by health professionals in the agency's self-described "enhanced interrogation program," which operated from 2002 to 2006 in various secret prisons overseas.
"The fact remains that CIA's detention and interrogation effort was authorized and approved by our government," CIA Director Leon Panetta said Thursday in a statement to employees. The Obama administration and its top intelligence leaders have banned harsh interrogations while also strongly opposing investigations or penalties for employees who were following their government's orders.
The CIA dispatched personnel from its office of medical services to each secret prison and evaluated medical professionals involved in interrogations "to make sure they could stand up, psychologically handle it," according to a former CIA official.
The alleged actions of medical professionals in the secret prisons are viewed as particularly troubling by an array of groups, including the American Medical Association and the International Committee of the Red Cross.
AMA policies state that physicians "must not be present when torture is used or threatened." The guidelines allow doctors to treat detainees only "if doing so is in their [detainees'] best interest" and not merely to monitor their health "so that torture can begin or continue."
The American Psychological Association has condemned any participation by its members in interrogations involving torture, but critics of the organization faulted it for failing to censure members involved in harsh interrogations.
The ICRC, which conducted the first independent interviews of CIA detainees in 2006, said the prisoners were told they would not be killed during interrogations, though one was warned that he would be brought to "the verge of death and back again," according to a confidential ICRC report leaked to the New York Review of Books last month.
"The interrogation process is contrary to international law and the participation of health personnel in such a process is contrary to international standards of medical ethics," the ICRC report concluded.
The newly released Justice Department memos place medical officials at the scene of the earliest CIA interrogations. At least one psychologist was present -- and others were frequently consulted -- during the interrogation of Abu Zubaida, the nom de guerre of Zayn al-Abidin Muhammed Hussein, a Palestinian who was captured by CIA and Pakistani intelligence officers in March 2002, the Justice documents state.
An Aug. 1, 2002, memo said the CIA relied on its "on-site psychologists" for help in designing an interrogation program for Abu Zubaida and ultimately came up with a list of 10 methods drawn from a U.S. military training program known as Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape, or SERE. That program, used to help prepare pilots to endure torture in the event they are captured, is loosely based on techniques that were used by the Communist Chinese to torture American prisoners of war.
The role played by psychologists in adapting SERE methods for interrogation has been described in books and news articles, including some in The Washington Post. Author Jane Mayer and journalist Katherine Eban separately identified as key figures James Mitchell and Bruce Jessen, two psychologists in Washington state who worked as CIA contractors after 2001 and had extensive experience in SERE training. Mitchell, reached by telephone, declined to comment, and Jessen could not be reached yesterday.
The CIA psychologists had personal experience with SERE and helped convince CIA officials that harsh tactics would coerce confessions from Abu Zubaida without inflicting permanent harm. Waterboarding was touted as particularly useful because it was "reported to be almost 100 percent effective in producing cooperation," the memo said.
The agency then used a psychological assessment of Abu Zubaida to find his vulnerable points. One of them, it turns out, was a severe aversion to bugs.
"He appears to have a fear of insects," states the memo, which describes a plan to place a caterpillar or similar creature inside a tiny wooden crate in which Abu Zubaida was confined. CIA officials say the plan was never carried out.
Former intelligence officials contend that Abu Zubaida was found to have played a less important role in al-Qaeda than initially believed and that under harsh interrogation he provided little useful information about the organization's plans.
The memos acknowledge that the presence of medical professionals posed an ethical dilemma. But they contend that the CIA's use of doctors in interrogations was morally distinct from the practices of other countries that the United States has accused of committing torture. One memo notes that doctors who observed interrogations were empowered to stop them "if in their professional judgment the detainee may suffer severe physical or mental pain or suffering." In one instance, the CIA chose not to subject a detainee to waterboarding due to a "medical contraindication," according to a May 10, 2005, memo.
Yet some doctors and ethicists insist that any participation by physicians was tantamount to complicity in torture.
"I don't think we had any idea doctors were involved to this extent, and it will shock most physicians," said George Annas, a professor of health law, bioethics and human rights at Boston University.
Annas said the use of doctors to monitor prisoners subjected to torture is "totally unethical" and has been condemned by the American and World Medical Associations, among other professional bodies.
"In terms of ethics, it's not even a close call," he said.
Steven H. Miles, a professor of medicine at the University of Minnesota and author of "Oath Betrayed: America's Torture Doctors," said the actions described in the memos were the "kind of stuff that doctors have been tried, convicted and imprisoned for in other countries -- and that's what should happen here."
But Michael Gross, a professor at the University of Haifa in Israel and the author of "Bioethics and Armed Conflict: Moral Dilemmas of Medicine and Warfare," said that if physicians think particular harsh interrogation techniques do not constitute torture, there is no reason they should not participate.
"Physicians are faced with a hard dilemma," he said. "They have professional obligations to do no harm, but they also have a duty as a citizen to provide expertise to their government when the national security is at stake. In a national security crisis, I believe our duties as citizens take precedence."
Staff writers R. Jeffrey Smith and Dana Priest and staff researcher Julie Tate contributed to this report.
Charles E. F. Millard
"Ex-pension chief violated rules, report says: He contacted bidding firms on Wall Street"
By Michael Kranish, Boston Globe Staff, May 15, 2009
WASHINGTON - The former head of the nation's pension insurance agency, who last year pushed through a high-risk strategy that shifted the insurance fund heavily into stocks just before the market crash, committed a "clear violation" of agency rules by contacting Wall Street firms that were bidding to oversee the new policy, while also seeking the help of one firm in gaining employment, according to a government report.
Charles E. F. Millard, the former Lehman Brothers managing director who was the Bush administration's director of the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation from May 2007 until Jan. 20, pushed through a dramatic change in the way the agency invested its $64 billion insurance fund, shifting from a reliance mostly on conservative bonds to a strategy that put 55 percent of its portfolio in speculative investments such as stocks in emerging foreign countries, equity funds, and real estate.
The insurance fund backs the pensions of 44 million Americans. But it had an $11 billion deficit and its stock-related investments plunged 23 percent as of last September, before the brunt of the market crash. The agency has not released further information about the performance of its portfolio.
Shortly after the new investment strategy was adopted in February 2008, Millard began contacts with Wall Street firms that hoped to implement the new policy - even though he was warned by officials that such conversations were not allowed under federal bidding rules, according to a draft report by the agency's inspector general made public yesterday.
After the agency last fall hired the investment banking firm Goldman Sachs to oversee a $700 million portion of the fund, Millard e-mailed with a Goldman executive about a Wall Street job, according to the report. The Goldman Sachs official responded that he had talked with a person at another firm "who really likes you and if times were better he would have hired you already." The inspector general reported finding 29 e-mails documenting the effort of a Goldman Sachs official to help Millard "in his search for employment."
A Goldman Sachs spokeswoman, Andrea Raphael, declined comment. The inspector general said there was no evidence of criminal misconduct by the firm. Millard told the inspector general that it was "ridiculous" to suggest that he was seeking help in finding post-government employment.
Nonetheless, as a result of the report, the pension agency is considering whether to revoke the contracts with Goldman Sachs and two other firms, J.P. Morgan and BlackRock. The three firms were given contracts that could result in $100 million in fees over a 10-year period.
The report did not specify whether Millard faces any penalty for his actions. The inspector general, Rebecca Anne Batts, said in an interview yesterday that she is continuing to investigate Millard's actions.
Meanwhile, the revelation of the e-mail exchanges prompted several members of Congress, including Senator Edward M. Kennedy, Democrat of Massachusetts, to request a broader inquiry.
"The Inspector General's report raises very serious questions about the agency's processes as well as the conduct of its former director," Kennedy, who chairs the Committee on Health, Education Labor, and Pensions, said in a statement yesterday. "Millions of Americans count on the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation to protect their pensions, and we will continue to take steps to ensure retirees' funds are properly safeguarded now and in the future."
Millard's lawyer, Stan Brand, said in a telephone interview yesterday that his client did nothing wrong. He said Millard "followed all the rules" and said the e-mail exchange was being taken "out of context."
The Senate Special Committee on Aging, chaired by Senator Herbert Kohl of Wisconsin, announced yesterday that it has subpoenaed Millard to appear at a Wednesday hearing on whether the agency has enough money in its fund to back the nation's private pension plans.
At the same time, the agency has decided to "slow down" the implementation of investments in private equity and real estate, according to the report. The inspector general said she would leave questions about the soundness of the new investment policy to a forthcoming audit by her agency.
A number of experts have raised questions about Millard's decision to switch from a reliance on bonds to a more speculative strategy.
But Millard, in an interview earlier this year with Globe, insisted that putting the majority of the pension insurance fund into stocks and real estate was the only available way to obtain enough return on its investments to cover its obligations. "The new investment policy is not riskier than the old one," Millard said.
The pension agency last summer put out bids for contracts to help manage the new policy. Under the rules, Millard was prohibited from contacting the bidding agencies about the contract during a three-month "blackout" period.
However, despite being advised by officials against such contact, "he did not heed these warnings," the inspector general's report said.
The agency's procurement director told the inspector general that she had advised Millard "multiple times" not to have contact with the bidders.
When the inspector general asked Millard earlier this year about the contacts during the blackout period, he initially denied having the conversations, the report said.
Then, confronted with telephone logs, Millard said he would not have discussed the contracts with officials at the bidding firms.
The agency's acting director, Vince Snowbarger, said yesterday that he takes the report "very seriously" and that the board has accepted the recommendation that future directors "refrain from involvement in the procurement process."
"Cheney defends Bush's national security policies"
By Pamela Hess, Associated Press Writer, 5/21/2009
WASHINGTON – Former Vice President Dick Cheney said Thursday the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks changed how he viewed his job, but didn't change him. Alluding to Washington whispers that he had turned from pragmatist to ideologue, Cheney insisted he is the same person, but acknowledged the harrowing day's events had a lasting impact.
"I've heard occasional speculation that I'm a different man after 9/11," Cheney said during an unflinching defense of Bush-era national security policies. "I wouldn't say that. But I'll freely admit that watching a coordinated, devastating attack on our country from an underground bunker at the White House can affect how you view your responsibilities."
Cheney credited Bush administration policies on harsh interrogation tactics and broadened domestic surveillance and lashed out at President Barack Obama for dismantling its national security legacy — from plans to close the jail at Guantanamo Bay to halting the CIA's use of secret prisons and severe interrogations.
At the White House, presidential spokesman Robert Gibbs said he remained unsure about what motivates Cheney.
"It appears as if there's a continuation of a debate that happened inside of an administration over the course of many years that is still being had by a former vice president," Gibbs told reporters.
Gibbs said Obama, whose speech immediately preceded Cheney's, did not watch the former vice president. Obama was in intelligence and economic briefings; an aide printed out a transcript for the president.
Cheney spent much of his speech at the American Enterprise Institute criticizing the Obama administration for failing to continue Bush administration national security policies.
Al-Qaida's failure to pull off another attack inside the United States over the past 7 1/2 years proves that the Bush strategy worked and should continue, Cheney said.
Cheney said the Bush-era stance was rooted in a determination to ensure the Sept. 11 attacks didn't become "a prelude to something worse."
The use of the so-called enhanced interrogation techniques "prevented the violent death of thousands, if not hundreds of thousands, of innocent people," Cheney said. He challenged Obama to release secret intelligence documents that he contends would prove this case.
Cheney said Thursday that describing those techniques as "torture" — President Obama last month said waterboarding, a form of simulated drowning, constituted torture — libels U.S. intelligence officials who carried out the program. Cheney said that rebuke of the Bush-era program "casts terrorists as victims."
Bush policies were intended to prevent attacks similar in scale to the plane hijackings of the Sept. 11, 2001 terror attacks that killed more than 3,000 people.
"To the very end of our administration, we kept al-Qaida terrorists busy with other problems. We focused on getting their secrets, instead of sharing ours with them. And on our watch, they never hit this country again," Cheney said.
"Lawyers Agreed on the Legality of Brutal Tactic"
The NY Times, By SCOTT SHANE and DAVID JOHNSTON, June 7, 2009
WASHINGTON — When Justice Department lawyers engaged in a sharp internal debate in 2005 over brutal interrogation techniques, even some who believed that using tough tactics was a serious mistake agreed on a basic point: the methods themselves were legal.
Previously undisclosed Justice Department e-mail messages, interviews and newly declassified documents show that some of the lawyers, including James B. Comey, the deputy attorney general who argued repeatedly that the United States would regret using harsh methods, went along with a 2005 legal opinion asserting that the techniques used by the Central Intelligence Agency were lawful.
That opinion, giving the green light for all 13 C.I.A. methods, including waterboarding and up to 180 hours of sleep deprivation, “was ready to go out and I concurred,” Mr. Comey wrote to a colleague in an April 27, 2005, e-mail message obtained by The New York Times.
While signing off on the techniques, Mr. Comey in his e-mail provided a firsthand account of how he tried unsuccessfully to discourage use of the practices. He made a last-ditch effort to derail the interrogation program, urging Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales to argue at a White House meeting in May 2005 that it was “wrong.”
“In stark terms I explained to him what this would look like some day and what it would mean for the president and the government,” Mr. Comey wrote in a May 31, 2005, e-mail message to his chief of staff, Chuck Rosenberg. He feared that a case could be made “that some of this stuff was simply awful.”
The e-mail messages are now in the hands of investigators at the department’s Office of Professional Responsibility, which is preparing a report expected to be released this summer on the Bush administration lawyers who approved waterboarding and other harsh methods. The inquiry, under way for nearly five years, will be the Justice Department’s fullest public account of its role in the interrogation program, which President Obama has ended.
In years of bitter public debate, the department has sometimes seemed like a black-and-white moral battleground over torture. The main authors of memorandums authorizing the methods — John C. Yoo, Jay S. Bybee and Steven G. Bradbury — have been widely pilloried as facilitators of torture.
Others, including Mr. Comey, Jack Goldsmith and Daniel Levin, have largely escaped criticism because they raised questions about interrogation and the law.
But a closer examination shows a more subtle picture. None of the Justice Department lawyers who reviewed the interrogation question argued that the methods were clearly illegal.
¶Mr. Goldsmith, now a Harvard law professor, unnerved the C.I.A. in June 2004 by withdrawing a 2002 memorandum written by Mr. Yoo that said only pain equal to that produced by organ failure or death qualified as torture.
In addition, in a previously undisclosed letter to the agency, Mr. Goldsmith put a temporary halt to waterboarding. But he left intact a secret companion memo from 2002 that actually authorized the harsh methods, leaving the C.I.A. free to use all its methods except waterboarding, including wall-slamming, face-slapping, stress positions and more.
¶Mr. Levin, now in private practice, won public praise with a 2004 memo that opened by declaring “torture is abhorrent.” But he also wrote a letter to the C.I.A that specifically approved waterboarding in August 2004, and he drafted much of Mr. Bradbury’s lengthy May 2005 opinion authorizing the 13 methods.
¶Mr. Comey, who had forced a 2004 showdown with White House officials over the National Security Agency’s surveillance program, concurred in that Bradbury opinion. His objections focused on a second legal opinion that authorized combinations of the methods. He expressed “grave reservations” and asked for a week to revise the memorandum, warning Mr. Gonzales that “it would come back to haunt him and the department,” Mr. Comey said in a 2005 e-mail to Mr. Rosenberg.
Justice Department lawyers involved in the opinions felt torn between what was legal and what was advisable, Mr. Levin said. “Obviously you can only do that which is legal,” he said in a recent interview. “But that does not mean you should automatically do something simply because it is legal.”
The e-mail and documents provide fresh details about a critical year in the interrogation saga, beginning in mid-2004. The C.I.A. inspector general had questioned the legality and effectiveness of the harsh methods, prompting a review of the program. Under intense White House pressure, the Justice Department lawyers in May 2005 approved a series of opinions that reauthorized the harshest practices.
The lawyers had to interpret a 1994 antitorture law written largely with despotic foreign regimes in mind, but used starting in 2002, in effect, as a set of guidelines for American interrogators. The law defined torture as treatment “specifically intended to inflict severe physical or mental pain or suffering.” By that standard, a succession of Justice Department lawyers concluded that the C.I.A.’s methods did not constitute torture.
The only issues that provoked debate were waterboarding, which Mr. Goldsmith questioned, and some combinations of multiple techniques, which Mr. Comey resisted.
Some outside experts agree that the language of the 1994 law is strikingly narrow. “There’s no doubt whatsoever that a great deal of coercive treatment that most people would call torture is not prohibited by the federal antitorture statute,” said Benjamin Wittes, a Brookings Institution scholar who has studied interrogation policy.
But many believe that even under that law, the Justice Department should have recognized that waterboarding, at least, was torture. To argue otherwise, said Brian Z. Tamanaha, a St. John’s University law professor who has studied the interrogation memorandums, required “extraordinary contortions in language and legal analysis.”
Waterboarding, the near-drowning method that President Obama has described as torture, was used on three operatives for Al Qaeda in 2002 and 2003. The C.I.A. never used the technique after it was reauthorized in 2005.
C.I.A. officials had been nervous about the legality of their proposed methods from the start in 2002. They had asked Michael Chertoff, then head of the Justice Department’s criminal division, to grant interrogators immunity in advance from prosecution for torture. Mr. Chertoff refused, but neither did he warn the agency against the methods it was proposing.
The agency’s worst fears about the potential liability of its officers returned with a vengeance in 2004, after the sharp criticism from the agency’s inspector general and Mr. Goldsmith’s withdrawal of the first torture memorandum. C.I.A. officials demanded a new, comprehensive legal review.
But Mr. Goldsmith resigned in July 2004, and his successor as acting head of the Office of Legal Counsel, Mr. Levin, quickly set to work on the review, assisted by his top deputy, Mr. Bradbury.
On July 22, 2004, the Justice Department offered the C.I.A. interim assurance that it could use all methods except waterboarding, which Mr. Goldsmith had questioned. On August 6, Mr. Levin followed up with another interim letter reauthorizing waterboarding, as long as rules were followed.
But in February 2005, when Mr. Levin moved to a new job as legal adviser to the National Security Council, the new interrogation opinions had not been approved by all necessary officials. The day before his departure, Mr. Levin stopped by and apologized to Mr. Bradbury for leaving it to him to sign the volatile documents.
By April 2005, the opinions were in final form, and Mr. Comey, who had already set his own resignation for August, concurred in the 46-page opinion affirming the legality of the 13 techniques. But he told Mr. Gonzales that he strongly objected to Mr. Bradbury’s second opinion, allowing multiple techniques to be used in a single interrogation session.
Mr. Gonzales told him that he was “under great pressure” from Vice President Dick Cheney to complete both memos and that President George W. Bush had asked about the memorandums, Mr. Comey recounted in one of the 2005 e-mail messages.
Later, after reading a revised draft of the second opinion, Mr. Comey added that “my concerns were not allayed, only heightened.” He said he wanted more time to fix the memorandum, but Mr. Gonzales’s chief of staff, Theodore Ullyot, told him the White House would not wait.
Mr. Comey wanted an analysis centered on actual interrogations in an effort to limit the type and combination of techniques that would be permissible, according to someone familiar with his thinking.
”I told him the people who were applying pressure now would not be there when the [expletive] hit the fan,” Mr. Comey wrote in another e-mail message. “It would be Alberto Gonzales in the bull’s-eye. I told him it was my job to protect the department and the A.G. and that I could not agree to this because it was wrong. I told him it could be made right in a week, which was a blink of an eye, and that nobody would understand at a hearing three years from now why we didn’t take that week.”
The NY Times, April 28, 2009
After the attacks of Sept. 11, President Bush signed a series of directives authorizing the Central Intelligence Agency to conduct a covert war against Osama bin Laden's terrorist network, Al Qaeda. The directives empowered the agency to kill or capture Al Qaeda leaders.
The C.I.A. began jailing suspects in 2002, creating a detention and interrogation program from scratch to deal with so-called "high value detainees" of the war on terror. Its detention program for Al Qaeda leaders was the most secretive component of an extensive regime of detention and interrogation put into place by the United States government after the Sept. 11 attacks and the war in Afghanistan.
In its scramble to create a system, the agency made the momentous decision to use harsh methods that the government had long condemned. It borrowed its techniques from an American military training program modeled on the torture repertories of the Soviet Union and other cold-war adversaries, a lineage that would come to haunt the agency.
It located its overseas jails based largely on which foreign governments were most accommodating and rushed to relocate the prisoners when word of the sites leaked.
The C.I.A. operated its detention system under a series of secret legal opinions by agency and Justice Department lawyers. Those rules provided a legal basis for the use of questionable interrogation techniques, including waterboarding, which was used on Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, a high-level detainee believed to have helped plan the attacks of Sept. 11.
The prison network remained cloaked in secrecy until Mr. Bush confirmed its existence during a speech in September 2006: he announced that the 14 remaining inmates in C.I.A. prisons would be transferred to Guantánamo. When Mr. Bush signed the Military Commissions Act the following month, the White House released a statement calling the agency's detention program "one of the most successful intelligence efforts in American history." The act would "ensure that we can continue using this vital tool to protect the American people for years to come," Mr. Bush said.
The C.I.A. interrogation techniques were fully confirmed by the Obama administration in April 2009, when they released Justice Department memos that authorized a range of brutal interrogation techniques, including forced sleeplessness and waterboarding.
"At 85, ex-president plans parachute jump in Maine"
boston.com - AP - June 9, 2009
KENNEBUNKPORT, Maine --Former President George H.W. Bush plans to celebrate his 85th birthday Friday by making a parachute jump in Maine, where he has his summer home.
Aide Jim Appleby said Tuesday that Bush will make a tandem jump with a member of the U.S. Army Golden Knights parachute team onto a landing zone near St. Ann's by the Sea Church in Kennebunkport.
Bush's most recent jump was in November 2007 at the reopening of his library at Texas A&M University in College Station.
He made his first jump as a Navy pilot when his plane was shot down over the Pacific during World War II. He also made two jumps apiece on his 75th and 80th birthdays.
"Cheney writing memoir on his career"
By Associated Press, June 24, 2009
NEW YORK - Former vice president Dick Cheney has signed a book deal with a conservative imprint of Simon & Schuster and said he hopes readers of all ideologies will be interested in his story.
The memoir by Cheney is expected to be published in spring 2011, a few months after George W. Bush’s book comes out. Cheney’s work is currently untitled and will cover his long career in government, from chief of staff under Gerald Ford to vice president under Bush, from Vietnam and Watergate to the first Gulf War and the Sept. 11 attacks.
Cheney, 68, noted that he had never written a book about his years in government, which dates back to the 1960s. “I want my grandkids, 20 or 30 years from now, to be able to read it and understand what I did, and why I did it,’’ he said.
Financial terms were not disclosed. A publishing official with knowledge of the negotiations, but not authorized to publicly discuss them, said the deal was probably worth at least $2 million.
Known for his secrecy while in the Bush administration, Cheney has made it clear since leaving office that he was planning a memoir.
Books by former vice presidents rarely attract a lot of interest unless the author is likely to run for president, or claims an expertise outside of electoral politics (Al Gore’s “An Inconvenient Truth,’’ released in 2006, was about global warming).
But Cheney’s influence is like no other vice president’s and his side of the story should at least catch the attention of the general public, including the many who do not like him.
"CIA Director terminated secret program"
By Pamela Hess, Associated Press Writer, July 10, 2009
WASHINGTON --CIA Director Leon Panetta has terminated a "very serious" covert program the spy agency kept secret from Congress for eight years, Rep. Jan Schakowsky, a House Intelligence subcommittee chairwoman, said Friday.
Schakowsky said she is pressing for an immediate committee investigation of the classified program, which has not been described publicly. Rep. Silvestre Reyes, D-Texas, the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, has said he is considering an investigation.
"The program is a very, very serious program and certainly deserved a serious debate at the time and through the years," she told The Associated Press in an interview. "But now it's over."
Democrats revealed late Tuesday that the CIA Director Leon Panetta had informed Congress in late June that the spy agency had been withholding important information about a secret program begun after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.
Panetta has launched an internal probe at the CIA to determine why Congress was not told about the program. Exactly what the classified program entailed is still unclear.
Schakowsky, D-Ill., said Friday that the failure to inform Congress about the program was intentional. The CIA and Bush administration consciously decided not to tell Congress, she said.
"It's not as if this was an oversight and over the years it just got buried. There was a decision under several directors of the CIA and administration not to tell the Congress," she said.
Schakowsky, who chairs the Intelligence subcommittee on oversight and investigations, said in a Thursday letter to Reyes that the CIA's lying was systematic and inexcusable. The letter was obtained by The Associated Press on Friday.
Schakowsky said Reyes indicated the committee would conduct a probe into whether the CIA violated the National Security Act, which requires, with rare exceptions, that Congress be informed of covert activities. She told AP she hopes to conduct at least part of the investigation for the committee.
Panetta only learned of the existence of the program late last month and told the intelligence committee in a secret meeting on June 24 that he had terminated the program.
Schakowsky described Panetta as "stunned" that he had not been informed of the program for nearly five months into his tenure as director.
She said this is the fourth time that she knows of that the CIA has misled Congress or not informed it in a timely manner, as required by law, since she began serving on the Intelligence Committee two and half years ago.
In 2008, the CIA inspector general revealed that the CIA had lied to Congress about the accidental shoot down of American missionaries over Peru in 2001. In 2007, news reports disclosed that the CIA had secretly destroyed videotapes of interrogations of a terrorist suspect.
She would not describe the other incident.
(This version CORRECTS the spelling of Schakowsky.)
"Report: Bush program extended beyond wiretapping"
By Pamela Hess, Associated Press Writer, July 10, 2009
WASHINGTON – The Bush administration authorized secret surveillance activities that still have not been made public, according to a new government report that questions the legal basis for the unprecedented anti-terrorism program.
It's unclear how much valuable intelligence was yielded by the surveillance program started after the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks, according to the unclassified summary of reports by five inspectors general. The reports mandated by Congress last year were delivered to lawmakers Friday.
President George W. Bush authorized other secret intelligence activities — which have yet to become public — even as he was launching the massive warrentless wiretapping program, the summary said. It describes the entire program as the "President's Surveillance Program."
The report describes the program as unprecedented and raises questions about the legal grounding used for its creation. It also says the intelligence agencies' continued retention and use of the information collected under the program should be carefully monitored.
Many senior intelligence officials believe the program filled a gap in intelligence. Others, including FBI, CIA and National Counterterrorism Center analysts, said intelligence gathered by traditional means was often more specific and timely, according to the report.
The Bush White House acknowledged in 2005 that it allowed the National Security Agency to intercept international communications that passed through U.S. cables without court orders.
The inspectors general interviewed more than 200 government officials and private sector personnel, including former CIA and NSA Director Michael Hayden, former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and former Attorney General Alberto Gonzales.
Five former Bush administration officials refused to be interviewed, including former CIA Director George Tenet and former Attorney General John Ashcroft.
The others: former White House Chief of Staff Andrew Card; former top Cheney aide David Addington; and John Yoo, who served as a deputy assistant attorney general.
The IG report said an unnamed White House official inserted a paragraph into the first threat assessment prepared by the CIA after the Sept. 11 attacks, which was used to justify the extraordinary intelligence measures.
The paragraph said that the "individuals and organizations involved in global terrorism possessed the capability and intention to undertake further terrorist attacks within the United States," according to the report. It also said that the president should authorize the NSA to conduct the surveillance activities.
The memos were revised and renewed thereafter every 45 days. The report said that the president consistently gave that authorization for the surveillance activity, and that both CIA chief Tenet and his successor, Porter Goss, never withheld their signatures from threat assessment memoranda.
The report also questions the legal advice used by President Bush to set up the program, pinpointing omissions and questionable legal memos written by Yoo at the Justice Department.
The report suggests Yoo ignored an explicit provision in the FISA law designed to restrict the government's authority to conduct electronic surveillance during wartime. And it said flaws in Yoo's memos later presented "a serious impediment" to recertifying the program.
Congress required the review of the so-called warrantless wiretapping program last year when it revised the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. FISA is a 30 year-old law that created a secret court to oversee government electronic surveillance.
The inspectors general of the CIA, Justice Department, Defense Department, National Security Agency and Office of the National Intelligence Director also reviewed the Bush-era surveillance program.
"Soldiers in Colorado slayings tell of Iraq horrors"
The Associate Press (AP) - July 26, 2009
COLORADO SPRINGS, Colorado – Soldiers from an Army unit that had 10 infantrymen accused of murder, attempted murder or manslaughter after returning to civilian life described a breakdown in discipline during their Iraq deployment in which troops murdered civilians, a newspaper reported Sunday.
Some Fort Carson, Colorado-based soldiers have had trouble adjusting to life back in the United States, saying they refused to seek help, or were belittled or punished for seeking help. Others say they were ignored by their commanders, or coped through drug and alcohol abuse before they allegedly committed crimes, The Gazette of Colorado Springs said.
The Gazette based its report on months of interviews with soldiers and their families, medical and military records, court documents and photographs.
Several soldiers said unit discipline deteriorated while in Iraq.
"Toward the end, we were so mad and tired and frustrated," said Daniel Freeman. "You came too close, we lit you up. You didn't stop, we ran your car over with the Bradley," an armored fighting vehicle.
With each roadside bombing, soldiers would fire in all directions "and just light the whole area up," said Anthony Marquez, a friend of Freeman in the 1st Battalion, 9th Infantry Regiment. "If anyone was around, that was their fault. We smoked 'em."
Taxi drivers got shot for no reason, and others were dropped off bridges after interrogations, said Marcus Mifflin, who was eventually discharged with post traumatic stress syndrome.
"You didn't get blamed unless someone could be absolutely sure you did something wrong," he said.
Soldiers interviewed by The Gazette cited lengthy deployments, being sent back into battle after surviving war injuries that would have been fatal in previous conflicts, and engaging in some of the bloodiest combat in Iraq. The soldiers describing those experiences were part of the 3,500-soldier unit now called the 4th Infantry Division's 4th Brigade Combat Team.
Since 2005, some brigade soldiers also have been involved in brawls, beatings, rapes, DUIs, drug deals, domestic violence, shootings, stabbings, kidnapping and suicides.
The unit was deployed for a year to Iraq's Sunni Triangle in September 2004. Sixty-four unit soldiers were killed and more than 400 wounded — about double the average for Army brigades in Iraq, according to Fort Carson. In 2007, the unit served a bloody 15-month mission in Baghdad. It's currently deployed to the Khyber Pass region in Afghanistan.
Marquez was the first in his brigade to kill someone after an Iraq tour. In 2006, he used a stun gun to shock a drug dealer in Widefield, Colo., in a dispute over a marijuana sale, then shot and killed him.
Marquez's mother, Teresa Hernandez, warned Marquez's sergeant at Fort Carson her son was showing signs of violent behavior, abusing alcohol and pain pills and carrying a gun. "I told them he was a walking time bomb," she said.
Hernandez said the sergeant later taunted Marquez about her phone call.
"If I was just a guy off the street, I might have hesitated to shoot," Marquez told The Gazette in the Bent County Correctional Facility, where he is serving a 30-year prison term. "But after Iraq, it was just natural."
The Army trains soldiers to be that way, said Kenneth Eastridge, an infantry specialist serving 10 years for accessory to murder.
"The Army pounds it into your head until it is instinct: Kill everybody, kill everybody," he said. "And you do. Then they just think you can just come home and turn it off."
Both soldiers were wounded, sent back into action and saw friends and officers killed in their first deployment. On numerous occasions, explosions shredded the bodies of civilians, others were slain in sectarian violence — and the unit had to bag the bodies.
"Guys with drill bits in their eyes," Eastridge said. "Guys with nails in their heads."
Last week, the Army released a study of soldiers at Fort Carson that found that the trauma of fierce combat and soldier refusals or obstacles to seeking mental health care may have helped drive some to violence at home. It said more study is needed.
While most unit soldiers coped post-deployment, a handful went on to kill back home in Colorado.
Many returning soldiers did seek counseling.
"We're used to seeing people who are depressed and want to hurt themselves. We're trained to deal with that," said Davida Hoffman, director of the privately operated First Choice Counseling Center in Colorado Springs. "But these soldiers were depressed and saying, 'I've got this anger, I want to hurt somebody.' We weren't accustomed to that."
At Fort Carson, Eastridge and other soldiers said they lied during an army screening about their deployment that was designed to detect potential behavioral problems.
Sergeants sometimes refused to let soldiers get PTSD help or taunted them, said Andrew Pogany, a former Fort Carson special forces sergeant who investigates complaints for the advocacy group Veterans for America.
Soldier John Needham described a number of alleged crimes in a December 2007 letter to the Inspector General's Office of Fort Carson. In the letter, obtained by The Gazette, Needham said that a sergeant shot a boy riding a bicycle down the street for no reason.
Another sergeant shot a man in the head while questioning him, lashed the man's body to his Humvee and drove around the neighborhood. Needham also claimed sergeants removed victims' brains.
The Army's criminal investigation division interviewed unit soldiers and said it couldn't substantiate the allegations.
The Army has declared soldiers' mental health a top priority.
"When we see a problem, we try to identify it and really learn what we can do about it. That is what we are trying to do here," said Maj. Gen. Mark Graham, Fort Carson's commander. "There is a culture and a stigma that needs to change."
Fort Carson officers are trained to help troops showing stress signs, and the base has doubled its number of behavioral-health counselors. Soldiers seeing an Army doctor for any reason undergo a mental health evaluation.
On the Net:
Colorado Springs Gazette: www.gazette.com
"US military deaths in Iraq war at 4,331"
By The Associated Press, August 9, 2009
As of Sunday, Aug. 9, 2009, at least 4,331 members of the U.S. military had died in the Iraq war since it began in March 2003, according to an Associated Press count.
The figure includes nine military civilians killed in action. At least 3,465 military personnel died as a result of hostile action, according to the military's numbers.
The AP count is three fewer than the Defense Department's tally, last updated Friday at 10 a.m. EDT.
The British military has reported 179 deaths; Italy, 33; Ukraine, 18; Poland, 21; Bulgaria, 13; Spain, 11; Denmark, seven; El Salvador, five; Slovakia, four; Latvia and Georgia, three each; Estonia, Netherlands, Thailand and Romania, two each; and Australia, Hungary, Kazakhstan and South Korea, one death each.
"US military deaths in Afghanistan region at 694"
By The Associated Press, August 9, 2009
As of Sunday, Aug. 9, 2009, at least 694 members of the U.S. military had died in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Uzbekistan as a result of the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan in late 2001, according to the Defense Department. The department last updated its figures Friday at 10 a.m. EDT.
Of those, the military reports 522 were killed by hostile action.
Outside the Afghan region, the Defense Department reports 69 more members of the U.S. military died in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. Of those, three were the result of hostile action. The military lists these other locations as Guantanamo Bay Naval Base, Cuba; Djibouti; Eritrea; Ethiopia; Jordan; Kenya; Kyrgyzstan; Philippines; Seychelles; Sudan; Tajikistan; Turkey; and Yemen.
There were also four CIA officer deaths and one military civilian death.
"Documents: Rove involved in US attorney firings"
By Stephen Ohlemacher, Associated Press Writer, August 11, 2009
WASHINGTON --Former White House political adviser Karl Rove was deeply involved in the firing of a U.S. attorney in New Mexico, according to White House e-mails and transcripts of closed-door testimony released Tuesday.
The House Judiciary Committee released more than 5,400 pages of White House and Republican National Committee e-mails, along with transcripts of closed-door testimony by Rove and former White House Counsel Harriet Miers.
The documents show that staffers in Rove's office were actively seeking to have U.S. Attorney David Iglesias removed. In one e-mail in 2005, Rove aide Scott Jennings sent an e-mail to another Rove aide, saying, "I would really like to move forward with getting rid of NM US ATTY."
Miers testified that Rove complained to her about Iglesias, but she could not recall whether he specifically said he should be fired.
Iglesias was one of nine U.S. attorneys fired in part for apparently not being sufficiently loyal to the Republican administration.
The ensuing uproar led to a series of damaging revelations about the Bush administration's political meddling with the Justice Department and the eventual resignation of then-Attorney General Alberto Gonzales.
Iglesias said in an interview Tuesday he was nauseated by the whole affair.
"It's exactly what I feared. Over two years ago, I said that all roads lead to Rove," Iglesias said. "I've said consistently that he was highly involved, and now the evidence is there."
Rove's lawyer, Robert Luskin, did not immediately return a call for comment.
Miers was interviewed by House Judiciary Committee lawyers on June 15. Rove was interviewed July 7 and 30.
"After all the delay and despite all the obfuscation, lies, and spin, this basic truth can no longer be denied: Karl Rove and his cohorts at the Bush White House were the driving force behind several of these firings, which were done for improper reasons," said Rep. John Conyers, chairman of the House Judiciary Committee.
Conyers said he provided a copy of the documents released Tuesday to acting U.S. Attorney Nora Dannehy, who questioned Rove earlier this year to determine his precise role in the Bush administration's politically tinged firings of U.S. attorneys.
"Sources: Report reveals CIA methods"
By Associated Press, Saturday, August 22, 2009, www.bostonherald.com - U.S. Politics
WASHINGTON — As the Justice Department considers whether to investigate alleged harsh interrogation practices sanctioned by the Bush administration, sources say a soon-to-be-released report by the CIA’s inspector general reveals that agency interrogators conducted mock executions of terror suspects.
These latest allegations are contained in a 2004 report that has been kept secret and is to be released next week, two congressional officials told The Associated Press. They spoke late Friday on condition of anonymity because the report has not yet been cleared for release.
Threatening a prisoner with death violates U.S. anti-torture laws.
In one case, interrogators brought a gun and power drill into a session with suspected Cole bomber Abd al Rahim al-Nashiri, the report says. The suicide bombing of the warship USS Cole killed 17 U.S. sailors in Yemen in 2000.
In another episode, a gunshot was fired in a room next to a detainee to make the prisoner believe another suspect had been killed, according to the report, which a federal judge has ordered to be made public Monday in response to a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union.
The IG report’s findings were first reported by Newsweek on its Web site.
Nashiri was one of three CIA prisoners subjected to waterboarding, a brutal interrogation technique that simulates drowning that was among 10 techniques approved by the Bush administration’s Justice Department in 2002. President Barack Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder have denounced waterboarding as torture.
"The CIA in no way endorsed behavior— no matter how infrequent— that went beyond formal guidance," said agency spokesman Paul Gimigliano. He declined to comment on the contents of the IG report.
Holder is considering whether to appoint a criminal prosecutor to investigate the Bush administration’s interrogation practices, a controversial move that would run counter to President Barack Obama’s wishes to leave the issue in the past.
Gimigliano said the career prosecutors at the Justice Department have reviewed the report to determine if any laws were broken and whether the interrogators should be prosecuted.
"Professionals in the Department of Justice decided if and when to pursue prosecution," he said. "That’s how the system was supposed to work, and that’s how it did work."
Just one CIA contract interrogator, David Passaro, has been prosecuted. He was found guilty in 2007 in the beating death of a prisoner in Afghanistan.
The Los Angeles Times reported Aug. 9 that a CIA operative brought a gun into an interrogation booth to force a detainee to talk. One of the congressional officials told the AP that referred to the interrogation of the USS Cole suspect.
The IG review was completed in May 2004. The ACLU has sought its release since then. It was expected to be released earlier this year but was delayed by government request.
The report casts doubt on the effectiveness of the harsh interrogation methods employed by CIA interrogators, according to quotes from the report that were contained in Bush-era Justice Department memos declassified this spring. It says no attacks were averted by information obtained using harsh interrogation methods.
The CIA detained and interrogated 94 terrorist suspects; 28 were subjected to harsh methods. Of those three were waterboarded, according to government documents made public earlier this year.
But former CIA Director Michael Hayden said this week at a panel discussion in Washington that the review also credits the harsh interrogation with yielding information on al-Qaida’s basic infrastrucutre, which in turn allowed the CIA to fight the organization behind the 9/11 hijackings.
John L. Helgerson, the now-retired CIA inspector who spearheaded the investigation, told the AP in June that the report is a comprehensive review of everything the CIA did in the secret detention and interrogation program begun in the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.
The investigation was undertaken in response to concerns expressed by agency employees about the program, he added.
"Bush Emerging for Speech to Kick Off Public Policy Institute"
By PETER BAKER, The New York Times, November 12, 2009
DALLAS — Nearly 10 months after leaving office, former President George W. Bush plans to emerge from self-imposed political hibernation on Thursday as he starts a new public policy institute to promote some of the domestic and international priorities of his presidency.
In a speech at Southern Methodist University, home of his future library and museum, the former president will kick off the new George W. Bush Institute as a forum for study and advocacy in four main areas: education, global health, human freedom and economic growth. Advisers said he hoped his institute would be more focused on producing results than many research organizations are.
Mr. Bush will announce the appointment of the first five of two dozen scholars to be affiliated with the institute, which has already scheduled a half-dozen conferences for next year, according to organizers. The former first lady, Laura Bush, will also speak at Thursday’s event to discuss how women’s issues will be injected into all the institute’s program areas, including sponsorship of a conference on the education of women in Afghanistan.
“The president has been working with these ideas for a long time now,” said James K. Glassman, a former top State Department official now serving as the institute’s founding executive director. “He wanted to do something very different from other former presidents, and that is to create a research institute that’s independent, nonpartisan and scholarly and that will have an impact on the real world.”
Although Mr. Bush has given several speeches since leaving office, most have been out of the country, closed to the news media and reminiscent in tone. This is the first event where he has invited reporters to announce a new venture. Organizers expect as many as 1,500 students, donors and others to attend.
The former president’s approach contrasts with that of his vice president, Dick Cheney, who has become a vigorous public critic of President Obama’s national security policies. The institute will be a vehicle for Mr. Bush to re-enter the national conversation and advocate ideas in a less politicized way, advisers said. The goal, Mr. Glassman said, is to “extend principles and work that were accomplished during the administration.”
The institute will be housed along with the presidential library and museum in a building on the S.M.U. campus to be completed by 2013. The Bush foundation has secured $212 million in pledges and contributions toward its goal of $300 million by next year’s groundbreaking, according to two people who were privy to the results but not authorized to discuss them on the record.
Mr. Bush is also completing a book describing some of the most important decisions in his life. He is about five-sixths through with the manuscript, which he is drafting with Chris Michel, a former White House speechwriter, for publication next fall, according to his office.
Former aides said Mr. Bush remained attentive to news developments, even if publicly quiet. “I get a lot of e-mails from him now,” said Michael J. Gerson, his former senior adviser. “He responds to the news. He’s very engaged.”
But the Bushes keep a deliberately low profile. After a shooting rampage left 13 dead at Fort Hood, about 150 miles south of Dallas, the former president and first lady paid a visit in secret to wounded soldiers and family members.
My Daily Work: "Bush's book"
Posted by Dan Wasserman, Boston Globe, November 10, 2010
"Bush declines Obama invitation to ground zero"
May 3, 2011
WASHINGTON – A spokesman for George W. Bush says the former president has declined an invitation from President Barack Obama to attend an observance at New York's ground zero.
Obama plans to visit the site of the destroyed World Trade Center towers Thursday in the aftermath of a Navy SEALs raid that killed Osama bin Laden. The al-Qaida attack, which killed about 3,000 people, occurred in the early months of Bush's presidency in 2001.
The spokesman, David Sherzer, says the former president appreciated the offer to attend but has chosen to remain out of the spotlight during his post-presidency.
Sherzer says Bush celebrates bin Laden's death as an "important victory in the war on terror."
(Photo of Bush: Tony Gutierrez/AP)
"George W. Bush racks up $15 million in speaking fees"
By Rachel Rose Hartman, The Ticket, Yahoo! News, May 20, 2011
How much would you pay to get President George W. Bush to speak at your event?
Almost immediately after leaving office, Bush withdrew from the broader bully pulpit that other former presidents, such as Jimmy Carter, have used to weigh in on matters of public import. But he also joined the storied ranks of former politicians who are now making money on the speaking circuit-- and it's paying off.
Bush spokesman David Sherzer tells iWatch News that Bush has earned at least $15 million for nearly 140 paid speeches since he left office in Jan. 2009. That's an average of about $110,000 per speech. (iWatch News reports that his average fee is pegged between $100,000 and $150,000.)
That's undeniably a lot of dough--but consider how it stacks up against the fees collected by Bush's predecessor, former President Bill Clinton.
By the end of 2009--nine years after Clinton's final term--the former president had already earned $65 million in speaking fees, which included $7.5 million for 36 paid speeches in 2009 alone, according to CNN's analysis of wife Hillary Clinton's 2010 financial disclosure report. That's $208,000 per speech on average for 2009.
IWatch News reports that after declining to visit Ground Zero May 5 with Barack Obama following the death of Osama bin Laden, Bush gave three paid speeches that week--one to "hedge fund executives, a Swiss bank sanctioned for keeping secret bank accounts, and a pro golf event underwritten by the accounting firm involved in the Tyco International financial scandal."
Bush is represented by the Washington Speakers Bureau, and a quick glance at the company shows that they also arrange speaking gigs for wife Laura Bush, daughter Barbara Bush, brother and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, and sister Doro Bush Koch. Doro Bush Koch charges $10,001-15,000 per appearance, according to the company website, and a speech from Jeb Bush costs $15,001-$25,000. Fees for Laura Bush, Barbara Bush and the former president are available by request only.
- Jonathan Melle
- Amherst, NH, United States
- I am a citizen defending the people against corrupt Pols who only serve their Corporate Elite masters, not the people! / My 2 political enemies are Andrea F. Nuciforo, Jr., nicknamed "Luciforo" and former Berkshire County Sheriff Carmen C. Massimiano, Jr. / I have also pasted many of my political essays on "The Berkshire Blog": berkshireeagle.blogspot.com / I AM THE ANTI-FRANK GUINTA! / Please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org
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