Thursday, January 26, 2006
Tuesday, January 24, 2006
The human rights group based its conclusions mostly on statements by senior administration officials in the past year, and said President Bush's reassurances that the United States does not torture suspects were deceptive and rang hollow.
"In 2005 it became disturbingly clear that the abuse of detainees had become a deliberate, central part of the Bush administration's strategy of interrogating terrorist suspects," the report said.
Noor, a 30-year-old freelance television cameraman, spent time in Baghdad‘s Abu Ghraib prison and lately at Camp Bucca in southern Iraq; he was arrested at his home in the violent northern city of Tal Afar in early June during a general search of his neighborhood by Iraqi and U.S. troops.
Some may have been traced without being removed from the list, while others may have chosen to vanish.
But several hundred names are causing particular concern to the authorities.
Richard Hersh, of Boca Raton, Fla., director of Truth Project Inc. of Palm Beach County, told an ad hoc panel of House Democrats that his group and others in South Florida have been infiltrated and spied upon despite having no connections to terrorists.
"Agents rummaged through the trash, snooped into e-mails, packed Web sites and listened in on phone conversations," Hersh charged. "We know that address books and activist meeting lists have disappeared."
The Truth Project gained national attention when NBC News reported last month that it was described as a "credible threat" in a database of suspicious activity compiled by the Pentagon's Talon program. The listing cited the group's gathering a year ago at a Quaker meeting house in Lake Worth, Fla., to talk about ways to counter military recruitment at high schools.
Bruce Lawrence has just published "Messages to the World: The Statements of Osama Bin Laden," a book translating bin Laden's writing. He is skeptical of Thursday's message.
"It was like a voice from the grave," Lawrence said.
He thinks bin Laden is dead and has doubts about the tape. Lawrence recently analyzed more than 20 complete speeches and interviews of the al Qaida leader for his book. He says the new message is missing several key elements.
"There's nothing in this from the Koran. He's, by his own standards, a faithful Muslim," Lawrence said. "He quotes scripture in defense of his actions. There's no quotation from the Koran in the excerpts we got, no reference to specific events, no reference to past atrocities."
Although the allegations came from Halliburton's own water quality experts, the company once headed by Vice President Dick Cheney denied there was a contamination problem at Camp Junction City, in Ramadi.
"We exposed a base camp population (military and civilian) to a water source that was not treated," said a July 15, 2005, memo by William Granger, the official for Halliburton's KBR subsidiary who was in charge of water quality in Iraq and Kuwait.
"The level of contamination was roughly 2x the normal contamination of untreated water from the Euphrates River," Granger wrote in one of several documents.
Recently, I took a few days to reread the war sermons delivered by influential evangelical ministers during the lead up to the Iraq war. That period, from the fall of 2002 through the spring of 2003, is not one I will remember fondly. Many of the most respected voices in American evangelical circles blessed the president's war plans, even when doing so required them to recast Christian doctrine.
Charles Stanley, pastor of the First Baptist Church of Atlanta, whose weekly sermons are seen by millions of television viewers, led the charge with particular fervor. "We should offer to serve the war effort in any way possible," said Mr. Stanley, a former president of the Southern Baptist Convention. "God battles with people who oppose him, who fight against him and his followers." In an article carried by the convention's Baptist Press news service, a missionary wrote that "American foreign policy and military might have opened an opportunity for the Gospel in the land of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob."
As if working from a slate of evangelical talking points, both Franklin Graham, the evangelist and son of Billy Graham, and Marvin Olasky, the editor of the conservative World magazine and a former advisor to President Bush on faith-based policy, echoed these sentiments, claiming that the American invasion of Iraq would create exciting new prospects for proselytizing Muslims. Tim LaHaye, the co-author of the hugely popular "Left Behind" series, spoke of Iraq as "a focal point of end-time events," whose special role in the earth's final days will become clear after invasion, conquest and reconstruction. For his part, Jerry Falwell boasted that "God is pro-war" in the title of an essay he wrote in 2004.
The war sermons rallied the evangelical congregations behind the invasion of Iraq. An astonishing 87 percent of all white evangelical Christians in the United States supported the president's decision in April 2003. Recent polls indicate that 68 percent of white evangelicals continue to support the war. But what surprised me, looking at these sermons nearly three years later, was how little attention they paid to actual Christian moral doctrine. Some tried to square the American invasion with Christian "just war" theory, but such efforts could never quite reckon with the criterion that force must only be used as a last resort. As a result, many ministers dismissed the theory as no longer relevant. [more]
The existing controversy over reauthorization of the USA Patriot Act -- portions of which will "sunset" if they are not renewed -- acquired a new dimension with the disclosure last month of an NSA domestic surveillance operation.
Some now argue that the Patriot Act should not be reauthorized before the Bush Administration's claims of inherent presidential authority to conduct domestic intelligence surveillance outside of the framework of law (FISA) are confronted and clarified. "The extensive new powers requested by the executive branch in its proposal to extend and enlarge the Patriot Act should under no circumstances be granted unless and until there are adequate and enforceable safeguards to protect the Constitution and the rights of the American people against the kinds of abuses that have so recently been revealed," said former Vice President Al Gore in a January 16, 2006 speech. Much of the Patriot Act is unobjectionable to anyone, and some of it is positively sensible. But it also has controversial provisions on "national security letters" as well as several totally extraneous provisions inserted by House Republicans. A detailed assessment of the entire piece of legislation was prepared by the Congressional Research Service. A copy was obtained by Secrecy News. See "USA PATRIOT Improvement and Reauthorization Act of 2005 (H.R. 3199): A Legal Analysis of the Conference Bill," January 17, 2006: http://www.fas.org/sgp/crs/intel/RL33239.pdf
The report said more than 100 terror suspects may have been transferred to countries where they faced torture or ill treatment in recent years.
"It is highly unlikely that European governments, or at least their intelligence services, were unaware," Marty said in the report.
QUESTION: But the --
GEN. HAYDEN: That's what it says.
QUESTION: But the measure is probable cause, I believe.
GEN. HAYDEN: The amendment says unreasonable search and seizure.
QUESTION: But does it not say probable --
GEN. HAYDEN: No.
U.S. Constitution: Fourth Amendment
Fourth Amendment - Search and Seizure
The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.
Monday, January 23, 2006
"There will be a lot of hearings and talk about that," Bush says, "but that's good for democracy," a form of government on which he has been insufficiently briefed. Also testifying will be Attorney General Alberto Gonzales. Since he orchestrated Bush's 2002 blank check to the NSA, Gonzales's testimony will essentially consist of him applauding himself.
At the open hearing of the Senate Judiciary Committee (the Senate Intelligence Committee's hearing will be closed), Gonzales says he will not discuss "the operational aspects" of this "highly classified program."
There is, however, a former NSA officer who is eager to testify at an open hearing. Russ Tice, a former technical-intelligence specialist with NSA and the Defense Intelligence Agency, was also involved in the agency's SAPs (special access programs), which—Bill Gertz reported in the January 12 Washington Times—"are the most sensitive U.S. intelligence and weapons programs and are exempt from many oversight mechanisms used to check other intelligence agencies."
Russ Tice has been warned, however, by Renee Seymour, director of NSA's special access programs, not to testify about secret electronic intelligence programs because they are so super-secret; she emphasizes that "neither the staff nor the members [of the congressional committees] are cleared to receive the information covered by the special access programs."
Russ Tice, Bill Gertz also reports, was a source for the New York Times story that has created the continuing fervor over Bush's further extension of his unilateral powers as commander in chief to do whatever he wants to protect our otherwise democratic and constitutional values. [thanks, Tom P]