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Breaking: Senate rejects habeas legislation.

Wed, 2007-09-19 08:27

In a 56-43 vote, the majority of the Senate today voted for legislation that would have restored habeas corpus rights to military detainees and given them “the right to protest their detention in federal court.” But the roll call fell four votes short of the 60 needed to cut off debate.

UPDATE: Full roll call vote HERE.

UPDATE II: Leahy has put out a statement reacting to the vote:

It is difficult to defend the higher ground by taking the lower road. The world knows what our enemies stand for. The world also knows what this country has tried to stand for and live up to — in the best of times, and the worst of times. … We will not give up on this important effort.

UPDATE III: Beachmom at DailyKos has more details.

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Webb Slams McCain’s Opposition To His Pro-Troop Amendment: He ‘Needs To Read The Constitution’

Wed, 2007-09-19 07:50

The Senate is set to consider Sen. Jim Webb’s amendment “requiring that active-duty troops and units have at least equal time at home as the length of their previous tour overseas.” Under the current Pentagon policy, troops are deployed for 15 months, but receive just 12 months at home.

Yesterday, Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), an adamant opponent of Webb’s pro-troop amendment, urged Congress to reject the measure:

The Constitution of the United States gives no authority for the Congress of the United States to set lengths of tour or lengths of duty in the military and I hope we will steadfastly reject this kind of micromanagement, which would create chaos.

This morning on CNN, Webb rebutted McCain’s assertion that the Senate has no role in troop deployments:

Well, first of all, Sen. McCain, who I’ve known for 30 years, needs to read the Constitution. There is a provision in Article I, Section 8, which clearly gives the Congress the authority to make rules with respect to the ground and naval forces. There’s precedent for this.

He also urged the President to “think twice” about vetoing the bill if it passes, since it would be “an expression of the Congress that basically said you can’t keep people in Iraq longer than you’re allowing them to be at home.” Watch it:

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In July, Webb’s amendment received approval from the majority of the Senate — 56 votes — but was filibustered by the Republican leadership. Sen. John Warner (R-VA), who supported the bill in July, has now said that is appeased by the administration’s token withdrawal and may vote against it.

Contact your senators and urge them to vote for Webb’s pro-troop amendment.

UPDATE: OpenLeft, Firedoglake, Digby, Working Assets, Taylor Marsh, AMERICAblog, Raising Kaine, Eschaton, Huffington Post, DailyKos, and TPM have more.

Transcript: (more…)

Migration reshaping ‘Iraq’s sectarian landscape.’

Wed, 2007-09-19 07:21

New data collected by relief workers shows that a “vast internal migration is radically reshaping Iraq’s ethnic and sectarian landscape.” From The New York Times:

The migration data, which are expected to be released this week by the Iraqi Red Crescent Organization but were given in advance to The New York Times, indicate that in Baghdad alone there are now nearly 170,000 families, accounting for almost a million people, that have fled their homes in search of security, shelter, water, electricity, functioning schools or jobs to support their families.

The figures show that many families move twice, three times or more, first fleeing immediate danger and then making more considered calculations based on the availability of city services or schools for their children. Finding neighbors of their own sect is just one of those considerations. […]

Although Iraqis of every income level, sect, ethnicity and region of the country have been caught up in this migration, perhaps the most tragic consequences turn up where enormous numbers of poor Iraqi villagers have collected in camps, shantytowns and urban slums after leaving behind almost everything they owned, said Dr. Said Hakki, a physician who is the president of the Red Crescent.

ThinkFast: September 19, 2007

Wed, 2007-09-19 06:00

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“Unable to garner enough Republican support, Senate Democratic leaders said yesterday that they are abandoning a bipartisan effort to bring U.S. troops home from Iraq by next spring.” Instead, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) is expected to push for a firm deadline, this time June 2008. “It’s all definite timelines,” Reid said.

Sen. John Warner (R-VA) suggested yesterday that he may pull his support for Sen. Jim Webb’s (D-VA) measure to give the overstretched armed forces more rest. Warner voted for the measure last July, but he now claims to be appeased by the administration’s token withdrawal. Call your Senators and demand their support for Webb’s pro-troop amendment.

29: President Bush’s approval rating in the latest Reuters/Zogby poll released on Wednesday, which is “below his worst Zogby poll mark of 30 percent in March.”

“A preliminary Iraqi report on a shooting involving” private security firm Blackwater USA says the company’s employees “were not ambushed, as the company reported, but instead fired at a car when it did not heed a policeman’s call to stop, killing a couple and their infant.” The Iraqi Interior Ministry says it has revoked Blackwater’s license over the incident.

The U.S. military has introduced “religious enlightenment” programs for Iraqi detainees. The commander of U.S. detention facilities said the effort is intended to “bend them back to our will.” It is also an effort to identify “irreconcilables” and “put them away” in permanent detention facilities. (more…)

Public not buying Bush spin.

Tue, 2007-09-18 20:00

This evening, CNN ran a report on new poll numbers from CBS that show the American public was unmoved on Iraq by the testimony of Gen. David Petraeus and President Bush’s speech. The National Journal writes that Bush’s spin is “falling on deaf ears.” A key takeaway: Before the administration’s PR offensive, 35 percent of Americans felt the troop increase was making the Iraq situation better. After the speeches and testimony, the number dropped — only 31 percent felt the escalation was working. Watch CNN’s report:

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UPDATE: Greg Sargent notes the percentage favoring withdrawal actually went up.

U.S. Suspends ‘Land Travel’ Outside The Green Zone For Civilian And Diplomatic Officials

Tue, 2007-09-18 19:05

Today, the United States “suspended all land travel by U.S. diplomats and other civilian officials throughout Iraq, except in Baghdad’s heavily fortified Green Zone.”

The move comes days after Blackwater USA was “allegedly involved in the fatal shooting of civilians during an attack on a U.S. State Department motorcade.” From the State Department’s notice:

In light of a serious security incident involving a U.S. embassy protective detail in the Mansour District of Baghdad, the embassy has suspended official U.S. government civilian ground movements outside the International Zone (IZ) and throughout Iraq. […]

This suspension is in effect in order to assess mission security and procedures, as well as a possible increased threat to personnel traveling with security details outside the International Zone.

In March, Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) claimed, “There are neighborhoods in Baghdad where you and I could walk through those neighborhoods, today.” Since that time, according to the Bush administration, the situation in Iraq has dramatically improved. Last week, Gen. David Petraeus and President Bush touted “security gains” in Baghdad.

Yet violence has actually risen since the President’s escalation in January. The situation in Iraq is more dangerous for diplomats as well. The 1,000 State Department employees in Iraq are now required to wear “protective gear,” as attacks have increased within the Green Zone.

U.S. diplomats are also returning from Iraq with post-traumatic stress disorder and other “debilitating, stress-related symptoms that have afflicted many U.S. troops.”

So much for leisurely strolls through Baghdad markets.

Bush Administration Flooding Iraqi Black Market With Billions Of Dollars In Weapons

Tue, 2007-09-18 18:15

In his testimony before Congress last week, Gen. David Petraeus confirmed that the United States plans to sell billions of dollars of weapons to Iraq:

Iraq is becoming one of the United States’ larger foreign military sales customers, committing some 1.6 billion (dollars) to FMS already, with the possibility of up to 1.8 billion (dollars) more being committed before the end of this year.

This move may mean big profits for arms manufacturers in the United States and abroad. But as Salon’s Mark Benjamin notes, “[G]ood business doesn’t necessarily equal good foreign policy.”

A recent Government Accountability Report found that the United States has been unable to keep track of the arms it sold in the region. Under Petraeus’s watch, more than “110,000 AK-47 assault rifles, 80,000 Glock pistols, 135,000 pieces of body armor and 115,000 Kevlar helmets issued to Iraqi security forces” have gone missing. U.S. weapons sold to the Iraqi government were also found in Turkey, where they were linked to violent crimes.

U.S. officials also acknowledged in June that they were arming Sunni groups who promised to fight Al-Qaeda. But as Center for American Progress Senior Fellows Lawrence Korb and Brian Katulis note, the Bush administration’s short-sighted strategy is actually contributing to the deterioration of the security situation:

First, the United States is arming up different sides in multiple civil wars that could turn even more vicious in the coming years. Second (and more important to America’s strategic interests) billions of dollars of U.S. military assistance is going to some of the closest allies of America’s greatest rival in the Middle East — Iran. The Shi’a-dominated Iraqi national army and security forces could quite quickly turn their weapons against American troops and allies in the region.

Recent statistics also show that the more the United States trains and equips the Iraqi security forces, the more violence in the country increases.

McConnell Admits It Was A ‘Judgment Call’ To Selectively Declassify Intelligence To Media

Tue, 2007-09-18 17:31

In an August interview with the El Paso Times, National Intelligence Director Mike McConnell “raised eyebrows” by “pulling the curtain back” and revealing several previously classified details of government surveillance. As Spencer Ackerman observed, McConnell declassified more that day than he did during “the entire Congressional debate.

Under questioning from Rep. Bobby Scott (D-VA) in a House Judiciary Committee hearing today, McConnell claimed that declassification is “a responsibility of the President,” but admitted that this case was based on a “judgment call” by him. McConnell also admitted that there was no “specific” record on when the information was declassified:

SCOTT: Does it come declassified just because you said or is there some process to declassify?

McCONNELL: There is a process but it is ultimately a judgment call. […]

SCOTT: So we know when something was declassified. The moment of time it was declassified. Is there some record of that?

McCONNELL: Not specifically. I’m sure it can be recovered some way if there is some if there’s a specific concern or question.

Watch it:

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House Judiciary Chairman John Conyers (D-MI) explained recently that McConnell divulged secrets to the media while previously claiming “in litigation that confirmation of such involvement cannot be permitted under the state secrets doctrine.”

While declassifying intelligence may certainly be McConnell’s “judgment,” the timing of the declassification is notable. The interview with the El Paso Times occurred on August 22, just weeks before Congress would return from summer recess to consider whether to reauthorize the Protect America Act.

McConnell has claimed that “Americans are going to die” with continued public discussion of wiretapping. Unfortunately, he is willing to sacrifice his own principles for a “judgment call” to expand President Bush’s spy authority.

Speaker Blog has more on the hearing.

Transcript: (more…)

ThinkProgress Introduces New Comments System

Tue, 2007-09-18 14:02

ThinkProgress is elated to announce important, new changes to our comments section, including comments registration.

As frequent visitors of this blog are well aware, the feedback in the comments section often fails to adhere to our Terms of Use. Our new comments system will more strictly enforce these guidelines. Here are the new features you need to be aware of:

1) Comments registration: Beginning today, you must register in order to comment on ThinkProgress.

2) Recommend comments: Once you are logged on in the comments section, you will see a green thumbs-up icon next to each comment. Registered users will now be allowed to vote up comments that they like by clicking on the icon.

3) View top rated comments: You will now be able to view comments by their ratings. At the top of the comments section for each blog post, you will see a link to sort comments by “top rated” or by “date.”

4) Report abuse: Next to each comment, registered users will see a red flag icon. If you notice a comment that does not adhere to our Terms of Use, simply click on this icon. If a sufficient number of registered commenters flag a comment, it will be removed from the comments section and placed in a moderation queue. We will then determine whether to permanently delete the comment or republish it.

You can register either through the comments section or by clicking on “register” at the top right hand side of the sidebar.

If you encounter any problems registering, please let us know. And tell us what you think about the new comments system in our new comments section!

UPDATE: We’ve encountered some early problems and have taken down registration for the time being.

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McConnell: ‘very small number’ of Americans spied on.

Tue, 2007-09-18 13:39

During his testimony about warrantless surveillance today before the House Judiciary Committee, Director of National Intelligence Michael McConnell said that out of the “billions” of conversations and e-mails intercepted abroad, only “a very small number” of Americans are “overheard.” McConnell gave no indication, however, of what he considered “small” to be, relative to “billions” of communications. Watch it:

Though McConnell claimed in the hearing that no Americans were the “targets” of “wiretaps” without a court order, Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) insisted that “much-needed checks and balances” must be “restored” in the nation’s surveillance laws.

UPDATE: The Gavel has more on the hearing here.

UPDATE II: TPMmuckraker has more here and here.

DC voting rights bill fails.

Tue, 2007-09-18 13:16

Today, a majority of the Senate voted 57 to 42 to give DC congressional representation. But it failed to get the 60 votes needed to overcome Sen. Mitch McConnell’s (R-KY) filibuster. Full roll call HERE.

UPDATE:The fat lady has not sung yet, this war is not over,” said DC Rep. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D) in reaction to today’s vote.

CNN: Only Pro-War Demonstrators Are ‘Troop Supporters’

Tue, 2007-09-18 12:26

Reporting on the war demonstrations in Washington D.C. this past weekend, CNN’s Kathleen Koch perpetrated the falsehood that pro-war demonstrators support the troops while anti-war demonstrators do not.

In her report, Koch starts off talking about the thousands of anti-war demonstrators. She then proceeds to “balance out” the report with news on the much smaller counter-demonstration, referring to them as the “pro-troop demonstrators”:

[J]ust 13 blocks away, a smaller group of nearly a thousand pro-troop demonstrators tried to make their message heard.

Watch it:

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Koch made no such “pro-troop” reference to those demonstrating against the administration.

CNN’s own promo on its website made the same distinction, pitting “anti war protesters” against “troop supporters”:

– Dave de Give

This post was submitted through our Blog Fellows program. Make your own contribution — and get paid for it — by clicking here.

Help restore the Constitution.

Tue, 2007-09-18 12:10

Yesterday, Sens. Chris Dodd (D-CT) and Patrick Leahy (D-VT) reintroduced the Habeas Corpus Restoration Act as an amendment to a defense authorization bill, restoring the right of habeas corpus to detainees charged as “enemy combatants.” Firedoglake notes that Sen. Lindsay Graham (R-SC) has already threatened to filibuster the bill. Call your senators (information HERE) urge them to support the legislation.

UPDATE: OpenLeft has more.

Waxman: State Dept. Watchdog’s ‘Foremost Mission Is To Support The Bush Administration’

Tue, 2007-09-18 11:26

The Inspector General Act of 1978 states Inspectors General (IG) must be “independent and objective” in their analysis. The State Department IG, led by Howard Krongard, has a core mission of “promot[ing] integrity” and “prevent[ing] and detect waste, fraud, abuse, and mismanagement” within the Department.

But today, House Oversight Committee Chairman Henry Waxman (D-CA) wrote to Krongard under allegations from seven employees that he “has repeatedly interfered with on-going investigations to protect the State Department and the White House from political embarrassment.”

Waxman wrote that one “consistent allegation” is that Krongard believes his “foremost mission is to support the Bush Administration, especially with respect to Iraq and Afghanistan,” rather than “act as an independent and objective check.” Waxman also noted complaints of Krongard’s “partisan political ties.”

Among the allegations:

– Refused to send “any investigators” into Iraq and Afghanistan to “pursue investigations into wasteful spending or procurement fraud.”

– Stalled investigators from cooperating with a “Justice Department investigation into waste, fraud, and abuse relating to the new U.S. Embassy in Iraq.”

– Used “irregular” and incomplete investigative procedures to help exonerate a prime contractor of the U.S. embassy in Iraq of charges of labor trafficking.

– Impeded investigators’ efforts to cooperate with a Justice probe into allegations that a “large private security contractor was smuggling weapons into Iraq.”

– Interfered with an on-going investigation “into the conduct of Kenneth Tomlinson, the head of Voice of America and a close associate of Karl Rove.”

– Censored portions of inspection reports on embassies so that information on security vulnerabilities was “not disclosed to Congress.”

The report adds that under Krongard, the IG office has seen an “exodus of trained staff” as “people come to work every day fearful” of his “daily antagonism.”

The allegations against Krongard reflect a disturbing trend in the IG offices under the Bush administration. Currently, at least four IGs are under investigation into allegations of “fraud, wasteful spending and abuse of power” — the very flaws they are supposed to be preventing.

Specter quietly boosts abstinence funding.

Tue, 2007-09-18 11:00

Sen. Arlen Specter (R-PA) added more than two dozen earmarks for abstinence education to the “Labor and Health and Human Services appropriations measure that passed the panel in June.” His requests totalled more than $1 million. He is the only lawmaker to sponsor such a spending request abstinence education.

Bush Expresses Desire To Serve In Iraq, Except ‘I’m Too Old’ And Terrorists ‘Would Notice Me’

Tue, 2007-09-18 10:15

The Washington Post’s Dan Froomkin highlights comments made recently by President Bush to a group of military bloggers. Blogger “N.Z. Bear” reported that Bush told the group he wishes he could be serving in Iraq — except that he’s too old:

Responding to one of the bloggers in Iraq he expressed envy that they could be there, and said he’d like to be there but “One, I’m too old to be out there, and two, they would notice me.”

Froomkin undercuts Bush’s claim by noting just how few hours Bush has spent on the ground in his “surprise visits” to Iraq:

Maybe Bush was just making idle chit-chat. But this would not be the first time the president has appeared unaware of the hardships his war has caused hundreds of thousands of American troops — while expressing a misguided sense of bravado.

He certainly hasn’t ever put himself in harm’s way. The president who avoided serving in Vietnam as a young man has made only three visits to Iraq since declaring that major combat operations were over more than four years ago. All three of the visits were unannounced and featured extensive security. Bush’s total time in country? Less than 15 hours.

The Bush team has frequently expressed a “misguided sense of bravado” in comparing their efforts with those of soldiers on the ground. Tony Snow once claimed Bush is “on the frontlines” of the Iraq war “every day.” Similarly, First Lady Laura Bush claimed “no one suffers more than the President and I do.”

President Bush once suggested that Americans here at home are making a similar sacrifice to those of soldiers on the ground. How? “They sacrifice peace of mind when they see the terrible image of violence on TV every night.”

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U.S. turns up ‘anti-Shi’ite propaganda’ in Iraq.

Tue, 2007-09-18 09:50

In a post at Danger Room today, Noah Shachtman, who recently visited Iraq, describes how the effort to turn Sunni groups against Al Qaeda in Iraq relies on “a steady diet of anti-Shi’ite propaganda” that could be creating the conditions for “an all-in sectarian battle royale”:

I worry that’ll be the case on the political scene, as well. Sunni political and tribal leaders are increasingly throwing in their lot with U.S. forces here against Al-Qaeda in Iraq and other insurgent types. But, to get them to come over to our side, the American military has fed them a steady diet of anti-Shi’ite propaganda.

Arrests and killings of Shi’ite militants are announced from loudspeaker blasts; President Bush’s bellicose rhetoric towards Shi’a Iran is reported on friendly radio programs. But the majority of this country is Shi’ite. Are we setting ourselves up as the enemies of the majority here? Are we priming the pump for an all-in sectarian battle royale? It seems like a possibility.

(HT: Robert Farley)

The 22 most corrupt members of Congress.

Tue, 2007-09-18 09:31

Today, the nonpartisan watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington put out its third annual report on the most corrupt members of Congress, Beyond DeLay: The 22 Most Corrupt Members of Congress (and two to watch). The bipartisan list includes Sen. Ted Stevens (R-AK), Rep. Rick Renzi (R-AZ), Rep. John Murtha (D-PA), and Rep. William Jefferson (D-LA), among others.

Abizaid: In ‘The Battle Of Words,’ Phrases Like ‘Islamic Extremism’ Alienate ‘Mainline Islam’

Tue, 2007-09-18 08:40

In July, former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani complained that Democratic presidential candidates avoided using formulations of the term “Islamic extremists,” saying “I can’t imagine who you insult if you say Islamic terrorist“:

“During their two debates they never mentioned the word Islamic terrorist, Islamic extremist, Islamic fascist, terrorist, whatever combination of those words you want to use, (the) words never came up,” Giuliani said Tuesday in Virginia Beach. “Maybe it’s politically incorrect to say that. I don’t know. I can’t imagine who you insult if you say Islamic terrorist. You don’t insult anyone who is Islamic who isn’t a terrorist.

In August, Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-CT) said he worries that candidates “don’t use the term ‘Islamist extremism’ or ‘Islamist terrorism’ in the debates.” He said it was “a problem” of “political correctness.”

The hawkish logic of Giuliani and Lieberman was contradicted yesterday by former CENTCOM Commander Gen. John Abizaid, who said in a speech that “even adding the word Islamic” makes it “very, very difficult” to “work together” with mainline regional leaders to keep extremism “from becoming mainstream.” Abizaid was speaking at the Center for Strategic and International Studies on the role of the military in counterterrorism. Watch it:

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While hawks like Giuliani and Lieberman push to ratchet up the rhetoric, people like Abizaid realize that recklessly conflating Islam with extremism is counterproductive to actually addressing the problem of terrorism, as it alienates necessary allies in the Muslim world.

Transcript: (more…)

Fox’s ‘balanced’ analysis of Petraeus’ testimony.

Tue, 2007-09-18 08:17

Last week, after Gen. David Petraeus gave his status report on Iraq in testimony to the House, Media Matters pointed out that seven out of eight analysts featured by Fox News that day were pro-escalation. The cable news network even cut away to Ann Coulter when war critics questioned Petraeus. Brave New Films released a new Fox Attacks video today that condenses the decidedly unfair and unbalanced coverage down to 90 seconds. Watch it: