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Yoo: Court Rejection Of Bush Detainee Policy Is An Effort ‘To Deny What Happened On 9/11′

Mon, 2007-06-18 11:02

Appearing on Fox News’ Journal Editorial Report this weekend, former Bush Justice Department official John Yoo, a primary architect of the administration’s detainee policies, attacked a recent court decision barring the indefinite detention of civilians by the military as an effort “to deny what happened on September 11.”

Using that claim as his premise, Yoo disingenuously attacked the legal reasoning of the decision while also arguing that the court decision is not a rejection of Bush administration policy. Watch it:

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In his attempt to discredit the court’s rebuke of President Bush’s detainee policy, Yoo makes several false and misleading claims that undermine his argument:

Claim #1 — Osama bin Laden would be treated “like any other criminal” in the U.S.: The Fourth Circuit Court specifically limited the ruling to those who are in the U.S. legally, have established connections here, and are citizens of countries that enjoy good standing with the U.S. Bin Laden is neither a citizen of a country friendly to the U.S. nor would he ever be allowed to enter this country legally. Thus, his detainment would not be barred under this ruling.

Claim #2 — The “decision is an outlier and doesn’t represent a rejection” of Bush’s policies: In 2006, the Supreme Court ruled that the original military commissions set up by the administration “were unauthorized by federal statute and violated international law.” Two weeks ago, two separate military judges ruled that the revised military commissions set up by the administration have no jurisdiction over any of the detainees at Guantanamo Bay. The ruling is only the latest in a series of blows to the Bush administration’s detainee policy.

Claim #3 — These judges “have been putting up resistance to the war on terrorism for many years”: The Fourth Circuit Court, which made the ruling, is actually one of the most conservative appellate courts in the nation. The same court previously ruled that American citizens captured in “a zone of active combat in a foreign theater of conflict” can be held as “enemy combatants.” One of the judges who supported the recent decision, Roger Gregory, was appointed by Bush.

As ThinkProgress has noted before, Yoo has a history of extreme positions in his legal advice. He has previously argued that interrogation isn’t torture unless it results in organ failure or death, Bush didn’t need to ask Congress before invading, Iraq and that the Geneva Conventions don’t apply to detainees.

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Transcript: (more…)

800 percent.

Mon, 2007-06-18 11:00

Increase in the number of internally displaced people in Iraq from one year ago, a “human tragedy unprecedented in Iraq’s history,” according to the Iraqi Red Crescent.

Abramoff Crony Proposes ‘Community Service’ With Lobbyist Group In Lieu Of Prison Sentence

Mon, 2007-06-18 10:00

In March, J. Steven Griles, formerly the no. 2 official at the Interior Department, pleaded guilty to “lying to the Senate about his relationship with convicted lobbyist Jack Abramoff.” Griles asked the lobbyist “for many favors for close female friends and in exchange helped Abramoff’s clients at the government agency.”

As part of Griles’s plea, he is supposed to receive “10 months — five months in jail and five months in a halfway house or in home detention.” His lawyers are now arguing that Griles should receive no prison time and instead be allowed to perform “community service.”

But one of the two organizations he wants to do “community service” for — the American Recreation Coalition (ARC) — is actually a major lobbying firm that apparently benefited under Griles’ tenure in the Bush administration. ARC leads the “Wonderful Outdoor World” (WOW) program, which has close ties to various federal agencies and the Walt Disney Co. Griles helped ARC set up WOW during his tenure at the Interior Department. Greenwire reports:

In 2003, Interior, U.S. EPA, the Army Corps of Engineers, the American Recreation Coalition and Disney signed a memorandum of understanding, agreeing to “work together in partnership on issues of common interest and to jointly plan and implement mutually beneficial programs and activities.”

As deputy secretary at the time, Griles directly oversaw the four Interior agencies who signed the document.

The National Park Service is a current sponsor of Wonderful Outdoor World, as are the Forest Service, Disney, the Coleman Co. and others, but WOW is spearheaded by the American Recreation Coalition, an organization that promotes access for recreation on public lands.

In addition to approving the WOW program, POGO Blog points out that Griles spoke at an ARC event in 2003 and partied with ARC president Derrick Crandall in 2004. Additionally, Crandall wrote to the judge in support of Griles, admitting that he “championed” ARC’s causes while at the Interior Department.

In his “community service” role with WOW, Griles “would raise money, develop new public and private partnerships and conduct outreach to the government and media.” Bottom line: Griles is asking that his punishment be to perform the same activities that landed him in jail.

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Investigation Uncovers ‘Extensive Destruction’ Of RNC Emails, Violations Of Records Act

Mon, 2007-06-18 09:01

House investigators have learned that the Bush administration’s use of Republican National Committee email accounts is far greater than previously disclosed — 140,216 emails sent or received by Karl Rove alone — and that the RNC has overseen “extensive destruction” of many of the emails, including all email records for 51 White House officials.

For the last several months, the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee has been “investigating whether White House officials violated the Presidential Records Act” by using email accounts maintained by the RNC and the Bush-Cheney ‘04 campaign for official White House communications. Today’s findings confirm that the accounts were used “for official purposes, such as communicating with federal agencies about federal appointments and policies.” The report adds:

Given the heavy reliance by White House officials on RNC e-mail accounts, the high rank of the White House officials involved, and the large quantity of missing e-mails, the potential violation of the Presidential Records Act may be extensive.

Some other key findings:

– RNC account use far greater than believed: Despite White House spokesperson Dana Perino’s claim that 50 White House officials used RNC email accounts “over the course of the administration,” the committee learned that at least 88 White House officials had RNC e-mail accounts.

– Bush-Cheney 04 campaign stonewalling: The committee says it may need to “issue compulsory process” to force the cooperation of the Bush-Cheney ‘04 campaign. Despite providing at least eleven White House officials with email accounts, “the campaign has unjustifiably refused” to provide the Committee with even the most basic information about the accounts, including the number of e-mails that have been preserved.

– Destroyed RNC emails may be preserved by federal agencies. The RNC has preserved only 130 e-mails sent to Karl Rove during Bush’s first term and no e-mails sent by Rove prior to November 2003. “For many other White House officials, the RNC has no e-mails from before the fall of 2006.” Several federal agencies contacted by the committee have indicated they “have preserved official communications that were destroyed by the RNC,” but others have resisted the investigation.

– Gonzales may have known about RNC account use. According to a deposition from Rove’s former assistant Susan Ralston, in 2001, then-White House counsel Alberto Gonzales “may have known that White House officials were using RNC e-mail accounts for official business, but took no action to preserve these presidential records.” The committee calls for an investigation into Gonzales’ actions on this matter.

Read the full oversight committee report HERE.

UPDATE: The Gavel has several additional links. Christy Hardin Smith has additional analysis.

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UPDATE II: Sen. Patrick Leahy’s (D-VT) statement: (more…)

Failing Pakistan Policy ‘Essentially Being Run From Cheney’s Office’

Mon, 2007-06-18 08:20

The extremely close U.S. partnership with Pakistan’s General Musharraf has come under increasing scrutiny, as Musharraf continues to crack down on the country’s civil society and a new generation of al Qaeda leaders under Osama bin Laden have led a resurgence in Pakistan.

The Bush administration “has put itself in the embarrassing position of propping up the Muslim world’s most powerful military dictator as an essential ally in its half-baked campaign to promote democracy throughout the Muslim world,” the New York Times editorialized last week. “Washington needs to disentangle America, quickly, from the general’s damaging embrace.”

In yesterday’s Washington Post, respected Pakistan analyst Ahmed Rashid explained a key problem with current U.S. policy:

The problem is exacerbated by a dramatic drop-off in U.S. expertise on Pakistan. Retired American officials say that, for the first time in U.S. history, nobody with serious Pakistan experience is working in the South Asia bureau of the State Department, on State’s policy planning staff, on the National Security Council staff or even in Vice President Cheney’s office. Anne W. Patterson, the new U.S. ambassador to Islamabad, is an expert on Latin American “drugs and thugs”; Richard A. Boucher, the assistant secretary of state for South and Central Asian affairs, is a former department spokesman who served three tours in Hong Kong and China but never was posted in South Asia. “They know nothing of Pakistan,” a former senior U.S. diplomat said.

Current and past U.S. officials tell me that Pakistan policy is essentially being run from Cheney’s office. The vice president, they say, is close to Musharraf and refuses to brook any U.S. criticism of him. This all fits; in recent months, I’m told, Pakistani opposition politicians visiting Washington have been ushered in to meet Cheney’s aides, rather than taken to the State Department.

Cheney’s office has been linked to some of the most damaging and reckless policies carried out under President Bush, including the origins of the war in the Iraq, warrantless domestic spying, the historic expansion of executive authority and the sanctioning of torture. It’s no surprise to find Cheney’s fingerprints on the failing U.S.-Pakistan policy as well.

UPDATE: Harper’s Scott Horton has more.

Iraq ranks #2 on failed state index.

Mon, 2007-06-18 08:04

Sudan ranks first and Iraq ranks second in a new ranking of 177 countries in order of their “vulnerability to violent and internal conflict and societal deterioration.” Iraq’s position “dropped for a third consecutive year.” Nevertheless, as Salon’s Tim Grieve points out, U.S. ambassador Ryan Crocker yesterday “said the situation in Iraq now is ‘a mixed picture’ but ‘not by any means a hopeless one.’”

What’s an Iraqi life worth?

Mon, 2007-06-18 07:22

“For the U.S. military in Iraq, it may be roughly the same” as an Iraqi car. A recent Government Accountability Report finds that the Pentagon “has set $2,500 as the highest individual sum that can be paid” to Iraqi civilians killed “as a result of U.S. and coalition forces’ actions during combat.” “Most death payments remain at that level, with a rough sliding scale of $1,000 for serious injury and $500 for property damage.”

Rove may lead Bush library.

Mon, 2007-06-18 06:48

U.S. News reports that “playing key roles” in establishing the George W. Bush Presidential Library and Museum are Karl Rove, Laura Bush, and former chief of staff Andy Card. “The trio has been interviewing architects and touring similar research campuses for tips. We hear that some are urging Bush to put Rove in charge once it’s built.”

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ThinkFast: June 18, 2007

Mon, 2007-06-18 06:07

The Army has no PTSD center at Walter Reed,” the Washington Post reports in a new expose, “and its psychiatric treatment is weak compared with the best PTSD programs the government offers. Instead of receiving focused attention, soldiers with combat-stress disorders are mixed in with psych patients who have issues ranging from schizophrenia to marital strife.”

In Iraq’s Diyala province, U.S. soldiers are willing to risk teaming up with Sunni militias to fight insurgent groups. Ali al-Adeeb, a prominent Shiite lawmaker, said the U.S. is “trusting people who have previously attacked American forces and innocent people. They are trusting people who are loyal to the regime of Saddam Hussein.”

A new report by CREW documents seventy-two members of the House of Representatives who have spent $5.1 million in campaign funds to pay relatives or their relatives’ companies or employers during the past six years. While the practice is not illegal, CREW hopes to spearhead a public debate “leading to changes in existing law to end these abuses.”

Fallout from the U.S. attorney scandal is “starting to hit the department in federal courtrooms around the country.” Defense lawyers are “raising questions about the motives of government lawyers who have brought charges against their clients,” and “are citing the furor over the U.S. attorney dismissals as evidence that their cases may have been infected by politics.”

“A federal grand jury in Washington, D.C., has heard evidence about a remodeling project at Sen. Ted Stevens’ (R-AK) home as part of a burgeoning investigation into corruption in Alaska.” (more…)

Bill O’Reilly kicked out of Mets clubhouse.

Sun, 2007-06-17 19:11

The New York Daily News reports:

O’Reilly, the FoxNews Channel talking head, got inside the visitors’ clubhouse before Stadium security realized that he was not wearing a credential granting clubhouse access. He and his party then were escorted out of the room.

According to a reporter from The Record of Hackensack (N.J.), the Big Righty complained to the security officer, “You don’t have to escort us out - we’re going.”

Coincidentally, If there is some irony surrounding the incident, it’s that MSNBC’s Keith Olbermann was in the Mets’ clubhouse before Friday night’s game. Olbermann hosts the left-leaning “Countdown” on MSNBC and he and O’Reilly have frequently exchanged barbs on their respective programs.

Hunt for WMD in Iraq almost over.

Sun, 2007-06-17 18:49

More than four years after the fall of Baghdad, the United Nations continues to spend “millions of dollars in Iraqi oil money to continue the hunt for Saddam Hussein’s weapons of mass destruction.” But a new report in the New York Times indicates that the search “appears close to an official conclusion, several years after their absence became a foregone one”:

The United States and Britain have circulated a new proposal to the members of the United Nations Security Council to “terminate immediately the mandates” of the weapons inspectors. Staff meetings on the latest proposal have already taken place, and officials say that the permanent Council members, each of whom has veto power, seem ready to let the inspection group — the United Nations Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission — meet its end.

NYC firefighters slam Giuliani.

Sun, 2007-06-17 12:34

The New York Times has published a review of interviews with more than 50 NYC firefighters and department officers who server under former mayor Rudy Giuliani. “Many firefighters praise his years in office, citing his success in reducing crime and his leadership after the terrorist attacks. Others harbor a resentment for what they describe as his poor treatment of the department before and after Sept. 11.”

Some still speak bitterly about a contract that left firefighters without a raise for two years. Some also say Mr. Giuliani has exaggerated the role he played after the terrorist attacks, casting himself as a hero for political gain. The harshest sentiments stem from Mr. Giuliani’s decision nearly two months after 9/11 to reduce the number of firefighters who were allowed to search for colleagues in the rubble — a move that he partially reversed but that still infuriates many firefighters. […]

The International Association of Fire Fighters, an umbrella union based in Washington, spoke out against Mr. Giuliani in March. The group is also preparing a short DVD outlining its grievances that it plans to send to fire departments across the country. […]

Officials with another union, the Uniformed Fire Officers Association, said they planned to work against Mr. Giuliani’s campaign. “I don’t think the person in Nebraska has any idea yet how we feel,” said John J. McDonnell, a battalion chief and president of the association. “He probably assumes that we think he’s great.”

McConnell expects troop cuts in September.

Sun, 2007-06-17 12:10

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell on CBS Face the Nation this morning:

SCHIEFFER: Well, you said the other day — and I’m going to use your words here — the handwriting is on the wall, that we are going in a different direction in the fall, and I expect the president to lead it. What did you mean by that, Senator?

MCCONNELL: Well, by that, I mean the surge is going to come to an end, obviously. It’s now — the buildup in troops is now complete. It will obviously go on over the summer. I think everybody anticipates that there’s going to be a new strategy in the fall. I don’t think we’ll have the same level of troops, in all likelihood, that we have now. The Iraqis will have to step up, not only on the political side, but on the military side, to a greater extent. We’re not there forever. I think they understand that. And the time to properly evaluate that, it strikes me, is in September.

Abu Ghraib Investigator Details Pentagon Cover-Up: ‘I Thought I Was In The Mafia’

Sun, 2007-06-17 09:31

In a New Yorker article today, Seymour Hersh interviews Army Major General Antonio M. Taguba, who led the Pentagon’s investigation into the abuses at Abu Ghraib. This article is the first time that Taguba has publicly spoken out about the scandal, revealing that the Pentagon forced him to retire early because of his aggressive pursuit of the issue.

Taguba also reveals that he believed high-level military officials, including Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, knew about the abuses but feigned ignorance, putting all the blame on low-level soldiers. Key highlights:

Taguba was threatened by Gen. John Abizaid:

A few weeks after his report became public, Taguba, who was still in Kuwait, was in the back seat of a Mercedes sedan with Abizaid. … Abizaid turned to Taguba and issued a quiet warning: “You and your report will be investigated.”

“I wasn’t angry about what he said but disappointed that he would say that to me,” Taguba said. “I’d been in the Army thirty-two years by then, and it was the first time that I thought I was in the Mafia.

White House “didn’t think the photographs were that bad”:

The former senior intelligence official said that when the images of Abu Ghraib were published, there were some in the Pentagon and the White House who “didn’t think the photographs were that bad” — in that they put the focus on enlisted soldiers, rather than on secret task-force operations. Referring to the task-force members, he said, “Guys on the inside ask me, ‘What’s the difference between shooting a guy on the street, or in his bed, or in a prison?’” A Pentagon consultant on the war on terror also said that the “basic strategy was ‘prosecute the kids in the photographs but protect the big picture.’”

Taguba was demoted and eventually forced to retire because of his investigation: (more…)

Biden: Reid Should Not Apologize For Pace Remarks

Sun, 2007-06-17 08:50

In a conference call with bloggers last week, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) criticized outgoing Joint Chiefs Chairman Peter Pace for his “incompetent” management of the Iraq war and was subsequently attacked by members of Congress as well as the White House for his remarks.

Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) released a statement charging that Reid’s remarks were “incredibly disappointing” and “highly inappropriate.” White House spokesperson Tony Snow called Reid’s remarks “outrageous” and stated, “I certainly hope he does apologize.”

Today on ABC’s This Week, Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Joe Biden (D-DE) said that Reid owes no apology to Pace. Biden asserted that Reid’s remarks were directed at Pace’s involvement in President Bush’s “abject failure” of policy in Iraq:

STEPHANOPOULOS: Did Senator Reid slander the generals, and does he owe them an apology?

BIDEN: No and no. The fact of the matter is, this policy, the president’s policy, is an abject failure. It continues to be a failure. There continues to be denial about the progress that is not being made.

Watch it:

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Indeed, Pace has made several high-profile missteps during his service as Joint Chiefs Chairman. Pace previously refused to refer to Iraq as a civil war, contradicting the assessments of the Pentagon and intelligence community, and has heaped praise on former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld. Pace also controversially justified the military’s ban on openly gay servicemembers by claiming that “homosexual acts between individuals are immoral.”

A spokesperson for Reid has dismissed Snow’s calls for an apology: “This is coming from the same guy that said yesterday that increased violence in Iraq was a sign of success. Americans are looking for candor about the situation in Iraq.”

Transcript: (more…)

Health care industry braces for Sicko.

Sun, 2007-06-17 08:42

The U.S. health-care industry has the June 29 premiere of Michael Moore’s new film Sicko “circled on its calendar… For-profit providers of health care are the controversial and award-winning filmmaker’s latest target.”

“I don’t think Michael Moore set out to make a balanced movie,” said Karen Ignagni, president America’s Health Insurance Plans, a trade group. “He set out to make a movie about government-run systems and imposing them on the United States as the solution to the health-care crisis.” […]

Managed-health-care provider Amerigroup Corp.’s chairman and chief executive, Jeff McWaters, in his remarks at a recent investment-banking conference, listed the film’s coming release among the “headline risks” for the industry overall.

The trade group that represents the drug industry, Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, issued a statement last month deriding both the movie and Moore himself. […]

Moore “has no intention of being fair and balanced,” [the group’s vice president Ken] Johnson said.

In the run-up to a Washington DC screening of Sicko, Moore has taken out a front-page ad listing dozens of health care lobbyists by name, inviting them to watch the film.

Petraeus: Escalation Not Done By September, 50-Year Iraq Presence A ‘Realistic Assessment’

Sun, 2007-06-17 08:19

Today on Fox News Sunday, Gen. David Petraeus, the top U.S. commander in Iraq, agreed that lawmakers will be able to have a “reasonable and a realistic sense” of whether the escalation is “working or not working” by September. “I’ve said that all along. I started saying that back in January. I think we’ll have had by then our forces in the mix for a good several months.”

Later in the show, however, Petraeus admitted that he didn’t expect the “surge” to be done by September, the date set for Petraeus’ supposedly make-it or break-it report to Congress. Asked by host Chris Wallace whether he believed “the job would be done by the surge by September,” Petraeus responded, “I do not, no.” Watch it:

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Asked in a follow up question if that meant “enhanced troop levels would continue for some months after that and into 2008,” Petraeus refused to answer. “Again, premature right now,” said Petraeus. “A number of options out there. And I’m not about to announce what we might do here today, I’m afraid.”

Petraeus then went on to endorse the “Korea model” for Iraq, which envisions keeping troops in the country for decades. “[T]ypically, I think historically, counterinsurgency operations have gone at least nine or ten years,” said Petraeus. “I think in general that that’s probably a fairly realistic assessment,” Petraeus said of the Korea comparison.

Transcript: (more…)

Afghanistan hit by largest bombing since 2001.

Sun, 2007-06-17 07:40

“Thirty-five people were killed and 52 injured this morning in a devastating suicide bomb attack on a bus in Kabul. The attack bore immediate comparison to mass casualty suicide bombings in Iraq and appeared to mark a leap in the capability of the Taliban and its Al-Qa’eda mentors in Afghanistan to mount such attacks. The death toll is the largest in a single attack in the country since 2001.”

Gonzales plans to ‘tighten the leash’ on attorneys.

Sun, 2007-06-17 07:04

Attorney General Alberto Gonzales “recently proposed tightening the leash on the men and women who prosecute federal crimes across the nation. Gonzales described what he delicately calls ‘a more vigorous and a little bit more formal process’ for annually evaluating prosecutors. What that means, as he explained it, is hauling in every U.S. attorney for a meeting to hear, among other things, politicians’ beefs against the prosecutor.” The Chicago Tribune’s Andrew Zajac writes, “If that should happen, expect the fair-mindedness and independence Americans still count on from their Justice Department to slip.”

Judge orders domestic surveillance docs public.

Sat, 2007-06-16 18:00

“Just one day after a news that an internal audit found that FBI agents abused a Patriot Act power more than 1000 times, a federal judge ordered the agency Friday to begin turning over thousands of pages of documents related to the agency’s use of a powerful, but extremely secretive investigative tool that can pry into telephone and internet records.”

The April request from the Electronic Frontier Foundation asked the FBI to turn over documents related to its misuse of National Security Letters, self-issued subpoenas that don’t need a judge’s approval and which can get financial, phone and internet records. Recipients of the letters are forbidden by law from ever telling anyone other than their lawyer that they received the request. Though initially warned initially to use this power sparingly, FBI agents issued more than 47,000 in 2005, more than half of which targeted Americans. Information obtained from the requests, which need only be certified by the agency to be “relevant” to an investigation, are dumped into a data-mining warehouse for perpetuity.