Friday, December 16, 2005
New York Times admits it held domestic spying story for a full year
The Times also reveals that senior members of Congress from both parties knew about Bush's decision to spy on Americans who were making international calls or emails, without warrants.
Further, the Times notes that they have omitted information in the article they did write, agreeing with the Bush Administration that the information could be useful for terrorists.
Thursday, December 15, 2005
Bush agrees to new law specifically banning torture of detainees
Under the emerging deal, the CIA and other civilian interrogators would be given the same legal rights as currently guaranteed members of the military who are accused of breaking interrogation guidelines, these officials added. Those rules say the accused can defend themselves by arguing it was reasonable for them to believe they were obeying a legal order.
The congressional officials spoke on condition of anonymity, saying they did not want to pre-empt an expected announcement later in the day at the White House, possibly by President George W. Bush and McCain.
These officials also cautioned the agreement was encountering opposition in the House from Representative Duncan Hunter (R-Calif.), the chairman of the House Armed Services Committee. A spokesman for Hunter said negotiations were ongoing.
But Senator John Warner (R-Va.), Hunter's counterpart in the Senate, was said to be on board. And his spokesman, John Ullyot, said: "Senator Warner is meeting with Chairman Hunter to work out the refinements."
Scott McClellan, the White House press secretary, suggested a top-level official, perhaps even the president, would be talking about an agreement later Thursday.
A day earlier, the House endorsed the Senate-passed ban, agreeing that the United States needed to set uniform guidelines for the treatment of prisoners in the war on terror and to make clear that U.S. policy prohibits torture.
That put pressure on the White House at a time when the president finds himself defending his wartime policies daily amid declining public support for the Iraq war and his own low standing in opinion polls.
The White House at one point threatened a veto if the ban was included in legislation sent to the president's desk, and Vice-President Dick Cheney made an unusual personal appeal to all Republican senators to give an exemption to the CIA.
But congressional sentiment was overwhelmingly in favour of the ban, and McCain, a former navy pilot who was held and tortured for 5 1/2 years in Vietnam, adopted the issue.
The Republican maverick and the administration have been negotiating for weeks in search of a compromise, but it became increasingly clear that he, and not the administration, had the votes in Congress.
As passed by the Senate and endorsed by the House, McCain's amendment would prohibit "cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment" of anyone in U.S. government custody, regardless of where they are held. It also would require that service members follow procedures in the army field manual during interrogations of prisoners in Defence Department facilities.
In discussions with the White House, that language was altered to bring it into conformity with the Uniform Code of Military Justice. That says that anyone accused of violating interrogation rules can defend themselves if a "reasonable" person could have concluded they were following a lawful order.
Officials say the language also now includes a specific statement that those who violate the standards will not be afforded immunity from civil or criminal lawsuits.
In recent weeks, the administration had sought to add language that would offer protection from prosecution for interrogators accused of violating the provision. But McCain rejected that, arguing it would undermine the ban by not giving interrogators reason to follow the law.
Supporters of the provisions say they are needed to clarify current anti-torture laws in light of abuses at Abu Ghraib in Iraq and allegations of misconduct by U.S. troops at the detention centre at Guantanamo Bay.
They also say that passing such legislation will help the United States repair an image they say has been tarnished by the prisoner abuse scandal. The White House long has contended that the United States does not engage in torture.
© The Canadian Press, 2005
U.S. war tab zeroes in on half-trillion dollars
WASHINGTON—Even in a town where 12-figure numbers are routinely tossed around over morning coffee, half a trillion bucks is a hefty chunk of change. It is half the Canadian Gross Domestic Product, 20 times what a Stephen Harper-led government would be spending on the Canadian military in 2010 and it is what the George W. Bush-led wars in Afghanistan and Iraq will have cost Americans some time in 2006. The Pentagon is drafting a wartime request to the U.S. Congress for another $80 billion to $100 billion (U.S.) early next year, members of both parties say, in addition to the $50 billion Congress will hand over in supplemental funding before it leaves on its Christmas break. That would put the military outlay to $450 billion and counting, pocket change from the half a trillion mark. The Iraq war alone is costing U.S. taxpayers $5 billion per month and even if today's elections are successful and American troops start returning home in 2006, the money will still be needed to bring back personnel and equipment. In 1991, Operation Desert Storm cost $91 billion, but because president George H.W. Bush cobbled together a real coalition, the American tab came to $7 billion, said Terry Anderson, a historian at Southern Methodist University in Texas. "That is the difference between fighting a war as part of a true coalition and fighting a war on your own,'' he said. Yet the price tag of the war receives a fraction of attention in this country compared to the American death toll, or to faulty pre-war intelligence. "That's because if you just asked the average American what our annual budget is, they wouldn't be able to hazard a guess,'' Anderson said. "They just don't know, so this means nothing to them.'' But there are other reasons — the average young American does not need to fear the draft, and the average American has not been asked to make any financial sacrifice during the war. Indeed, Bush has provided tax cuts to the nation's wealthiest. "Certainly we've never had tax cuts at the time of a war before,'' Anderson said. "So people are thinking the economy must be pretty good because we can afford all these things. But when I tell my students, `Guess who is going to pay for this — you,' they look at me in disbelief.'' Phyllis Bennis, who has studied the cost of war for the liberal Institute for Policy Studies, says there has been a sacrifice by the lowest echelons of American society. "It's true there hasn't been a call from the president for the American people to share the sacrifice,'' Bennis said. "But it is the poorest sector which is paying because of massive cutbacks in health care, education, every facet of social assistance being slashed to pay for this war.'' She said CEOs of war-related companies have seen their salaries increase 200 per cent since Sept. 11, 2001, while Americans who need food stamps are not getting them. In 2005 dollars, World War II was more expensive and Vietnam is marginally more expensive, so far. According to The Iraq Quagmire: The Mounting Costs of the Iraq War, the Institute for Policy Studies estimates money spent on the Iraq war could have built more than three million housing units, provided scholarships for 80 million American students and provided more than 50 million "head start'' slots for impoverished students. It says the money could have funded a global anti-poverty program or provided immunizations for the world's children. Yesterday, 115 religious activists were arrested on Capitol Hill protesting some $50 billion in cuts over five years in a House of Representatives budget plan. Jim Wallis, founder of the Christian ministry group Sojourners and sometimes a consultant to the Democrats, said political choices were being made that hurt low-income Americans. Half a trillion is a hard number to wrap one's head around. By way of comparison, the U.S. education department has an annual budget of $71.5 billion, although education is primarily a state and local responsibility. Homeland Security has a $34.2 billion budget this year, and the defence department expects to maintain its $443 billion annual budget next year. The war costs are about eight times what Congress has earmarked to rebuild the U.S. Gulf Coast after hurricanes Rita and Katrina. One figure that dwarfs even the war expenditures is the $598.3 billion U.S. trade deficit in the first 10 months of this year. White House spokesperson Scott McClellan would not confirm the new war requests yesterday, but he told reporters the troops in Afghanistan and Iraq will be given what is needed to win. Much of the money will have to go to replace equipment which has been badly damaged in Iraq.
Tuesday, December 13, 2005
Former President Ford Hospitalized - Yahoo! News
International Anti-War Movement Builds at UK Conference
Andrew Murray the Chair of the Stop the War Coalition opened a conference in London on December 10th describing it as an “historic event” that brings together peace activists from around the world. Indeed, the conference included delegates from the United States, Britain, Iraq, Iran, Pakistan, India, the Philippines, Canada, Poland, Greece, Italy, Spain and many other European countries. And as the day wore on it became evident that the potential historic nature of the conference would be seen depending on the actions taken as a result of the event.
No doubt, the international peace movement deepened, broadened and increased its solidarity at the conference. Approximately, 1,200 people packed the Royal Horticultural Society Hall in an event that remained full throughout the day until 8 PM at night.
Monday, December 12, 2005
Byrd Warns Frist Against 'Nuclear Option'
Sen. Robert Byrd of West Virginia said Monday he doesn't expect Democrats to
filibuster the nomination of Supreme Court nominee Samuel Alito, but he still
chastised Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist for threatening to stop any such
effort through a drastic parliamentary effort that has been dubbed the "nuclear
"If he ever tries to exercise that, he's going to see a real filibuster if
I'm living and able to stand on my feet or sit in my seat," Byrd said in a
Senate debate with Frist, R-Tenn.
"If the senator wants a fight, let him try it," said Byrd, the Senate's
senior Democrat. "I'm 88 years old, but I can still fight, and fight I will for
freedom of speech. I haven't been here for 47 years to see that freedom of
speech whittled away and undermined. "
The animated exchange, springing from the majority leader's threat on Sunday
to block judicial filibusters, featured Frist waving his hands and wiping his
brow in exasperation.
Byrd insisted that Democrats have not threatened to filibuster Alito, who was
chosen by President Bush as the replacement for retiring Justice Sandra Day
O'Connor. In response, Frist read from a half-dozen news stories that quoted
Democrats mentioning the option, looking back at Byrd after each item.
"I will do everything I possibly can if your side chooses, if the Democrat
side chooses to filibuster," Frist said.
Senate Democrats have questioned whether Alito, a federal appeals court
judge, has the proper judicial temperament and ideology to replace O'Connor.
Some have said Alito's views on issues such as voting rights and abortion could
provoke a filibuster unless he allays their concerns about his commitment to
civil rights at his confirmation hearings, beginning Jan. 9.
The filibuster is a parliamentary tactic whereby senators use their right to
virtually unlimited debate to block measures, legislation or nominations. It
takes 60 votes in the 100-member Senate to stop a filibuster.
Under Frist's scenario, the GOP would seek a parliamentary ruling that
declares filibusters are not permitted against judicial nominees. That ruling
ultimately would go before the full Senate for a vote, with a simple majority
required to prevail. Republicans hold 55 seats.
Democrats like Byrd have threatened to retaliate with a fight that could
snarl Senate business for months.
With the Senate back in town, Progress for America, a conservative advocacy
group, launched a new television ad supporting Alito in Washington, D.C., Maine,
Rhode Island and Nebraska. It will run for four days on cable stations, costs
$150,000 and features two former Alito clerks praising the judge.
The Fraternal Order of Police announced Monday that it will support Alito's
nomination. "We believe that he will be an outstanding addition to the Supreme
Court," said FOP President Chuck Canterbury.
And the National Association of Manufacturers was expected to endorse Alito
Several gay and lesbian rights groups announced their opposition to Alito's
confirmation Monday. They include the Human Rights Campaign, National Gay and
Lesbian Task Force, Lambda Legal, National Center for Lesbian Rights, and
Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays.
Disability rights groups planned to announce their opposition to Alito on
Wednesday. They include ADA Watch/National Coalition for Disability Rights,
Alliance of Disability Advocates, Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law,
Disability Rights Education and Defense Fund, National Council on Independent
Living and World Association of People with Disabilities.