Saturday, July 21, 2007

Amnesty International Considers New Bush Executive Order 'Same Old Song'

PR Newswire
Amnesty International Considers New Bush Executive Order 'Same Old Song'

WASHINGTON, July 20 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Jumana Musa, Amnesty
International USA advocacy director for domestic human rights and
international justice and an international law attorney, issued the
following statement in response to President Bush's executive order
regarding the interpretation of the Geneva Conventions Common Article 3 as
it applies to the Central Intelligence Agency's program of detention and

"Today's executive order is noteworthy for what it does not say as much
as for what is does state. Although the order prohibits rape, sexual
assault or abuse, sexual humiliation and denigration of religion, the
deafening silence on other techniques that the CIA may have used, such as
waterboarding, the cold room technique and sleep deprivation, speaks
volumes. The United States can no longer hide behind the specter of
national security and providing so-called 'too much information' to Al
Qaeda to avoid an outright rejection of such patently unlawful techniques.

"The broader problem with this executive order is that it works off the
mistaken contention that there is a global war that extends the law of war
framework to every corner of the world. This misappropriation of
humanitarian law has been used by the administration to avoid human rights
law and assert ultimate executive authority over detention and
interrogation of anyone President Bush designates an 'unlawful enemy

"Also, this order is designed to determine the lawfulness of
interrogation techniques that can be used in the CIA's 'program of
detention' -- widely known as an illegal program of 'disappearances' and
secret prisons. A legitimate interrogation regime cannot cure the
illegality of this despicable practice and does not bring this nation in
line with its treaty obligations.

"The fact that President Bush continues to assert the authority to
engage in secret detentions and applies that authority to a broad range of
people who can picked up anywhere around the world indicates an unrepentant
administration that seeks to minimize the rule of the law."


Court Tells U.S. to Reveal Data on Detainees at Guantánamo

The New York Times
Court Tells U.S. to Reveal Data on Detainees at Guantánamo

A federal appeals court ordered the government yesterday to turn over virtually all its information on Guantánamo detainees who are challenging their detention, rejecting an effort by the Justice Department to limit disclosures and setting the stage for new legal battles over the government’s reasons for holding the men indefinitely.

The ruling, which came in one of the main court cases dealing with the fate of the detainees, effectively set the ground rules for scores of cases by detainees challenging the actions of Pentagon tribunals that decide whether terror suspects should be held as enemy combatants.

It was the latest of a series of stinging legal challenges to the administration’s detention policies that have amplified pressure on the Bush administration to find some alternative to Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, where about 360 men are now being held at the United States naval base.

A three-judge panel of the federal appeals court in Washington unanimously rejected a government effort to limit the information it must turn over to the court and lawyers for the detainees.

The court said meaningful review of the military tribunals would not be possible “without seeing all the evidence, any more than one can tell whether a fraction is more or less than half by looking only at the numerator and not the denominator.”

Advocates for detainees have criticized the tribunals since they were instituted in 2004 because the terror suspects held at Guantánamo have not been permitted lawyers during the proceedings and have not been allowed to see much of the evidence against them.

P. Sabin Willett, a Boston lawyer who argued the case for detainees, called the ruling “a resounding rejection of the government’s effort to hide the truth.”

A Justice Department spokesman, Erik Ablin, declined to comment on the decision, saying the department was “reviewing the decision’s implications and evaluating our options.”

The ruling came in the first case under a 2005 law that provides for limited appeals court review of the military’s Guantánamo hearings, known as combatant status review tribunals.

One of the legal challenges facing the administration is that the Pentagon efforts to try a small number of detainees for war crimes have been stalled since early June, when two military judges ruled there were defects in the procedures that had been followed in declaring the men to be enemy combatants.

Then, later last month, the Supreme Court agreed to hear an appeal from detainees claiming a right to challenge their detentions in federal courts through habeas corpus cases, a contention the administration has fought with some success in the courts and Congress.

The cases in the appeals court and the Supreme Court are both efforts by lawyers for the detainees to challenge the military’s decisions to hold the men.

The lawyers are pursuing habeas corpus rights because such cases would give federal judges far more power to review Pentagon decisions than the appeals court has to review the military tribunal actions. The lawyers have argued that in a 2005 law, Congress so limited the review permitted by the federal appeals court that the detainees need access to federal courts through habeas cases to get a fair review of their detentions.

When the Supreme Court said it would hear the Guantánamo case last month, its order made clear the justices would be carefully watching the appeals court decision as they consider broader Guantánamo issues. In an unusual comment, the Supreme Court’s order in June said, “it would be of material assistance” for the justices to receive arguments from the lawyers that take into account the appeals court ruling setting the rules for the review process.

The case in which the decision came yesterday involved requests by eight detainees for review of decisions by military tribunals.

The ruling also included significant victories for the government, including a decision allowing the Pentagon to limit the subjects that the lawyers can discuss with detainees and authorizing special Pentagon teams to read the lawyers’ mail and remove unauthorized comments.

The decision noted that Congress said the appeals court’s review of the combatant status hearings was limited to determining whether the Pentagon followed its own procedures, and whether an enemy-combatant finding was supported by a preponderance of the evidence.

But it rejected the Justice Department assertion that the court should be able to examine only the information included in the combatant status hearing, not the more expansive information the government might have collected on a detainee.

The ruling was written by Douglas H. Ginsburg, the chief judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit..

“In order to review compliance with those procedures,” Judge Ginsburg wrote, “the court must be able to view the government information.”

Detainees’ lawyers have argued that the military officials running the hearings may not have collected information that might support the detainees’ cases. But detainees’ lawyers also said the ruling created the likelihood of fresh legal battles over what information in the government’s vast intelligence files was covered, and whether the government in fact produces all its information dealing with specific detainees.

The decision allowed the government to file its information with the court for review if the government argues the contents are too important to be released. It also defined government information as including only that which is “reasonably available.”

Throughout the legal battles over Guantánamo, detainees’ lawyers have argued that the government has used such rules to limit their effectiveness by maintaining control over information.

Wells Dixon, a lawyer at the Center for Constitutional Rights in New York who represents detainees, said that pattern was likely to be repeated. “Once again,” Mr. Dixon said, “we are left to rely on the government to produce all of the information that it says exists.”


John Kerry Does It: Breaks the Taboo, and Shoves It Back Down Their Throats

The Huffington Post
Paul Abrams
John Kerry Does It: Breaks the Taboo, and Shoves It Back Down Their Throats

I have been hoping, pleading, wishing that the issue of the war proponents not volunteering, that not a single member of the Bush family has volunteered, would rise to the surface. I have written about it on this site, and placed ads in Crawford, TX, newspapers when the White House Press Corps was in town to watch Bush clear brush while al-Qaeda plotted.

In "Ultimate Accountability: The Conspiracy of Silence", I pointed out why, namely that politicians and the MSM had an understanding that it would not be raised. Nonetheless, this is a very potent weapon, as I could personally attest having directly asked Jeb Bush and Bill Kristol those questions standing eyeball-to-eyeball, and, in both cases, noted the red-flushing of their faces and, in the case of Kristol, shouting "why should I, why should I?";and in the case of Jeb, turning on his heels and strutting away. Charlie Rangel said he introduced the draft proposal rather than confronting the subject directly. Charlie Rose wondered why to raise it? Howard Fineman, said "yeah, right."

John Kerry has done it. On Olbermann today, he said, "it is about time that those promoting this war offered up their own children to fight it, and anyone who themselves are 40 and under in the Congress and the Administration"......

This was in response to the letter Hillary Clinton received from Eric Edelman, former Cheney advisor, now in the Pentagon, and, according to Turkish newspapers, the absolute worst US Ambassador to Turkey in history. Edelman wrote that Clinton's letter asking what plans the Pentagon had for withdrawing US troops was, in effect, helping our enemies.

Democrats typically would slam the Administration for such accusations, thus succumbing to their invitation to join their argument. Indeed, that is what Hillary did in her response.

John Kerry did it better. He shoved it back down their throats so that they would choke on it. He also broke the taboo on calling for those voting and promoting the war volunteering themselves and having their own children go to Iraq.

This hypocrisy sis NOT the major reason we should not have invaded to begin with, nor the main reason we should withdraw all our troops. It is, however, a potent weapon because it strikes at the most "reptilian" part of our brain: their fear conflicting with and overcoming their grand ideas of remaking the world so long as someone else took the risk.

Now, John Kerry has broken the taboo. Politicians, bloggers, and MSM -- repeat, repeat, repeat, repeat, repeat.


Bush Administration Claims 10 New Presidential Powers

The Huffington Post
Bush Administration Claims 10 New Presidential Powers
Peter Smith
Huffington Post

"Broader Privilege Claimed In Firings White House Says Hill Can't Pursue Contempt Cases Bush administration officials unveiled a bold new assertion of executive authority yesterday in the dispute over the firing of nine U.S. attorneys, saying that the Justice Department will never be allowed to pursue contempt charges initiated by Congress against White House officials once the president has invoked executive privilege..." -- Washington Post, Friday July 20, 2007

Washington -- Facing increased questioning after recent claims of executive privilege, the Bush Administration announced Friday that a team of politically appointed Liberty University and Federalist Society lawyers working at the Justice Department have unearthed ten new presidential powers hidden deep in the Constitution by the obviously-prescient framers.

1. The president can have ice cream whenever he wants.

2. X-Ray vision.

3. The president can use his X-Ray vision to look through anyone's underwear any time anywhere.

4. Like the Pope, the president is right all the time.

5. The power to authorize water boarding or the even-more-controversial Executive Wedgie.

6. The power to heal lepers.

7. The power to speak in tongues.

8. The power to "appropriate" anyone's lunch money anywhere anytime.

9. The power to break wind and blame the nearest American citizen without being subjected to claims that, "Whoever smelt it dealt it."

10. The power to blame everything, absolutely everything, on someone other than himself.

Unlike executive privilege, these powers pertain only to the President, and not to others working within the executive branch, said an anonymous source within the Justice Department. Lawyers were especially concerned about the power of X-Ray vision.

"We don't trust all these born-again people," said the source. "We're concerned that heterosexual X-Ray vision among born agains might lead to homosexual X-Ray vision."

Democrats have scheduled congressional hearings for early next month.


Bush puts CIA prisons under Geneva Conventions

Bush puts CIA prisons under Geneva Conventions
By David Morgan

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. President George W. Bush, under fire over the treatment of CIA detainees, on Friday ordered that agency interrogators comply with the Geneva Conventions against torture.

Five years after he exempted al Qaeda and Taliban members from the Geneva provisions, Bush signed an executive order requiring the CIA to comply with prohibitions against "cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment" as set down in the conventions' Common Article 3.

Human rights activists criticized Bush's action, saying it did not go far enough to eliminate dangerous interrogation techniques.

Bush, who insists the United States does not use torture, has faced pressure at home and abroad over interrogation techniques used on suspected militants held at secret CIA prisons and other locations, including the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

Critics have complained the CIA has mistreated prisoners during clandestine flights in and out of countries in Europe.

Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman John Rockefeller of West Virginia said intelligence officials should tell the panel how Bush's order "will translate into actual conduct by the CIA" and the Justice Department must provide a legal analysis.

Amnesty International USA, a human rights group, said that while specific acts including rape and sexual assault were banned, the "deafening silence on other techniques that the CIA may have used, such as waterboarding, the cold room technique and sleep deprivation, speaks volumes."

Bush's broad assertions of power in his war on terror have also come under assault from U.S. judges, who have rejected his indefinite imprisonment of enemy combatants and domestic spying program.

The new order comes 10 months after the Bush administration was forced to suspend its secret prison system because of a 2006 Supreme Court ruling that cast doubt on its legality.


CIA Director Michael Hayden said on Friday the order provides clarity for CIA interrogators and other agency officials worried about the legal liabilities of their involvement in secret detention operations.

"The executive order resolves any ambiguity by setting specific requirements that, when met, represent full compliance with Article 3. Any CIA terrorist detention and interrogation effort will, of course, meet those requirements."

Fewer than 100 detainees, including suspected senior al Qaeda members, have been held in secret CIA prisons since the September 11 attacks on New York and Washington in 2001.

A smaller number has been subjected to what CIA officials describe as "enhanced interrogation measures." Human rights advocates say those methods have included techniques such as simulated drowning, or waterboarding, that amount to torture.

Senior administration officials declined to say what interrogation techniques would be allowed under the new order, arguing that the disclosure would enable al Qaeda and other militant groups to train members to resist the techniques.

The order prohibits acts including murder, torture, cruel or inhuman treatment, mutilation or maiming, intentional serious bodily injury, rape, sexual assault or abuse, biological experiments and the taking of hostages.

It bans "willful and outrageous acts of personal abuse done for the purpose of humiliating or degrading the individual in a manner so serious that any reasonable person -- considering the circumstances -- would deem the acts to be beyond the bounds of human decency."

Acts intended to denigrate a detainee's religion are also prohibited.

(Additional reporting by Caren Bohan and Jeremy Pelofsky)


Friday, July 20, 2007

Go to Iraq and fight, Mr. President
Olbermann: Go to Iraq and fight, Mr. President
Bush’s latest choice of scapegoat — Hillary Clinton — boggles the mind
By Keith Olbermann
Anchor, 'Countdown'

It is one of the great, dark, evil lessons, of history.

A country — a government — a military machine — can screw up a war seven ways to Sunday. It can get thousands of its people killed. It can risk the safety of its citizens. It can destroy the fabric of its nation.

But as long as it can identify a scapegoat, it can regain or even gain power.

The Bush administration has opened this Pandora’s Box about Iraq. It has found its scapegoats: Hillary Clinton and us.

The lies and terror tactics with which it deluded this country into war — they had nothing to do with the abomination that Iraq has become. It isn’t Mr. Bush’s fault.

The selection of the wrong war, in the wrong time, in the wrong place — the most disastrous geopolitical tactic since Austria-Hungary attacked Serbia in 1914 and destroyed itself in the process — that had nothing to do with the overwhelming crisis Iraq has become. It isn’t Mr. Bush’s fault.

The criminal lack of planning for the war — the total “jump-off-a-bridge-and-hope-you-can-fly” tone to the failure to anticipate what would follow the deposing of Saddam Hussein — that had nothing to do with the chaos in which Iraq has been enveloped. It isn’t Mr. Bush’s fault.

The utter, blinkered idiocy of “staying the course,” of sending Americans to Iraq and sending them a second time, and a third and a fourth, until they get killed or maimed — the utter de-prioritization of human life, simply so a politician can avoid having to admit a mistake — that had nothing to do with the tens of thousand individual tragedies darkening the lives of American families, forever. It isn’t Mr. Bush’s fault.

The continuing, relentless, remorseless, corrupt and cynical insistence that this conflict somehow is defeating or containing or just engaging the people who attacked us on 9/11, the total “Alice Through the Looking Glass” quality that ignores that in Iraq, we have made the world safer for al-Qaida — it isn’t Mr. Bush’s fault!

The fault, brought down, as if a sermon from this mount of hypocrisy and slaughter by a nearly anonymous undersecretary of defense, has tonight been laid on the doorstep of... Sen. Hillary Clinton and, by extension, at the doorstep of every American — the now-vast majority of us — who have dared to criticize this war or protest it or merely ask questions about it or simply, plaintively, innocently, honestly, plead, “Don’t take my son; don’t take my daughter.”

Sen. Clinton has been sent — and someone has leaked to The Associated Press — a letter, sent in reply to hers asking if there exists an actual plan for evacuating U.S. troops from Iraq.

This extraordinary document was written by an undersecretary of defense named Eric Edelman.

“Premature and public discussion of the withdrawal of U.S. forces from Iraq,” Edelman writes, “reinforces enemy propaganda that the United States will abandon its allies in Iraq, much as we are perceived to have done in Vietnam, Lebanon and Somalia.”

Edelman adds: “Such talk understandably unnerves the very same Iraqi allies we are asking to assume enormous personal risks.”

A spokesman for the senator says Mr. Edelman’s remarks are “at once both outrageous and dangerous.” Those terms are entirely appropriate and may, in fact, understate the risk the Edelman letter poses to our way of life and all that our fighting men and women are risking, have risked, and have lost, in Iraq.

After the South was defeated in our Civil War, the scapegoat was Confederate President Jefferson Davis, and the ideas of the “Lost Cause” and “Jim Crow” were born.

After the French were beaten by the Prussians in 1870 and 1871, it was the imaginary “Jewish influence” in the French Army general staff, and there was born 30 years of self-destructive anti-Semitism, culminating in the horrific Dreyfus case.

After the Germans lost the First World War, it was the “back-stabbers and profiteers” at home, on whose lives the National Socialists rose to prominence in the succeeding decades and whose accused membership eventually wound up in torture chambers and death camps.

And after the generation before ours, and leaders of both political parties, escalated and re-escalated and carpet-bombed and re-carpet-bombed Vietnam, it was the protest movement
and Jane Fonda and — as late as just three years ago — Sen. John Kerry who were assigned the kind of blame with which no rational human being could concur, and yet which still, across vast sections of our political landscape, resonates unchallenged and accepted.

And now Mr. Bush, you have picked out your own Jefferson Davis, your own Dreyfus, your own “profiteer” — your own scapegoat.

Not for the sake of this country.

Not for the sake of Iraq.

Not even for the sake of your own political party.

But for the sake of your own personal place in history.

But in reaching for that place, you have guaranteed yourself tonight not honor, but infamy.

In fact, you have condemned yourself to a place among that remarkably small group of Americans whom Americans cannot forgive: those who have sold this country out and who have willingly declared their enmity to the people at whose pleasure they supposedly serve.

A scapegoat, sir, might be forgivable, if you hadn’t just happened to choose a prospective presidential nominee of the opposition party.

And the accusation of spreading “enemy propaganda that the United States will abandon its allies in Iraq, much as we are perceived to have done in Vietnam, Lebanon and Somalia” might be some day atoned for, if we all didn’t know — you included, and your generals and the Iraqis — that we are leaving Iraq, and sooner rather than later, and we are doing it even if to do so requires, first, that you must be impeached and removed as president of the United States, sooner rather than later.

You have set this government at war against its own people and then blamed those very people when they say, “Enough.”

And thus it crystallizes, Mr. Bush.

When Civil War Gen. Ambrose Burnside ordered a disastrous attack on Fredericksburg in which 12,000 of his men were killed, he had to be physically restrained from leading the next charge himself.

After the First Lord of the British Admiralty, Winston Churchill, authored and enabled the disastrous Gallipoli campaign that saw a quarter-million Allied soldiers cut down in the First World War, Churchill resigned his office and took a commission as a front-line officer in the trenches of France.

Those are your new role models, Mr. Bush.

Let your minions try to spread the blame to the real patriots here, who have sought only to undo the horrors you have wrought since 2002.

Let them try it, until the end of time.

Though the words might be erased from a million books and a billion memories, though the world be covered knee-deep in your lies, the truth shall prevail.

This, sir, is your war.

Sen. Clinton has reinforced enemy propaganda? Made it impossible for you to get your ego-driven, blood-steeped win in Iraq?

Then take it into your own hands, Mr. Bush.

Go to Baghdad now and fulfill, finally, your military service obligations.

Go there and fight, your war. Yourself.


Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Taliban growing stronger in Afghanistan: UK report

Taliban growing stronger in Afghanistan: UK report
By Luke Baker

LONDON (Reuters) - The British-led NATO force in Afghanistan does not have enough troops to carry out its mission and the Taliban show worrying signs of growing stronger, a report by Britain's parliament has found.

The report, by the House of Commons Defense Committee, highlighted a series of concerns, from a lack of training for Afghan police and armed forces to an unclear policy on eradicating the country's vast opium poppy fields.

But the chief preoccupation was a lack of support from other NATO countries to provide more troops to the 36,000-strong ISAF mission and evidence that violence, including Iraq-style suicide bombings, was growing as Taliban and al-Qaeda-linked insurgents expand their sphere of influence outwards from the south.

"We remain deeply concerned that the reluctance of some NATO countries to provide troops for the ISAF mission in Afghanistan is undermining NATO's credibility and also ISAF operations," the bi-partisan committee concluded in its 65-page report.

While praising the commitment of Britain's 7,100 troops to the overall mission, the report's authors added:

"The Ministry of Defense asserts that the Taliban insurgency does not pose a strategic threat to Afghanistan (but) violence seems to be increasing and spreading to the previously more peaceful provinces in the north and west... and the capital.

"Moreover, civilian casualties undermine support for ISAF and the government of Afghanistan and fuel the insurgency, further endangering our troops and the objectives of their mission."


NATO troops have in recent weeks been accused by senior Afghan leaders of indiscriminate methods, with scores of civilians reportedly killed in a series of NATO and U.S. air strikes in western Afghanistan earlier this month.

Military commanders say they do everything they can to target only armed insurgents, but a series of well-documented cases in which civilians have been killed or caught in the crossfire has greatly increased tensions with Afghan leaders and local people, whom troops need to win over.

The government cautiously welcomed the report, saying it also wanted to see more NATO support, while the opposition called it a "severe indictment" of current policy.

In their analysis, the report's 18 authors said a lack of trust between Afghans and British-led troops was hurting other efforts, including the need to eradicate poppy fields, which now account for 30 percent of Afghanistan's economic output.

Opium poppy cultivation has expanded rapidly over the past year, from 104,000 hectares in 2005 to 165,000 hectares in 2006, the report said, with the absence of a clear policy on how to tackle it making it ever more difficult to rein it in.

But the authors noted that Britain had stepped up reconstruction in the semi-lawless, Taliban-dominated south, particularly Helmand province, and said that reform of the Afghan National Army was progressing, albeit slowly.

Britain's defense minister, Des Browne, welcomed the report, calling it "balanced", and said he also wanted more NATO help.

The opposition Conservatives were withering, however, saying the report was a "severe indictment of the government's handling of the situation in Afghanistan" and made a mockery of the former defense secretary's claim that "British troops could be in Afghanistan for three years without a shot being fired".


Bogus company gets nuke license

Yahoo! News
Bogus company gets nuke license
By H. JOSEF HEBERT, Associated Press Writer

Congressional investigators set up a bogus company with only a postal box and within a month obtained a license from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission that allowed them to buy enough radioactive material for a small "dirty bomb."

Sen. Norm Coleman, R-Minn., who will ask the NRC about the incident at a Senate hearing Thursday, said the sting operation raises concerns about terrorists obtaining such material just as easily.

Nobody at the NRC checked whether the company was legitimate and an agency official even helped the investigators fill out the application form, Coleman said in an interview Wednesday.

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission acknowledged that more checking is needed in such licensing and said that since being told of the GAO sting operation it has tightened licensing procedures.

"We've fixed the problem," said NRC Commissioner Edward McGaffigan in an interview Wednesday. He said that such licenses now will require visits to the company or in some cases company officials will have to come to NRC offices.

The license that was obtained allowed for the purchase of up to five portable moisture density gauges widely used in construction, in which are encased small amounts of cesium-137 and americium 241, two highly radioactive isotopes.

Individually, these devices pose little threat because of the small amount of radioactive material, radiation experts say. Still the devices require an NRC license to be purchased and must be closely safeguarded by companies that use them to avoid theft.

But the investigators from the Government Accountability Office, Congress' investigative arm, found a way to purchase as many as 45 of the gauges and could have bought many more because they duplicated the NRC-issued license and removed the restrictions on the amount that could be purchased.

"With patience and the proper financial resources, we could have accumulated from other suppliers substantially more radioactive source material than what the two supplies initially agreed to ship to us," says the GAO in a report prepared for Thursday's hearing.

Coleman, the ranking Republican on the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs investigations subcommittee, said the NRC "still has this good-faith assumption. The problem is there are bad-faith people out there."

He said "there is no question" they could have obtained enough radioactive material to make a dirty bomb because the GAO was able to duplicate the certificate and no one checked on the company or whether the counterfeit license was legitimate.

A so-called dirty bomb could spread radiation by a conventional explosion but does not have a nuclear detonation. While experts believe such a bomb would not cause casualties beyond those affected by the explosion, such an attack could have significant psychological impact and have serious economy consequences because of cleanup problems.

In testimony to be presented to the Senate subcommittee Thursday, McGaffigan will acknowledge that NRC licensing officers "were allowed to exercise judgment" on whether to require company site visits when considering licenses for moisture gauges and other devices with relatively small amounts of radioactive material.

The GAO sting operation "has raised issues about the adequacy of these procedures," McGaffigan will say. The NRC is considering enhancements to assure license documents can't be easily altered.

The GAO said that investigators operated the sting from their Washington office, although they provided a postal box in West Virginia. At one point, an NRC license examiner called them to caution that the gauges are subject to special security at the construction site.

The GAO said that it contacted two suppliers of the gauges and that one "offered to provide twice as many machines as we requested and offered a discount for volume purchases." The investigators also were told that the supplier does not check with NRC to confirm the terms on the license, a copy of which was sent to the supplier along with the purchase order.

The GAO investigators never finished the deal because they didn't have the money to buy the machines — which cost about $5,000 apiece — and also didn't have anyplace to safely store them.

The GAO also tried to get a license from the state of Maryland, one of 34 states that the NRC has given authority to handle such licensing. Unlike the NRC, the Maryland officials said they wanted to visit the company, so the investigators withdrew their application.


On the Net:

Map showing 34 states with NRC authority to issue licenses:


CIA dissenters aided secret prisons report

Yahoo! News
CIA dissenters aided secret prisons report: author
By Marcin Grajewski

Dissident U.S. intelligence officers angry at former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld helped a European probe uncover details of secret CIA prisons in Europe, the top investigator said on Tuesday.

Swiss Senator Dick Marty, author of a Council of Europe report on the jails, said senior CIA officials disapproved of Rumsfeld's methods in hunting down terrorist suspects, and had agreed to talk to him on condition of anonymity.

"There were huge conflicts between the CIA and Rumsfeld. Many leading figures in the CIA did not accept these methods at all," Marty told European Parliament committees, defending his work against complaints it was based on unnamed sources.

The report issued last month said the Central Intelligence Agency ran secret jails in Poland and Romania, with the complicity of those governments, and transported terrorist suspects across Europe in secret flights.

Poland and Romania have repeatedly denied hosting CIA prisons on their soil.

"People in the CIA felt these things were not consonant with the sort of intelligence work they normally do," Marty said.

He said he had based his findings largely on conversations with "high officials of the CIA (and) highly placed European office-holders, who for different reasons, often honorable reasons, were ready to explain what had happened."

Since he had no power to summon witnesses, subpoena documents or search buildings, he was forced to rely on such evidence, Marty said.


"The Americans themselves admitted there were secret prisons, that they abducted people from the streets, that people were handed over to countries like Syria, Yemen, Egypt where they were tortured," he said.

U.S. President George W. Bush acknowledged last year that the CIA had held top al Qaeda suspects in secret overseas detention centers but did not say in which countries.

"The president of United States made a very important statement..., I think we can all expect ... in the near future further admissions," said Marty.

He also said he would not remove name of former Polish and Romanian government officials from the report, although they threatened on Tuesday to take legal action against the senator.

The report said former Polish national security adviser Marek Siwiec and former Romanian Defense Minister Ioan Pascu knew their countries had hosted secret CIA detention centers.

"I have no reason to withdraw his name. I would certainly not be prepared to apologies. He knew exactly what was happening as did his president," Marty told a news conference, referring to Siwiec and former Polish President Aleksander Kwasniewski.

"I am not shaking in my shoes," he said of the libel suit that Siwiec vowed to launch in a Polish court unless Marty removed his name from the report within seven days.

Pascu challenged Marty in the hearing to substantiate his allegations or withdraw them, but the Swiss legislator did not respond directly.


UN head: US should be at climate meeting

Yahoo! News
UN head: US should be at climate meeting
By EDITH M. LEDERER, Associated Press Writer

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said he will ask President Bush on Tuesday to have a top U.S. official attend a high-level U.N. meeting on climate change in September because "American participation is crucially important."

The secretary-general told a news conference Monday before he headed to Washington to meet Bush that he wants the September meeting to provide "strong political (momentum) and guidelines" for a major meeting in Bali, Indonesia in December on a new global climate pact.

Ban, who has made climate change a top priority since he became secretary-general on Jan. 1, has called the meeting on Sept. 24, the day before the annual General Assembly ministerial meeting begins. Bush traditionally addresses the opening session as the representative of the host country.

"I would like to discuss this matter with President Bush, and would expect President Bush and the American administration will be represented at the highest possible level," he said.

Ban was scheduled to meet Bush at the White House on Tuesday afternoon.

Delegates to the meeting of the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change in Bali are expected to launch formal negotiations on a treaty to succeed the Kyoto Protocol, which expires in 2012.

The Kyoto agreement, adopted in 1997, aims to limit the amount of carbon dioxide that can be emitted from power plants and factories in industrialized countries. The United States is not a party to the agreement and developing countries such as China and India are exempt from its obligations.

Ban said he was "encouraged by the initiative President Bush has taken vis-a-vis ... global warming issues, and particularly during the Heiligendamm summit meeting of the G-8 last month."

At the summit in the German city, leaders of the Group of Eight — the U.S., Japan, Britain, France, Germany, Italy, Canada and Russia — agreed to call for substantial global emissions reductions to fight global warming and cited a goal of a 50 percent cut by 2050.

Bush followed that with a call for a summit of nations that emit the most greenhouse gases, led by the United States, to set a long-term global strategy for reducing emissions.

The White House said Bush's proposed summit also would address "life after" the Kyoto Protocol expires. Bush wants to bring India, China and other fast-growing countries to the negotiation table so they are part of the solution, not the problem, the White House said.

Ban welcomes the initiative but said he wants to ensure that the U.S. plan will reinforce the international community's efforts, led by the United Nations.

In another climate-related move, the secretary-general announced that he will visit California next week, which he noted "is at the very forefront of the global war against climate change."

During his visit to San Francisco on July 26-27, Ban said, he will meet Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Last year, Schwarzenegger signed legislation written by Democrats that requires California to reduce emissions by an estimated 25 percent by 2020, or 191.8 million tons.


Sunday, July 15, 2007

Iraq PM says security forces can take over from U.S.

Iraq PM says security forces can take over from U.S.

BAGHDAD (Reuters) - Iraq will be ready to take over security from U.S. forces "any time" they decide to withdraw, although its police and army still need more training, Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki said in remarks over the weekend.

U.S. public opinion has turned firmly against the war and lawmakers voted last week to bring combat troops home soon.

Maliki told a news conference on Saturday he was serious about improving the quality of the country's police and army "so the forces can be better prepared ... when international forces decide to reduce their numbers or withdraw".

At that time, Iraq's forces would be up to the task.

"We say with full confidence we are able, God willing, to shoulder the complete responsibility in administering the security portfolio if the international forces withdrew, at any time they wish," he said.

Iraq has around 350,000 army and police, but U.S. commanders warn it will be months before they are ready to take over in the parts of the country where U.S. and Iraqi forces are currently fighting militants and insurgents.

In addition, Marine Corp General Peter Pace, chairman of the U.S. joint chiefs of staff, said on Friday that war fatigue had reduced the number of Iraqi army battalions that could operate independently of the U.S. to six from 10.

Unease in the United States has deepened with mounting U.S. casualties and Maliki's failure to make headway on security and political goals designed to dampen sectarian violence that has pushed the country to the brink of civil war.

The Democrat-controlled House of Representatives voted last week to bring combat troops home by April, although the move was largely symbolic, as President George W Bush has vetoed previous efforts to impose a timetable on the war.


Los Angeles Catholic Church in record abuse deal

Los Angeles Catholic Church in record abuse deal

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - The Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Los Angeles has agreed to pay $660 million to 500 victims of sexual abuse dating back as far as the 1940s in the largest compensation deal of its kind, the plaintiffs' lawyers said on Saturday.

The settlement, which means victims will receive more than $1 million each, is the largest from the Catholic Church in recent years following many cases in which victims sought financial compensation for suffering abuse from priests.

Ray Boucher, lead plaintiff attorney in the case, said he would issue a joint announcement with the Archdiocese of Los Angeles on Sunday of the settlement.

The case was scheduled to go to trial on Monday in Los Angeles Superior Court, focusing on 12 plaintiffs who accused former priest Clinton Hagenbach of molesting them. Hagenbach died two decades ago.

Had the case gone to trial, lawyers had sought to put Cardinal Roger Mahony, Archbishop of Los Angeles, in the uncomfortable position of testifying about the Church's response to abuses dating from the 1940s to the 1990s.

Because the criminal statute of limitations has expired, victims in California and elsewhere have brought lawsuits against the Church over the issue.

A spokesman for the Los Angeles Diocese, speaking a few hours before lawyers for the victims announced the deal, would only say that church officials planned to be in court on Monday morning.

The judge hearing the case would have to approve the settlement, which a party of the case who did not want to be named put at $660 million.


A lawyer for the Church did not return calls to his office and home.

David Clohessy, national director of SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, said the deal was by far the largest group settlement with the Catholic Church, although a handful of plaintiffs have received greater amounts on an individual basis than each is to receive from this settlement.

"It is never about the money," Clohessy said in an interview. "Victims want healing, prevention, closing, accountability."

The diocese is expected to sell property to raise the settlement funds.

The Los Angeles Times newspaper has estimated that the Los Angeles Archdiocese has real estate holdings worth more than $4 billion. Several U.S. Catholic diocese with less substantial holdings have filed for bankruptcy protection in wake of the abuse scandal.

"Though it has always been the position of the Archdiocese that the insurance companies must honor their responsibility to fund a major share of future settlements, the Archdiocese must also be prepared to fund its share of these coming settlements," Mahony said in a May statement.

"This will require the Archdiocese to begin to dispose of nonessential real estate properties in order to raise funds for coming settlements, and to reevaluate some of the services and ministries it provides to parishes," he said.

The Archdiocese also settled 46 cases in December for $60 million.

Boucher said settlement negotiations nearly collapsed on Friday, but then continued until a deal was reached on Saturday. He said a few religious orders named in the case declined to participate in the settlement.


What Mr. Giuliani Can't Claim Credit For

Washington Post
What Mr. Giuliani Can't Claim Credit For

The July 9 news story "Research Links Lead Exposure, Criminal Activity; Data May Undermine Giuliani's Claims" failed to mention former New York mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani's record on protecting children from toxic exposure to lead -- or rather, his failure to do so.

In 1997, a New York State Supreme Court judge threatened to jail the Giuliani administration's housing commissioner for failing to enforce laws requiring the removal of residential lead paint. This came after the judge imposed a $5,000 per month fine on the city and ordered it to pay contempt fines because the city had not complied with earlier rulings to require that landlords remove lead paint from apartments housing children under 7 years old. The court also struck down Giuliani administration amendments to the city health code that would have weakened regulatory enforcement in the homes of children who had suffered lead poisoning.

Mr. Giuliani not only has taken undeserved credit for the decline in the city's crime rate -- when there is evidence that lead exposure and the reduction of environmental lead accounted for fluctuations in levels of criminal behavior -- but he also attempted to institute policies that would have increased lead exposure and ultimately exacerbated crime and disability in New York.


New York


Bush govt rapped for putting ideology above science

Bush govt rapped for putting ideology above science
Agence France-Presse

WASHINGTON, -- Testimony from President George W. Bush's former surgeon general last week has fueled charges that his administration has trumped science in favor of its political and religious ideologies.

The administration has been at loggerheads with scientists since it came to power in 2001 on issues ranging from stem cell research to global warming and the theory of evolution.

It stood accused again of putting ideology over science this week after the administration's former surgeon general charged that it deliberately quashed or downplayed several important health reports for political reasons.

Dr Richard Carmona, a Bush appointee who held the post as the country's chief health educator from 2002 to 2006, told a Congressional committee Tuesday that he was not authorized to discuss certain sensitive subjects in public.

They included embryonic stem-cell research, whose federal funding Bush restricted in 2001, the controversial morning-after pill and sex education.

Carmona admitted to lawmakers that when he had taken up his post he had been "still quite politically naive" but he was "astounded" by the "partisanship and political manipulation" he witnessed.

Health department spokesman Bill Hall rejected Carmona's accusations, saying: "It has always been this administration's position that public health policy should be rooted in sound science."

Michael Halpern, a member of the influential Union of Concerned Scientists, an advocacy group, said scientists believe the Bush administration is the "worst" ever in terms of political interference and censure.

"Information inconvenient to the administration's priorities is sidelined," Halpern told Agence France-Presse.

In 2004, the Union of Concerned Scientists organized a petition signed by more than 12,000 scientists, including 50 Nobel Prize winners and former senior science advisers to several US presidents, to denounce political interference by the Bush administration.

"Scientists believe that political interference is unacceptable," the petition said.

"If our policy makers are going to make fully informed decisions about our health, safety, and environment, they need access to independent science," it said. "Reforms can and should be put in place to insulate science from politics."

The petition has apparently had little impact on the White House.

In 2006, NASA's top climate expert, James Hansen, accused the administration in a New York Times interview of pressuring him to censure his research on global warming, notably during the 2004 presidential campaign.

His charges were confirmed by other staffers at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, leading Democrats as well as Bush's own Republicans in Congress to call for greater scientific transparency in the agency.

A NASA press official, George Deutsch, who was close to Bush's reelection campaign, was forced to resign after being accused by Hansen for barring journalists from interviewing him.

In his book "The Assault on Reason," former vice president Al Gore said that Deutsch, who has no scientific education or university diplomat, wrote a memo to scientists saying that the Big Bang is "not proven fact; it is an opinion."

"This is more than a science issue, it is a religious issue," Deutsch wrote, according to Gore, the former Democratic candidate who lost the 2000 election to Bush.


Bush Is Prepared to Veto Bill to Expand Child Insurance

The New York Times
Bush Is Prepared to Veto Bill to Expand Child Insurance

WASHINGTON, July 14 — The White House said on Saturday that President Bush would veto a bipartisan plan to expand the Children’s Health Insurance Program, drafted over the last six months by senior members of the Senate Finance Committee.

The vow puts Mr. Bush at odds with the Democratic majority in Congress, with a substantial number of Republican lawmakers and with many governors of both parties, who want to expand the popular program to cover some of the nation’s eight million uninsured children.

Tony Fratto, a White House spokesman, said: “The president’s senior advisers will certainly recommend a veto of this proposal. And there is no question that the president would veto it.”

The program, which insured 7.4 million people at some time in the last year, is set to expire Sept. 30.

The Finance Committee is expected to approve the Senate plan next week, sending it to the full Senate for action later this month.

Senator Max Baucus, the Montana Democrat who is chairman of the committee, said he would move ahead despite the veto threat.

“The Senate will not be deterred from helping more kids in need,” Mr. Baucus said. “The president should stop playing politics and start working with Congress to help kids, through renewal of this program.”

The proposal would increase current levels of spending by $35 billion over the next five years, bringing the total to $60 billion. The Congressional Budget Office says the plan would reduce the number of uninsured children by 4.1 million.

The new spending would be financed by an increase in the federal excise tax on tobacco products. The tax on cigarettes would rise to $1 a pack, from the current 39 cents.

Mr. Fratto, the White House spokesman, said, “Tax increases are neither necessary nor advisable to fund the program appropriately.”

Democrats in the House would go much further than the bipartisan Senate plan. They would add $50 billion to the program over five years, bringing the total to $75 billion. By contrast, in his latest budget request, Mr. Bush proposed an increase of $5 billion over five years, which would bring the total to $30 billion.

White House officials said the president had several other reasons to veto the bipartisan Senate plan.

“The proposal would dramatically expand the Children’s Health Insurance Program, adding nonpoor children to the program, and more than doubling the level of spending,” Mr. Fratto said. “This will have the effect of encouraging many to drop private coverage, to go on the government-subsidized program.”

In addition, Mr. Fratto said, the Senate plan does not include any of Mr. Bush’s proposals to change the tax treatment of health insurance, in an effort to make it more affordable for millions of Americans.

Senator Charles E. Grassley of Iowa, the senior Republican on the Finance Committee, said he would like to consider such tax proposals. But, he said, “it’s not realistic — given the lack of bipartisan support for the president’s plan — to think that can be accomplished before the current children’s health care program runs out in September.”


Bin Laden appears in new al-Qaida video

Yahoo! News
Bin Laden appears in new al-Qaida video
By OMAR SINAN, Associated Press Writer

A new al-Qaida videotape posted Sunday on a militant Web site featured a short, undated clip of a weary-looking Osama bin Laden praising martyrdom.

The bin Laden clip, which lasted less than a minute, was part of a 40-minute video featuring purported al-Qaida fighters in Afghanistan paying tribute to fellow militants who have been killed in the country.

Bin Laden glorified those who die in the name of jihad, or holy war, saying even the Prophet Muhammad "had been wishing to be a martyr."

"The happy (man) is the one that God has chosen him to be a martyr," added bin Laden, who was shown outdoors wearing army fatigues and looking tired.

The authenticity of the video could not be verified, but it appeared on a Web site commonly used by Islamic militants and carried the logo of as-Sahab, al-Qaida's media production wing. It was not immediately clear when the video of bin Laden was filmed.

Bin Laden was last heard from in a July 1, 2006 audio tape in which he voiced support for the new leader of al-Qaida in Iraq and warned nations not to send troops to fight a hardline Islamic regime that had recently seized power in Somalia.

Sunday's video, dedicated to Muslims who have left their homes to fight jihad, included a series of animated scenes showing green fields overlaid with Arabic names written in gold, representing Arab fighters who had died in Afghanistan.

Following one such sequence, the self-proclaimed leader of al-Qaida in Afghanistan appeared praising his fellow fighters.

"Your hero sons, courageous knights have left to the land of Afghanistan ... the land of jihad and martyrdom, answering the call for the sake of God to kick out the occupier who has desecrated the pure soil of Afghanistan," said Mustafa Abu al-Yazeed.

In another clip, a man identified as Mujahid Haidarah al-Hawn was shown sitting in front of a tree with an AK-47 paying tribute to a Syrian fighter, Osama al-Hamawi, who died in an air raid in Afghanistan.

"I lived with him for four years," said al-Hawn, who wore a black scarf to cover his face. "He used to be my emir (commander) . . . He was a brother with extreme modesty."

A photo of al-Hamawi's face, apparently taken after his death, was broadcast, showing bruises around his eye and a red gash on his forehead.

A bearded man identified as Abu Yahia al-Libi, a Libyan al-Qaida operative in Afghanistan, appeared in the video wearing a black turban, saying the Muslim world was "offering the best of its men and sacrificing the good of its sons ... to protect its ideology."

Al-Libi escaped U.S. custody in 2005 and is believed to be behind a suicide bombing that killed 23 people outside the main U.S. base in Afghanistan during a February visit by Vice President Dick Cheney.

Several other al-Qaida operatives from various countries who had apparently committed suicide attacks in Afghanistan were shown reading statements lashing out at the West before their deaths.

The video also contained a series of clips with militants wearing traditional Afghan dress and carrying rifles and RPG launchers through the mountains. Militants could also be seen exercising in training camps.

At the end of the broadcast, images of the Sept. 11 attacks were shown, and a voice could be heard saying, "In a few days, the crusaders' landmarks were flattened."