Saturday, May 21, 2005

Amid Audit, DeLay PAC Revises FEC Filings
Amid Audit, DeLay PAC Revises FEC Filings

By R. Jeffrey Smith and Derek Willis
Washington Post Staff Writers

An interim federal audit of House Majority Leader Tom DeLay's (R-Tex.) principal fundraising committee has found that the group engaged in some inappropriate accounting of receipts and expenditures, prompting it to revise all campaign reports for 2001 and 2002, according to a knowledgeable government official and public records.

The group, Americans for a Republican Majority (ARMPAC), is a giant among committees established by House and Senate lawmakers to finance their own political campaigns and the campaigns of colleagues. Several thousand individual and corporate contributors have given a total of $13.2 million to ARMPAC since 1999; the committee has in turn spent millions of dollars to help DeLay and fellow Republicans win reelection.

DeLay's aides have not detailed what ARMPAC did wrong in its filings to the Federal Election Commission or explained why the group made the revisions this week, before the commission's audit is completed. A spokesman for DeLay, Dan Allen, said yesterday that he could not comment, and Donald McGahn II -- a lawyer for the National Republican Congressional Committee who Allen said is representing ARMPAC -- did not return several telephone calls.

The New York Times first disclosed the existence of the audit in a story in yesterday's editions. Ian Stirton, a spokesman for the Federal Election Commission, declined to comment, stating that officials are barred from discussing even whether an audit is under way. The government official who confirmed the audit requested anonymity for the same reason.

But the committee's revised filings, published Wednesday by the FEC, omitted $15,523 in contributions it had previously listed and included $51,755 in expenditures that it did not previously report, according to a comparison by The Washington Post. Those amounts represent, respectively, less than 1 percent of the $1.746 million in itemized contributions that ARMPAC collected during those years and 1.5 percent of the $3.298 million in federally regulated funds that it spent on election races.

For the first time, the revised filings also listed as short-term debts some items previously listed as expenditures. One example is a postponed $5,732.90 payment in 2002 for food and drinks at a fundraiser held by DeLay at a resort in Puerto Rico owned by a contributor, Charles Hurwitz.

FEC regulations require that all such debts be reported promptly to ensure a public accounting of sums that amount to short-term gifts and loans, even if the debts are eventually paid.

The revised filings also for the first time list a debt of $121,456 from ARMPAC's regulated campaign account to a separate ARMPAC account that took in unregulated donations in those years.

Jan Baran, a Republican lawyer who specializes in campaign law, said the listing of this debt evidently means that ARMPAC improperly used unregulated campaign contributions to finance certain expenses during those years and now must pay that sum back to comply with the rules.

Unregulated contributions are typically those donated directly by corporations, unions or other wealthy donors, often in excess of the limits imposed on contributions to regulated funds. The use of unregulated contributions by federal lawmakers was prohibited by a campaign finance law enacted in late 2002, forcing ARMPAC and similar committees to disband them.

That circumstance adds a wrinkle to the issue of how ARMPAC can now redress its mistake. Essentially, its debt is to an entity that no longer exists.

Baran says he could not assess whether any of the revisions made by ARMPAC represent serious mistakes until the FEC releases a final audit report and he sees whether the errors have attracted the interest of its office of general counsel, which can bring legal action and assess financial penalties.

Melanie Sloan, executive director of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, said her group has "long believed that Tom DeLay and his PAC play fast and loose with reporting requirements," and the revisions substantiate this view. "FEC requirements don't distinguish between large amounts of money and small amounts," she said. "It all has to be disclosed."

Audits by the FEC of groups such as ARMPAC are rare. A commission official could point yesterday to only 11 opened in the past two years that involved political action committees, and only one in recent years that involved a senior lawmaker's committee -- a 2002 audit of the Volunteer PAC affiliated with Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.).

The FEC noted in the Frist audit that, generally, the commission orders such inquiries only "when a committee appears not to have met the threshold requirements for substantial compliance" with federal reporting requirements. It concluded that Volunteer PAC had misstated some receipts and disbursements, failed to report certain contributions it passed to others and improperly used $166,047 in unregulated funds to pay expenses.

The committee was able to resolve those problems, all identified in an interim report, by revising its reports to the FEC and repaying the unregulated funds to a separate account.


Report U.S. soldier rapped for Koran abuse at lockup
Real Gitmo shame?

Report U.S. soldier rapped for Koran abuse at lockup

Daily News Exclusive


Troops monitor detainees at Guantanamo prison in January 2002. Detention camp is at center of explosive allegations about jailers disrespecting Koran.
WASHINGTON - It wasn't tossed in a toilet, but disrespecting an inmate's Koran got at least one American soldier reprimanded at the Guantanamo prison for terrorists, the Daily News has learned.

A record of the 2003 punishment was discovered by Army Brig. Gen. John Furlow while probing Gitmo misconduct alleged in FBI memos. But it wasn't included in the final report given to the U.S. Southern Command, according to a military official familiar with the investigation.

The omission in the final report written by Lt. Gen. Randall Schmidt, who took over from Furlow, was because officers concluded the incident was isolated and new rules prevented further abuses, the official said.

Under White House pressure, Newsweek on Monday retracted a story that Schmidt determined a Koran was flushed in a Gitmo toilet, which the Pentagon slammed as "demonstrably false."

But two reliable military sources confirmed the previously undisclosed reprimand at the Camp Delta prison - contradicting Bush administration denials of any "credible and specific allegations" about Koran desecration at Gitmo.

"That's true," an ex-Army interrogator at Gitmo said. "I am aware of somebody having their hand slapped."

The source said a soldier on another interrogation team was punished for "trying to be insulting" of a detainee's Koran.

It wasn't clear what the soldier did to warrant the reprimand.

Despite the Pentagon denials that any Korans were abused, Southern Command (SouthCom) launched a "commander's inquiry" on May 11 to examine camp logs, where soldiers may have recorded mishandling of Korans.

When asked for comment, Pentagon spokesman Lt. Cmdr. Flex Plexico said: "I would caution you against writing a story based on anonymous sources when the responsible thing to do would be to wait until the ongoing commander's inquiry and SouthCom investigation are completed and released."

The report is expected to be issued within weeks.

The International Committee of the Red Cross said yesterday that Koran desecration at Gitmo was reported to the U.S. three years ago.

A Pentagon spokesman pointed out that a Jan. 19, 2003, Gitmo memo forbids any U.S. personnel from touching detainees' Korans. But the ex-interrogator, who was at Gitmo in 2003, said, "I never saw any [order] that you can't touch it."


Why is Rupert Murdoch Endangering U.S. Soldiers?
Why is Rupert Murdoch Endangering U.S. Soldiers?

Thanks, Rupe…

The United States military expressed anger and dismay today over the unauthorized release of photographs of a jailed Saddam Hussein in his underwear and performing menial activity. …

“These photos were taken in clear violation of Department of Defense directives and possibly Geneva Convention guidelines for the humane treatment of detained individuals,” the military statement, issued in Iraq, said, promising an investigation. …

The pictures were published today on the cover and inside pages of two tabloids controlled by the media magnate [and Fox News owner] Rupert Murdoch, The Sun, a British daily, and The New York Post. [NYT, 5/20/05]

UPDATE: And here’s an ironic note. After the administration harped on for a week about how Newsweek journalists were directly responsible for the riots in Afghanistan, etc., President Bush now suddenly can’t see much of a connection between media coverage and insurgent activities:

President Bush, when asked if he thought the pictures would stoke more anti-Americanism in Iraq and elsewhere in the Middle East, voiced some doubt. “I think the Iraq insurgency is inspired by their desire to stop the march of freedom,” he said. …

“You know, I don’t think a photo inspires murderers,” Mr. Bush said, at an appearance with Prime Minister Anders Rasmussen of Denmark. “I think they’re inspired by an ideology that is so barbaric and backwards that it’s hard for many in the Western world to comprehend how they think.”


Right-Wing Tearing Down Senate to Put in Radical Judges
Right-Wing Tearing Down Senate to Put in Radical Judges

The right-wing effort to implode the Senate in order to install extremist judges is on such strong intellectual ground that leading conservatives must now trot out Hitler references to demonize opponents. On the Senate floor yesterday, Sen. Rick Santorum stated that the opposition’s efforts to preserve the constitutional rights of the minority—employed frequently by leading conservatives during President Clinton’s tenure—is "the equivalent of Adolf Hitler in 1942 saying, 'I’m in Paris. How dare you invade me? How dare you invade my city? It’s mine.'" This comes on top of leading right-wing pundit Robert Novak stating that conservatives should not compromise on judges, "Because the whole system [is] like going to a concentration camp and picking out which people go to the death chamber."

* There are no principles in play here. This is about stacking America’s courts with right-wing ideologues, not fair and impartial jurists. The right-wing prattles on incessantly about judicial activism on the nation’s benches. Yet they willingly set aside these principles when it comes to Bush nominees like Judge Priscilla Owen. Owen has a long record of radical judicial activism and overreach. She has voted to throw out jury verdicts against corporations and denied workers recompense for job-related injuries and unfair employment practices. The president’s own Attorney General has said one of Owens’s past rulings on abortion constituted an "unconscionable act of judicial activism."

* The very same leaders trying to tear down the Senate today led the charge to block scores of President Clinton’s nominees during his tenure. Sen. Bill Frist—the leading proponent of the "nuclear option"—claims the filibuster is unconstitutional. Yet, Frist himself led the charge to uphold the filibuster of one of President Clinton’s nominees, Judge Richard Paez, in 2000. When Frist voted to filibuster Paez’s nomination it had been pending for four years. All in all, 60 of President Clinton’s judicial nominees were denied up-or-down votes during his presidency.

* The priorities of the modern conservative movement are not the priorities of Americans.
Since President Bush’s reelection, the nation’s right-wing leaders have amassed quite a record. They’ve pushed for permanent tax cuts for the wealthy and permanent repeal of the estate tax. They’ve given huge tax breaks to corporations with offshore profits and passed bankruptcy legislation that is a sop to the credit card industry. They’ve abused congressional authority to intervene in a single family’s private medical decisions. And now they are attempting to rewrite 200-plus years of Senate rules and constitutional history to ram through extremist judges that have worked against basic legal protections for Americans.


Victoria Toensing used falsehoods, half-truths to defend GOP obstruction of Clinton's judicial nominees

Victoria Toensing used falsehoods, half-truths to defend GOP obstruction of Clinton's judicial nominees

On CNN's Crossfire, former Reagan deputy assistant attorney general Victoria Toensing used falsehoods and misleading statements to claim that, in contrast to the 60 votes Republicans would need to defeat Democratic filibusters of a handful of President Bush's nominees, Senate Democrats could have overcome Republican obstruction of President Clinton's judicial nominees with only 51 votes.

First, Toensing falsely claimed that the "parliamentary maneuvers" Republicans used to block Clinton's judicial nominees were "holds," which Democrats could have "overcome by 51 votes, a majority of the Senate." In fact, Republicans did not rely primarily on holds -- which senators typically place on executive nominees only after the relevant committee has sent the nomination to the full Senate -- to block Clinton's nominees. Instead, Republicans blocked 60 of Clinton's nominees by bottling them up in the Senate Judiciary Committee -- denying them hearings and votes. The use of this tactic meant that the nominees were blocked before a senator had any opportunity to place a hold on the floor.

Next, when former Clinton White House counsel and fellow panelist Lanny Davis pointed this out -- that none of the 60-some blocked nominees were given even a vote in committee, and most were denied hearings -- Toensing replied that Democrats could have freed their nominees from the Judiciary Committee with a mere 51 votes, not the 60 votes that Republicans would need to break the current Democratic filibusters. In fact, in order to pass such a "motion to discharge," Democrats would have needed more than just 51 votes; they would have needed the support of the Senate majority leader. In a September 13, 1997, article on a Clinton ambassadorial nominee blocked in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, The Washington Post reported: "The rules also permit the Senate, by majority vote, to discharge a committee from consideration of a bill or nomination. But the Senate has never done so without support of the majority leader and probably could not do so because of the almost unlimited possibilities for delay and obstructions, according to Senate officials."

Such support was unlikely from Sen. Trent Lott (R-MS), the Senate majority leader from 1996 until the end of Clinton's presidency. Addressing the issue of the blocked Clinton nominees in 1998, Lott said: "Should we take our time on these federal judges? Yes. Do I have any apologies? Only one: I probably moved too many already."

In addition, if the majority leader somehow were to have allowed such a motion to reach the Senate floor, Republicans could still have filibustered it, requiring that Democrats muster 60 votes in order to push the nominee to the Senate floor.

From the May 19 edition of CNN's Crossfire:

PAUL BEGALA (co-host): Let me get this question out. I promise you, I'm going to get the question out. The question is this, was it wrong for Republicans to use parliamentary maneuvers on scores of occasions to keep Clinton judges from gotten an up-or-down vote?


TOENSING: I let Paul get his question out. Let me get my answer out. And which is -- those are holds, which senators approve all the time. And guess what? How many people can bring a hold down which is -- it isn't firm. That's No. 1. It's discretionary with the leader. No. 2, a hold can be overcome by 51 votes, a majority of the Senate. That's all the Republicans are asking for now. And I want to go back and say --

DAVIS: They also refused to hold hearings. Also the Senate controlled the Republicans --

TOENSING: Again, 51 votes.

DAVIS: -- who controlled the Judiciary Committee refused to even hold hearings.

— R.S.K.

Posted to the web on Friday May 20, 2005 at 8:05 PM EST


Friday, May 20, 2005

Ex-spy bust puts Bush on the spot
Ex-spy bust puts Bush on the spot
Albor Ruiz

Inexplicably, it took weeks for them to move. But finally, on Tuesday, U.S. Department of Homeland Security agents arrested international terrorist Luis Posada Carriles in Miami.

The federal agency had been in denial for two months, the time this dangerous character lived in South Florida after entering the U.S. illegally. All along, the federal agents repeatedly declared that they could not confirm that the Cuban-born former CIA operative had applied for asylum or even that he was in the U.S., even after his lawyer publicly said he was.

But when El Nuevo Herald, a Spanish-language paper, ran an interview with him on Tuesday that took place in a luxury condominium in Miami, and Carriles himself held an impromptu press conference, the federal agents could not hold back any longer - and moved to arrest him.

"Now, what everybody wants to know is: What will the White House do with Posada Carriles?" said Miami radio talk show host Max Lesnik.

It will not be an easy decision for President Bush, but one that he will have to make no later than today.

"Until now, Posada Carriles is accused only of illegal entry to the U.S.," Lesnik said yesterday, "but according to the law, immigration authorities have 48 hours to decide what the Bush administration will do with this 'hot potato' they have in their hands."

A hot potato indeed.

Along with many other proven terrorist activities, Carriles is the alleged mastermind of the deadly bombing of a Cuban airliner over Barbados in 1976 that killed 73 people.

He was imprisoned for this crime in Venezuela, where he had been a high-ranking government security officer. In 1985, he managed to escape and, until his arrival in Miami two months ago, had lived in several Central American countries.

Now Venezuela, which has an extradition agreement with the U.S., has asked Washington to return Carriles to them so he can be retried for the bombing of the airliner.

Yet few believe he will be extradited - even to Venezuela, not to mention deported to his native Cuba.

Actually, Homeland Security issued a statement a few hours after Carriles' arrest, saying that it does not send people to Communist-ruled Cuba, or to countries believed to be acting in Cuba's name - a clear reference to Venezuela.

So what are the alternatives?

He could be kept detained indefinitely in the U.S., where the only crime he faces is having entered the country illegally, or the U.S. could try to find a third country willing to receive him - maybe El Salvador - although, not surprisingly, no nation has expressed any interest in being saddled with such an unsavory character.

Another option would be to put him on trial in the U.S., although no one thinks this is likely to happen.

For all the rhetoric about the war on terror, Bush has been extremely careful not to cross the most conservative elements of the Cuban-American community, strong backers of his policies and of Carriles.

What is clear is that the Bush administration's decision will be carefully watched by friend and foe, all of them anxious to find out whether Washington means it when it says that harboring a terrorist is equivalent to being a terrorist. Or if those words are - as many people have suspected these past two months - nothing more than another game of political convenience.

They will find out soon enough.


From Senator's 2003 Outburst, GOP Hatched 'Nuclear Option'
From Senator's 2003 Outburst, GOP Hatched 'Nuclear Option'

By Jim VandeHei and Charles Babington
Washington Post Staff Writers

Six-term Sen. Ted Stevens is among the Senate's gruffest members on his best days, but on Feb. 26, 2003, he was downright angry. As Democrats blocked yet another one of President Bush's judicial nominees, he sat in a wooden chair in the Republican cloakroom and told a group of colleagues and aides, "We can put an end to this now!"

He could march into the chamber, the Alaska Republican told them, assume the presiding officer's seat and rule that the minority party could not filibuster this or any future judicial nominee. The audacious idea sparked so much excitement that GOP aides dubbed it "the Hulk," after the fictional green muscleman featured on Stevens's necktie that night, Stevens confirmed in an interview. For months, "Hulk" was the Republicans' code word for a dramatic plan they wanted to hide from Democrats.

Stevens's outburst gave voice to many Republicans' frustrations and birth to a strategy for shutting off debate on judicial nominees with a simple majority, rather than with the 60 votes now required, that is transfixing the Senate and promises a showdown next week unless a compromise is struck. Such a compromise has proved elusive for 27 months, even though many lawmakers think that Senate leaders and the White House could have averted a collision by backing off a bit at any number of crucial junctures.

Instead, the partisan feuding over judicial nominees escalated into a constitutional face-off with far-reaching ramifications for the Senate, federal courts, White House powers and the futures of aspiring presidential candidates. The sharply partisan debate opened yesterday, with the Republican leader charging that Democrats want to "assassinate" nominees, and the Democratic leader denouncing the administration's "arrogant power."

Stevens's hatching of the Hulk plan, later dubbed the "nuclear option," was surely a turning point. But there were other pivotal moments in the saga that triggered retaliatory actions by the two parties and led to the current crisis.

In early 2003, Democrats were furious that Bush had resubmitted the name of appellate court nominee Charles W. Pickering Jr. of Mississippi. While they were still in power and controlled the Judiciary Committee, the Democrats in 2002 rejected Pickering's nomination, citing concerns about his civil rights record. Now in the minority, Democrats announced plans to filibuster Pickering.

Republicans bristled, but many say the nuclear option probably would have stayed in the silo if things had stopped there. They didn't.

Liberal Democrats began focusing on a second nominee, Miguel Estrada, a lawyer and a former assistant to the solicitor general. Unlike Pickering, he had never been a judge and did not have a long record of opinions and decisions. Liberals suspected he was a hard-core conservative, and they grew indignant when he declined to answer their questions fully and the White House refused to provide background documents.

Democrats faced a crucial decision. Some wanted to add Estrada to their filibuster list, a move certain to inflame Republicans. At least a dozen Democrats balked, however, saying that Estrada's blank-slate record provided much less ammunition than did Pickering's, and that a broader filibuster strategy might invite retaliation from voters and GOP lawmakers.

At a Tuesday luncheon for all 49 Democrats in the Capitol's ornate "LBJ room" in February 2003, Democratic leaders gave the floor to Sen. Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.), Estrada's sharpest critic. Schumer told his colleagues that Estrada and the White House had shown "total contempt" to the minority party. "We cannot let the courts be hijacked," Schumer, interviewed this week, recalled telling his colleagues.

He and his allies prevailed, and the Estrada filibuster soon began. Republican leaders now realized Democrats were pursuing the extraordinary tactic of trying to block multiple nominees with their powers to delay action. Throughout Senate history, "unlimited debate" -- which can include filibusters -- has been permitted to block action on nominees and most legislation. Since 1975, 60 votes in the 100-member chamber have been required to shut off debate. Republicans held 51 seats in 2003, and 55 seats now.

With the Estrada debate underway, Republicans threatened lawsuits and political retribution. But it was not until Stevens raised the "Hulk" option that serious talk of a historic rewrite of Senate precedents ensued. It gained momentum after Republicans found misplaced computer memos by Democratic staff members talking of even more possible filibusters -- suggesting that the Democrats had a secret plan for blocking several more candidates.

Within weeks of the "Hulk" meeting, former Republican leader Trent Lott (R-Miss.) coined the term "nuclear option" to describe a rule change that would ban judicial filibusters and allow up-or-down votes on the president's nominees. The notion once had seemed unimaginable, but Lott and other conservatives now favored it.

But Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.) was unsure at that time. He was new to the leadership job and skeptical that GOP moderates and the Senate's old bulls would go along with so dramatic a rule change. Frist was closely allied with the White House and took some of his cues from the administration. At that time, White House officials either did not understand the nuclear option concept or did not believe it would work, and few GOP senators thought it was a workable solution, said several lawmakers involved in private talks at the time.

Sen. Orrin G. Hatch (R-Utah), who chaired the Judiciary Committee at the time, urged Frist to act right away, and privately expressed frustration when he did not try to push through the rule change before the end of 2003. "I wanted to get it over with," Hatch said this week. "I was kind of a pariah in some ways." Among other things, he encouraged Lott to take a secret vote count to prove to Frist that a majority of Republicans supported the move.

Some conservative groups eager to seat more judges who shared their philosophy pressed Republican lawmakers to forge ahead with the rule change. The White House, however, worried that a filibuster fight would detract attention from the war in Iraq and efforts to pass a budget and a prescription-drug benefit for Medicare. So, Frist worked through Martin B. Gold -- his parliamentary expert -- to try to find a compromise or a basis for changing the rules.

At a September 2003 luncheon held by conservative activist Paul Weyrich, Frist said he did not have the 51 votes needed to change the Senate rules, but vowed to trigger the nuclear option after the 2004 election if the Republicans picked up at least two seats. "If there is any way to do it, he would do it," was the message delivered to about 70 conservative activists that day, Weyrich said.

By November 2003, some conservative advocates of Bush administration judicial nominees were raising concerns that Frist was not solidly behind efforts to end judicial filibusters. Frist responded by calling in several conservative activists to make it clear he was behind the move.

Frist harbored presidential aspirations, and conservatives were starting to let him know that their support in the 2008 GOP primary could hinge on how he handled the judges issue.

Rather than picking a fight over rules in an election year, Bush and Senate Republicans spent much of 2004 hammering Democrats, especially Minority Leader Thomas A. Daschle (S.D.), over alleged obstructionism and judicial delays in hopes of a Nov. 5 breakthrough. They got what they wanted when Bush won reelection and Senate Republicans expanded their majority from 51 to 55 seats. Daschle was among the casualties.

On election night, conservative activists pushing for the showdown held a series of conference calls to plot the end of judicial filibusters.

Bush, claiming a mandate, renominated 20 judges, including seven of those who had been filibustered during his first term. Pickering was not among them. Bush had temporarily appointed him to the appellate court in January 2004, when the Senate was in recess. But with Democrats still bitterly opposing him, he quietly retired in December.

Several Republican sources said the White House did not seem to take a real interest in the nuclear option until Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist announced he had cancer about one week before Bush's 2004 reelection. Suddenly, the stakes were much higher because the Democrats potentially could expand their filibuster strategy to include a nominee to the Supreme Court.

"In last Congress, the White House did not lift a finger," explained Weyrich, who speaks often with administration officials. Now "they are very much involved behind the scenes." The main task for Bush was to make sure it was clear that the White House was in no mood to compromise, he said.

Top White House officials privately told senators that Bush wanted them to do everything in their power to guarantee an up-or-down vote for judicial nominees, even if it meant abolishing the filibuster rule. The Supreme Court often seemed the subtext of the conversations, several Republicans said. Little more than a week after the election, Frist warned in a speech that the newly strengthened Republican majority would not allow filibusters to block action on judicial nominations in Bush's second term.

Some Republicans thought Daschle's defeat would prompt a Democratic retreat. But it had the opposite effect. Sen. Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.), the new minority leader, decided Democrats had no choice but to stand together and fight to protect the one branch of government Republicans did not control outright. At an early January retreat, Reid made an impassioned plea to members to never surrender, participants said.

On Monday evening, as senators were discussing compromises, Tim Goeglein, a senior White House adviser, told about a dozen prominent conservative activists in a conference call that no compromise would be acceptable unless it protects every nominee, participants said. Yesterday morning, the countdown toward the Hulk-nuclear-constitution option officially began when Frist took the Senate floor and said, "I do not rise for party, I rise for principle."


This is the Way Democracy Ends
Baucus’ Rebuttal: “This is the Way Democracy Ends”
May 19, 2005

Sen. Max Baucus today offered the rhetorical antithesis to Sen. Santorum’s crass reference to Adolph Hitler. Read it, pass it on to friends. It is a powerful, jarring speech, one that expresses the profound importance of the moment we’re experiencing now.

Mr. President, last week, on Wednesday, we evacuated the Capitol. At the instruction of the Capitol Police, more than a few Senators and staff actually ran from this building and the surrounding offices in the very real fear that a plane was carrying a bomb to attack this building, the center of our democracy.

Sadly, Wednesday was not the first time. And Wednesday will likely not be the last time, that we guard against threats to our democracy by plane and bomb.

But there are other threats to our democracy and our freedoms, just as menacing, equally as dangerous.

Abraham Lincoln said: “America will never be destroyed from the outside. If we falter, and lose our freedoms, it will be because we destroyed ourselves.”

Former Librarian of Congress Daniel Boorstin said: “It is not slogans or bullets, but only institutions, that can make, and keep, people free.”

And Baron Montesquieu wrote in The Spirit of the Laws: “There is no liberty, if the judiciary power be not separated from the legislative and the executive.” …

Mr. President, in ancient Rome, when the Senate lost its power, and the emperor became a tyrant, it was not because the emperor abolished the Senate. In ancient Rome, when the Senate lost its power, it continued to exist, at least in name. But in ancient Rome, when the Senate lost its power, in the words of the Senate’s historian, Senator Robert Byrd, the Senate became “little more than a name.”

In ancient Rome, when the Senate lost its power, the Roman Senate was complicit in the transfer. The emperor did not have to seize all the honors and powers. The Roman Senate, one after another, conferred greater powers on Caesar.

It was not the abolition of the Senate that made the emperor powerful. It was the Senate’s complete deference.

Like the Roman Senate before us, we risk bringing our diminution upon ourselves. We risk bringing upon ourselves a hollow Senate, a mere shadow of its past self. And we risk bringing upon ourselves a loss of the checks and balances that ensure our American democracy. …

Mr. President:

This is the way democracy ends;
This is the way democracy ends;
This is the way democracy ends;
Not with a bomb, but a gavel.


GOP senator compares Democrats to Hitler

GOP senator compares Democrats to Hitler

By John Byrne | RAW STORY

Sen. Rick Santorum (R-PA) compared Democrats' attempts to keep the filibuster to Hitler's moves in 1942 in a floor speech in the Senate Thursday afternoon, RAW STORY has learned.

On March 1, Sen. Robert Byrd (D-WV) made a reference to Hitler in a speech about the nuclear option. Santorum lashed out at Byrd for his remarks. From the 3/11/05 Charleston Journal:

Byrd roused the ire of many Republicans when he tangentially referred to Adolf Hitler during a speech on March 1 defending cloture and the right to debate.


Sen. Rick Santorum, R-Pa., asked Byrd to retract his comments, stating they “lessen the credibility of the senator and the decorum of the Senate.” The Anti-Defamation League also criticized Byrd.

What a difference 10 weeks make.

The following is a transcript of the particular section of the senator's floor speech, from the closed-captioned text taken by the Senate.



Thursday, May 19, 2005

House Dems to hold forum on media bias Tuesday with Franken, Brock, others
House Dems to hold forum on media bias Tuesday with Franken, Brock, others

By John Byrne | RAW STORY

In the wake of a firestorm on the House floor over a Newsweek article about desecrating the Quran, a dozen members of Congress have planned a forum next Tuesday on media bias, RAW STORY has learned.

Among those scheduled to testify are Air America Radio host Al Franken, Media Matters chief David Brock, AmericaBLOG's John Aravosis, a Washington bureau BBC reporter, Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting's Steve Rendell and Mark Lloyd, from the progressive thinktank Center for American Progress. Wonkette's Ana Marie Cox has also been invited.

The panel will be hosted by ranking House Judiciary Committee Democrat Rep. John Conyers, Jr (D-MI).

“I think a number of Democratic members have been disturbed about what is and what isn’t being covered in the corporate news media," a House aide said, speaking of the event. "Specifically, there’s been a great deal of disappointment of the media’s coverage of the Iraq war and the Downing Street memo and great concern about the White House’s efforts to intimidate media outlets such as they’ve done in the Newsweek matter.”

House Republicans have aggressively attacked Newsweek for an article later retracted that said an internal U.S. military report would find that the Quran had been flushed down a toilet at the Guantanamo Bay prison.

Rep. Deborah Pryce (R-OH) appeared on Fox News Channel Wednesday to discuss the negative international reaction, which many say was as a result of the Newsweek article, despite comments from the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of staff indicating otherwise. Pryce has called for all Congressional offices to cancel their Newsweek subscriptions "as a call for a return to journalistic integrity and credibility."

A Newsweek asserted last week that the White House has capitalized on distrust of the media to turn errors into conflagrations.

"Unfortunately, a lot of news organizations are making mistakes that turn into massive news stories," the staffer said. "And that is in part because the Administration is very saavy at using public distrust of the media to its advantage."

More details are expected shortly. Among some of the members sponsoring and likely to attend include Rep. Jesse Jackson, Jr. (D-IL), Rep. Sheila Jackson-Lee (R-TX), Rep Jerrold Nadler (D-NY), Rep. Jim McDermott (D-WA) and Rep. Bernie Sanders (I-VT).


Approval of Congress Erodes in Survey

The Wall Street Journal

May 19, 2005

Approval of Congress Erodes in Survey

May 19, 2005; Page A3

A new Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll shows that disapproval of Congress's performance is higher than it has been since 1994, the year voters swept Democrats out of power on Capitol Hill. Americans have grown gloomier about the nation's direction, the economy and Iraq, and by 65%-17% they say Congress doesn't share their priorities.

"If you're a member of Congress ... you'd better be looking over your shoulder," says Democratic pollster Peter Hart, who helps conduct the Journal/NBC survey. His Republican counterpart, Bill McInturff, adds that a particular concern for incumbents looking to 2006 is unhappiness among senior citizens, a group that disproportionately turns out to vote in midterm elections.

While the survey contains warning signs for members of both parties, it is especially problematic for Republicans as the party in power at both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue. The poll of 1,005 adults, conducted May 12-16, shows that the greatest erosion in congressional approval has occurred among self-described Republicans. The poll's margin of error is 3.1 percentage points.

Just 42% of Americans say their representative deserves to be re-elected, while a 45% plurality calls it time for someone new. When Americans are asked which party they want to control Congress after the 2006 elections, Democrats hold a 47%-40% edge -- the party's best showing since the Journal/NBC survey began asking that question in 1994.

The poll results can be viewed at:

The 18 months between now and the 2006 midterms give incumbents plenty of time to affect the public mood, and Republicans can take solace in the fact that the Democratic Party's image hasn't improved. The dearth of competitive House seats and the fact that Democrats have more Senate seats at risk means the minority party on Capitol Hill needs a large and lasting shift in sentiment to have any hope of recapturing control.

The survey shows a growing sense of disconnection between official Washington and ordinary Americans. "There's a gap between perceptions of President Bush's and Congress's agendas and the public's agenda," Mr. McInturff says.

That is reflected in the attitude of respondents like Jodie Baca, a 57-year-old waitress in Bernalillo, N.M. "They should focus a little bit more" on the economy, says the self-described "strong Republican" voter. "If the gas prices go up, our minimum wages should go up -- like soon," she says. Now, she says, she's having second thoughts about her vote last November for Republican Rep. Heather Wilson.

Escalating violence in Iraq, which has left many Americans pessimistic about prospects there, may be part of the problem. By 49%-12%, Americans say Mr. Bush and his administration are placing "too much emphasis" on Iraq and by margins of 65%-1% and 64%-9% say Mr. Bush is placing "too little emphasis" on the economy and gas prices, respectively.

Nor are incumbents helped by Washington's battles over John Bolton's nomination for United Nations ambassador and the "nuclear option" for ending judicial filibusters. Just 13% of Americans say Mr. Bush and Congress are working together to end gridlock, while 80% say things will remain the same in Washington. That is a much dimmer view than Americans took just two years ago, when 41% said Congress and the president were working to end gridlock.

Mr. Bush's overall ratings are essentially unchanged since April; the 47% of Americans who approve of his job performance match the 47% who disapprove. But in three specific areas -- handling the economy, handling foreign policy generally and handling Iraq -- narrow majorities disapprove of his performance.

But Mr. Bush's ratings look robust alongside those of Congress. Just 33% approve of lawmakers' performance while 51% disapprove, nearly matching the 32%-56% rating Congress received six months before the "Republican revolution" of 1994. While assessments by Democrats and independents slipped slightly since April, approval of Congress by Republicans dropped by 11 percentage points to 45%.

The ethics cloud over House Majority Leader Tom DeLay is attracting public notice. By 52%-12%, Americans say Congress should investigate the Texan's travel and relationships with lobbyists. Though just over half of Americans don't know who Mr. DeLay is or have a neutral opinion, the rest view him negatively by a two-to-one margin.

Republicans on Capitol Hill have lately tried to move the spotlight from ethics by emphasizing steps they have taken that they say will improve the economy, including changes in laws governing bankruptcy and class-action litigation. The poll shows they have good reason for trying. The 42% of Americans who say the economy has gotten worse in the past 12 months is the highest in nearly two years. The proportion predicting it will get worse in the next 12 months has nearly doubled, to 30%, since January.

On Social Security, public skepticism toward Mr. Bush's main domestic priority hasn't eased since April. As the White House prods Republican lawmakers to act, Americans by 56%-36% call it a "bad idea" to allow workers to invest Social Security contributions in the stock market.

Mr. Bush has tapped a popular idea with the suggestion of trimming future benefits more for higher-income seniors than for lower-income seniors if cuts become necessary. But just 14% of Americans -- the same as in January before Mr. Bush's overhaul campaign -- say the Social Security system is "in crisis."

Support for the administration's initiative has dropped among older Americans, whom Mr. Bush has tried to reassure by saying they would be unaffected. By 58%-29%, those 65 and over say the country is "off on the wrong track."

"Seniors are pretty riled," Mr. McInturff says, and if it persists "that has consequences in midterm elections."

Write to John Harwood at john.harwood@wsj.com4
URL for this article:,,SB111646258383737632,00.html

Hyperlinks in this Article:


Ohio Supreme Court Won't Sanction Lawyers

Ohio Supreme Court Won't Sanction Lawyers

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) -- Ending one of the last fights from the contentious 2004 presidential campaign, the Ohio Supreme Court on Thursday declined to punish four attorneys who had challenged the results in court.

Chief Justice Thomas Moyer ruled against Ohio Attorney General Jim Petro's attempt to have the lawyers sanctioned for filing "a meritless claim" against the vote that gave President Bush a win in Ohio and, as a result, enough electoral votes to win a second term in the White House.

In legal documents filed with the state Supreme Court, the lawyers had said the challenge they filed on behalf of 37 voters included enough evidence of voting irregularities to back up their allegations of widespread fraud. They later withdrew the claim.

Petro, a Republican, asked for sanctions against lawyers Cliff Arnebeck, Robert Fitrakis, Susan Truitt and Peter Peckarsky. If the court had sanctioned the lawyers, they could have been forced to repay attorney's fees and court costs.

Moyer, acting under the court's power to assign election-related complaints to a single justice, said that while the court has the authority to sanction attorneys, the speed with which elections must be challenged allows the court some leeway.

"The General Assembly could have expressly authorized courts to sanction those who pursue frivolous election contests. It has not," Moyer, a Republican, wrote in his decision.

President Bush beat Democratic Sen. John Kerry by about 118,000 votes in Ohio, which turned out to be the pivotal state in the Nov. 2 election. The lawyers' election challenge was withdrawn in early January, with those contesting the results saying it was clear their argument would be dismissed as moot with Bush set to be inaugurated.


Calif. Senate approves electronic ID ban

ZDNet News
Calif. Senate approves electronic ID ban
By Alorie Gilbert, CNET

A California bill that would prohibit the use of tiny radio devices in driver's licenses and other state-issued forms of identification won approval from the state's Senate this week in a 29-to-7 vote. The bill moves next to a vote in the State Assembly, which last year derailed a proposal for restrictions on the conmmercial use of such devices, also known as radio frequency identification, or RFID, chips.

California Sen. Joe Simitian (D-Palo Alto) introduced the Identity Information Protection Act of 2005, SB 628, in February following public outcry over a Sutter County school's plan to outfit elementary students with ID badges containing RFID chips. The proposed legislation may also put California at odds with the Real-ID Act, a new federal law that will require states to issue high-tech IDs.


The New Congressionally Approved PBS

The New Congressionally Approved PBS


Judge urges lawmakers to ease off criticism

Judge urges lawmakers to ease off criticism
Lefkow, whose family was slain, pleads for civility

The Associated Press
Updated: 8:17 p.m. ET May 18, 2005

WASHINGTON - Citing the safety of jurists around the nation, a federal judge whose family was murdered called on the Senate on Wednesday to condemn the harsh remarks about the judiciary by commentators like Pat Robertson and members of Congress.

“Fostering disrespect for judges can only encourage those that are on the edge, or the fringe, to exact revenge on a judge who ruled against them,” U.S. District Judge Joan Humphrey Lefkow said in prepared remarks to the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Her husband and mother were slain in the couple’s Chicago home in February. Bart Ross, a 57-year-old unemployed electrician from Chicago, committed suicide in suburban Milwaukee in March after leaving a note confessing to the murders. He had been angered when Lefkow dismissed a malpractice suit he had filed, authorities said.

The judge also was the target of a murder plot by white supremacist Matthew Hale. A federal jury convicted Hale in April 2004 of soliciting her murder, and he was sentenced last month to 40 years in prison. She was never attacked.

Congress should “publicly and persistently repudiate gratuitous attacks on the judiciary” that have occurred in the days since after the Terri Schiavo case, Lefkow told the hearing on courthouse security.

Lashing out at judges

After the death of Schiavo, a brain-damaged Florida woman whose parents unsuccessfully sought to have her feeding tube reinserted despite her husband’s wishes, some Republican members of Congress lashed out at judges involved in the case.

At the time, Sen. Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania said, “The actions on the part of the Florida court and the U.S. Supreme Court are unconscionable.”

“This loss happened because our legal system did not protect the people who need protection most, and that will change,” House Majority Leader Tom DeLay said. “The time will come for the men responsible for this to answer for their behavior.”

Referring to a different decision, Sen. John Cornyn of Texas said he wondered whether frustration against perceived political decisions by judges “builds up and builds up to the point where some people engage in violence, certainly without any justification.”

Robertson, founder of the Christian Coalition and head of the Christian Broadcasting Network, appeared on ABC’s “This Week” earlier this month and criticized the federal courts. “Over 100 years, I think the gradual erosion of the consensus that’s held our country together is probably more serious than a few bearded terrorists who fly into buildings,” he said.

'Truly dangerous'

Lefkow said that kind of “harsh rhetoric is truly dangerous.”

“I have never encountered a judge in the federal judiciary who can remotely be described as posing a threat ’probably more serious than a few bearded terrorists who fly into buildings,”’ she said.

Lefkow called on Congress to increase funding for the U.S. Marshals Service, which protects judges. She also wants legislation to ban putting personal information about judges and other government officials on the Internet without their permission.

Congress should make sure that money that has been allocated for home security systems for federal judges gets to them as fast as possible, she said.

Congress has approved $12 million to install home security systems for the 2,200 active and semiretired judges and magistrates in the federal court system.

“As recently as last Friday, May 13, I was spotted and harassed in a restaurant in downtown Chicago. Had that harasser had a gun, I would be dead today. There is no time for bureaucratic delay,” she said.




"It doesn't take a medical degree to know that drinking poop is bad for us," writes Jeffrey Griffiths, a member of the EPA's National Drinking Water Advisory
Council, in the Boston Globe. That hasn't stopped the Bush administration from
proposing a new policy that "would allow sewage treatment plants to
discharge inadequately treated human waste into lakes, rivers, streams,
and coastal waters
," which ends up in our tap water.

Sure, pathogens from human waste can
harm people in even small doses -- particularly children, the elderly,
and people with compromised immune systems. But the administration
thinks that by weakening sewage restrictions, it can save a few bucks and
"further defer or avoid maintenance, or improvements, to their sewer and
rainfall collection systems." There's no way we're drinking to that.




Highly respected former Republican senator and ordained minister John C. Danforth pointed out, "There is only one argument against
stem cell research, and that is meeting the demands of the religious
right." Danforth's observation is correct; the religious right is set to
do battle over this legislation. The U.S. Conference of Catholic
Bishops " condemned the legislation
," saying that such a measure would " encourage large-scale destruction
of innocent human life."

In a letter to House leaders, the Conference's
chairman of the Committee for Pro-Life Activities wrote, "I urge you in
the strongest possible terms to oppose all destructive and morally
offensive proposals of this kind." He continued on to declare that
"government has no business forcing taxpayers to become complicit in the direct
destruction of human life at any stage." The supposed controversy
behind using such cells -- that "embryos must be destroyed to retrieve the
cells" -- ignores the fact that if not used for research, "the embryos
... would otherwise be discarded
( by fertility
clinics." Still, the legislation's opponents are doing some serious
organizing. Proving a child is never too young to be used in their agenda,
one of their demonstrations will be "a Capitol Hill appearance by
who were 'adopted' as embryos."



On Saturday, President Bush is scheduled to deliver the commencement address at the religious Calvin College in Grand Rapids, Michigan. The college's self-described purpose
( is to "engage in vigorous
liberal arts education that promotes lifelong Christian service." In
advance of his visit, one-third of the faculty members have signed a letter
of protest ( that
will appear in a half-page ad in the Grand Rapids Press on Saturday.
"As Christians, we are called to be peacemakers and to initiate war only
as a last resort," the letter says. "We believe your administration has
launched an unjust and unjustified war in Iraq."

More than 800
students, faculty and alumni also have signed a letter protesting Bush's visit
that will appear Friday as a full-page ad in the Grand Rapids paper,
saying, "In our view, the policies and actions of your administration,
both domestically and internationally over the past four years, violate
many deeply held principles of Calvin College."




During his testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, John Bolton testified under oath that he "made no effort to have discipline imposed" on a CIA
analyst who had disagreed with his intelligence assessments. Yet a report
released yesterday by minority committee members reveals that Bolton
actually " pushed for months to have the analyst removed from his job or
otherwise disciplined
( ," the
Associated Press reports.

Bolton and State Department ally Otto Reich
went so far as to draft a letter to then-CIA Director George Tenet that
" urged the immediate replacement
" of the analyst, Fulton Armstrong, and indicated that Bolton and Reich
"would take several measures on their own, including excluding Mr.
Armstrong from official meetings at the State Department and official
travel in the Western Hemisphere."



The Fox News profile of Priscilla Owen (,2933,156892,00.html) , the judge
who Frist will use to detonate the nuclear option, points out she's "a
Sunday school teacher." Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX) also used this
tactic on the floor yesterday, "reciting a long list of achievements
and civic works, including Justice Owen's serving as a Sunday school
teacher to preschoolers." This would be relevant information if Owen were
running for federal Sunday School. However, she has been nominated to
the federal courts; it's her judicial record
that needs scrutiny.

As Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA) pointed out: "This is
not a debate about a lovely person. This is a debate about a record and
judicial decisions, and about whether or not that record merits
promoting someone to a lifetime appointment." As a judge, Owen is a judicial
activist with a long record of extremist decisions
( ; her own hometown paper,
for example, described her as "all too willing to bend the law to fit
her views
( ,
rather than the reverse."


History's Verdict

From The NY Times May 18, 2005


House Bill to Ease Stem Cell Curbs Gains Momentum
House Bill to Ease Stem Cell Curbs Gains Momentum

By Ceci Connolly and Rick Weiss
Washington Post Staff Writers
Thursday, May 19, 2005; A02

Emboldened advocates of lifting current limits on embryonic stem cell research appear within reach of a breakthrough victory in the House as early as next week, a vote that would put fresh pressure on the Senate and White House to funnel significant federal money into the emerging field.

House backers of legislation that would loosen restrictions imposed by President Bush in 2001 say they have 201 co-sponsors and enough private commitments to put them at or over the 218 votes needed to pass -- a prospect that has so bitterly divided the GOP that two Republicans nearly came to blows on the House floor Monday night.

Rep. Michael N. Castle (R-Del.), a co-sponsor of the measure, said that if the vote on the bill were held today, it would pass. Nearly four years after Bush used his first nationally televised address to announce a decision limiting federal research to previously existing embryonic stem cell lines, some opponents speculate that the congressional showdown could lead to the first veto of his presidency.

But as lawmakers prepare to cast their first votes on the sensitive issue of broadening the research with taxpayer money, opponents have begun a vigorous eleventh-hour campaign to defeat the legislation. Cardinal William H. Keeler of Baltimore condemned the legislation on Tuesday as "destructive and morally offensive."

"Government has no business forcing taxpayers to become complicit in the direct destruction of human life at any stage," wrote Keeler, chairman of the Committee for Pro-Life Activities of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. "Nor is there any point in denying the scientific fact that human life is exactly what is at stake here."

Both sides are mobilizing for the high-profile vote, with proponents using ads that invoke the words of Nancy Reagan and opponents organizing a Capitol Hill appearance by babies who were "adopted" as embryos.

The Stem Cell Research Enhancement Act of 2005 would permit federal money to fund research on stem cells taken from days-old embryos stored in freezers at fertility clinics and donated by couples who no longer need them. The cells show great promise in treating a variety of diseases and injuries because they are able to morph into all kinds of tissues, but they are controversial because the embryos must be destroyed to retrieve the cells.

Scientists and patient advocacy groups say the Bush policy limits federally funded work to about two dozen embryonic stem cell colonies, or lines, while scores of more promising cell lines remain off limits.

The upcoming vote has created a rare split in the Republican Party. Rep. David Joseph Weldon (R-Fla.), a physician who opposes the bill, said his moderate colleagues paid for polling in some GOP congressional districts to show that opposing the bill may not go over well with constituents.

"It doesn't get much uglier than that," he said. "My background is in science, and I know human life begins at the moment of conception."

The poll so infuriated Rep. Rick Renzi (R-Ariz.) that colleagues had to pull him away from "a heated discussion" with Rep. Mark S. Kirk (R-Ill.), who supports the bill, according to Hill staff members and a report in the newspaper Roll Call.

Advocates are winning support from some antiabortion leaders with the argument that "cells in a Petri dish" that would otherwise be discarded are not comparable to a fetus that "would become a person in the normal course of events," said John C. Danforth, an ordained minister and former Republican senator who served as Bush's ambassador to the United Nations.

"There is only one argument against stem cell research, and that is meeting the demands of the religious right," he said in an interview.

James C. Greenwood, a moderate Republican who retired from Congress last year to become president of the Biotechnology Industry Organization (BIO), said he is "cautiously optimistic" that, given the large number of co-sponsors, the House will pass the bill.

"There's always a fair assumption that some members don't want to have their names on the bill because they don't want to draw fire but will vote for it," he said, adding that BIO, which supports the bill "100 percent," has identified at least 218 votes for it.

If the vote is blocked -- or, as some proponents fear, the bill is modified with language they object to -- sponsors have a backup plan.

Rep. Diana DeGette (D-Colo.), who has teamed up with Castle to push the issue, said she is prepared to attach the stem cell language to appropriations bills or legislation reauthorizing the National Institutes of Health. "They know I've got the votes," she said.

In the Senate, where Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.) is under pressure to schedule a floor vote on an identical bill, proponents have warned that they may have the 60 votes needed to kill a filibuster. "Whether he brings it to the floor or not, I think we're going to get it to the floor," said Sen. Orrin G. Hatch (R-Utah).

With a House vote expected before the Memorial Day weekend recess, advocates on both sides have released dueling poll results and plan a series of publicity events. Today, four physician-lawmakers will highlight treatments they say are as good as or better than those involving embryonic stem cells. Next week, parents of children who were "adopted" as embryos will lobby against the Castle-DeGette bill.

Weldon predicted Bush would veto the legislation, but Hatch and others said that is not certain. Michael Manganiello, senior vice president of the Christopher Reeve Paralysis Foundation, said advocates are scrutinizing Bush's previous comments "to see if there is room for the president to allow a compromise to his initial policy."

Opponents, with the support of House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Tex.), are hoping to persuade undecided Republicans to vote instead for a bill sponsored by Rep. Christopher H. Smith (R-N.J.) that would create a national umbilical cord blood bank. Cord blood cells display some of the same traits as embryonic stem cells but are more limited in the types of tissues they can become.


Graduates fear debt more than terrorism

USA Today
Graduates fear debt more than terrorism
By Greg Toppo, USA TODAY

Forget terrorism.

The generation that came of age after Sept. 11, 2001, fears college debt and joblessness more than another terrorist attack. That's according to a new survey of college seniors and graduates of the class of 2005, most of whom were just weeks into their college careers that fateful Tuesday.

They still fear terrorism, and most believe that Americans will experience another attack. But when asked, "What are you most fearful of at this time?" only 13.4% said a terrorist attack; 32.4% answered "going deeply into debt," and 31.2% said "being unemployed."

The survey, released today by the bipartisan Partnership for Public Service, finds that 45.1% say they expect to graduate with $10,000 or more in college loans, with 20.6% saying they have more than $20,000 to pay off.

Another 27.5% say they will have no college debt.

"It is the central challenge that they face," says William Strauss, co-author of Millennials Rising and other books about Americans born since 1982.

By 2001, Strauss says, these kids already had their sense of security altered by the Columbine High School shootings in 1999 and similar tragedies, which prompted schools to reconsider safety years before the rest of the country.

"The adjustments that the society made post-9/11 seemed less startling, and they were more willing to accept it," Strauss says.

Though most of the students surveyed say it's likely the USA will experience "another serious terrorist attack" in the next five years, Strauss says economic concerns will play a larger role.

"This is a larger issue than many people realize," he says. "It's altering life directions." Rather than pursuing academic paths, "they feel much more obliged to pursue the highest-paying corporate path. That is a significant change from 30 to 40 years ago."

Samantha Yarbrough, a senior at Oberlin College in Ohio, says debt burdens didn't change her career plans, but she adds that many friends "opted not to travel for the year because they knew that their payments would start in October."

Yarbrough, 23, of Flagstaff, Ariz., plans to attend law school eventually and run for elected office. She says Sept. 11 wasn't really her generation's wake-up call — the Iraq war may have more long-term impact, she says — but that the terrorist attacks were "a shock" that made them more aware of the United States' place in the world.

"The knowledge that something like that can happen is now tucked away in our memory," she says. "Before I think — for myself, at least — you knew it was a possibility, but like winning the lottery was a possibility."

The Internet survey of 805 randomly sampled students was conducted May 2-5. It has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.5 percentage points.


House to scale back terror alert system

USA Today
House to scale back terror alert system

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Homeland Security Department would be forced to scale back its color-coded alert system for nationwide terror threats and tailor public warnings to specific, targeted locations under a House bill approved Wednesday.

Changes in the threat system were part of a wide-ranging $34 billion bill, approved by a 424-4 vote, that would set Homeland Security priorities for next year. It also would require the hiring of 2,000 border patrol agents — far above the 210 requested by President Bush — and bolster efforts to remove illegal immigrants from the United States.

Additionally, the bill directs Homeland Security to give more intelligence about nuclear and biological weapons to state, local and private-sector officials. It also provides $11 million to help research companies to deploy anti-terror technology more quickly without the fear of facing product liability lawsuits.

"We've had to make hard choices and we've had to set priorities," said Rep. Christopher Cox, R-Calif., chair of the House Homeland Security Committee.

"As a result, we have not funded every initiative to protect against every conceivable mean by which a terrorist might mount an attack," Cox said. "But what we have done is base our funding decisions on the best intelligence available — on terrorist capabilities and intentions, and on the actual risk of a terrorist attack."

The White House issued a statement of tepid support for the legislation, saying it has serious concerns that parts of the bill could "hinder the department's ability to implement its various missions."

The Senate is working on its own version of a Homeland Security bill, but a Republican spokeswoman could not offer a deadline for when it might be finished.

The color-coded system, introduced in March 2002, has been widely criticized for being too vague to help the public understand what kind of threat it faces. Under the House legislation, Homeland Security would have to give specific information about an attack's target and how to respond to the threat. It would also make the color system optional.

Ideally, Republican aides said, alerts would be issued to geographic regions or industry, similar to when threat levels were raised to orange, or high risk, at financial sectors in New York City, Washington and northern New Jersey last August.

Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff is considering changes to the system, which could be announced as soon as next month. The national alert level stands at yellow — meaning elevated risk.

No lawmakers challenged the proposed changes.

"The system has provided more material for late-night comedians than effective information on threats for the public," said Rep. Bennie Thompson, D-Miss.

Though Democrats said the bill did not go far enough to shore up vulnerabilities at airports and chemical plants, Thompson called it a "good start."

The House plan also changes the so-called "30-minute rule" that prohibits airplane passengers to leave their seats within a half-hour flying in or out of Reagan National Airport in Washington. The amendment by Rep. Vernon Ehlers, R-Mich., would reduce the time to 15 minutes. The ban has been in place since the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks.


Newsweek Was Right
Newsweek Was Right
Ari Berman

The Bush Administration's aggressive response to a Newsweek story alleging that US interrogators at Guantanamo Bay flushed the Koran down the toilet in front of Islamic detainees displays the height of hypocrisy. After Newsweek clumsily issued an apology, followed by a retraction, White House spokesman Scott McClellan called on the magazine to "help repair the damage that has been done, particularly in the region," by explaining "what happened and why they got it wrong." Maybe the Bush Administration should do the same, by opening up its secret facilities for inspection to the Red Cross and other third-party observers. We are printing below a letter from reader Calgacus--a pseudonym for a researcher in the national security field for the past twenty years--that shows how the desecration of the Koran became standard US interrogation practice.

"Contrary to White House spin, the allegations of religious desecration at Guantanamo such as those described by Newsweek on 9 May 2005 are common among ex-prisoners and have been widely reported outside the United States. Several former detainees at the Guantanamo and Bagram airbase prisons have reported instances of their handlers sitting or standing on the Koran, throwing or kicking it in toilets, and urinating on it.

One such incident (during which the Koran was thrown into a pile and stepped on) prompted a hunger strike among Guantanamo detainees in March 2002. Regarding this, the New York Times in a 1 May 2005, article interviewed a former detainee, Nasser Nijer Naser al-Mutairi, who said the protest ended with a senior officer delivering an apology to the entire camp. And the Times reports: "A former interrogator at Guantanamo, in an interview with the Times, confirmed the accounts of the hunger strikes, including the public expression of regret over the treatment of the Korans." (Neil A. Lewis and Eric Schmitt, "Inquiry Finds Abuses at Guantanamo Bay," New York Times, May 1, 2005, p. 35.)

The hunger strike and apology story is also confirmed by another former detainee, Shafiq Rasul, interviewed by the UK Guardian in 2003 (James Meek, "The People the Law Forgot," The Guardian, December 3, 2003, p. 1.) It was also confirmed by former prisoner Jamal al-Harith in an interview with the Daily Mirror (Rosa Prince and Gary Jones, "My Hell in Camp X-ray World Exclusive," Daily Mirror, March 12, 2004.)

The toilet incident was reported in the Washington Post in a 2003 interview with a former detainee from Afghanistan:

"Ehsannullah, 29, said American soldiers who initially questioned him in Kandahar before shipping him to Guantanamo hit him and taunted him by dumping the Koran in a toilet. It was a very bad situation for us, said Ehsannullah, who comes from the home region of the Taliban leader, Mohammad Omar. We cried so much and shouted, Please do not do that to the Holy Koran. (Marc Kaufman and April Witt, "Out of Legal Limbo, Some Tell of Mistreatment," Washington Post, March 26, 2003.)

Also citing the toilet incident is testimony by Asif Iqbal, a former Guantanamo detainee who was released to British custody in March 2004 and subsequently freed without charge:

"The behaviour of the guards towards our religious practices as well as the Koran was also, in my view, designed to cause us as much distress as possible. They would kick the Koran, throw it into the toilet and generally disrespect it." (Center for Constitution Rights, Detention in Afghanistan and Guantanamo Bay, August 4, 2004.)

The claim that US troops at Bagram airbase prison in Afghanistan urinated on the Koran was made by former detainee Mohamed Mazouz, a Moroccan, as reported in the Moroccan newspaper, La Gazette du Maroc. (Abdelhak Najib, "Les Americains pissaient sur le Coran et abusaient de nous sexuellement", April 11, 2005). An English translation is available on the Cage Prisoners web site.

Tarek Derghoul, another of the British detainees, similarly cites instances of Koran desecration in an interview with

Desecration of the Koran was also mentioned by former Guantanamo detainee Abdul Rahim Muslim Dost and reported by the BBC in early May 2005. (Haroon Rashid, "Ex-inmates Share Guantanamo Ordeal," May 2, 2005.)


Dems Say Bolton Sought to Punish Dissenter

Yahoo! News
Dems Say Bolton Sought to Punish Dissenter

By ANNE GEARAN and LOLITA BALDOR, Associated Press Writers

John R. Bolton planned to ask then-CIA Director George Tenet to help punish a government intelligence analyst who disagreed with Bolton, and then misled a Senate committee about the matter, a Democratic Senate report said Wednesday.

Bolton pushed for months to have the analyst removed from his job or otherwise disciplined, according to details revealed for the first time in the report, but he testified under oath at his confirmation hearing to be United Nations ambassador that he "made no effort to have discipline imposed" on the man.

"Bolton's effort to minimize the significance of his efforts is disingenuous," said the report from Democrats on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. The document is attached to a short summary of Bolton's qualifications and an account of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee's lengthy investigation prepared by the committee's Republican chairman, Sen. Richard Lugar (news, bio, voting record) of Indiana.

The committee investigated allegations about Bolton's conduct and temperament for weeks before sending his name to the full Senate for debate without the customary recommendation of approval.

"The end result of all this is that Secretary Bolton emerged looking better than when it began," Lugar wrote to the inquiry.

"There was no evidence to support the most serious charge, that Secretary Bolton sought to manipulate intelligence," Lugar said. "He may have disagreed with intelligence findings but in the end, he always accepted the final judgment of the intelligence community."

At the State Department, spokesman Tom Casey said the report revealed nothing new.

"The committee's already reviewed this issue extensively," Casey said. "This is a minority interpretation of events and we completely reject it."

Democrats on the committee oppose Bolton for the U.N. job, calling him a rigid ideologue ill-suited for the diplomatic post and a bureaucratic infighter who may have misused government intelligence. Their report, prepared for an expected vote on Bolton's nomination, recommends that the Senate reject Bolton's nomination.

"By itself, Mr. Bolton's credibility problem on intelligence matters makes him the wrong man for the U.N. job at this critical time," the Democratic report said.

In support of their allegations, the Democrats referred to e-mails and other documents that have not been publicly released.

Bolton is only the third diplomatic nominee ever to pass out of the committee without recommendation. It last happened in 1993, in the case of Larry Lawrence to be ambassador to Switzerland. Lawrence was confirmed by the Senate.

The Senate has not scheduled a vote on Bolton. Sen. Barbara Boxer (news, bio, voting record), D-Calif., put a hold on the nomination last Friday, saying she did not want debate to begin in the full Senate until the State Department provided more information requested by Democrats.

"I feel as strongly as ever about my hold," Boxer said through a spokeswoman. "We still haven't received the information requested from the administration, and they have given every reason in the book not to cooperate."

Boxer sent a letter to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice on Tuesday to repeat a request for financial disclosure reports for a paid Bolton adviser who also maintains a roster of private consulting clients.

The adviser, Matthew Freedman, refused to answer questions about his clients during an interview with the committee, and the State Department so far has declined to provide the reports to the Senate committee. The department said internal ethics officials had concluded Freedman's outside work violated no laws or regulations and there was no need to turn over the documents.

The committee did receive hundreds of other documents and conducted more than 30 interviews with people who worked with Bolton, knew him or may have known about alleged incidents of abusive or inappropriate behavior going back more than a decade.

The allegations about the analyst expand on an incident that has been a major focus for Democrats. The analyst is not named in the report, presumably because he is now in an undercover job overseas, but he is widely understood to be Fulton Armstrong, a CIA employee who was the government's leading analyst on Latin America with the National Intelligence Council.

Armstrong and Bolton tangled in 2002 over Cuba. Bolton, the State Department's arms control chief, had accused Cuba of a vigorous drive to develop weapons of mass destruction; that view exceeded the consensus of most U.S. analysts.

"Documentary evidence provide to the committee confirms Bolton's efforts to punish the (analyst)," the report said. "One State Department e-mail states that Mr. Bolton planned to talk to Director of Central Intelligence George Tenet about the matter," the report said.

Armstrong was not removed from his job or otherwise reprimanded. Another analyst who disagreed with Bolton, Christian Westermann, also was not reassigned.

An administration official said Bolton never responded to an e-mail from a staffer suggesting that Bolton recommend to Tenet that he reassign Armstrong.

"Bolton never took any action. The letter was never sent," said the official, who asked not to be identified because of the sensitive nature of the issue.

The report refers to e-mails and other documents that have not been made public. One e-mail indicated Bolton worked for some time to get Armstrong transferred, an outcome that Democrats say would have been a huge black mark on the analyst's career.

An e-mail provided to the committee "indicates that Mr. Bolton had lost patience with the delay in seeking the removal of the (analyst) and that he did not 'want it to slip away further,'" the report said.

The report said Bolton's office spent four months working on letters that Bolton and another top State Department official would send to CIA officials to try to get Armstrong pushed out. The report does not say whether the letters were ever sent.


FBI Says Grenade Tossed Near Bush Was Live

Yahoo! News
FBI Says Grenade Tossed Near Bush Was Live

By JENNIFER LOVEN, Associated Press Writer1 hour, 40 minutes ago

A hand grenade that landed within 100 feet of President Bush during his visit last week to a former Soviet republic was a threat to his life and the safety of the tens of thousands in the crowd, the FBI said Wednesday.

The grenade was live but did not explode.

The White House, which initially said Bush never was in danger, said the incident May 10 in the Georgia's capital has led to a review of security at presidential events.

FBI agents are still investigating in Tbilisi, where tens of thousands of people heard Bush speak in strong support of Georgia's efforts at democratic development.

It was unclear how much danger the president faced.

According to the FBI's initial investigation, the grenade failed to explode only because of a malfunction. The activation device deployed too slowly to hit the blasting cap hard enough, agent Bryan Paarmann said.

The grenade was a knockoff of a Soviet-designed RGD-5, a fragmentation grenade with a lethal range of about 100 feet, according to a source familiar with the incident, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

"We consider this act to be a threat against the health and welfare of both the president of the United States and the president of Georgia as well as the multitude of Georgian people that had turned out at this event," Paarmann said.

No one in the U.S. delegation — Bush, his staff, members of the press that accompanied him and others — saw a grenade being tossed. There was no sign that anything was amiss during the president's half-hour appearance in Freedom Square.

Bush spoke from an armored podium on a stage shielded by bulletproof glass on the sides; there was no bulletproof shield across much of the stage's front.

U.S. officials are trying to determine whether the grenade was thrown with the intention of doing harm or was placed in the crowd for other reasons.

"There are a lot of security measures that the Secret Service takes," White House press secretary Scott McClellan said. "The Secret Service has the full trust of the president."

The grenade's discovery has led to questions about the adequacy of the extensive security measures used to protect the president.

The number of metal detectors set up by the Secret Service, based on predictions by Georgian authorities, proved far too few. The crowd was one of the largest Bush has addressed. After three hours, authorities were overwhelmed by the enormous number of people and let many go around the detectors.

"The Secret Service is looking into all those issues," McClellan said.

Georgian officials have suggested the device may have been planted to undermine the upbeat relations on display between Bush and Georgia's new West-leaning president, Mikhail Saakashvili.

The small nation has a large cast of potential culprits, including former government elites angry at Saakashvili's anti-corruption crackdown, supporters of two separatist regions aligned with Moscow, terrorists from the Pankisi Gorge and Russian saboteurs.

A law enforcement official said there are not any individual suspects nor any claims of responsibility. A reward of about $11,000 was offered for information about those responsible.

Bush's decision to go to Georgia — a poor, dangerous country struggling to make the transition from ex-communist backwater to economically thriving democracy — had his security detail jumpy for weeks.

At the May 10 event, Georgian police were out in force. U.S. snipers took positions on rooftops.

The grenade was wrapped in a dark plaid cloth. It was "tossed in the general direction of the main stage" about 1:30 p.m., right after Bush began speaking, and landed less than 100 feet shy of the podium, Paarmann said. After bouncing off a child's cap, the grenade was removed by a Georgian security officer.

Bush knew nothing about the grenade until he had left the country. Georgian authorities did not tell the president's security detail until after his plane had left for Washington.

At first, the White House said the president never was in danger. Georgian officials denied the incident had happened.

A day later, Georgian officials confirmed there had been a grenade but said it was found on the ground — not thrown, as the Secret Service had said. They also said it was an "engineering grenade" — which is not designed to spread shrapnel — and was found in inactive mode.

"Obviously we've learned more since," McClellan said.


Associated Press writers Mark Sherman in Washington and Misha Dzhindzhikhashvili in Tbilisi contributed to this report.


Plan Would Broaden F.B.I.'s Terror Role

The New York Times
May 19, 2005
Plan Would Broaden F.B.I.'s Terror Role

WASHINGTON, May 18 - The Bush administration and Senate Republican leaders are pushing a plan that would significantly expand the F.B.I.'s power to demand business records in terror investigations without obtaining approval from a judge, officials said on Wednesday.

The proposal, which is likely to be considered next week in a closed session of the Senate intelligence committee, would allow federal investigators to subpoena records from businesses and other institutions without a judge's sign-off if they declared that the material was needed as part of a foreign intelligence investigation.

The proposal, part of a broader plan to extend antiterrorism powers under the law known as the USA Patriot Act, was concluded in recent days by Republican leaders on the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence in consultation with the Bush administration, Congressional officials said.

Administration and Congressional officials who support the idea said the proposal would give the F.B.I. a much-needed tool to track leads in terrorism and espionage investigations that would be quicker and less cumbersome than existing methods. They pointed out that the administrative subpoena power being sought for the F.B.I. in terror cases was already in use in more than 300 other types of crimes, including health care fraud, child exploitation, racketeering and drug trafficking.

"Why not provide that same tool to national security investigators as well?" asked an aide to the intelligence committee who was involved in the proposal, speaking on condition of anonymity because the issue will be discussed at a closed meeting scheduled for May 26. "There wasn't really a whole lot of cogent argument against it."

But word of the proposal on Wednesday generated immediate protests from civil rights advocates, who said that it would give the F.B.I. virtually unchecked authority in terror investigations, and the plan is likely to intensify the growing debate in Congress over the balance between fighting terrorism and protecting privacy rights.

"This is a dramatic expansion of the federal government's power," said Lisa Graves, senior counsel for the American Civil Liberties Union in Washington. "It's really a power grab by the administration for the F.B.I. to secretly demand medical records, tax records, gun purchase records and all sorts of other material if they deem it relevant to an intelligence investigation."

Kevin Madden, a spokesman for the Justice Department, said department officials welcomed the intelligence committee's efforts "to support provisions that enhance law enforcement's ability to combat terrorism effectively and are particularly heartened by their support for the USA Patriot Act."

Support for the idea among many Democrats and some Republicans in Congress is uncertain, and the Senate intelligence committee's plan to push the proposal could set off a struggle with the Senate Judiciary Committee. The Judiciary Committee has joint authority for oversight of foreign intelligence surveillance law - which would be expanded under the current proposal - but its members have shown some reluctance to expand the F.B.I.'s counterterrorism powers.

A Judiciary Committee aide said that Arlen Specter, the Pennsylvania Republican who leads the Judiciary Committee, wanted to study the intelligence committee's proposal closely to determine if it was warranted. "Being a former prosecutor, he understands what tools are needed for law enforcement, but he also understands that there are serious concerns about ensuring people's liberties," said the aide, who spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of provoking tensions with the intelligence committee.

With 16 provisions of the Patriot Act set to expire at the end of the year, the Bush administration has made the permanent extension of the law one of its top legislation priorities. But critics are seeking to scale back provisions in the law that they say are vulnerable to abuse, and more than 380 governmental bodies, including seven states, have adopted formal resolutions voicing concerns about the broad reach of the law.

One provision of the law that has generated perhaps more criticism than any other is Section 215, derided by critics as the "library records" provision. It allows the F.B.I. to go to a secret intelligence court to demand access to material from businesses and other institutions as part of intelligence investigations.

The Justice Department said in a newly declassified report last month that it had used the power 35 times since late 2003 to gain information on apartment leasing, driver's licenses, financial records and other data in intelligence investigations. But it stressed that it had not used the authority to date to demand records from libraries or bookstores or to get information related to medical or gun records - all areas of concern to critics.

Democrats and civil liberties advocates said on Wednesday that they were concerned that the F.B.I.'s expanded subpoena power under the intelligence committee's proposal would render obsolete the limited safeguards under Section 215. While that provision requires the Justice Department to receive the approval of the secret intelligence court before demanding records, the administrative subpoenas under the new proposal would not.

"This all comes down to not wanting an F.B.I. agent to have to go to a prosecutor and then the court to get formal approval for a subpoena," said a Democratic Congressional official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the intelligence committee's proposal is still considered confidential. "This becomes a substitute."

But supporters of the plan said they had built in safeguards.

The F.B.I. could only issue the demands for records with the approval of the director or senior officials down through the rank of a special agent in charge, officials said. In addition, those given subpoenas would not automatically be bound to silence unless the F.B.I. determined that disclosure could threaten national security. The Justice Department would have to report twice a year on its use of the power, and the law would be amended to specify that material must be "relevant" to a foreign intelligence investigation.


Generals Offer Sober Outlook on Iraqi War

The New York Times
May 19, 2005
Generals Offer Sober Outlook on Iraqi War

BAGHDAD, Iraq, May 18 - American military commanders in Baghdad and Washington gave a sobering new assessment on Wednesday of the war in Iraq, adding to the mood of anxiety that prompted Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to come to Baghdad last weekend to consult with the new government.

In interviews and briefings this week, some of the generals pulled back from recent suggestions, some by the same officers, that positive trends in Iraq could allow a major drawdown in the 138,000 American troops late this year or early in 2006. One officer suggested Wednesday that American military involvement could last "many years."

Gen. John P. Abizaid, the top American officer in the Middle East, said in a briefing in Washington that one problem was the disappointing progress in developing Iraqi police units cohesive enough to mount an effective challenge to insurgents and allow American forces to begin stepping back from the fighting. General Abizaid, who speaks with President Bush and Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld regularly, was in Washington this week for a meeting of regional commanders.

In Baghdad, a senior officer said Wednesday in a background briefing that the 21 car bombings in Baghdad so far this month almost matched the total of 25 in all of last year.

Against this, he said, there has been a lull in insurgents' activity in Baghdad in recent days after months of some of the bloodiest attacks, a trend that suggested that American pressure, including the capture of important bomb makers, had left the insurgents incapable of mounting protracted offensives.

But the officer said that despite Americans' recent successes in disrupting insurgent cells, which have resulted in the arrest of 1,100 suspects in Baghdad alone in the past 80 days, the success of American goals in Iraq was not assured.

"I think that this could still fail," the officer said at the briefing, referring to the American enterprise in Iraq. "It's much more likely to succeed, but it could still fail."

The officer said much depended on the new government's success in bolstering public confidence among Iraqis. He said recent polls conducted by Baghdad University had shown confidence flagging sharply, to 45 percent, down from an 85 percent rating immediately after the election. "For the insurgency to be successful, people have to believe the government can't survive," he said. "When you're in the middle of a conflict, you're trying to find pillars of strength to lean on."

Another problem cited by the senior officer in Baghdad was the new government's ban on raids on mosques, announced on Monday, which the American officer said he expected to be revised after high-level discussions on Wednesday between American commanders and Iraqi officials.

The officer said the ban appeared to have been announced by the new defense minister, Sadoun al-Dulaimi, without wider government approval, and would be replaced by a "more moderate" policy.

To raise the level of public confidence, the officer said, the new government would need success in cutting insurgent attacks and meeting popular impatience for improvements in public services like electricity that are worse, for many Iraqis, than they were last year. But he emphasized the need for caution - and the time it may take to complete the American mission here - notes that recur often in the private conversations of American officers in Iraq.

"I think it's going to succeed in the long run, even if it takes years, many years," he said. On a personal note, he added that he, like many American soldiers, had spent long periods of duty related to Iraq, and he said: "We believe in the mission that we've got. We believe in it because we're in it, and if we let go of the insurgency and take our foot off its throat, then this country could fail and go back into civil war and chaos."

Only weeks ago, in the aftermath of the elections, American generals offered a more upbeat view, one that was tied to a surge of Iraqi confidence that one commander in Baghdad now describes as euphoria. But this week, five high-ranking officers, speaking separately at the Pentagon and in Baghdad, and through an e-mail exchange from Baghdad with a reporter in Washington, ranged with unusual candor and detail over problems now confronting the war effort.

By insisting that they not be identified, the three officers based in Baghdad were following a Pentagon policy requiring American commanders in Baghdad to put "an Iraqi face" on the war, meaning that Iraqi commanders should be the ones talking to reporters, not Americans. That policy has been questioned recently by senior Americans in Iraq, who say Iraqi commanders have failed to step forward, leaving a news vacuum that has allowed the insurgents' successful attacks, not their failures, to dominate news coverage.

The generals' remarks, emphasizing the insurgency's resilience but also American and Iraqi successes in disrupting them, suggested that American commanders may have seen an opportunity after Secretary Rice's trip to inject their own note of realism into public debate. In talks with Iraq's new Shiite leaders, she urged a more convincing effort to reach out to the dispossessed Sunni Arab minority, warning that success in the war required a political strategy that encouraged at least some Sunni insurgent groups to turn toward peace.

The generals said the buildup of Iraqi forces has been more disappointing than previously acknowledged, contributing to the absence of any Iraqi forces when a 1,000-member Marine battle group mounted an offensive last week against insurgent strongholds in the northwestern desert, along the border with Syria.

American officers said that 125 insurgents had been killed, with the loss of about 14 Americans, but acknowledged that lack of sufficient troops may have helped many insurgents to flee across the border or back into the interior of Iraq. The border offensive was wrapped up over the weekend, with an air of disappointment that some of wider goals had not been achieved - possibly including the capture of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the Islamic militant who is the American forces' most-wanted man in Iraq.

General Abizaid, whose Central Command headquarters exercises oversight of the war, said the Iraqi police - accounting for 65,000 of the 160,000 Iraqis now trained and equipped in the $5.7 billion American effort to build up security forces - are "behind" in their ability to shoulder a major part of the war effort. He blamed a tendency among Iraqi policemen to operate as individuals rather than in cohesive, military-style units, and said this made them more vulnerable to insurgents' intimidation.

Another American officer, in an e-mail message from Baghdad, suggested a wider problem in preparing Iraqi forces capable of taking over much of the fighting, which was the Pentagon's goal when it ordered a top-to-bottom shakeout last year in the retraining effort. He said the numbers of Iraqi troops and police officers graduating from training were only one measure of success.

"Everyone looks at the number of Iraqi forces and scratches their heads, but it is more complex than that," he said. "We certainly don't want to put forces into the fight before they can stand up, as in Falluja," the battle last November that gave American commanders their first experience of Iraqi units, mostly highly trained special forces' units, that could contribute significantly to an American offensive.

One of starkest revelations by the commanders involved the surge in car bombings, the principal insurgent weapon in attacks over the past three weeks that have killed nearly 500 people across central and northern Iraq, about half of them Iraqi soldiers, police officers and recruits.

Last week, Lt. Gen. David H. Petraeus, the top American trainer in Iraq, defended the Iraqi security forces, saying in an e-mail message, "They are operating effectively with coalition forces - and, in some cases, are operating independently - in the effort to find the locations at which vehicles are rigged with explosives."

The senior officer who met with reporters in Baghdad said there had been 21 car bombings in the capital in May, and 126 in the past 80 days. In all of last year, the officer said, there were only about 25 car bombings in Baghdad.

The officer said that American military intelligence had information that the car-bombing offensive had been ordered by a high-level meeting of insurgents in Syria within the past 30 days, and that reports indicated that one of those at the meeting may have been Mr. Zarqawi, the Jordanian-born militant who was named by Osama bin Laden earlier this year as Al Qaeda's chief in Iraq. In statements on Islamic Web sites, groups loyal to Mr. Zarqawi have claimed responsibility for many of the car bombings.

The officer said that in two of the recent Baghdad bombings, investigators had found indications that the men driving the cars had been bound with duct tape before the attacks. He said the foot of one of the attackers, in a marketplace bombing last week that killed 22 people in south Baghdad, had been found taped to his vehicle's accelerator. In another case, the officer said, the attacker's hands were taped to the vehicle's wheel.

The implication was that those planning the attacks wanted to be sure that the vehicles would continue to their targets even if the drivers were killed by American or Iraqi gunfire as they approached.

Arriving at a lunch with reporters from a meeting with Iraqi cabinet ministers and military commanders, the officer said he expected the government to make an early move to revise the defense minister's announcement of a ban on raids on mosques and religious schools. The revised policy, the American officer implied, would allow Iraqi forces, backed by Americans, to raid mosques when they are used as insurgent strongholds.

John F. Burns reported from Baghdad for this article and Eric Schmitt from Washington. Richard A. Oppel Jr. contributed reporting from Baghdad.