Saturday, February 18, 2006

Cartoon shows Bush to big oil, big money: "I wish I could quit you"

The Huffington Post
Cartoon shows Bush to big oil, big money: "I wish I could quit you"
Russell Shaw

With a line paraphrased from "Brokeback Mountain," a Portland, Oregon cartoonist, artist and general wit who calls himself The Unknown has designed and posted what he imagines could be President Bush's own addictions of the heart. Oil and money.

See the cartoon and the rest of the article here


Intelligence, Policy,and the War in Iraq

Foreign Affairs
Intelligence, Policy,and the War in Iraq
By Paul R. Pillar

From Foreign Affairs, March/April 2006

Summary: During the run-up to the invasion of Iraq, writes the intelligence community's former senior analyst for the Middle East, the Bush administration disregarded the community's expertise, politicized the intelligence process, and selected unrepresentative raw intelligence to make its public case.

PAUL R. PILLAR is on the faculty of the Security Studies Program at Georgetown University. Concluding a long career in the Central Intelligence Agency, he served as National Intelligence Officer for the Near East and South Asia from 2000 to 2005.


The most serious problem with U.S. intelligence today is that its relationship with the policymaking process is broken and badly needs repair. In the wake of the Iraq war, it has become clear that official intelligence analysis was not relied on in making even the most significant national security decisions, that intelligence was misused publicly to justify decisions already made, that damaging ill will developed between policymakers and intelligence officers, and that the intelligence community's own work was politicized. As the national intelligence officer responsible for the Middle East from 2000 to 2005, I witnessed all of these disturbing developments.

Public discussion of prewar intelligence on Iraq has focused on the errors made in assessing Saddam Hussein's unconventional weapons programs. A commission chaired by Judge Laurence Silberman and former Senator Charles Robb usefully documented the intelligence community's mistakes in a solid and comprehensive report released in March 2005. Corrections were indeed in order, and the intelligence community has begun to make them.

At the same time, an acrimonious and highly partisan debate broke out over whether the Bush administration manipulated and misused intelligence in making its case for war. The administration defended itself by pointing out that it was not alone in its view that Saddam had weapons of mass destruction (WMD) and active weapons programs, however mistaken that view may have been.

In this regard, the Bush administration was quite right: its perception of Saddam's weapons capacities was shared by the Clinton administration, congressional Democrats, and most other Western governments and intelligence services. But in making this defense, the White House also inadvertently pointed out the real problem: intelligence on Iraqi weapons programs did not drive its decision to go to war. A view broadly held in the United States and even more so overseas was that deterrence of Iraq was working, that Saddam was being kept "in his box," and that the best way to deal with the weapons problem was through an aggressive inspections program to supplement the sanctions already in place. That the administration arrived at so different a policy solution indicates that its decision to topple Saddam was driven by other factors -- namely, the desire to shake up the sclerotic power structures of the Middle East and hasten the spread of more liberal politics and economics in the region.

If the entire body of official intelligence analysis on Iraq had a policy implication, it was to avoid war -- or, if war was going to be launched, to prepare for a messy aftermath. What is most remarkable about prewar U.S. intelligence on Iraq is not that it got things wrong and thereby misled policymakers; it is that it played so small a role in one of the most important U.S. policy decisions in recent decades.


The proper relationship between intelligence gathering and policymaking sharply separates the two functions. The intelligence community collects information, evaluates its credibility, and combines it with other information to help make sense of situations abroad that could affect U.S. interests. Intelligence officers decide which topics should get their limited collection and analytic resources according to both their own judgments and the concerns of policymakers. Policymakers thus influence which topics intelligence agencies address but not the conclusions that they reach. The intelligence community, meanwhile, limits its judgments to what is happening or what might happen overseas, avoiding policy judgments about what the United States should do in response.

In practice, this distinction is often blurred, especially because analytic projections may have policy implications even if they are not explicitly stated. But the distinction is still important. National security abounds with problems that are clearer than the solutions to them; the case of Iraq is hardly a unique example of how similar perceptions of a threat can lead people to recommend very different policy responses. Accordingly, it is critical that the intelligence community not advocate policy, especially not openly. If it does, it loses the most important basis for its credibility and its claims to objectivity. When intelligence analysts critique one another's work, they use the phrase "policy prescriptive" as a pejorative, and rightly so.

The Bush administration's use of intelligence on Iraq did not just blur this distinction; it turned the entire model upside down. The administration used intelligence not to inform decision-making, but to justify a decision already made. It went to war without requesting -- and evidently without being influenced by -- any strategic-level intelligence assessments on any aspect of Iraq. (The military made extensive use of intelligence in its war planning, although much of it was of a more tactical nature.) Congress, not the administration, asked for the now-infamous October 2002 National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) on Iraq's unconventional weapons programs, although few members of Congress actually read it. (According to several congressional aides responsible for safeguarding the classified material, no more than six senators and only a handful of House members got beyond the five-page executive summary.) As the national intelligence officer for the Middle East, I was in charge of coordinating all of the intelligence community's assessments regarding Iraq; the first request I received from any administration policymaker for any such assessment was not until a year into the war.

Official intelligence on Iraqi weapons programs was flawed, but even with its flaws, it was not what led to the war. On the issue that mattered most, the intelligence community judged that Iraq probably was several years away from developing a nuclear weapon. The October 2002 NIE also judged that Saddam was unlikely to use WMD against the United States unless his regime was placed in mortal danger.

Before the war, on its own initiative, the intelligence community considered the principal challenges that any postinvasion authority in Iraq would be likely to face. It presented a picture of a political culture that would not provide fertile ground for democracy and foretold a long, difficult, and turbulent transition. It projected that a Marshall Plan-type effort would be required to restore the Iraqi economy, despite Iraq's abundant oil resources. It forecast that in a deeply divided Iraqi society, with Sunnis resentful over the loss of their dominant position and Shiites seeking power commensurate with their majority status, there was a significant chance that the groups would engage in violent conflict unless an occupying power prevented it. And it anticipated that a foreign occupying force would itself be the target of resentment and attacks -- including by guerrilla warfare -- unless it established security and put Iraq on the road to prosperity in the first few weeks or months after the fall of Saddam.

In addition, the intelligence community offered its assessment of the likely regional repercussions of ousting Saddam. It argued that any value Iraq might have as a democratic exemplar would be minimal and would depend on the stability of a new Iraqi government and the extent to which democracy in Iraq was seen as developing from within rather than being imposed by an outside power. More likely, war and occupation would boost political Islam and increase sympathy for terrorists' objectives -- and Iraq would become a magnet for extremists from elsewhere in the Middle East.


The Bush administration deviated from the professional standard not only in using policy to drive intelligence, but also in aggressively using intelligence to win public support for its decision to go to war. This meant selectively adducing data -- "cherry-picking" -- rather than using the intelligence community's own analytic judgments. In fact, key portions of the administration's case explicitly rejected those judgments. In an August 2002 speech, for example, Vice President Dick Cheney observed that "intelligence is an uncertain business" and noted how intelligence analysts had underestimated how close Iraq had been to developing a nuclear weapon before the 1991 Persian Gulf War. His conclusion -- at odds with that of the intelligence community -- was that "many of us are convinced that Saddam will acquire nuclear weapons fairly soon."

In the upside-down relationship between intelligence and policy that prevailed in the case of Iraq, the administration selected pieces of raw intelligence to use in its public case for war, leaving the intelligence community to register varying degrees of private protest when such use started to go beyond what analysts deemed credible or reasonable. The best-known example was the assertion by President George W. Bush in his 2003 State of the Union address that Iraq was purchasing uranium ore in Africa. U.S. intelligence analysts had questioned the credibility of the report making this claim, had kept it out of their own unclassified products, and had advised the White House not to use it publicly. But the administration put the claim into the speech anyway, referring to it as information from British sources in order to make the point without explicitly vouching for the intelligence.

The reexamination of prewar public statements is a necessary part of understanding the process that led to the Iraq war. But a narrow focus on rhetorical details tends to overlook more fundamental problems in the intelligence-policy relationship. Any time policymakers, rather than intelligence agencies, take the lead in selecting which bits of raw intelligence to present, there is -- regardless of the issue -- a bias. The resulting public statements ostensibly reflect intelligence, but they do not reflect intelligence analysis, which is an essential part of determining what the pieces of raw reporting mean. The policymaker acts with an eye not to what is indicative of a larger pattern or underlying truth, but to what supports his case.

Another problem is that on Iraq, the intelligence community was pulled over the line into policy advocacy -- not so much by what it said as by its conspicuous role in the administration's public case for war. This was especially true when the intelligence community was made highly visible (with the director of central intelligence literally in the camera frame) in an intelligence-laden presentation by Secretary of State Colin Powell to the UN Security Council a month before the war began. It was also true in the fall of 2002, when, at the administration's behest, the intelligence community published a white paper on Iraq's WMD programs -- but without including any of the community's judgments about the likelihood of those weapons' being used.

But the greatest discrepancy between the administration's public statements and the intelligence community's judgments concerned not WMD (there was indeed a broad consensus that such programs existed), but the relationship between Saddam and al Qaeda. The enormous attention devoted to this subject did not reflect any judgment by intelligence officials that there was or was likely to be anything like the "alliance" the administration said existed. The reason the connection got so much attention was that the administration wanted to hitch the Iraq expedition to the "war on terror" and the threat the American public feared most, thereby capitalizing on the country's militant post-9/11 mood.

The issue of possible ties between Saddam and al Qaeda was especially prone to the selective use of raw intelligence to make a public case for war. In the shadowy world of international terrorism, almost anyone can be "linked" to almost anyone else if enough effort is made to find evidence of casual contacts, the mentioning of names in the same breath, or indications of common travels or experiences. Even the most minimal and circumstantial data can be adduced as evidence of a "relationship," ignoring the important question of whether a given regime actually supports a given terrorist group and the fact that relationships can be competitive or distrustful rather than cooperative.

The intelligence community never offered any analysis that supported the notion of an alliance between Saddam and al Qaeda. Yet it was drawn into a public effort to support that notion. To be fair, Secretary Powell's presentation at the UN never explicitly asserted that there was a cooperative relationship between Saddam and al Qaeda. But the presentation was clearly meant to create the impression that one existed. To the extent that the intelligence community was a party to such efforts, it crossed the line into policy advocacy -- and did so in a way that fostered public misconceptions contrary to the intelligence community's own judgments.


In its report on prewar intelligence concerning Iraqi WMD, the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence said it found no evidence that analysts had altered or shaped their judgments in response to political pressure. The Silberman-Robb commission reached the same conclusion, although it conceded that analysts worked in an "environment" affected by "intense" policymaker interest. But the method of investigation used by the panels -- essentially, asking analysts whether their arms had been twisted -- would have caught only the crudest attempts at politicization. Such attempts are rare and, when they do occur (as with former Undersecretary of State John Bolton's attempts to get the intelligence community to sign on to his judgments about Cuba and Syria), are almost always unsuccessful. Moreover, it is unlikely that analysts would ever acknowledge that their own judgments have been politicized, since that would be far more damning than admitting more mundane types of analytic error.

The actual politicization of intelligence occurs subtly and can take many forms. Context is all-important. Well before March 2003, intelligence analysts and their managers knew that the United States was heading for war with Iraq. It was clear that the Bush administration would frown on or ignore analysis that called into question a decision to go to war and welcome analysis that supported such a decision. Intelligence analysts -- for whom attention, especially favorable attention, from policymakers is a measure of success -- felt a strong wind consistently blowing in one direction. The desire to bend with such a wind is natural and strong, even if unconscious.

On the issue of Iraqi WMD, dozens of analysts throughout the intelligence community were making many judgments on many different issues based on fragmentary and ambiguous evidence. The differences between sound intelligence analysis (bearing in mind the gaps in information) and the flawed analysis that actually was produced had to do mainly with matters of caveat, nuance, and word choice. The opportunities for bias were numerous. It may not be possible to point to one key instance of such bending or to measure the cumulative effect of such pressure. But the effect was probably significant.

A clearer form of politicization is the inconsistent review of analysis: reports that conform to policy preferences have an easier time making it through the gauntlet of coordination and approval than ones that do not. (Every piece of intelligence analysis reflects not only the judgments of the analysts most directly involved in writing it, but also the concurrence of those who cover related topics and the review, editing, and remanding of it by several levels of supervisors, from branch chiefs to senior executives.) The Silberman-Robb commission noted such inconsistencies in the Iraq case but chalked it up to bad management. The commission failed to address exactly why managers were inconsistent: they wanted to avoid the unpleasantness of laying unwelcome analysis on a policymaker's desk.

Another form of politicization with a similar cause is the sugarcoating of what otherwise would be an unpalatable message. Even the mostly prescient analysis about the problems likely to be encountered in postwar Iraq included some observations that served as sugar, added in the hope that policymakers would not throw the report directly into the burn bag, but damaging the clarity of the analysis in the process.

But the principal way that the intelligence community's work on Iraq was politicized concerned the specific questions to which the community devoted its energies. As any competent pollster can attest, how a question is framed helps determine the answer. In the case of Iraq, there was also the matter of sheer quantity of output -- not just what the intelligence community said, but how many times it said it. On any given subject, the intelligence community faces what is in effect a field of rocks, and it lacks the resources to turn over every one to see what threats to national security may lurk underneath. In an unpoliticized environment, intelligence officers decide which rocks to turn over based on past patterns and their own judgments. But when policymakers repeatedly urge the intelligence community to turn over only certain rocks, the process becomes biased. The community responds by concentrating its resources on those rocks, eventually producing a body of reporting and analysis that, thanks to quantity and emphasis, leaves the impression that what lies under those same rocks is a bigger part of the problem than it really is.

That is what happened when the Bush administration repeatedly called on the intelligence community to uncover more material that would contribute to the case for war. The Bush team approached the community again and again and pushed it to look harder at the supposed Saddam-al Qaeda relationship -- calling on analysts not only to turn over additional Iraqi rocks, but also to turn over ones already examined and to scratch the dirt to see if there might be something there after all. The result was an intelligence output that -- because the question being investigated was never put in context -- obscured rather than enhanced understanding of al Qaeda's actual sources of strength and support.

This process represented a radical departure from the textbook model of the relationship between intelligence and policy, in which an intelligence service responds to policymaker interest in certain subjects (such as "security threats from Iraq" or "al Qaeda's supporters") and explores them in whatever direction the evidence leads. The process did not involve intelligence work designed to find dangers not yet discovered or to inform decisions not yet made. Instead, it involved research to find evidence in support of a specific line of argument -- that Saddam was cooperating with al Qaeda -- which in turn was being used to justify a specific policy decision.

One possible consequence of such politicization is policymaker self-deception. A policymaker can easily forget that he is hearing so much about a particular angle in briefings because he and his fellow policymakers have urged the intelligence community to focus on it. A more certain consequence is the skewed application of the intelligence community's resources. Feeding the administration's voracious appetite for material on the Saddam-al Qaeda link consumed an enormous amount of time and attention at multiple levels, from rank-and-file counterterrorism analysts to the most senior intelligence officials. It is fair to ask how much other counterterrorism work was left undone as a result.

The issue became even more time-consuming as the conflict between intelligence officials and policymakers escalated into a battle, with the intelligence community struggling to maintain its objectivity even as policymakers pressed the Saddam-al Qaeda connection. The administration's rejection of the intelligence community's judgments became especially clear with the formation of a special Pentagon unit, the Policy Counterterrorism Evaluation Group. The unit, which reported to Undersecretary of Defense Douglas Feith, was dedicated to finding every possible link between Saddam and al Qaeda, and its briefings accused the intelligence community of faulty analysis for failing to see the supposed alliance.

For the most part, the intelligence community's own substantive judgments do not appear to have been compromised. (A possible important exception was the construing of an ambiguous, and ultimately recanted, statement from a detainee as indicating that Saddam's Iraq provided jihadists with chemical or biological training.) But although the charge of faulty analysis was never directly conveyed to the intelligence community itself, enough of the charges leaked out to create a public perception of rancor between the administration and the intelligence community, which in turn encouraged some administration supporters to charge intelligence officers (including me) with trying to sabotage the president's policies. This poisonous atmosphere reinforced the disinclination within the intelligence community to challenge the consensus view about Iraqi WMD programs; any such challenge would have served merely to reaffirm the presumptions of the accusers.


Although the Iraq war has provided a particularly stark illustration of the problems in the intelligence-policy relationship, such problems are not confined to this one issue or this specific administration. Four decades ago, the misuse of intelligence about an ambiguous encounter in the Gulf of Tonkin figured prominently in the Johnson administration's justification for escalating the military effort in Vietnam. Over a century ago, the possible misinterpretation of an explosion on a U.S. warship in Havana harbor helped set off the chain of events that led to a war of choice against Spain. The Iraq case needs further examination and reflection on its own. But public discussion of how to foster a better relationship between intelligence officials and policymakers and how to ensure better use of intelligence on future issues is also necessary.

Intelligence affects the nation's interests through its effect on policy. No matter how much the process of intelligence gathering itself is fixed, the changes will do no good if the role of intelligence in the policymaking process is not also addressed. Unfortunately, there is no single clear fix to the sort of problem that arose in the case of Iraq. The current ill will may not be reparable, and the perception of the intelligence community on the part of some policymakers -- that Langley is enemy territory -- is unlikely to change. But a few steps, based on the recognition that the intelligence-policy relationship is indeed broken, could reduce the likelihood that such a breakdown will recur.

On this point, the United States should emulate the United Kingdom, where discussion of this issue has been more forthright, by declaring once and for all that its intelligence services should not be part of public advocacy of policies still under debate. In the United Kingdom, Prime Minister Tony Blair accepted a commission of inquiry's conclusions that intelligence and policy had been improperly commingled in such exercises as the publication of the "dodgy dossier," the British counterpart to the United States' Iraqi WMD white paper, and that in the future there should be a clear delineation between intelligence and policy. An American declaration should take the form of a congressional resolution and be seconded by a statement from the White House. Although it would not have legal force, such a statement would discourage future administrations from attempting to pull the intelligence community into policy advocacy. It would also give some leverage to intelligence officers in resisting any such future attempts.

A more effective way of identifying and exposing improprieties in the relationship is also needed. The CIA has a "politicization ombudsman," but his informally defined functions mostly involve serving as a sympathetic ear for analysts disturbed by evidence of politicization and then summarizing what he hears for senior agency officials. The intelligence oversight committees in Congress have an important role, but the heightened partisanship that has bedeviled so much other work on Capitol Hill has had an especially inhibiting effect in this area. A promised effort by the Senate Intelligence Committee to examine the Bush administration's use of intelligence on Iraq got stuck in the partisan mud. The House committee has not even attempted to address the subject.

The legislative branch is the appropriate place for monitoring the intelligence-policy relationship. But the oversight should be conducted by a nonpartisan office modeled on the Government Accountability Office (GAO) and the Congressional Budget Office (CBO). Such an office would have a staff, smaller than that of the GAO or the CBO, of officers experienced in intelligence and with the necessary clearances and access to examine questions about both the politicization of classified intelligence work and the public use of intelligence. As with the GAO, this office could conduct inquiries at the request of members of Congress. It would make its results public as much as possible, consistent with security requirements, and it would avoid duplicating the many other functions of intelligence oversight, which would remain the responsibility of the House and Senate intelligence committees.

Beyond these steps, there is the more difficult issue of what place the intelligence community should occupy within the executive branch. The reorganization that created the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (DNI) is barely a year old, and yet another reorganization at this time would compound the disruption. But the flaws in the narrowly conceived and hastily considered reorganization legislation of December 2004 -- such as ambiguities in the DNI's authority -- will make it necessary to reopen the issues it addressed. Any new legislation should also tackle something the 2004 legislation did not: the problem of having the leaders of the intelligence community, which is supposed to produce objective and unvarnished analysis, serve at the pleasure of the president.

The organizational issue is also difficult because of a dilemma that intelligence officers have long discussed and debated among themselves: that although distance from policymakers may be needed for objectivity, closeness is needed for influence. For most of the past quarter century, intelligence officials have striven for greater closeness, in a perpetual quest for policymakers' ears. The lesson of the Iraq episode, however, is that the supposed dilemma has been incorrectly conceived. Closeness in this case did not buy influence, even on momentous issues of war and peace; it bought only the disadvantages of politicization.

The intelligence community should be repositioned to reflect the fact that influence and relevance flow not just from face time in the Oval Office, but also from credibility with Congress and, most of all, with the American public. The community needs to remain in the executive branch but be given greater independence and a greater ability to communicate with those other constituencies (fettered only by security considerations, rather than by policy agendas). An appropriate model is the Federal Reserve, which is structured as a quasi-autonomous body overseen by a board of governors with long fixed terms.

These measures would reduce both the politicization of the intelligence community's own work and the public misuse of intelligence by policymakers. It would not directly affect how much attention policymakers give to intelligence, which they would continue to be entitled to ignore. But the greater likelihood of being called to public account for discrepancies between a case for a certain policy and an intelligence judgment would have the indirect effect of forcing policymakers to pay more attention to those judgments in the first place.

These changes alone will not fix the intelligence-policy relationship. But if Congress and the American people are serious about "fixing intelligence," they should not just do what is easy and politically convenient. At stake are the soundness of U.S. foreign-policy making and the right of Americans to know the basis for decisions taken in the name of their security.


Rumsfeld Says U.S. Will Not Close Gitmo

Yahoo! News
Rumsfeld Says U.S. Will Not Close Gitmo
By AMY WESTFELDT, Associated Press Writer

The Pentagon will not close its Guantanamo Bay prison for terrorist suspects, despite U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan's call to shut it down, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld said Friday.

"He's just flat wrong," Rumsfeld said in response to a question about the controversial prison during an appearance at the Council on Foreign Relations. "We shouldn't close Guantanamo. We have several hundred terrorists — bad people, people that if let back out on the field would try to kill Americans. That's just a fact."

He said closing it would amount to pretending there is no problem with a terrorist threat to U.S. interests.

Rumsfeld also took a swipe at Annan, saying, "He's never been to Guantanamo Bay," whereas representatives of the International Committee of the Red Cross "stayed there, lived there 24 hours a day" to observe conditions.

"That place is being run as well as any detention facility can be run," he added, his voice rising. "It's absolutely beyond comprehension," he said, that calls for closing Guantanamo Bay can be based on allegations of mistreatment and torture by the prisoners, whom Rumsfeld said are trained to lie.

A U.N. report issued earlier this week said some of the treatment of prisoners amounted to torture.

There are about 500 prisoners at Guantanamo Bay. Many have been held for nearly four years. Most were captured on the battlefields of Afghanistan in late 2001 after U.S. forces invaded in response to the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

Rumsfeld also asserted that U.S. forces in Iraq are making progress on the security front, but he said there inevitably will be setbacks as the Iraqis struggle to assume control of their country.

"Our goal has to be to reduce our forces down, and to do it at a pace where we recognized that we're going to — I almost said 'make a mistake.' It will look like a mistake. It's a judgment call. We're going to have to pull out of some pieces of real estate and turn over things to Iraqis, and they're going to drop the ball. Let's face it.

"And we're going to have to step in, go back in and fix it and then turn it back over again, and it's going to be three steps forward and one step back. It isn't going to be perfect, it isn't going to be pretty," he said.

Rumsfeld said U.S. forces already have closed or turned over to the Iraqis 30 military bases. He offered no projections of future U.S. troop withdrawals. Last December the Pentagon said the number of U.S. troops in Iraq would drop from about 138,000 to about 130,000 by March.

Rumsfeld also said al-Qaida and other Islamic extremist groups have poisoned the Muslim public's view of the United States through deft use of the Internet and other modern communications methods that the American government has failed to master.

"Our enemies have skillfully adapted to fighting wars in today's media age, but for the most part we — our country, our government — has not adapted," he said.

He quoted Ayman al-Zawahri, the chief lieutenant of al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden, as saying that their terrorist network is in a media battle for the hearts and minds of Muslims. Rumsfeld agreed, saying that the battle for public opinion is at least as important as the battles on the ground in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The extremist groups are able to act quickly on the information front, with relatively few people, while the U.S. government bureaucracy has yet to keep up in an age of e-mail, blogs and instant messaging, he said.

"We in the government have barely even begun to compete in reaching their audiences," Rumsfeld said.

He said the military needs to focus more on adapting to the changes in global media.

"In some cases, military public affairs officials have had little communications training and little, if any, grounding in the importance of timing and rapid response, and the realities of digital and broadcast media," he said.


Judge favors feds in cellphone bug ruling

Judge favors feds in cellphone bug ruling

NEW YORK (AP) — A federal judge said Friday the government was within constitutional boundaries when it put a powerful eavesdropping device in a cellphone, turning a suspected mobster into what one defense lawyer called a "human microphone."

The judge said the government got proper approval from other judges as it steadily increased the scope of audio surveillance in an effort to destroy the leadership of the Gambino crime family during a three-year probe.

The eavesdropping was initially limited to a cellphone and a restaurant but was eventually expanded so the recording device could be used in any location and even when the cellphone was not on.

"In my opinion, the roving bug was not unconstitutional as applied," Judge Alvin K. Hellerstein said after listening to arguments.

The judge said the government did what was necessary as targets of the investigation tried to evade detection by dodging areas where they believed government surveillance might occur.

Defense lawyers argued that information gained through the cellphone intercepts should be tossed out.

Attorney John L. Pollok said the government crossed a constitutional line when it stopped limiting recordings to conversations in specific places where it suspected criminal activity was underway.

"When they stopped talking about places and started turning that man into a human microphone, that's when they stepped over the line," he said.

Authorities made 32 arrests in the racketeering case a year ago.

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Senate Chairman Splits With Bush on Spy Program

The New York Times
Senate Chairman Splits With Bush on Spy Program

WASHINGTON, Feb. 17 — The chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee said Friday that he wanted the Bush administration's domestic eavesdropping program brought under the authority of a special intelligence court, a move President Bush has argued is not necessary.

The chairman, Senator Pat Roberts, Republican of Kansas, said he had some concerns that the court could not issue warrants quickly enough to keep up with the needs of the eavesdropping program. But he said he would like to see those details worked out.

Mr. Roberts also said he did not believe that exempting the program from the purview of the court created by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act "would be met with much support" on Capitol Hill. Yet that is exactly the approach the Bush administration is pursuing.

"I think it should come before the FISA court, but I don't know how it works," Mr. Roberts said. "You don't want to have a situation where you have capability that doesn't work well with the FISA court, in terms of speed and agility and hot pursuit. So we have to solve that problem."

Mr. Roberts spoke in an interview a day after announcing that the White House, in a turnabout, had agreed to open discussions about changing surveillance law. By Friday, with Mr. Roberts apparently stung by accusations that he had caved to White House pressure not to investigate the eavesdropping without warrants, it appeared the talks could put the White House and Congress on a collision course.

White House officials favor a proposal offered by another Republican senator, Mike DeWine of Ohio, whose bill would exempt the eavesdropping from the intelligence court. Mr. DeWine wants small subcommittees to oversee the wiretapping, but Mr. Roberts said he would like the full House and Senate Intelligence Committees to have regular briefings.

"I think it's the function and the oversight responsibility of the committee," he said, adding, "That might sound strange coming from me."

Mr. Roberts's comments were surprising because he has been a staunch defender of the program and an ally of White House efforts to resist a full-scale Senate investigation. On Thursday, he pushed back a committee vote on a Democratic push to conduct an inquiry, saying he wanted to give the White House time to negotiate on possible legislation. On Friday, he dismissed accusations that he had bowed to pressure.

"The irony of this is that it is portrayed now as administration pressure brought to bear on us, meaning the Republicans on the committee and basically me," Mr. Roberts said Friday. "It's just the reverse. It's the Republicans on the committee, my staff and myself, who have been really — I don't want to say pressuring, but trying to come up with a reasonable compromise that will settle this issue. It was our activity that brought them along to this point, plus the possibility of an investigation."

The eavesdropping, authorized in secret by President Bush soon after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, has allowed the National Security Agency to monitor the international telephone and e-mail communications of hundreds, perhaps thousands, of people within the United States — without warrants — when the authorities suspect they have links to terrorists.

Democrats and a growing number of Republicans say the program appears to violate the 1978 Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. Some Republicans are also skeptical of the Bush administration's assertion that it has the inherent constitutional authority to conduct the eavesdropping, and that Congress authorized the program when it passed a resolution after Sept. 11 giving Mr. Bush authority to use military force to defend the nation.

In the House, Republicans on the Intelligence Committee have agreed to open an inquiry prompted by the surveillance program and are debating how broad it should be. Mr. Roberts said he had not spoken to Representative Peter Hoekstra, the Michigan Republican who is chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, about what the House panel is doing.

Representative Heather A. Wilson, Republican of New Mexico and chairwoman of the House Intelligence subcommittee that oversees the National Security Agency, has pressed for a broad investigation, but Mr. Hoekstra's aides have said that any inquiry would be limited to an examination of the FISA law.

The Senate intelligence chairman, Mr. Roberts, said he believed the administration had the constitutional authority for the program, but added, "We would be much more in concert with the Congress and everybody else and the FISA court judges" if the court oversaw the program.

As panel chairman, Mr. Roberts holds great sway. An aide to the senator said he had some specific ideas that he had been privately discussing with committee members and other lawmakers. But neither the senator nor the aide, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the delicate nature of the negotiations, would make those ideas public.

Nor will Mr. Roberts have final say over what form legislation will take; rather, his ideas are circulating in an environment that one Congressional aide, referring to the Winter Olympic Games, said was "sort of like snowboardcross, with four proposals shooting out of the gate, jockeying for position."

Another senior Senate Republican, Arlen Specter, the chairman of the Judiciary Committee, has proposed legislation that would allow the FISA court to pass judgment on the program's constitutionality. And Senator Olympia J. Snowe, Republican of Maine and a member of the intelligence panel, said Friday that she believed the eavesdropping must come under the purview of the judiciary.

"I think we do have to have judicial review," she said, adding, "Whether it's the FISA approach or not I think remains in question, but it can't go on in perpetuity, and it can't be unfettered warrantless surveillance."

Whether Republicans can agree remains to be seen. "People are all over the place," Mr. DeWine said. "We don't have a consensus."

The White House has been in talks with Mr. DeWine, who said Harriet E. Miers, the White House counsel, called him on Wednesday night, on the eve of the Senate Intelligence panel's scheduled vote, to discuss his legislation.

"What we have talked about with some Congressional leaders is codifying into law what his authority already is," Scott McClellan, the White House spokesman said in an interview Friday, referring to the president. He added, "Senator DeWine has some good ideas, and we think they're reasonable ideas."

Since the program's inception, the White House has provided information about it to members of the "Gang of Eight," the Democratic and Republican leaders of the House and Senate, and the senior Democrat and Republican on the intelligence panels in both chambers. Last week, the Bush administration went further, revealing details of the program to all members of the House and Senate intelligence panels.

Mr. DeWine said his proposal called for an intelligence subcommittee with "professional staff" to have oversight. "It would be fundamentally different than doing it by the Gang of Eight, where there's really no staff," he said, adding, "The key is oversight."

Elisabeth Bumiller contributed reporting for this article.


Prosecutor Says Libby Seeks to Thwart Criminal Case

The New York Times
Prosecutor Says Libby Seeks to Thwart Criminal Case

WASHINGTON, Feb. 17 — A federal prosecutor has said I. Lewis Libby Jr., former chief of staff to Vice President Dick Cheney, is trying to sabotage the criminal case against him by insisting through his lawyers that he be given sensitive government documents for his defense.

In a court filing on Thursday night, the prosecutor said requests by Mr. Libby's lawyers for documents, including the daily intelligence briefs given to the president for nearly a year, were "a transparent effort at 'graymail.' "

The prosecutor, Patrick J. Fitzgerald, said the requests for a large amount of sensitive information beyond what they had been given was unjustified. Mr. Fitzgerald told the federal judge hearing the case that defendants like Mr. Libby had an incentive to derail their trials by asking for sensitive documents that the government might not want discussed openly.

Graymail is the practice of discouraging a prosecution from proceeding by contending that a defendant may need to disclose classified or sensitive information as part of a full defense. Such an approach can force the government to choose between dropping the prosecution or allowing the information to be disclosed at a trial.

Before 1980, some officials escaped prosecution by threatening to disclose unspecified secrets in open court. Congress enacted the Classified Information Procedures Act in 1980 to ensure that the government was not surprised by any disclosures at trial.

If the defense intends to use classified information, it has to inform the government, and then the two sides argue before a judge in secret on whether the information is needed for full defense. If a judge decides that the defendant is entitled to the information, the government has to decide whether to accept the likelihood that the information may be disclosed in a trial or drop the prosecution.

John D. Cline, a lawyer in San Francisco and an authority on the classified-procedures law who is representing Mr. Libby, challenged the accusation that the defense was engaging in graymail. Mr. Cline said the 1980 law made graymail impossible because the government knew exactly what information the defense was seeking, and a judge must rule on whether it is necessary to the defense case.

"We are working lawfully and properly through the C.I.P.A. procedures to obtain documents essential to Mr. Libby's defense," he said. "All we want is a limited number of key documents that Mr. Libby either wrote or reviewed during the most critical period in this case."

Mr. Libby is charged with five felony counts, accusing him of lying to investigators about his role in the disclosure of the identity of a Central Intelligence Agency operative, Valerie Wilson. His lawyers have said they intend to mount a defense built on the idea that he was dealing with issues far more momentous than the disclosure of Ms. Wilson's identity to reporters. To that end, they have asked Mr. Fitzgerald to turn over many documents from the vice president's office and the C.I.A.

Mr. Libby's lawyers have asked Mr. Fitzgerald to give them the President's Daily Brief for 277 days beginning in May 2003. They have said those documents "are material to establishing that any misstatements he may have made were the result of confusion, mistake and faulty memory resulting from his immersion in other, more significant matters, rather than deliberate lies."

Mr. Fitzgerald called the request "breathtaking" and noted that the daily brief was "an extraordinarily sensitive document." He said the disclosure of part of the Aug. 6, 2001, daily brief to the Sept. 11 commission was the sole instance of a daily brief's being publicly disclosed.

In addition, the lawyers have asked Mr. Fitzgerald to provide information that he obtained from reporters about other officials who might have spoken to them about Ms. Wilson.


Hamas set to take over assembly

Hamas set to take over assembly
By Alan Johnston
BBC News, Gaza

The militant movement Hamas is due to take control of the Palestinian parliament on Saturday.

Members will be sworn in and officials appointed at what will be the first session since the election, in which Hamas won a crushing victory.

The party is expected to form a government, but Israel refuses to deal with it unless Hamas recognises their state and lays down its arms.

Hamas refuses to do so, saying it has a right to resist Israeli occupation.

For years, the Hamas leaders lived half in hiding, hunted by the Israelis.

Many of their comrades have been assassinated, but now the survivors are about to step forward and take power.

It may well be, though, that they are leading their people into difficult days.

In the past, Hamas suicide bombers have struck many times in Tel Aviv, Jerusalem and elsewhere.

Europe, America and Israel regard Hamas as a terrorist organisation, and they may impose serious financial sanctions if a Hamas-led government refuses to recognise the state of Israel.

In Hamas' eyes, all of Israel is rightfully Palestinian land.

But it has indicated that it might agree to a long-term ceasefire if Israel completely ends its occupation of all the territory it captured in 1967 - the West Bank, East Jerusalem and Gaza.

Story from BBC NEWS:


Google rejects Justice Dept. bid for search info

Google rejects Justice Dept. bid for search info
By Eric Auchard

SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - Google Inc. on Friday formally rejected the U.S. Justice Department's subpoena of data from the Web search leader, arguing the demand violated the privacy of users' Web searches and its own trade secrets.

Responding to a motion by U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, Google also said in a filing in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California the government demand to disclose Web search data was impractical.

The Bush administration is seeking to compel Google to hand over Web search data as part of a bid by the Justice Department to appeal a 2004 Supreme Court injunction of a law to penalize Web site operators who allow children to view pornography.

Google is going it alone in opposing the U.S. government request. Rivals Microsoft Corp. and Yahoo Inc. are among the companies that have complied with the Justice Department demand for data to be used to make its case.

Google's lawyers said the company shares the government's concern with materials harmful to minors but argued that the request for its data was irrelevant. They offered a series of technical arguments why this data was not useful.

The Mountain View, California-based company said that complying with the U.S. government's request for "untold millions of search queries" would put an undue burden on the company, including a "week of engineer time to complete."

"Algorithms regularly change. The identical search query submitted today may yield a different result than the identical search conducted yesterday," attorneys from Perkins Coie LLP, the company's external legal counsel, argue in the filing.

Complying with the Justice Department request would also force Google to reveal how its Web search technology works -- something it jealously guards as a trade secret, the company argued. It refuses to disclose even the total number of searches conducted each day.

Google's resistance contrasts with a deal the company has struck with the Chinese government to censor some searches on a new site in China, a move that has drawn sharp criticism from members of the U.S. Congress and human rights activists.

"Google users trust that when they enter a search query into a Google search box ... that Google will keep private whatever information users communicate absent a compelling reason," attorneys for Google said in the filing.

The legal spat also comes amid heightened sensitivity to privacy issues by the company as it recently began offering a new version of its Google Desktop service that vacuums up data stored on user PCs and makes it accessible on the users' other computers. For customers who consent to the service, copies of their data are stored on Google's central computers.

Privacy activists have rallied to the defense of Google for fighting the U.S. government request while some conservative and religious organizations have criticized the company for failing to help the government combat child pornography.

The American Civil Liberties Union, with other civil rights groups, bookstores and alternative media outlets filed a friend of the court brief on behalf of Google.

The hearing on the Justice Department motion to compel Google to divulge the search data is scheduled to take place on March 13 in San Jose before U.S. District Judge James Ware.

"The government must show that this request is the most relevant way to accomplish its goal," said Perry Aftab, an attorney, privacy activist and executive director of, a popular online child safety site.

"Why would Google or anyone else turn over data that might create further risks for their customers? The public policy gains don't outweigh the risks," she said.


Chavez warns US on oil after Rice remarks

Chavez warns US on oil after Rice remarks
By Patrick Markey

CARACAS, Venezuela (Reuters) - Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez on Friday warned the United States would get no more Venezuelan oil if Washington "crosses the line" as relations between the two governments deteriorated in an escalating battle of words.

The latest exchange between the United States and top oil supplier Venezuela came two weeks after left-winger Chavez expelled a U.S. naval attaché accused of spying and Washington sent home a Venezuelan diplomat in tit-for-tat dispute.

Chavez's comments came a day after U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said Washington wanted to curb his influence in South America by lobbying allies to criticize the former soldier allied with U.S. foe Cuba.

"The U.S. government should know that if they cross the line they will not have any Venezuelan oil," Chavez said at a public event. "I have started taking measures in that respect, I'm not going to say what," he said.

Venezuela, the world's No. 5 oil exporter, supplies 15 percent of U.S. energy imports. Chavez has warned the United States over its oil supplies before and he did not say what might trigger measures against U.S. shipments.

Analysts say it would be difficult for Caracas to cut oil sales to the United States, which takes half of its petroleum and has the refineries to process the heavy crude. Chavez is also benefiting from oil revenues to finance social programs for the poor as he prepares for an election in December.

Despite worsening ties, the Venezuelan ambassador to Washington said recently Venezuela would remain a secure oil supplier to the United States.

Fortified by soaring petroleum revenues, Chavez has reached out to his South American neighbors and captured anti-U.S. sentiment with his message of socialist revolution as an alternative to U.S.-backed free-market policies.

Chavez brands U.S. President George W. Bush "Mr. Danger" and often blasts U.S. "imperialist" policies. U.S. officials say the populist president is eroding democracy at home and working to destabilize the region.

"You form your front Mr. Danger and we'll form ours, front against front," Chavez said.

Rice said on Thursday Washington would try to curb Chavez's anti-American influence by reaching out to allies to expose any anti-democratic policies in what she termed an "inoculation" strategy to counter Chavez, who is allied to U.S. foe Cuba.

"I think it's fair to say that one of the biggest problems that we face in that regard are the policies of Venezuela, which as you say, are attempting to influence neighbors away from democratic processes," Rice told a congressional hearing.

She said she had contacted governments to publicly criticize a treason trial against leaders of a movement, Sumate, which had received U.S. funding and helped organize a 2004 referendum that failed to oust Chavez.

Since Chavez's 1998 election, relations between Washington and Caracas have steadily deteriorated even though Venezuela still supplies the U.S. markets. Chavez has sparred with Washington over arms sales to Venezuela and drug cooperation.

(Additional reporting by Magdalena Morales and Brian Ellsworth)


Stem-cell research splits US Republicans

Stem-cell research splits US Republicans
By John Whitesides, Political Correspondent

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The emotional debate over embryonic stem-cell research has sharply split the Republican Party and could become a prominent election-year issue, with key U.S. Senate races in Missouri and Maryland emerging as early battlegrounds.

The Republican rift pits religious conservatives and abortion foes who oppose the research on moral grounds against supporters who tout its potential benefits in fighting diseases like Alzheimer's and Parkinson's.

With polls showing large majorities of Americans backing stem-cell research, some Republican candidates find themselves stuck in the middle. Democrats, who largely support the research, are eager to take advantage of their quandary.

"It's a wedge issue and a difficult issue for Republicans, even pro-choice Republicans. It splits libertarian, free-market Republicans from social conservative Republicans, and that can only help Democrats," said Matthew Crenson, a political analyst at Johns Hopkins University in Maryland.

The stem-cell debate could gain prominence later this year when the Senate is expected to consider a bill, already approved by the House of Representatives, to permit more federal funding of stem-cell research on human embryos.

President George W. Bush, who limited such funds in 2001, has threatened to veto the legislation. It would be his first veto as president.

The stem-cell issue already has put Republican Senate candidates on the defensive in Missouri and Maryland, two key races in November's battle for control of the U.S. Congress.

In Missouri, supporters are gathering signatures to put a referendum on the state ballot in November that would protect certain types of stem-cell research.

The popular referendum has fractured state Republicans and put incumbent Republican Sen. Jim Talent on the spot. Talent, who faces a tough challenge from Democratic state auditor Claire McCaskill, a supporter of stem-cell research, has not taken a stand.

But he recently dropped support for a controversial ban on human cloning and offered a compromise on stem-cell research, angering conservatives who were among his base supporters.


"Talent is in a political no man's land where he is in the line of fire from people on both sides of the issue," said Sam Lee, director of Campaign Life Missouri, an anti-abortion lobbying group. Lee said opponents of stem-cell research were angry enough to skip voting for Talent in November.

In Maryland, Republican Lt. Gov. Michael Steele, who is running for the open seat of retiring Democrat Paul Sarbanes, apologized for remarks before Jewish leaders in Baltimore that seemed to compare stem-cell research to the Holocaust.

"You, of all folks, know what happens when people decide to experiment on human beings," Steele said.

He later expressed conditional support for embryonic stem-cell research but said it should be guided by "a moral compass."

Stem-cell research is opposed by conservative groups who compare it to abortion because it destroys embryos. But supporters, including some Republicans who oppose abortion rights, say the research offers crucial hope for medical breakthroughs.

Senate Republican leader Bill Frist angered some conservatives last year by breaking with Bush and seeking to ease limitations on stem-cell research.

During the 2004 presidential campaign, Democratic nominee Sen. John Kerry criticized Bush's decision to restrict such research. Other Bush critics have included former first lady Nancy Reagan, wife of conservative hero and former President Ronald Reagan.

But some Republicans say the issue was not a factor in 2004 and is not a driving force for most voters now.

"It would be hard to argue that an issue like this supersedes issues like the war on terror and the economy," said Brian Nick, spokesman for the Republican campaign committee.


Democrats plan bill to block Dubai port deal

Democrats plan bill to block Dubai port deal
By Jeremy Pelofsky and Caroline Drees

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Two U.S. senators, citing national security concerns, said on Friday they would try to block a company backed by the United Arab Emirates government from acquiring a British firm that runs several U.S. ports.

Sens. Robert Menendez of New Jersey and Hillary Clinton of New York, both Democrats, said they would offer legislation to ban companies owned or controlled by foreign governments from acquiring U.S. port operations, targeting the $6.8 billion purchase of P&O by Dubai Ports World.

"We wouldn't turn the border patrol or the customs service over to a foreign government, and we can't afford to turn our ports over to one either," Menendez said in a statement. The Senate Banking Committee also plans to hold a hearing on the issue later this month.

P&O is already owned by a foreign company, but is not state-owned, and the concern is that the purchaser is owned by the Dubai government, which is part of the UAE. The Bush administration considers Dubai and the UAE a solid ally in its campaign against terrorism.

The UAE company would control management of major ports in New York and New Jersey, Baltimore, Philadelphia, New Orleans and Miami.

U.S. seaports handle 2 billion tons of freight each year. Only about 5 percent of containers are examined on arrival.

It was unclear whether there was broad support for the new legislation. But objections in Congress to the deal could complicate ties between the United States and the UAE.

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said she supported the U.S. government decision to approve the deal and that the administration may need to better explain its reasons to Congress.

"There was a thorough review. It was decided that this could be done and done safely," she said in an interview with Middle East-based media.

Rice plans to meet with some Gulf foreign ministers next week in Abu Dhabi, where the subject could come up.

"I understand the debate in the U.S. on the issue of P&O and Dubai Ports but we would like to emphasize that we have been a strong ally of the U.S. in combating terrorism and will remain so," UAE Foreign Minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed al-Nahayan told Reuters.

A Dubai Ports World spokesman said ports the company managed met international security standards and that it had received all the U.S. regulatory approvals for the deal.

"All Dubai Ports World ports are ISPS (International Ship and Port Facility Security) certified as are the P&O ports in the U.S.," the spokesman told Reuters in Dubai.

The Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS), a U.S. inter-agency panel that reviews security implications of foreign takeovers of strategic assets, reviewed the transaction and did not object.

But both Republicans and Democrats in Congress urged the administration to conduct a more rigorous review. Some expressed fears that the UAE was used as a conduit for parts used for nuclear proliferation and that the local banking system had been abused by financiers with possible links to terrorist organizations.

The Senate Banking Committee plans to hold a hearing the week of February 27 to examine concerns about the P&O sale and the U.S. government review process, a panel spokesman said.

"This does not create a train wreck," said Jon Alterman, head of the Middle East program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington. "But it's not helpful for a huge number of things we do with the UAE, everything from cooperation on money laundering and trafficking to counterterrorism to defense issues and on and on."

U.S. officials have praised the UAE for steps to protect its booming financial sector against abuse by terrorism financiers. Money for the September 11 attacks was wired through the UAE's banking system, according to U.S. officials. Two of the September 11 hijackers were UAE citizens.

(Additional reporting by Saul Hudson in Washington, Dayan Candappa and Firouz Sedarat in Dubai)


Friday, February 17, 2006

The Shootist
The Shootist
Stan Goff

Right-wing diehards are trying very hard to "move on" about Dick Cheney shooting his rich hunting buddy. But there are moralists from left of the midline who are making the demand to back off on Cheney's mishap, albeit in a more oblique way.

"He has committed many worse crimes," the grievance goes. "Why should we focus on this?"

I'll tell you why.

This is the age of postmodern politics -- the age of impression management. This is the time when the narrative is used to trump reality. No doubt perfidy has always characterized politics, but the good old days of no-bullshit thuggery and patrician patronage has given way to the construction of puerile caricatures. And many thought that Bush was the mediocre narcissist who liked to dress up in flight suits and caper across the decks of aircraft carriers.

This incident exposes Cheney himself as just another costumed buffoon, and not the Darth Vader figure he and his desperately insecure admirers seemed to relish.

Gender is the elephant in the political living room, of course.

This is an administration who ran election campaigns that would make a Louisiana police chief blush; and they did it by constructing George W. Bush -- a besotted pampered frat boy from a wealthy political dynasty -- as a cowboy.

Dick Cheney has constructed himself as a hunter... consistent with his supposedly intimidating predator image.

These are hegemonic masculinities, but only in the most theatrical sense. The cowboy and the hunter are idealized archetypes from a mythical past.

One need merely note the symbolic exhibitionism of consumer masculinity all around us to see why this has been so politically effective. Gym-rat WWF musculatures that don't exist in nature, SUVs the size of small tanks jacked up on giant wheels, t-shirts that declare "Insurance by Smith and Wesson," and as we scale the class ladder the more subtly stated accoutrements of masculine dominance, from the "corrective" tailoring of the man's suit to the Valexta briefcase. Masculinity itself is more often than not a game of dress-up, a pose, the ultimate life sentence of tough-guy theatricality for men.

In an era when even the American male working class is as commonly found in an office cubicle as a factory, when we spend an average of 7.5 hours a day in our homes with televisions on, drinking in this cognitive data stream of fantasy gender-norms, when we live in places called Fox Run with no foxes, Deer Park with no deer, Sleepy Hollow
that is in fact a bulldozed lot built over with masonite boxes, its little wonder that even the old oppressive masculinities -- at least actually connected with where one lived and what one did for a living -- have given way to costume-consumer masculinity. It is also little wonder that people can successfully run for king of the country in this reverse-drag as one of the mytho-erotic archetypes.

Cowboy. Hunter.

The Bush campaign mounted a billboard in Texas during the Bush-Kerry contest. One one side of the billboard was a pair of cowboy boots. On the other, a pair of shower shoes -- also known as... flip-flops. The designer of this billboard had tapped directly into the American white male psyche, and these two sets of footgear were positively wading in gendered (and racialized) subtexts. The archetypical impressions defeated the comparative military records hands down.

Cowboys and hunters, lest we forget, in the American mythology are white archetypes, too.

The Republican Party snatched the mantle of "party of white supremacy" from the southern Democrats with Nixon's Southern Strategy. But it was also the mantle of white male supremacy. This has been its core organizing principle ever since -- even though it has to code this principle to avoid throwing its constituents into open polarization with the rest of society.

White men with big hats and guns have seldom been a welcome sight to Black men or women.

Dick Cheney loves photo ops with guns, whether accepting a Dan'l Boone muzzle-loader at an NRA Convention or having the cameras chase him around while he shoots farm-raised animals on hunting preserves. Cheney shot 70 confined, semi-domesticated pheasants in one day at the Rolling Rock Club and Game Preserve in Pennsylvania, a place for men who wear those power suits to demonstrate their ability to kill and dress up like "woodsmen."

The fact that this is a country where a large number of men -- many who vote Republican -- actually do have more than passing familiarity with firearms, and actually know the basic safety measures that are required to properly handle them, is now a problem for Dick Cheney. Many of us learned firearms in the military, and since the mid-eighties there have been very sharp penalties in the military for "accidental discharges." The military learned, slower than most, that there are two simple rules that will prevent the accidental discharge of a weapon and the collateral damage that can result.

(1) Never place your finger on the trigger until you have aligned the sights on a target.

(2) Never point the weapon at anything until you have identified it as something you intend to shoot.

However pathological the macho death-cult of guns is in this country, the people who have taken the trouble to learn anything about firearms at all now know that Cheney is what my dad used to call a pig-hunter and a fool that traipsed around after his "one beer" lunch on the quail preserve with his finger on the trigger. He's no more a hunter than Bush is a cowboy.

He's just another stupid, pampered, autocratic narcissist like Bush -- bullshitting his way through high office -- and leaving bodies in his wake with as little concern for them as he does for 70 pheasants. In the age of postmodern politics, when the impression is sovereign, the gendered spell is broken for a moment when the costume slips.

That's why I relish every jibe and joke, and I hope people milk this incident for all its worth. I oppose male power, and white power, and the reign of narcissists. With every grant of legitimacy, we grant power. Ridicule is a potent political weapon. It is a form of resistance.


Bush Administration's War Spending Nears Half Trillion Dollars

ABC News
Bush Administration's War Spending Nears Half Trillion Dollars
President Asks Taxpayers for Another $65 Billion for Iraq and Afghanistan

Feb. 16, 2006 — - In a single year, it is difficult to measure overall progress in the war on terror. But ABC News has learned today that President Bush will ask Congress for an additional $65.3 billion for operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. It brings the total funds requested this year to more than $110 billion for those operations.

This is fourth time in three years that the Bush administration has asked for additional funds for Iraq and Afghanistan, and this time the figure is even higher than expected.

The $65 billion requested is $2 billion higher than expected.

Of that amount, $38 billion will be spent for ongoing military operations, with $11 billion going to repair and replenish war-fighting equipment ravaged by wear and tear.

Another $1.9 billion is allocated for protecting against improvised explosive devices.

The blizzard of numbers boils down to nearly $7 billion a month.

"I'm still stunned that there's no downward motion at all in the monthly costs. And clearly in 2006, the administration plans on no end in sight to that," said Michael E. O'Hanlon, senior fellow in foreign policy studies at the Brookings Institution.

This increase would bring the cost of the war thus far to $400 billion -- a far cry from the administration's original estimates.

Cost Estimates Were Off the Mark

Just before the invasion of Iraq in 2002, White House economic adviser Lawrence Lindsay estimated the cost would be $100 billion to $200 billion.

That estimate was later dismissed by Mitch Daniels, then director of the Office of Management and Budget, who said costs would be between $50 billion to $60 billion.

Today Democratic lawmakers called for the president to provide more information about spending on the war.

"The president has a responsibility," said Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill. "He has to tell us the true costs of the war."

"I am very concerned that we are going to be asked for a boatload of additional funding," said Sen. Kent Conrad, D-N.D.

The money from this supplemental request is expected to keep operations going only for the next eight months. The White House has already said an additional $50 billion for Iraq will likely be requested later this year.

ABC News' Martha Raddatz filed this report for "World News Tonight."


Judge orders response on eavesdropping records

Judge orders response on eavesdropping records

By James Vicini

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. Justice Department must respond within 20 days to requests by a civil liberties group for documents about President George W. Bush's domestic eavesdropping program, a federal judge ruled on Thursday.

The ruling was a victory for the Electronic Privacy Information Center, which sued the department under the Freedom of Information Act in seeking the release of the documents.

U.S. District Judge Henry Kennedy ordered the department to finish processing the group's requests and produce or identify all records within 20 days.

"Given the great public and media attention that the government's warrantless surveillance program has garnered and the recent hearings before the Senate Judiciary Committee, the public interest is particularly well served by the timely release of the requested documents," he said.

Kennedy also ordered the department to give the center a document index and declaration stating its justification for withholding any documents within 30 days.

David Sobel, the group's general counsel, said, "The court's opinion vindicates the public's right to know about an extremely invasive and potentially illegal government program."

Anthony Romero, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union, which filed a similar lawsuit, said, "Now the Justice Department must turn over documents showing the extent of the ... warrantless domestic surveillance program."

The Justice Department said its lawyers were reviewing the judges's ruling.

"The Department of Justice has been extremely forthcoming in providing documents and information about the administration's legal authorities for the terrorist surveillance program and the department will continue to meet its obligations under FOIA," spokeswoman Tasia Scolinos said.

The Washington-based Electronic Privacy Information Center sought documents from four Justice Department offices, including the office of the attorney general, after The New York Times first reported the eavesdropping program's existence on December 16.

It argued that the department played a key role in authorizing, implementing and overseeing the program, which involves surveillance by the National Security Agency.

Records sought by the group include an audit of the program, a "checklist" guide used to determine whether an individual's phone or e-mail messages could be monitored, documents showing how information gleaned through eavesdropping had been used, and other legal opinions about the program.

The program, adopted by Bush after the September 11 attacks, allows the monitoring of international communications into and out of the United States of persons linked to al Qaeda or related terrorist groups.

Disclosure of the program has sparked criticism from Democrats and some Republicans, with many lawmakers questioning whether Bush overstepped his authority. Civil liberties groups have filed lawsuits challenging the program's legality.

The Justice Department had told the electronic privacy center it would process its requests for documents quickly, but never gave an anticipated completion date.

(Additional reporting by Deborah Charles and David Morgan)


Senate Rejects Wiretapping Probe; But Judge Orders Justice Department to Turn Over Documents
Senate Rejects Wiretapping Probe
But Judge Orders Justice Department to Turn Over Documents

By Charles Babington and Carol D. Leonnig
Washington Post Staff Writers

The Bush administration helped derail a Senate bid to investigate a warrantless eavesdropping program yesterday after signaling it would reject Congress's request to have former attorney general John D. Ashcroft and other officials testify about the program's legality. The actions underscored a dramatic and possibly permanent drop in momentum for a congressional inquiry, which had seemed likely two months ago.

Senate Democrats said the Republican-led Congress was abdicating its obligations to oversee a controversial program in which the National Security Agency has monitored perhaps thousands of phone calls and e-mails involving U.S. residents and foreign parties without obtaining warrants from a secret court that handles such matters.

"It is more than apparent to me that the White House has applied heavy pressure in recent days, in recent weeks, to prevent the committee from doing its job," Sen. John D. Rockefeller IV (D-W.Va.), vice chairman of the intelligence committee, said after the panel voted along party lines not to consider his motion for an investigation.

There was one setback, however, to the administration's efforts to keep tight wraps on the NSA operation. Yesterday, a federal judge ordered the Justice Department to turn over its internal documents and legal opinions about the program within 20 days -- or explain its reasons for refusing.

Before yesterday's closed-door meeting of the intelligence panel began, White House spokesman Scott McClellan said that the NSA program does not require "congressional authorization" but that the administration is "open to ideas regarding legislation." Committee sources said such comments -- characterized as meaningful by Republicans but empty by Democrats -- apparently persuaded GOP moderates to back away from earlier calls for a congressional investigation into the program.

After the meeting, Chairman Pat Roberts (R-Kan.) told reporters: "The administration is now committed to legislation and has agreed to brief more intelligence committee members on the nature of the surveillance program. The details of this agreement will take some time to work out."

Democrats said the administration's overture is so vague that it amounts to nothing, calling it a stalling tactic to give Republican lawmakers political cover for rejecting a full inquiry. "For the past three years, the Senate intelligence committee has avoided carrying out its oversight of our nation's intelligence programs whenever the White House becomes uncomfortable with the questions being asked," Rockefeller told reporters. "The very independence of this committee is called into question."

In December, two Republicans on the committee -- Olympia J. Snowe (Maine) and Chuck Hagel (Neb.) -- called for a congressional investigation of the NSA program. Yesterday, they supported the move that adjourned the meeting without voting on Rockefeller's motion.

Snowe said in a statement: "The administration must demonstrate its commitment to avoiding a constitutional deadlock by engaging in good-faith negotiations."

McClellan and Roberts cited efforts by committee member Mike DeWine (R-Ohio). DeWine, who will face a tough reelection battle this fall, is drafting legislation that would exempt the NSA program from the 1978 Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. The law provides a mechanism for secret warrants for wiretaps in anti-terrorism investigations. But several key Republicans, including House intelligence committee member Heather A. Wilson (N.M.) and Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Arlen Specter (Pa.), say the NSA program should fall under FISA guidelines.

In the House, the intelligence committee will ask administration officials to explain the NSA program and its legal justifications in closed hearings over the next few months, said Wilson, one of its subcommittee chairmen.

The committee "has begun a process to thoroughly review this program and the FISA law" through a series of yet-to-be-scheduled briefings and exchanges of letters that will unfold as part of the panel's "regular order," Wilson said in an interview in her office. "This is the way we do oversight," she said, adding that she has discussed the matter with the committee chairman, Peter Hoekstra (R-Mich.).

Wilson indicated that the House hearings will not have the sharply investigative tone that Rockefeller sought in his motion, which would have required the administration to detail its reasons and rationale for starting the surveillance program in late 2001.

"Sometimes minority parties call for oversight" of government programs for strictly partisan reasons, said Wilson, who faces a potentially strong Democratic challenger this fall. "The intelligence committees in my view are an exception to that rule. This is not political theater. . . . We ask tough questions, and we expect straight answers."

Meanwhile yesterday on the Senate side, Specter released a day-old letter in which Assistant Attorney General William E. Moschella seemed to reject the senator's request for testimony from Ashcroft and former deputy attorney general James B. Comey. Comey had raised questions about the NSA program. Some senators want to know more about Ashcroft's response to Comey's concerns during a 2004 conversation with top administration officials while Ashcroft was hospitalized for pancreatitis.

"We do not believe that Messrs. Ashcroft and Comey would be in a position to provide any new information" to the Judiciary Committee, Moschella said in his letter Wednesday to Specter.

In a victory for three privacy advocacy groups seeking Justice Department records about the program, U.S. District Judge Henry H. Kennedy Jr. ruled yesterday that the department cannot decide on its own what documents it will provide, because news reports in December revealing the program's existence have created a substantial public dialogue about presidential powers and individual privacy rights. Kennedy rejected Justice's argument that, because so much of the surveillance program involves classified information, the agency alone can determine when it is feasible to review and possibly release documents.

"President Bush has invited meaningful debate about the warrantless surveillance program," Kennedy wrote, alluding to comments Bush has made at news conferences and speeches acknowledging public disagreement about domestic spying. "That can only occur if DOJ processes its requests in a timely fashion and releases the information sought."

Justice spokesman Brian Roehrkasse said the department "has been extremely forthcoming about documents and information about the legal authorities" for the surveillance program.

The American Civil Liberties Union, which had requested the records under the Freedom of Information Act along with the Electronic Privacy Information Center and the National Security Archive Fund, cheered the ruling.

Kennedy agreed with the three groups that the Justice Department's decision to set its own time frame "would give the agency unchecked power to drag its feet and 'pay lip service' " to the law requiring the release of public information.

Staff writer Dan Eggen contributed to this report.


Shot heard round world highlights Cheney's secrecy

Shot heard round world highlights Cheney's secrecy
By Steve Holland

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - It was the shot heard around the world, and the chaotic aftermath has shone new light on the secretive nature of President George W. Bush's powerful, independent-minded vice president, Dick Cheney.

Experts say Cheney's reaction to his accidental shooting of fellow hunter Harry Whittington in Texas last Saturday -- wait until the next day to let the news trickle out and reject White House advice to move faster -- was emblematic of Cheney's power and style.

"It is quite revealing of things that had been suspected about which there had been little clear evidence, about his clout inside the White House," said Bruce Buchanan, a political scientist and long-time Bush watcher at the University of Texas.

Most experts agree that Cheney made a bad story worse by letting the owner of the ranch where the hunt was taking place announce the news and by waiting four days to break his own silence on the matter.

The hoopla over the shooting cost Bush valuable time this week in trying to push his agenda. His efforts to promote his prescriptions for improving U.S. health care were drowned out in the media focus on Cheney.

Leon Panetta, who was White House chief of staff to President Bill Clinton, said Cheney's behavior "reinforces the image that the public has of him, that he clearly is secretive, is very independent within the administration and kind of marches to his own drummer."

"What it ultimately does is it undermines the administration. You can't have people who are operating on their own and you can't have Cabinet members who do that and very frankly you can't have a vice president who does that. Ultimately it is the White House and the president who pay a higher price," Panetta said.

Cheney's penchant for secrecy is well-known, going back to when he refused to reveal the names of those he met with as chairman of an energy task force in 2001. A heart attack victim, he refuses to release his medical records.

He grants few interviews and his last formal news conference was three and a half years ago, although he does occasionally take questions from reporters when he does take a press pool with him on trips.

But quite often he travels in secret, and indeed most people did not even know he was in Texas last weekend, a sharp contrast to Bush's closely monitored every move.

Some Republicans do not want to say it publicly but believe Cheney's secrecy and dark persona have damaged Bush politically.

Some party loyalists believe Cheney's influence within the White House has waned, with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice's dominance on foreign policy and the departure of Cheney backer John Bolton from the State Department to be U.S. ambassador to the United Nations.

Will Cheney last throughout Bush's second term?

A former speech writer for Republican President Ronald Reagan, Peggy Noonan, wrote a speculative column in The Wall Street Journal on Thursday wondering if some White House officials might like to see Bush replace Cheney with someone who could use the vice presidency to run for president in 2008.

Cheney himself harbors no further political ambitions -- a fact some critics say has meant he no longer considers himself accountable to the American people.

"I suspect what they're thinking and not saying is, If Dick Cheney weren't vice president, who'd be a good vice president? They're thinking, at some time down the road we may wind up thinking about a new plan," she wrote.


House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi Demands Probe of Deficit-Reduction Bill

ABC News
House Democratic Leader Wants Budget Probe
House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi Demands Probe of Deficit-Reduction Bill
The Associated Press

WASHINGTON - House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi demanded an ethics investigation Thursday into the passage of deficit-reduction legislation that President Bush recently signed, a new twist in an episode of Capitol intrigue that blends election-year politics and questions of constitutional law.

"Republican leaders chose to ignore House rules, precedent and even the Constitution itself" in sending the politically charged measure to the White House, said Pelosi, D-Calif.

She said the legislation was defective because it had cleared the two houses in different forms, and added that Speaker Dennis Hastert, R-Ill., "knew full well this was an invalid bill."

Republicans, citing an 1894 court precedent, say the measure is valid because top House and Senate leaders put their own signatures on the bill before it was sent to the White House.

On a party-line vote, Republicans shelved the call for an investigation, and Hastert's office did not respond directly to Pelosi's charges.

But other Republicans fired back, accusing her of playing politics. "They're not even in favor of deficit reduction," Rep. Jim Nussle of Iowa said of the Democrats. He said a Senate clerk involved in the controversy should resign "out of honor to the basic tenets of the Constitution" or be fired.

The political rhetoric aside, the events marked the latest but not likely the last development in a controversy with little if any precedent.

Republicans said and Democrats did not disagree that the legislation Bush signed correctly reflects the congressional majority's intent on issues of rented medical equipment under Medicare, the section where the bill's text inexplicably appears to have been changed twice.

One lawsuit has been filed challenging the bill's constitutionality.

"The version that was signed into law by the president never passed the U.S. House," says the suit filed by Jim Zeigler, a lawyer in Mobile Ala. An eldercare lawyer, Zeigler said in his suit he does not know whether to advise clients to heed the Medicaid nursing home regulations that had been in effect, or the ones contained in the law Bush signed last week.

Zeigler's claim underscores the sheer breadth of the legislation, which called for dozens of changes in Medicare, Medicaid, student loan and other federal benefit programs as part of an effort to save the government $39 billion over five years.

The legislation itself was the subject of political struggle as it made its way through Congress.

After a year-end weekend of harried closed-door negotiations among GOP leaders, it passed the House last December on a vote of 212-206. It cleared the Senate on the strength of Vice President Dick Cheney's tie-breaking vote, but not until Democrats forced two minor changes that required a revote in the House. The outcome that time was 216-214.

That set the stage for last week's White House signing ceremony.

But not long before Bush was to sign the bill, Hastert and Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, R-Tenn., were conferring, trying to determine whether the measure was valid.

It turned out that a part of the bill concerning Medicare reimbursement for rented medical equipment had been changed by a Senate clerk.

Aides in both parties say the Senate-passed bill said ownership of certain rented medical equipment should transfer to patients after 13 months, as GOP leaders intended when they put together their final compromise.

But for reasons that remain murky, the formal papers that were carried from the Senate to the House said ownership of the equipment would transfer after 36 months.

The House agreed to the measure, lawmakers evidently thinking they were voting on the 13-month provision. After the vote, a Senate clerk replaced the "36" with a "13" before the bill was sent to the White House.

Concerned, Senate Republicans sought and won agreement from Democrats to pass a follow-up measure affirming that Congress' intent had been to set the rental period at 13 months.

House GOP aides made the same request of Pelosi's staff, but were rebuffed.


Church's Israel policy criticised

Church's Israel policy criticised

A Church of England decision to review its investments in firms whose products are used by Israel in the occupied territories has been criticised.

Britain's most senior Jewish leader said the Synod's vote was "ill-judged" and would "hurt Israel without helping the Palestinians".

Chief Rabbi Sir Jonathan Sacks told the Jewish Chronicle the move could damage Jewish-Christian relations in the UK.

The Church said the decision was only advice to its ethical advisory group.

In his article, Sir Jonathan said: "For years, I have called on religious groups in Britain to send a message of friendship and co-existence to conflict zones throughout the world, instead of importing those conflicts into Britain itself."

The effect of the Synod vote would be the opposite, he added.

"The Church has chosen to take a stand on the politics of the Middle East over which it has no influence, knowing that it will have the most adverse repercussions on a situation over which it has enormous influence, namely Jewish-Christian relations in Britain."

Sir Jonathan's remarks come after last week's vote at the Synod over whether the Church should withdraw its £2.5m investment in the company Caterpillar.

That decision followed a call from the Episcopal Church in Jerusalem and the Middle East for the Church to "disinvest from companies profiting from the illegal occupation, such as Caterpillar Inc".

'No decision'

The Archbishop of Canterbury Dr Rowan Williams voted in favour of reopening talks after complaints that the company's bulldozers have been used to knock down Palestinian homes.

The Archbishop has already written to the Chief Rabbi telling him that no decision about the church's investment had been taken so far.

Looking into the issue did not "question the legitimacy of the state of Israel and its rights to self-defence", he said in the letter.

This is a continuing process of re-examining ethical investment and seeing whether we're behaving as we should
Reverend Colin Slee

Speaking on BBC Two's Newsnight programme the Chief Rabbi's Israel spokesman Rabbi Barry Marcus said: "There's a deep sense that the timing of this particular decision - just after Hamas has been elected, a terrorist group, and the fact that the president of Iran is calling for genocide - does make us a little uneasy."

Dean of Southwark Reverend Colin Slee said the decision was "not a case of picking on Israel".

"This is a continuing process of re-examining ethical investment and seeing whether we're behaving as we should," he told Newsnight.

A spokesman for Caterpillar said its products were sold to the US government which had then sold them on to Israel.

"We clearly have neither the legal right nor the tangible ability to regulate how customers use their machines," he added.

Story from BBC NEWS:


Japan police make 'export raids'

Japan police make 'export raids'

Police in Japan have raided two firms on suspicion of illegally selling equipment to North Korea that could be used to make biological weapons.

The Tokyo companies are suspected of exporting freeze dryers which could cultivate germs used in such weapons.

The two unnamed companies were reported to have sent their exports to North Korea via Taiwan.

On Monday another company was raided on suspicion of exporting equipment that could be used to make nuclear weapons.

The two companies targeted in Friday's raids allegedly shipped the dryers to North Korea in September 2002.

The companies are suspected of infringing the Foreign Exchange and Foreign Trade Control Law, under which exporters need to apply for a government licence before selling such items abroad, the Kyodo news agency reports.

Mitutoyo Corp, the company raided on Monday, is alleged to have sold precision measuring equipment that could be used to make nuclear weapons to China and Thailand in 2001 and 2002 without permission.

Similar equipment produced by Mitutoyo was found in Libya, Kyodo news said.

In a third case, Yamaha was accused last month of illegally exporting to China remote-controlled helicopters that could be used for military purposes.

Story from BBC NEWS:


Pressure over Guantanamo rises

Pressure over Guantanamo rises
By Richard Waddington

GENEVA (Reuters) - The United States on Thursday came under mounting international pressure to close its Guantanamo prison, with U.N. investigators saying detainees there faced treatment amounting to torture.

In a 40-page report, which had already been largely leaked, five United Nations special envoys said the United States was violating a host of human rights, including a ban on torture, arbitrary detention and the right to a fair trial.

The White House, calling the Guantanamo detainees "dangerous terrorists," dismissed the report as a reworking of past allegations and said that inmates were humanely treated.

But the findings could fuel anger among Arabs already incensed by images of abuse of Iraqi inmates at Baghdad's U.S.-run Abu Ghraib prison newly broadcast by Australian television.

"The United States government should close the Guantanamo Bay detention facilities without further delay," the human rights rapporteurs declared.

Until that happened, the U.S. government should "refrain from any practice amounting to torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment," they added.

U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan said he did not agree with everything in the report, produced by independent experts for the inter-governmental U.N. Human Rights Commission, but he believed the prison should be closed as soon as possible.

"Sooner or later there will be a need to close Guantanamo and it will be up to the government to decide and hopefully to do it as soon as possible," he told reporters in New York.

He said it was important to balance the interests of effective action against terrorism with the need to protect individual rights, but people should not be detained "in perpetuity" and should be prosecuted or released.

U.N. Human Rights Commissioner Louise Arbour, who has frequently urged the United States to try the detainees or free them, told the BBC in London that the jail should be shut.

Many of the 500 inmates of the prison at the U.S. naval base in Cuba have been held for four years without trial. The prisoners were mainly detained in Afghanistan and are held as pat of President George W. Bush's declared war against terrorism.

Adding its voice to the clamor, the European parliament voted overwhelmingly on Thursday for a resolution urging the prison be closed and inmates given a fair trail.


Bush's spokesman Scott McClellan said the report appeared to be "a rehash of some of the allegations that have been made by lawyers for some of the detainees and we know that al Qaeda detainees are trained in trying to disseminate false allegations."

He also indicated that the calls to close the jail would fall on deaf ears.

"These are dangerous terrorists that we're talking about that are there and I think we've talked about that issue before and nothing's changed in terms of our views," McClellan added.

Amnesty International backed the call for shutting down Guantanamo, which it said represented "just the tip of the iceberg" of U.S.-run detention facilities worldwide.

"The U.S. can no longer make the case, morally or legally, for keeping it open," the London-based human rights group said.

The report said harsh treatment, such as placing detainees in solitary confinement, stripping them naked, subjecting them to severe temperatures and threatening them with dogs could amount to torture, which is banned in all circumstances.

The five investigators said they were particularly concerned by attempts by the U.S. administration to "redefine" the nature of torture to allow some interrogation techniques.

Washington, which denies any international laws are being broken, accused the U.N. investigators of acting like prosecution lawyers with the report, selecting only those elements that backed their case.

The Bush administration also denies that the force-feeding of inmates on hunger strike, which it says was undertaken to save their lives, amounted to cruel treatment.

The five U.N. investigators, who include Manfred Nowak, special rapporteur on torture, and Leila Zerrougui, chairwoman of the U.N. Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, said the findings were based on interviews with past detainees, lawyers and replies to questions put to the U.S. government.

The five turned down a U.S. offer to visit the detention center late last year because Washington would not allow them to interview individual detainees.

Communist Cuba, which has accused Washington of turning the base on the island's southerastern tip into a "concentration camp," said U.S. rejection of the report came as no surprise.

"The United States only accepts reports that are favorable. It is not surprising it continues to ignore the U.N. whenever convenient," said Ricardo Alarcon, speaker of Cuba's National Assembly.