United States News Digest
Senator Specter To Hold Hearings on 'Able Danger'
Senator Arlen Specter (R-Pa) announced Sept. 1 that the Senate Judiciary Committee, which he chairs, will hold a hearing on the Pentagon Special Operations Command's "Able Danger" intelligence-gathering program, according to the New York Times Sept. 1. Able Danger reportedly had identified the alleged ringleader and three others of the 9/11 hijackers more than a year before the September 2001 attacks, which information was then suppressed, and never passed on to the FBI.
In announcing the hearing, to be held on Sept. 14, Specter said that the two military officers who have come forward "appear to have credibility," and he said that his staff has confirmed their reports that Able Danger personnel had tried to contact the FBI in 2000 to discuss the program's work. Specter also said that if Mohammed Atta and other hijackers had been identified before the 9/11 attacks, "it would be a very serious breach not to have passed that along."
"We ought to get to the bottom of it," he declared.
Last week, Specter wrote to FBI Director Robert Mueller, asking him for all the information the Bureau has on the Able Danger program.
Tenet Threatens To Defend Himself Against White House
Former CIA Director George Tenet will not allow himself to be scapegoated for the 9/11 intelligence failures, writes former Reagan Administration staffer John B. Roberts, the Washington Times said Sept. 1. Tenet and a lawyer have drafted a tightly written rebuttal to the report just delivered to Congress from the CIA Inspector General, which recommended punitive sanctions against Tenet, as well as former Deputy Director for Operations James Pavitt, and former CIA counter-terrorism center head Cofer Black.
Tenet's decision to defend himself poses a potential crisis for the White House, says Roberts, pointing out that Tenet had turned down a $4.5-million book offer so as not to embarrass the White House, and he had been assured in return that he wouldn't be scapegoated for 9/11. But this deal may now be off the table.
Tenet's defense is very similar to the critique laid out by former National Security Council counter-terrorism advisor Richard Clarke, says Roberts. (Clarke charged that Bush and Cheney ignored his and Tenet's insistence that the U.S. adopt an aggressive strategy against al-Qaeda, and he accused the White House of inexcusable delay in taking up the issue of terrorism before September 2001.)
Roberts adds that, normally, Karl Rove would already be taking preemptive action against Tenet, but the White House adviser has been neutralized by the Valerie Plame investigation. If current CIA Director Porter Goss follows up the Inspector General's report with formal CIA hearings on sanctions, Tenet is likely to go public in order to defend his reputation.
Think-Tanker Was AIPAC's Contact Man at Clinton NSC
Think-tanker Kenneth Pollack revealed that he was the AIPAC (American Israel Political Action Committee) contact man at the Clinton National Security Council, telling the Jewish Telegraph Agency (JTA) on Aug. 30, "I believe I am USGO-1," using the term mentioned in the indictment of two AIPAC officials, Steve Rosen and Keith Weissman. The term means "U.S. Government Official #1," and refers to an incident where the AIPAC spies met USGO-1 for lunch in December 2000, to discuss U.S. policy in Iraq. The indictment says that after Rosen met USGO-1 for lunch, Rosen then met a reporter, and gave the reporter classified information about that policy. The indictment notes that USGO-1 had access to the classified information which Rosen passed along, but does not say that USGO-1 actually gave Rosen the info.
Pollack, Senior Fellow in Foreign Policy Studies at the Brookings Institution and Director of Research for the Saban Center for Middle East Policy, had been opposed to war against Iraq, when he co-wrote an article for Foreign Affairs in January 2000, comparing Ahmed Chalabi's plan to overthrow Saddam Hussein to the Bay of Pigs disaster. However, when George W. Bush became President (around the time that Pollack was meeting secretly with AIPAC), Pollack began to support an Iraq war. Then, when the war bogged down, Pollack turned back into a critic of the war.
He claims that he never gave classified information to AIPAC.
The second government official, USGO-2, who the AIPAC indictment specifies did give classified goods to AIPAC, is David Satterfield, who is now the #2 at the U.S. embassy in Iraq. Earlier this year, Satterfield was sent to Lebanon to run the neo-con plan to overthrow the Lahoud government and use Lebanon as a springboard for a U.S. war against Syria, along the lines of the "Clean Break" plan for regime change in Syria and Iran.
Gonzales Attacks Senate Version of Patriot Act Renewal
Attorney General Alberto Gonzales told the Washington Post Aug. 30 that the Senate version of the bill to renew the Patriot Act would hamper the government's ability to prevent terrorist attacks, and he expressed his preference for the version passed by the House. The Senate bill was co-sponsored by Sen. Arlen Specter (R-Pa), and was adopted by the GOP-controlled Judiciary Committee and then by the GOP-controlled Senate as a whole.
The Senate version places additional restrictions on the Justice Department's ability to secretly obtain a person's business or financial records, including library records, and it also places more limits on "administrative subpoenas" (obtaining financial records without a court order), and on secret "sneak and peak" search warrants.
Democratic Senators Defend Halliburton Whistle-Blower
Bunnatine H. Greenhouse, who had been the top contracting official at the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers since 1997, was removed from her post over the Aug. 27-28 weekend. Greenhouse had testified before Congress about a multibillion-dollar no-bid contract with Halliburton subsidiary Kellogg Brown & Root for work in Iraq, before the war began in 2003. After she was fired, three Congressional Democrats put Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld on the spot, by sending him a letter saying her demotion "appeared to be retribution" which, they reminded him, is "illegal and totally unacceptable." The three are Senators Byron Dorgan (N.Dak.) and Frank Lautenberg (NJ), and Rep. Henry Waxman (Calif). Dorgan is chairman of the Senate Democratic Policy Committee, which heard Greenhouse's testimony in June.
GOP Plans Bills To Impose Big Budget Cuts
Congressional Republicans are planning, in the coming weeks, to pass a series of budget cuts which stem from the Congressional budget resolution passed earlier this year, the Washington Post reported Aug. 28. The cuts, which will be contained in a "filibuster-proof" reconciliation bill, are up against the reality of the increasingly apparent economic crisis. The cuts include: $10 billion from Medicaid, Medicare, or welfare (even while states like Tennessee and Missouri are shutting down state aid programs); $500 million in food stamps over five years; $2.4 billion in farm subsidies (in the midst of a severe drought); $7 billion in student loans. Also, they plan to raise Pension Benefit Guaranty Corp. premiums from $16 to $31 per worker, which will devastate many businesses.
Abramoff/Norquist Ring Probed at Interior Department
A Federal task force is investigating initiatives by indicted lobbyist Jack Abramoff to corruptly influence Interior Department officials in favor of Abramoff's Indian tribe client's gambling casinos. On Aug. 28, the Washington Post reported on e-mails it said it had obtained, showing Abramoff was seeking to outright hire Deputy Interior Secretary J. Steven Griles, and investigators are looking into possible conflict-of-interest crimes.
Abramoff represented the Saginaw Chippewa tribe, and lobbied an Interior Department ring to try to prevent government approval for the opening of a casino at Gun Lake, Mich. that would rival the Chippewas' casino.
Some of those involved with the business under study:
*Republican rightist leader Grover Norquist and former Colorado lawyer/corporate lobbyist Gale Norton (now Secretary of the Interior) created the "Council of Republicans for Environmental Advocacy" (CREA) in 1998. Norton was being paid as a fellow of the Independence Institute in Colorado, the Coors-sponsored thinktank whose president was Tom Tancredo, later head of the anti-immigrant caucus in Congress.
*Norton became Secretary of the Interior in 2001. Abramoff then directed his tribal clients to contribute some $225,000 to CREA.
*Abramoff also directed his tribal clients to contribute to Norquist's "Americans for Tax Reform" and Norquist's ATR laundered lobbying money from tribes into Christian Right circles controlled by Bush religious-political strategist Ralph Reed. Norquist then got Abramoff's clients access to the White House.
*Gale Norton's deputy secretary, J. Stephen Griles, had been Norton's campaign manager for her electoral races in Colorado. Italia Federici, head of the Abramoff-funded group CREA, interceded with Griles to block the Gun Lake casino on environmental grounds.
*Thomas L. Sansonetti, U.S. Associate Attorney General in charge of Indian law, who has "attended events sponsored by Federici's group," acted to block the Gun Lake casino. (The Gun Lake casino was later approved, as the spotlight hit Abramoff.)
Department of the Interior Solicitor William G. Myers III, a lobbying and law partner of Sansonetti's, at Holland & Hart, the Denver-based law firm that opened its Washington, D.C. office in 2001 under the wing of Vice President Dick Cheney and his management of the Administration's policy for oil, mining, and related speculators.