United States News Digest
Republican Party Deeply Split Over Immigration
Deep splits in the Republican Party's base are manifest in the battle over U.S. immigration policy, as Democrats and sane Republicans prepare for a floor fight in the U.S. Senate. Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn) has given the Senate Judiciary Committee a deadline of March 27 to report out a bill on immigration policy, and has filed his own bill on the subject. Frist's bill is similar to the bill previously passed by the House, which focusses exclusively on immigration as a law enforcement issue, and without creating a guest-worker program (proposed two years ago by President Bush), or a pathway to legal status for 12 million illegal immigrants now in the United States.
The Judiciary Committee is also debating bills offered by chairman Arlen Spector (R-Pa), and by John McCain (R-Ariz) and Ted Kennedy (D-Mass), which address the guest-worker and illegals issues, with some GOP members of the committee holding out for the House/Frist package. The New York Times reported on March 24 that, "even if a committee bill emerges in time, unless a majority of the committee's Republican members vote for it, Frist has vowed that he will not let it reach the Senate floor. Instead, he would seek a vote on his bill, without debate."
Meanwhile, Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev) said on March 22 that he would "use every procedural means at my disposal" to prevent such a bypassing of the Judiciary Committee. Senator Hillary Clinton (D-NY) pointed out the irony of GOP bible-thumpers supporting an immigration bill that would criminalize the Good Samaritan, and possibly Jesus himself. Clinton also said that she and fellow New York Democrat Sen. Charles Schumer are "trying to build momentum toward a bipartisan bill that would include a legalization provision that many Republicans support in defiance of Mr. Frist."
Lawsuits Challenge Budget Law as Unconstitutional
The Hill reported on March 23 that a lawsuit filed two days earlier in D.C. Federal court by Public Citizen to nullify the budget law, is the third such action. On March 17, some 15 Tennessee hospitals, in a dispute with Medicare, filed a memorandum in the same court, calling the bill unconstitutional, and a lawsuit was filed last month to the same effect by an Alabama attorney against the law's effect on charitable giving. The Hill points out that, "A ruling in favor of any of the plaintiffs would affect the entire law, not just the provisions that give each plaintiff putative standing to sue," quoting George Washington University law professor Jonathan Turley, that, "The appropriate judicial remedy is to strike the entire bill."
Meanwhile, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif) and Government Reform Committee Ranking Member Henry Waxman (D-Calif) sent President Bush a letter March 22, asking for "a full explanation of what you and your senior staff knew about the fundamental constitutional problem," in the legislation Bush signed on Feb. 8. Pelosi and Waxman pointed to a recent Wall Street Journal report that House Speaker Dennis Hastert's (R-Ill) office requested a delay in the signing ceremony because of the conflict. The California Democrats raised the specter of a conspiracy to impose a law never passed by Congress, and asked for "a full and candid explanation of the activities of February 8," that turned a "mock signing ceremony" into a real one.
Top Brass Skate Away in Dog Handler Case
Sergeant Michael Smith, an Army dog handler whose animal was photographed menacing Iraqi prisoners at Abu Ghraib, was sentenced to six months in prison March 22. The relatively light sentence raises questions as to whether some kind of deal was made to induce Smith to drop his demand for testimony from Gen. Geoffrey Miller, the former Guantanamo commander who directed that dogs be used to terrorize prisoners at Abu Ghraib. Miller asserted the military equivalent of the Fifth Amendment to avoid testifying.
The lawyer for a co-defendant of Smith's said that frontline soldiers are taking the heat for policies which were pushed by top officials. "I would like to see someone in command admit that they intended to end the war and gain Iraqi freedom more expeditiously by using the dogs to get better intelligence. Instead, everyone from Bush on down is perfectly content to allow enlisted personnel to be scapegoats for the actions."
The New York Times noted in a March 23 editorial, "The contrast could not have been more stark, nor the message more clear"noting that on the same day on which the 24-year-old Army sergeant was sentenced, President Bush was praising Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld for doing a "fine job."
"We've seen this sorry pattern for nearly two years now," since the Abu Ghraib horrors were first exposed, the Times editorial notes, referencing their recent story about Special Forces troops who converted an Iraqi military base into a torture chamber, yet no one higher up has been held responsible. "The Bush Administration decided to go outside the law to deal with prisoners, and soldiers carried out that policy.... And not a single policy maker has been called to account."
FBI Supervisors Were Warned About Moussaoui Before 9/11
A Minneapolis FBI agent who interrogated accused terrorist Zacarias Moussaoui before Sept. 11, 2001, testified March 20 that he told his FBI supervisors more than 70 times, right up until Sept. 10, that Moussaoui was a terrorist who was plotting to hijack an airplane. His supervisors blocked the agent, Harry Samit, from either obtaining a search warrant for Moussaoui's computer, or access to information from intelligence agencies abroad. Samit wrote a colleague on Sept. 10 that he was "so desperate to get into Moussaoui's computer, I'll take anything."
In April 2005, Moussaoui pleaded guilty to conspiring with al-Qaeda in the 9/11 attacks. Samit was called as a witness in support of the prosecution's efforts to get a death sentence against Moussaoui. In fact, Samit's testimony showed that the FBI could have uncovered the plot, but was determined to ignore it.
Lyndon LaRouche, interviewed on the morning of Sept. 11, 2001, on the Jack Stockwell radio show, said that the attacks could only have occurred because the U.S. security screen had been deliberately taken down, or through the worst kind of incompetence. Samit's sworn testimony is another indicator of how right LaRouche was.
Fitzgerald: Libby Was 'Consumed' with Joe Wilson
In response to Vice President Dick Cheney's former Chief of Staff Lewis "Scooter" Libby's barrage of national security requests, and allegations in court papers (using press articles) that other administration officials divulged Valerie Plame's work for the CIA before he allegedly did, Special Prosecutor Fitzgerald told the court on Feb. 24:
"I'm not going to argue that it was the most important issue consuming the Bush Administration.... I will argue during that week (July 7-14, 2003) Mr. Libby was consumed with [Wilson].... You can look at the time he spent with people. When talking about Wilson for the first time, he described himself as a former Hill staffer. He meets with people off premises. There were some unusual things I won't get into about that week...."
Fitzgerald also says that, for Libby, it "was a very important focus ... because it was a direct attack on the credibility of the administration, whether accurate or not, and upon the vice president and people were attacking Mr. Libby. So it was a focus." The quotes are based on a transcript of the hearing that was obtained by reporter, Jason Leopold and released in truthout.com March 20.
In a 39-page motion filed March 17, Libby's defense team claims that Stephen Hadley, then #2 at the National Security Council (now National Security Adviser), and Richard Armitage, then #2 at the State Department, leaked Plame's identity.
Retired General Demands Rumsfeld Be Removed
In a scathing attack on Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, in a New York Times op-ed March 19, Paul D. Eaton, a retired Army major general who was in charge of training the Iraqi military from 2003 to 2004, blasts Rumsfeld for being incompetent in every way (tactically, strategically, and operationally), and "far more than anyone else responsible for what has happened to our important mission in Iraq. Mr. Rumsfeld must step down."
Eaton attacks the "groupthink" that prevents Rumsfeld from being challenged, and Rumsfeld's whole approach to warfare. He defends Gen. Eric Shinseki as having been right. "Rumsfeld demands fealty," he charges. He says Bush should accept Rumsfeld's resignation and hire someone who listens to soldiers (unfortunately, he recommends the Democratic neo-con Sen. Joseph Lieberman (Ct)), and, more importantly, Congress should take up its Constitutional responsibilities, and find out what the military leaders think.
While Eaton sticks to the simplistic idea of providing more troops as a remedy, he clearly has the experience of knowing Rumsfeld's incompetence first hand, and pulls no punches in demanding his removal.
More Coverup of Rumsfeld's Hunter-Killer Squads
The New York Times, on Sunday, March 19, featured a major story on abuse and torture of prisoners in Iraq, conducted by Task Force 6-26, a joint Special Forces unit which has gone under different names (Task Force 20, 121, 145, etc.), and which was part of Defense Secretary Rumsfeld's creation of special operations teams to capture and kill alleged terrorists after 9/11.
The Times bills its article as the first detailed description of the serious abuses carried out by TF 6-26, although elements of this have been reported previously, and had come out in military documents obtained by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) in its Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit. At various points, both the CIA and the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) withdrew their personnel from "Camp Nama" at the Baghdad airport, where TF 6-26 was conducting its brutal interrogations.
The most egregious coverup in the Times article, is its reporting, with a "straight face," that Rumsfeld's Undersecretary for Intelligence, the Straussian-trained Stephen Cambone, protested the abuses by TF 6-26, in a handwritten note to his aide, Gen. Jerry Boykin, in which Cambone demanded, "Get to the bottom of this immediately. This is not acceptable. I want a fuller report.... I want to know if this is part of a pattern of behavior by TF 6-26."
Cambone's "CYA" note was dated June 26, 2004many weeks after the Abu Ghraib photos surfaced, and after Cambone had been brought before the Senate Armed Services to testify on prisoner abuse.