United States News Digest
Rangel on Impeachment, the Draft, and Halliburton
I'm one of the President's biggest supporters against impeachment, as long as Cheney is Vice President, said Rep. Charles Rangel (D-NY), at a press briefing at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C., on March 30. Impeachment was not the subject, but was raised early in the question period. Rangel noted that he knows Cheney much better than he knows Bush, from Cheney's days as a member of the House during the 1980s.
Rangel had called the press conference to discuss his proposal for a military draft, the Iraq war, and the upcoming 2006 Congressional elections. He said that the bulk of military recruits going to fight in Iraq are from lower-income areas of the country, blacks from inner cities and whites from poor rural areas, all areas of high unemployment. He questioned why Bush had not called on all young Americans to make the same sacrifice.
The proposal for a draft, he said, would raise the level of discussion about who is making the sacrifices. In response to a question on the Pentagon's use of contractors, he noted that people are being encouraged to leave the military and sign up with contractors, such as Halliburton, to do, at a much higher price, the same things the Army used to do; so, he said, the cost of the war is dramatically inflated when you see how many of the military occupation specialties are now being handled by Halliburton.
House Debates Resolution on Abramoff Scandal
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif) introduced a resolution March 30 for an Ethics Committee probe of all members of Congress and staffers involved with disgraced former lobbyist Jack Abramoff, but after a fight on the floor of the House, the bill was tabled by a vote of 216-193, with six Republicans voting with Pelosi. After Republicans tabled the resolution by voice vote, Pelosi requested a recorded vote, which then took place. The resolution says "That the Committee on Standards of Official Conduct shall immediately initiate an investigation of the misconduct by Members of Congress and their staff implicated in the scandals associated with Mr. Jack Abramoff's criminal activity."
The action is called for after a string of "Whereas" clauses which say that two Committees of the Senate have investigated aspects of Abramoff's activities in Congress, and that the 109th House has never held such an investigation; and that Abramoff has admitted providing "things of value" to members of Congress; and that Abramoff has pleaded guilty to such criminal actions.
Abramoff Sentenced, Still Faces Murder Rap
On March 29, Miami Federal Judge Paul Huck sentenced Jack Abramoff, and his partner Adam Kidan, each to five years and ten months in prison for fraud in the takeover of the SunCruz casino gambling cruise ship company. Abramoff's imprisonment will be delayed while he continues his cooperation with Federal prosecutors pursuing charges against the former mega-lobbyist's cohorts in Washington.
Meanwhile, trial proceedings continue for three men accused of murdering SunCruz's former owner Konstantinos "Gus" Boulis, who was shot down Mafia-style when he tried to regain control of the company from Abramoff and Kidan.
Contrary to almost all published media accounts, Abramoff and Kidan are both prime suspects in the murder. According to sources close to the murder prosecution, the three now on trial are acknowledged to be merely the triggermen. The prosecutors' (State Attorney's Office for Florida's 17th judicial circuit, Broward County) only theory of the motive points to the struggle over control of SunCruz.
David Margolick, whose interview with Abramoff appears in Vanity Fair (April 2006), typified the widespread disinformation on the case when he stated recently on C-SPAN that, "law enforcement officials" say that Abramoff is not a suspect. That is flatly contradicted by EIR's sources close to the case. Prosecutors have publicly stated only that they are "interested in" unnamed other persons besides the three men on trial.
Lawyers for one of the accused hitmen have subpoenaed Abramoff to testify for the defense, presumably to incriminate Kidan and take some heat off their client. The Miami Herald has reported that Federal prosecutors, having made a plea bargain with Abramoff on Federal fraud and corruption charges, will not allow state-level murder prosecutors to record any statement Abramoff may make. But the informed sources tell EIR that the prosecutors have not been told any such thing. They definitely plan to interview Kidan, Abramoff's junior partner Michael Scanlon, and Abramoff, and must record the sessions for court-usable evidence.
If Abramoff were charged with the Boulis murder, he could face the death penalty. This might spur some real talking on his part, about international money-laundering, and much more about the criminal role of Washington leaders than he has been willing to divulge so far.
Federal Prosecutor Indicted for Misconduct in Terror Case
In the aftermath of a failed prosecution in Detroit, which had been hailed initially by the Bush Administration and then-Attorney General John Ashcroft as a milestone in the war on terrorism, a Federal prosecutor and a State Department security official have been indicted for concealing evidence and then lying about it. Former Assistant U.S. Attorney Richard Convertino and State Department special agent Harry R. Smith were charged with conspiracy, obstruction of justice, and false statements.
The government had originally obtained three convictions of three local Muslims in the case, but they were thrown out after the Justice Department admitted serious prosecutorial misconduct. The indictment only cites one incident of concealing evidence, but there were others that came to light during and after the trial.
For example, the government's chief witness at the trial, Youssef Hmimssa, was proven to have lied in his testimony, when a man who had been in jail with Hmimssa told the court that Hmimssa didn't know if the other defendants were linked to terrorism, but that he just wanted revenge against them. Hmimssa had also told the inmate that he could get a better deal for himself by giving the prosecutors what they wanted. "He told me to say anything, do anything, bring names, then you can get off the hook."
Prior to this, Ashcroft had publicly praised Hmimssa, in violation of a court order, triggering a formal reprimand of the Attorney General by the trial judge.
The problems were not just with the local prosecutors. The New York Times reported in 2004 that senior Justice Department officials knew of problems in the case but pushed for aggressive prosecution anyway. A Justice Department memo in 2002 noted that the evidence was weak, and that it relied on a single informant with "some baggage," and that there was no clear link to terrorist groups.
Are Rove and Hadley Next To Be Indicted?
Investigative journalist Jason Leopold on March 28 reported in truthout.com that Special Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald is wrapping up his case to a grand jury. According to Leopold, Fitzgerald will seek indictments of White House Deputy Chief of Staff Karl Rove and/or National Security Advisor Stephan Hadley, for leaking the name of covert CIA agent Valerie Plame Wilson. The indictments will be for perjury, obstruction of justice, and conspiracy.
The Times of London headlined its March 27 online story, "Is Karl Rove Stabbing Cheney in the Back?" Rove reportedly provided information to Fitzgerald on "deleted e-mails, and erased hard drives" relating to the Plame case, that had been missing from Cheney's office. Anonymous sources said the White House has "real-time backup servers.... Rove was able to chart a path for Fitzgerald directly into the office of the VP." Rove's attorney Robert Luskin, while not denying that Rove "tipped off" Fitzgerald, does deny that there is a "deal" with the prosecutor.
Delta Force Founder Blasts Cheney and Iraq War
In an interview with the Los Angeles Daily News March 26, Eric Haney, a retired command Sergeant Major in the U.S. Army, gave his assessment of the Iraq war: "Utter debacle. But it had to be from the very first. The reasons were wrong. The reasons of this administration for taking this nation to war were not what they stated. [Gen.] Tommy Franks was brow-beaten and ... pursued warfare that he knew strategically was wrong in the long term. That's why he retired immediately afterward.... We have fomented civil war in Iraq. We have probably fomented internecine war in the Muslim world between the Shias and the Sunnis, and I think Bush may well have started the third world war, all for their own personal policies." Haney was a founding member of the Army's Delta Force special operations unit, and a participant in the failed 1980 hostage-rescue effort in Iran. He is now a producer and consultant for the CBS television show "The Unit."
On the torture debate Haney said: "That's Cheney's pursuit. The only reason anyone tortures is because they like to do it.... You don't gain intelligence that way. Everyone in the world knows that.... This administration has been masters of diverting attention away from real issues and debating the silly. Debating what constitutes torture: Mistreatment of helpless people in your power is torture, period. And [I'm saying this as] a man who has been involved in the most pointed of our activities. I know it, and all of my mates know it. You don't do it. It's an act of cowardice."