United States News Digest
Hayden Questioned on NSA Wiretapping Program
General Michael Hayden is going in as CIA director under President George Bush, so he won't publicly criticize the Bush Administration, commented Lyndon LaRouche about Hayden's confirmation hearings on May 18. Hayden's going in there to stabilize the situation at the CIA, so that the Agency can function again when these guysBush and Vice President Dick Cheneyare dumped. LaRouche was briefed in detail on the questioning of Hayden by Sen. Carl Levin (D-Mich), who took the lead for the Democrats, because Sen. Jay Rockefeller (WVa), the Ranking Democrat, couldn't attend.
Levin's questioning was much like a cross-examination on three areas. On the NSA wiretapping program: Did Cheney or others design it, and does it go further than Bush has admitted so far, e.g., domestic phone calls? Did Hayden oppose the "intelligence cell" set up by Doug Feith to "prove" the al-Qaeda link to Iraq? Does Hayden believe that the CIA has to abide by the Geneva Accords, the Treaty Against Torture. etc., the anti-torture act of 2005, and other international laws?
Hayden soft-pedalled on Cheney, admitting that he and his NSA lawyers limited the discussion to only "foreign" calls, but that there were "no arguments, no pushbacks," between the Vice President's office and his office.
Hayden said, "There were discussions about what we could do. Our intent all along [was to specify that] one end of these calls always being foreign.... We attempted to make clear that that's all we were doing and that's all we were authorized to do," according to the Constitution and existing laws of the nation. In later answers to Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif), Hayden said that he does not believe that "warrants" are specifically required under the Fourth Amendment.
On the al-Qaeda/Doug Feith operations, Hayden was fairly nasty: "If you want to drill down ... and exhaust every possible ounce of evidence, you can build up a pretty strong body of data, but you have to know what you're doing, right?" He told Levin that he would correct a public official (e.g., someone from the Administration), if the statements made contradicted intelligence.
Hayden was most definite on the torture question. He said, "All parts, all agencies of the U.S. government will respect our international obligations." He said that the CIA and all its contractors must follow specifically the Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman and Degrading Treatment, and the Detainee Treatment Act of 2005. But, he said, the Army Field Manual only applies to Defense Department personnel, and the Geneva Accords have been interpreted in the Detainee Treatment Act of 2005 (the McCain-Warner-Lindsey Graham bill) to "make a distinction" between prisoners of war under the effective control of the DoD, and what applies to the rest of the government about "cruel, inhuman and degrading" treatment.
Senators Call for Diplomatic Solution to Iran Issue
In opening remarks to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing on May 17, Chairman Sen. Richard Lugar (R-Ind) declared that the "American policy in the near term will be defined by efforts to convince the international community of our commitment to diplomacy and to build a broad multilateral and international coalition against Iran's nuclear ambitions." Addressing the Bush Administration, Lugar said: "Analysts in our intelligence agencies and State Department do not regard Tehran as irrational, but the framework for their decision-making is different from our own. We must understand that they are interpreting our actions in ways that we do not always discern...."
Senator Joseph Biden (D-Del), the Ranking Democrat on the committee, pointed out that "unfortunately, the Administration has chosen not to send a senior official to be a part of these hearings. That is a mistake." He said President Bush should write to the man who has the final say in IranAyatollah Khamenei. "I would make the letter public and I would include a call for direct talks with Irananywhere, anytime, with everything on the table."
He also warned the White House that "dodging Congressional hearings is not a good start to what promises to be the most challenging problems facing our country over the next several years."
Murtha Reiterates Demand for Iraq Withdrawal
Six months after he introduced his emergency resolution to withdraw U.S. troops from Iraq because there was no plan to stabilize Iraq, and because U.S. troops were dying needlessly. Rep. John Murtha (D-Pa), a decorated Vietnam War hero, held a press conference May 17 to make his demand again. He said that nearly 350 more American troops have been killed in the last six months, with not one bit of improvement in the administration's plan to either stabilize or leave Iraq.
Murtha mocked Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld's claim of progress in Iraq based on that fact that there were so many satellite dishes on rooftops, when Baghdad has less than three hours of electricity per day. Murtha asked, what good are satellite dishes without electricity? What are Iraqi citizens doing for the 21 hours when they cannot turn on their TVs?
Murtha held this press conference as Rumsfeld was testifying about the Pentagon budget at the Senate Armed Services Committee. Rumsfeld and other witnesses told the committee that Iraq still doesn't have any self-sufficient military units.
Specter Denies Deal on NSA Wiretap Bill
Senate Judiciary Committee chairman Arlen Specter (R-Pa) denied a report published on May 16 in The Hill, that he had reached an agreement with Republicans on the committee to water down the provision in his bill to require the Administration to seek a ruling from the FISA court on the constitutionality of the NSA domestic wiretap program. The weaker version would provide that the FISA court would only review the program by hearing a challenge from a plaintiff with legal standing to bring such a casewhich would give the Administration much more room to try to obstruct any such case from going ahead.
Specter's bill is opposed by many Republicans who want to support the Bush-Cheney argument that the President has inherent authority to carry out warrantless surveillance, and also by Democrats who oppose "legislating in the dark"; they don't want to pass any legislation until they know what is actually involved in the NSA spying program, which the Administration is refusing to tell Congress.
Inadequate Mental-Health Screening for U.S. Troops
An alarming study shows that American troops with mental-health problems are not getting adequate attention. Fewer than one in 100, according to the Hartford Courant of May 14, are examined by a mental-health expert before deploying to Iraq. Some troops with problems are kept on the front lines with anti-depressants. Some with post-traumatic stress disorder are sent back to Iraq. The suicide rate has thus risen, with 22 deaths in 2005, or one out of five non-combat deaths. Some of the anti-depressants used have side-effects which could contribute to suicide.
Fitzgerald Zeroes in on Cheney
On May 12, Special Counsel Patrick Fitzgerald filed devastating new papers in the Scooter Libby case, tightening the noose around Vice President Dick Cheney's political neck. Among the attachments submitted by Fitzgerald were a series of handwritten comments, scrawled by Cheney on a copy of the July 6, 2003 New York Times op-ed by Ambassador Joseph Wilson, in which Wilson, for the first time publicly, detailed his CIA mission to Niger in February 2002, and assailed the Bush Administration for exaggerating the intelligence about Iraq's nuclear weapons program to justify the war. Among the notations in Cheney's handwriting was a question: "Did his wife send him on a junket?"
Fitzgerald commented on the handwritten notes, "Those annotations support the proposition that publication of the Wilson Op-Ed acutely focused the attention of the vice president and the defendanthis chief of staffon Mr. Wilson, on the assertions made in his article, and on responding to those assertions." Part of Scooter Libby's defense has been the claim that he had no special interest in Wilson or his wife, and had many other more pressing national security matters to worry about, and had merely forgotten his conversations with reporters or the source of his knowledge that Wilson's wife worked for the CIA. Fitzgerald wrote, additionally: "The annotated version of the article reflects the contemporaneous reaction of the vice president to Mr. Wilson's Op-Ed article, and thus is relevant to establishing some of the facts that were viewed as important by the defendant's immediate superior, including whether Mr. Wilson's wife had 'sen[t] him on a junket.' "
Briefed on the Fitzgerald filing and the media coverage in Newsweek, the New York Times, and the Washington Post, Lyndon LaRouche said that he thinks this could be the end for Dick Cheney. He equated Cheney's handwritten notes on the Wilson article with the Nixon tapes that proved Nixon's complicity in the Watergate coverup.