United States News Digest
'Gang of 14' Meets on Haynes Nomination
The Gang of 14, the bipartisan group of Senators who headed off Cheney's "nuclear option" showdown last year, met on July 14, to discuss whether the nomination of DOD general counsel William Haynes to the Federal bench warrants a filibuster. However, a filibuster may not even be necessary, since a number of Republican Senators, including Lindsey Graham (SC), John McCain (Ariz), and Susan Collins (Maine), have expressed reservations about Haynes' nomination. Even Senate Armed Services Committee chairman John Warner, in introducing fellow Virginian Haynes to the Judiciary Committee, failed to actually endorse his nomination.
Twenty retired senior military officers sent a letter to the Judiciary Committee on July 7, expressing their "profound concern" about the nomination, because of "the role Mr. Haynes played in establishingover the objections of uniformed military lawyersdetention and interrogation policies in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Guantanamo, which led not only to the abuse of detainees in U.S. custody but to a dangerous abrogation of the military's long-standing commitment to the rule of law." They noted that Haynes was warned by all four service JAGs about the consequences for military personnel of the Justice Department's views which Haynes approved.
Specter Reaches Agreement with White House on NSA Spying
Senate Judiciary Committee chairman Arlen Specter (R-Pa) said July 13 that he has an agreement with President Bush to give the FISA Court jurisdiction to decide on the constitutionality of the Administration's domestic NSA spying program. Specter said the agreement is with the President, and that he has not discussed it with Vice President Cheney. Details of the Specter bill and his agreement with the White House are still unclear.
Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif), the only member of the Judiciary Committee who has been fully briefed on the program, wants a closed committee session to discuss Specter's bill; she says that the Administration should have to seek warrants on a case-by-case basis.
Army Fires Halliburton ... Sort of
The Army has decided that giving Halliburton an exclusive contract to provide logistical support to the Army has become too much of a political hot potato, so it has decided to open the contract bidding, and to split it among three companies, with a fourth to help monitor the other three, the Washington Post reported July 12. Halliburton won the contract, known as LOGCAP, for Logistics Civil Augmentation Program, in 2001, after its former CEO Dick Cheney appointed himself Vice President. Since then, Halliburton's performance under the contract has become synonymous with scandal, yet that apparently had nothing to do with the Army's decision. When the bidding is opened later this month, Halliburton will be eligible to participate.
Representative Henry Waxman (D-Calif), who has been the leader in exposing Halliburton's crimes, praised the Army's decision. "When you have a single contractor, that company has the government over a barrel," Waxman said. "One needs multiple contractors in order to have real price competition. Real competition saves the taxpayer money."
If the Army were to make the truly right decision, it would follow the program of Lyndon LaRouche and end privatization of military logistics altogether.
Is There a Coverup of Iraqi Rape/Murder Case?
In a July 9 Internet posting, Col. W. Patrick Lang (U.S. Army, ret.), a well-known military commentator, said about the recent charges against five Army soldiers in the rape, murders, and burning of the bodies of an Iraqi family near Mahmoudiya, south of Baghdad March 23, that, "The possibility of a 'cover-up' at platoon, company, battalion and higher seems more and more likely," citing an Internet message he received from a reader. Lang also said former soldier Steven D. Green, the first person charged for the crime, should be returned to trial under a military jurisdiction, tried by the U.S. Army, in Iraq, and punished in Iraq, because Green and his friends "have greatly injured not only this poor woman and her family, but also the honor of the Army and the United States. The Army should deal with them."
In a discussion about the case, Lyndon LaRouche agreed that Green, who had been honorably discharged from the military after the incident of March 12, should indeed be tried by the military. The crimes occurred while he was in service, and under military jurisdiction; therefore, the trial should also be held under military jurisdiction. The military proceedings could be later examined by a civilian court. LaRouche noted that there are several levels of problems with the military in the Iraq war. First of all, people are being recruited who should have been rejected for psychological reasons, but under Bush-Cheney-Rumsfeld, the U.S. is desperate for killers to send over to Iraq. (In fact, Green was reportedly discharged with a "personality disorder.") The bigger problem is that the military service has to be an honorable serviceand that principle has been destroyed under this Administration and its Nazi doctrine of warfare.
Hoekstra Demands Bush End Coverup of Spy Programs
Representative Peter Hoekstra (R-Mich), the chairman of the House Select Committee on Intelligence, wrote a letter to President Bush on May 18, which was made public by the New York Times on Sunday, July 9, assailing the Administration for failing to inform Congress about additional illegal spying programs. According to the Times, Hoekstra learned of additional spying programs from whistle-blowers who came forward to the committee. The letter was written to the President at the time that Gen. Michael Hayden was being confirmed as the new CIA Director. Hoekstra had initially opposed the idea of a military officer taking over the CIA, and he voiced these concerns in the letter, as well as worries that the John Negroponte Director of National Intelligence office was creating a further bureaucratization of the intelligence community, to the detriment of U.S. national security. But the most damning part of Hoekstra's three-page letter to the President dealt with the illegal spy programs. Hoekstra, a longstanding ally of the Bush White House, who defended the NSA spying program, minced no words:
"Finally, Mr. President, but perhaps most importantly, I want to re-emphasize that the Administration has the legal responsibility to 'fully and currently' inform the House and Senate Intelligence Committees of its intelligence and intelligence-related activities. Although the law gives you and the committees flexibility on how we accomplish that (I have been fully supportive of your concerns in this respect), it is clear that we, the Congress, are to be provided all information about such activities. I have learned of some alleged Intelligence Community activities about which our committee has not been briefed. In the next few days I will be formally requesting information on these activities. If these allegations are true, they may represent a breach of responsibility by the Administration, a violation of the law, and, just as importantly, a direct affront to me and the Members of this committee who have so ardently supported efforts to collect information on our enemies. I strongly encourage you to direct all elements of the Intelligence Community to fulfill their legal responsibilities to keep the Intelligence Committees fully briefed on their activities. The U.S. Congress simply should not have to play 'Twenty Questions' to get the information that it deserves under our Constitution.
"I've shared these thoughts with the Speaker, and he concurs with my concerns."
According to the Times report, the Committee was subsequently briefed on several intelligence programs that had been kept secret from the Congress. The Hoekstra letter represents another significant rift between the White House and leading members of Congress who had previously been ardent backers of the Bush-Cheney agenda and the war on terror.
Kentucky Democrat Targets Cheney for Profiteering
On July 12, the same day that Cheney arrived in Owensboro, Ky., to attend a fundraiser for incumbent Republican Rep. Ron Lewis, Lewis's Democratic opponent, Vietnam veteran Mike Weaver went on the offensive, charging that Cheney "has some explaining to do." Weaver demanded Cheney release the papers on his secret energy task force, which met in 2001, after which gas prices in the U.S. skyrocketed.
Even more pointedly, Weaver demanded that Cheney say what he is going to do about companies that have profiteered in the Iraq war, noting that Halliburton, of which Cheney was CEO, has reaped huge profits. The Halliburton issue was also raised by Virginia Democratic Senate candidate James Webb on July 9, in a televised exchange with his incumbent opponent, Republican Sen. George Allen.