United States News Digest
Shays Hits Iraq Policy Mess, Plans Hearings
Rep. Chris Shays (R-Conn), the chairman of the House National Security and Emerging Threats Subcommittee of the House Government Reform Committee, and an original supporter of the Iraq war, but increasingly a critic of the Administration's descent into the quagmire, has scheduled hearings to set a potential timeline for "handing Iraq over" to Iraqis. He said, "The American people are reaching out to their elected officials to help them figure out that this isn't an open checkbook for the Iraqis to draw from." Iraqis, military officers, and other experts will testify at the Shays hearings, entitled "Iraq: Democracy or Civil War," set for Sept. 11-15, on the overall considerations around withdrawal from Iraq.
Michigan GOP Candidate: Bush Should Meet with Auto Execs
The Republican gubernatorial candidate in Michigan, Dick Devos, who is a big financial supporter of President Bush, decried Bush's failure to meet with auto executives on the crisis in the industry AP reported Aug. 24. DeVos said: "We're being ignored here in Michigan by the White House, and it has got to stop. I'm just calling on the President now, and the White House, to get it done and to hold this meeting." Bush has been unable to find time to meet with the executives over the last several months as the auto industry collapse has accelerated. Governor Jennifer Granholm, a Democrat who is seeking another term, had sent a letter to Bush in July also urging such a meeting.
Lawsuit Filed in Sago Mine Disaster
Sago mine survivor Randall McCloy and two families that lost members in the mine disaster have filed lawsuits against Wilbur Ross's International Coal Group, according to the Pittsburgh Post Gazette Aug. 24. The lawsuits named ICG and its subsidiary Wolf Run Mining Co., which ran the Sago mine; Monroeville-based CSE Corp, which manufactured the self-rescuers, breathing devices that were issued to the miners; Westmoreland County-based Burrel Mining Products Inc., which made the lightweight Omega blocks used in the failed mine seals; GMS Mine Repair and Maintenance, based in Maryland, which helped construct the wall; and Raleigh Mine and Industrial Supply Inc., which sold the blocks used for the seal.
McCloy's complaint says that the mine seals were shoddily constructed in general, and that the miners had to share the limited oxygen supply.
McCain Shifts Stance on Iraq War
Warhawk Sen. John McCain's remarks while campaigning in Ohio Aug. 23, dramatically distancing himself from the Bush-Cheney Administration's Iraq war policy, are being widely seen as an abrupt shift connected to broader shifts moving the Republican Party against Bush and Cheney. Campaigning for Ohio Sen. Mike DeWine, who may lose to Democrat Sherrod Brown, McCain (R-Ariz) reversed his position, expressed as recently as Aug. 20, during an appearance on one of the Sunday talk shows. McCain said: "I think one of the biggest mistakes we made was underestimating the size of the task, and the sacrifices that would be required. 'Stuff happens, mission accomplished, last throes, a few dead-enders'I'm just more familiar with those statements than anyone else, because it grieves me so much that we had not told the American people how tough and difficult this task would be."
According to political source reports, McCain's switch was being discussed as possible positioning for a thoroughgoing anti-Cheney, anti-Bush GOP shift, before the 2006 elections.
GOP To Push Police-State 'Security Agenda' in September
Hoping to capitalize on the recent British terror arrests, and the upcoming fifth anniversary of 9/11, the Congressional Republican leadership will push legislation on terrorism and security when Congress reconvenes after Labor Day for a five-week session. Both the House and Senate will push bills on NSA spying and on military tribunals. House leaders are preparing press conferences, speeches, and other events to attack Dems as weak on national security.
In the Senate, Majority Leader Bill Frist plans to bring at least half-a-dozen bills to the floor as part of the "security agenda." This agenda will include the Defense appropriations bill, a conference report on Homeland Security appropriations, and the Defense authorization bill. The Senate Judiciary Committee will mark up Arlen Specter's (R-Pa) NSA bill on Sept. 7. Rep. Heather Wilson's NSA bill in the House will also be pushed, according to an ACLU official, who anticipates that the GOP will try to use the 9/11 anniversary to ram police-state measures through.
House Intelligence Committee Targets Iran
The day after Iran offered comprehensive negotiations on its nuclear program and other issues, the House Intelligence Committee released a new report targeting Iran, entitled "Recognizing Iran as a Strategic Threat." According to news reports, the report was written by Frederick Fleitz, a hatchet man for John Bolton.
Committee chairman Rep. Peter Hoekstra (R-Mich), on Fox TV Aug. 23, summarized the report by saying that "this is a country that is focused on developing a nuclear weapons capability. They are linked to other terrorist groups, specifically Hezbollah and Hamas. They are tied into the anti-U.S.-Iraqi government efforts in Iraq. They have a ballistic missile capability. This is not a very good country.... We need to make sure that the American people understand this threat..., many of us believe that the American people have become complacent, that they do not fully understand the threat that we face from radical Islam."
The report, issued by the Subcommittee on Intelligence Policy, and signed by the ranking Democrat, Rep. Rush Holt (D-NJ), as well as the Republican subcommittee chairman, calls for the intelligence community to step up intelligence activities regarding Iran. There is apparently no dissenting Democratic view.
Fleitz, the report's primary author, was a 19-year CIA veteran officer, part of a hard-line group that was often at odds with the Agency's leadership, when seconded to the State Department in 2001 to work as Bolton's Special Assistant and Chief of Staff. Prior to that, he had been assigned to work as liaison to the UN Blue Helmets; when he had a falling out with the CIA in the late 1990s, Bolton was his lawyer. While working for Bolton, he was in frequent contact with Vice President Cheney's office. He cherry-picked and cooked intelligence for Bolton, working with the Office of Special Plans in the Pentagon, and was continuously at war with the State Department intelligence division (INR).
Fleitz is also regarded by a number of observers as a prime suspect in the Plame leak.
Judge Who Struck Down NSA Spying Is Herself Targeted
Federal Judge Anna Diggs Taylor, who recently declared the NSA domestic wiretap program illegal and unconstitutional, is now being targetted for an alleged conflict of interest by Judicial Watchthe same group which filed over 100 lawsuits and complaints against President Bill Clinton and his Administration. Judge Taylor is the secretary and trustee of the Community Foundation for Southeastern Michigan, which has given four grants totally $125,000 to the Michigan ACLU for education on the Bill of Rights, and projects on racial profiling and gay rights. The Executive Director of the Michigan ACLU points out that this is "a real non-issue," that judges routinely work for non-profit groups, and many have not recused themselves for much stronger connections to an organization than Taylor had.
Taylor is also being targeted by a lot of legal "experts" who allegedly agree that the NSA program is illegal, but who claim she relied too much on "rhetoric" about hereditary kings, rather than citing all their favorite legal precedents.
Bush Administration Wants British-Style Detention Laws
On a conference-call briefing held by the ACLU Aug. 22, the organization's legislative counsel Lisa Graves reported that DHS Secretary Michael Chertoff and Attorney General Alberto Gonzales have both indicated that they are looking at a program of "preventive detention"i.e., jailing Americans without chargeas an outgrowth of the British terror investigation.
Appearing on the Sunday talk shows on Aug. 14, Chertoff said that he'd like to bring U.S. laws more in line with British laws, because "their ability to hold people for a period of time gives them a tremendous advantage." Gonzales echoed this the next day in Chicago, when asked about Britain's 28-day detention laws.
The ACLU's Graves denounced this as what would be a fundamental violation of U.S. Constitution and Bill of Rights, saying that "one of the reasons we have a Bill of Rights was because the English, the British, the Redcoats, back then, didn't respect those very rights. It's no surprise that England has a different legal structure than we do."
McCaffrey Warns a War on Iran Is a Loser
In an Aug. 20 appearance on NBC's "Meet the Press," retired Army General Barry McCaffrey advised the Administration to stop threatening Iran militarily. "We can only lose, and we have no forces to throw at it," he said, as the Army is already being destroyed. He ridiculed the idea of achieving victory with air war. We need to have diplomacy, he argued.