United States News Digest
House Hearing Challenges Vaunted Independence of Fed
Federal Reserve chairman Ben Bernanke, in his first appearance before the new Democratic leadership of the House Financial Services Committee Feb. 15, was told by chairman Barney Frank (D-Mass.) that he was "troubled" that Bernanke was talking about raising interest rates, that he seemed to be concerned with inflation more than employment issues. Frank put Bernanke on notice that the Congress must be "kept involved" in these decisions. Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas), now a ranking member on a subcommittee, then told Bernanke that he shared Frank's concern for oversight, that this was the Constitutional duty of the Congress, rather than the myth of the "independence of the Fed," whereby the Congress supposedly gave up its oversight rights.
Iraq Surge Is Increasing Strategic Risk
Outgoing Army Chief of Staff Gen. Peter Schoomaker testified to the Senate Armed Services Committee, on Feb. 15, that the measures that the Army is taking to equip and deploy five additional brigades into Iraq are reducing the Army's ability to respond to new contingencies. For example, there are 800 trucks that the brigades will need, but won't get until they arrive in Iraq, because there is no surplus of those trucks in the U.S. The trucks are currently being rebuilt in theater and will be distributed to those brigades when they arrive. Another measure the Army is taking to equip those brigades is to draw down pre-positioned stocks, which, Schoomaker said "are being used to accelerate" the deployment of those brigades; but doing so "increases the risk to strategic depth." Schoomaker would not elaborate further in an open hearing but he did say that his concerns "have increased" over the years that he's been Chief.
Also testifying was Marine Corps Commandant Gen. James Conway, who indicated that while the Marines' equipment problems are not as severe as those the Army is experiencing, Marine combat units are either in Iraq or preparing to go to Iraq. Therefore, they are not able to engage in the training that prepares them for the full range of combat operations.
Defense Rests With No Cheney, No Libby Testimony
With the judge irritated for being misled, and observers wondering what the heck is going on, Lewis Libby's lawyers rested their case Feb. 15 without calling any more witnesses, in the perjury trial of Dick Cheney's former chief of staff.
As a result of the announcement on Feb. 13 that neither Libby nor Cheney would testify as expected, Judge Reggie Walton banned the use of summary statements of classified information that had resulted from many weeks of hearings under the Classified Information Procedures Act (CIPA). "During the course of the CIPA hearings, it was my absolute understanding that Mr. Libby would testify," Walton said. "My CIPA rulings were predicated on Mr. Libby's testifying." An obviously exasperated Walton explained that the CIPA summary statements were drawn up as a substitute for the fact that Libby could not testify about certain matters because they were classified. "This turns the whole process into a game, when it is supposed to be truth-seeking," Walton stated, adding that "this is what happens when you play games with the process." After this, Walton ruled that since Libby is not testifying, he would not permit the substitute statements to be entered either.
On Feb. 14, three CIA briefing officers were scheduled to testify about the types of information on which they had briefed Libby during the time period germane to the indictment, but the defense decided not to put them on the stand either. Instead, the defense and the government read a stipulation to the jury as to the topics that they had briefed Libby on, on one particular day in June 2003. After reading a few other stipulations to the jury, the defense rested.
After the jury had left, Libby's lead lawyer Ted Wells launched into a long explanation, claiming that they had not misled the court, and that they decided not to put Libby on the stand because they had concluded that the government had not proved its case against Libby beyond a reasonable doubt. "We spent hours working on preparing for putting the Vice President on the stand," Wells said. "We spent hours working on preparing to put Mr. Libby on the stand."
"I had the Vice President on hold up to the last minute," Wells continued, claiming that Cheney was ready to testify Feb. 15, and that he had cleared his schedule to be able to do this.
Judge Walton told Wells that he assumed Wells was going through this, because of an AP story that went out midday, reporting that he (the judge) was misled, but, Walton said, he did not intend to suggest that there was intentional misleading of the court. However, it is difficult to interpret his remarks in any other way.
Closing arguments are scheduled for Feb. 20.
Iranian Offer Went All the Way Up to Colin Powell
Former National Security Council official and severe critic of the Bush Administration Flynt Leverett told an audience assembled by the New America Foundation and the National Iranian American Council that in 2003, then-Secretary of State Colin Powell received a "grand bargain" offer from Iran, but was rebuffed by the White House according to Rawstory Feb. 14. "I know as a fact from multiple sources this went all the way up to Secretary Powell," Leverett said, citing multiple sources at the State Department and the NSC. "In [Secretary Powell's] words, he 'couldn't sell it at the White House.'"
Leverett ridiculed current Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice's recent claims to Congressional hearings that she never saw the document. She was Bush's National Security Advisor at the time. "The document went over to the NSC" and "it is unthinkable" that it wouldn't have gone to then-National Security Adviser Rice, Leverett asserted. "She owes Congress an apology for saying she had not seen the document."
A day earlier, Hillary Mann, Leverett's wife, former Director for Iranian and Persian Gulf Affairs for the National Security Council, supported EIR's "Gulf of Sneezes" analysisthat the military buildup in the Gulf virtually ensures an "Gulf of Tonkin" provocation for war with Iran in an interview on CNN. After the host played a clip of Defense Secretary Robert Gates "denying three times" that the U.S. would invade Iran, she calmly stated that the U.S. is currently staging "a series of increasing provocations in anticipation of an eventual retaliation" that will allow the U.S. to conduct a surgical strike against Iranian nuclear facilities, and support facilities of the Revolutionary Guard. Asked for her solution, she pointed to the example of Nixon and Kissinger dealing with former enemy China after the Vietnam War. "Both sides would have to give a little," she said, "but there is a path."
Pace: No Evidence of Iranian Complicity in Iraq Bombs
The head of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Peter Pace, stated during a press conference in Jakarta on Feb. 13 that even if explosively formed projectiles (EFPS) used in Iraq are manufactured in Iran, "what I would not say is that the Iranian government, per se, knows about this." Pace also said that the U.S. does not see any threat from China, and has no indication that China intends to use its military capabilities "in an aggressive manner." The latter came in reply to a question about China's recent anti-satellite space test.
According to a Pentagon official, Pace has seen the briefing slides presented in Baghdad on Feb. 10, in which unidentified "senior officials" purported to prove Iranian involvement in manufacturing the EFPs, but "had no personal knowledge of any involvement by senior Iranian officials."
Skelton Demands 'Careful Scrutiny' of Iran Claims
House Armed Services Committee chairman Ike Skelton (D-Mo.) responded Feb. 10 to articles in the New York Times on Iran's providing IEDs to Iraq, and a Washington Post piece on al-Qaeda members held in Iran, with a call for "careful Congressional scrutiny" of Administration claims, and for engagement with Iran. Skelton said that, "Suggestions of Iranian involvement in providing these weapons that kill or maim American troops are extremely serious and require careful Congressional scrutiny.... Today's articles... demonstrate just how urgent it is that the United States adopts a strategy that extensively engages Iran on these and other issues, while making clear that any contributions to attacks on American forces is unacceptable.... Briefings delivered to the committee to date have not made clear the specificity or extent of the information that intelligence agencies have gathered.... Congress will insist on looking at all of the evidence, as well as at what the Administration has planned and what kinds of measures are required to address the situation."