United States News Digest
VA Tech Probe Not Over; Families May Sue State
Sept. 7 (EIRNS)Six families, whose relatives were killed in the Virginia Tech massacre in April, have retained a law firm which previously represented the families who lost members in the 1999 Columbine shootings, reported the Sept. 6 Washington Post. The Washington law firm Grenier and Fierberg won a $1.5 million settlement against Jefferson County, Colorado, in the 1999 Columbine shootings, where students Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold murdered fellow students and teachers. Harris and Klebold were fanatical users of violent video games such as "Doom." The Virginia Tech killer, Seung-Hui Cho, had said back in 1999, that he "wanted to repeat Columbine." Cho's fascination with Columbine was documented in the Virginia Tech Investigative Panel report, issued last week. The report touches on number of issues which could come out in full, in legal proceedings. These include Cho's mental history, which was not made known to the University, and his addiction to killer video games.
GAO Flunks Department of Homeland Security
Sept. 6 (EIRNS)The Government Accountability Office (GAO) released a report today, finding that the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has failed to achieve even half of the 171 goals established to keep America safe when the DHS was created in 2003. The 320-page report concludes that the DHS has "generally achieved" 78 goals, and "generally not achieved" 83, with no determination made on 10. The DHS was furious, issuing a letter to GAO chief David Walker (on July 20) complaining that the GAO was using a "flawed methodology" for review, and disagreeing with 42 of the 171 goal assessments, according to AP.
The GAO, a bipartisan agency of the Congress, also released a report last week flunking the Administration on its progress in Iraq, finding that only three of 18 benchmarks set by the Congress for the "surge" had been achieved.
Judge Strikes Down Patriot Act Provision as Unconstitutional 'Breaking and Entering'
Sept. 6 (EIRNS)A Federal judge today struck down a key provision of the Patriot Act, as passed by Congress in 2001 and amended by Congress in 2005, calling it "the legislative equivalent of breaking and entering, with an ominous free pass to the hijacking of constitutional values."
The stricken provision is that providing for the use of National Security Letters (NSL), which enable the FBI to obtain financial, telephone, and Internet records without a court order or subpoena. U.S. District Judge Victor Marrero of the Southern District of New York, said that, given the potential seriousness of the intrusion into someone's personal affairs, and the possible chilling effect on free speech and association, there is "compelling need" to ensure that the use of NSLs "is subject to the ... checks and balances and separation of powers that our Constitution prescribes."
The Patriot Act also imposes a gag order on anyone who receives an NSLin this case an Internet Service Providerpreventing the recipient from telling anyone about it; the court also declared this to be unconstitutional.
An internal FBI audit, and a separate Justice Department Inspector General's report, both found a significant number of legal violations in the FBI's use of NSLs in the post-9/11 period.
Addington Ran Administration's Legal Policies, Says Former DOJ Official
Sept. 9 (EIRNS)More details on how Dick Cheney rammed through the Administration's legal policies that justified torture and warrantless wiretapping, among other things, are contained in an article in the Sept. 9 New York Times Magazine, based on interviews with the lawyer who ran the Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel from October 2003 until he resigned in June 2004.
Jack Goldsmith, a conservative who agreed with the Administration's goals in its "war on terror," but disagreed with policies such as the rejection of the Geneva Conventions and the Administration's extreme formulations on what constitutes torture, says that the most important legal decisions were not made by the Office of Legal Counsel (OLC), which is supposed to advise the President on the powers of the Executive branch, but instead by a "war council" that excluded the OLC head Jay Bybee, but included Addington, and Cheney-Addington allies such as John Yoo, the deputy head of OLC; and Pentagon General Counsel William Haynes. Attorney General John Ashcroft was upset that Yoo was able to bypass him, and have direct access to White House Counsel Alberto Gonzales, Goldsmith says.
In those meetings, Addington was the "biggest presence in the room," Goldsmith says, adding that Addington was known as someone who "spoke for and acted with the full backing of the powerful vice president, and someone who crushed all bureaucratic opposition."
When Goldsmith presented his analysis that the Fourth Geneva Convention, regarding treatment of civilians in a war zone, applied to insurgents and terrorists in Iraq, Addington was livid. "The President has already decided that terrorists do not receive Geneva Convention protections," Addington said. "You cannot question his decision." When Goldsmith decided to withdraw the most infamous of the "torture memos," Addington was furious.
"I probably had a hundred meetings with Gonzales, and there was only one time I was talking about a national-security issue when Addington wasn't there," Goldsmith says. "My conflicts were all with Addington, who was a proxy for the vice president. They were very, very stressful."
Goldsmith describes Addington and the White House as contemptuous of Congress and the courts, as well as laws they didn't like. "We're one bomb away from getting rid of that obnoxious [FISA] court," Addington told Goldsmith in February 2004, when the confrontation over the wiretap program was building.
Goldsmith says he doesn't know if the President understood how extreme were the arguments about executive power being made by Addington and others. "It's hard to know how he would know," says Goldsmith.
Army Claims Recruiting Success, But at Growing Cost
Sept. 4 (EIRNS)The Army announced today that it will meet its recruiting goals for fiscal year 2007, which ends on Oct. 30, but in a recruiting environment that is getting tougher. Maj. Gen. Thomas Bostick, the commander of the U.S. Army Recruiting Command, told reporters that the propensity for 17- to 24-year-olds to join the military is the lowest that it has been in two decades, having dropped from 25% to 15.7%. Support among mothers for joining the military has dropped from 40% in 2004 to 25% today, and among fathers, 50% to 33%. Bostick related the drop in support for military service to growing opposition to the war in Iraq.
To overcome these difficulties, the Army is paying higher bonuses and relaxing moral, educational, and age standards. One result is that the cost of getting a recruit to decide to join the Army, and then shipping him to basic training, has increased from an average of $14,000 in 2004 to $18,000 this year, with some recruits eligible for bonuses of up to $40,000.
As for the $20,000 "quick ship" bonus, where recruits who sign up in August and September get $20,000 if they go to basic training before the end of the fiscal year, Bostick denied that it had anything to do with the deployment rotation schedule, as some have speculated. "We are not quick-shipping to send them to Iraq," he said.
The Auto Industry Is Indeed Disappearing
Sept. 3 (EIRNS)National Public Radio (NPR) this morning, Labor Day, spent six minutes reporting on how "labor" is disappearing. Their focus was on the hundreds of small to medium-sized auto industry support facilities, which make the thousands of parts which are then assembled into automobiles, at the plants of Toyota, GM, Ford, and others.
This is the heart of the U.S. "machine-tool" industry; in fact, the shop NPR broadcast from had a 160-ton punch press, an incredible power-density tool.
They estimated some 30 major bankruptcies of these auto supply shops since 2000, and many smaller ones, amounting to 185,000 jobs lost, "far more than the major manufacturers," which have cut or lost "only" about 100,000 in the same time. Health insurance costs and steel prices are both up, and NPR acknowledged it's only going to get worse. Vehicle sales are down, and even Toyota is feeling the pinch. NPR's report concluded that another one-third to one-half of these shops won't be around in three years.
There is nothing inevitable about this development. LaRouche has had a proposal on the table for saving the auto machine-tool sector since the spring of 2005.