United States News Digest
Anti-Blackwater Act: 'S.O.S.: Stop Out-Sourcing Security'
Nov. 8 (EIRNS)U.S. Reps. Jan Schakowski (D-Ill.), Bob Filner (D-Calif.), Tom Allen (D-Maine.), Keith Ellison (D-Minn.), and Steve Cohen (D-Tenn.) yesterday introduced the "Stop Out-Sourcing Security (S.O.S.) Act." The bill would phase out the use of private military contractors wherever Congress has authorized the use of force, including Iraq and Afghanistan.
"Our bill would essentially put private security contractors out of business in Iraq, Afghanistan, and in war zones around the world," said Schakowsky.
The S.O.S. Act calls for a phase-out of privately supplied diplomatic security within six months of enactment of the bill and a full phase-out of all private security contractors by Jan. 1, 2009 everywhere Congress has authorized the use of force.
Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) has introduced a companion bill in the Senate. "To my mind," Sanders said, "it is wrong and unacceptable for companies like Blackwater to operate outside the chain of command of the United States military and United States government in Iraq."
Number of Homeless Veterans Expected To Surge
Nov. 8 (EIRNS)A dramatic rise is expected in the number of recent U.S. veterans who will become homeless after discharge from service in Iraq and Afghanistan, and who are unable to deal with their psychological, as well as physical problems from the experience. The Veterans Affairs Department and aid groups are expecting the numbers of these homeless to grow in the immediate period ahead. The VA is already unable to cope with homeless vets dating back to Vietnam service. There are 195,800 homeless veterans in the United States, according to a recent study26% of the total homeless population, and 1% of the total number of veterans.
Today's New York Times reported, "Experts who work with veterans say it often takes several years after leaving military service for veterans' accumulating problems to push them into the streets. But some aid workers say the Iraq and Afghanistan veterans appear to be turning up sooner than the Vietnam veterans did." The Times quotes the head of a San Diego residence and counselling center that, "We're beginning to see, across the country, the first trickle of this generation of warriors in homeless shelters, but we anticipate that it's going to be a tsunami." Among the causes of this veterans homelessness, are high rates of post-traumatic stress disorder, traumatic brain injury leading to unstable behavior and substance abuse, and long and repeated tours of duty preventing re-integration into work and family.
NSA 'Sweeping Up Everything' in Domestic Wiretaps
Nov. 7 (EIRNS)The AT&T technician who stumbled across a secret room in the company's San Francisco facility which was sending copies of all telephone and Internet communications to the NSA, is on Capitol Hill this week, urging Congress not to give immunity to the telecommunications companies for their illegal cooperation with the Administration's domestic surveillance program.
AT&T whistleblower Mark Klein, whose affidavits form the basis for a lawsuit against AT&T and the NSA, now pending in Federal court in San Francisco, says that the wiretapping program was much larger than anyone has acknowledged so far. "They're just copying the whole Internet," he told the Washington Post, without any distinction between international and domestic communications, or any effort to obtain only data from suspected terrorists. And he says that companies such as AT&T that participated in this, do not deserve legal protection.
"I think they committed a massive violation not only of the law, but of the Constitution," Klein told the New York Times.
Calling it "the most comprehensive illegal domestic spying program in history," Klein said that his job required him to arrange the physical connections between Internet communications flowing through AT&T "and the NSA's illegal, wholesale domestic copying machine for domestic emails, Internet phone conversations, web surfing, and all other Internet traffic."
Klein obtained wiring diagrams showing devices that split signals into two identical copies, with one copy going to the NSA. "This splitter was sweeping up everything, vacuum-cleaner style. The NSA is getting everything. These are major pipes that carry not just AT&T's customers, but everybody's."
Other sources have documented that the entire NSA surveillance program, which began prior to 9/11, was run under the direct control of Vice President Dick Cheney.
Hedge Fund Money Buys Up Democratic Leaders
Nov. 7 (EIRNS)Over the past two years, as Congress began to scrutinize the role of private equity firms and hedge funds, eventually formulating Rep. Charles Rangel's (D-N.Y.) legislation to make the funds' managers pay fair taxes, hedge fund executives were pouring money into Congressional campaign committees and PACs, to keep legislators in line.
In the first nine months of this year, according to the Nov. 7 Washington Post, hedge funds and investment firms have poured $11.8 million into Washington, two-thirds of which went to Democrats. This contrasts with the $11.3 million they gave for the two years 2005-06. Contributions to Congressional candidates, campaign committees and leadership PACs total almost $4.8 million this year, well above the $3 million for 2005-06 combined. Some 83% of this amount went to Democrats, compared to the 53% they received in the last election cycle.
Instructive is the case of hedge-fund giant James H. Simons of Renaissance Technologies LLC, who donated $28,500 in June of this year to the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee (DSCC), whose chairman, New York Democrat Sen. Charles Schumer, was at that time waffling on legislation to raise taxes on private equity funds. Just a few days earlier, hedge fund manager Steven A. Cohen of SAC Capital Advisers, had also given $28,500 to the DSCC. Simons, in total, has given nearly $200,000 to various Democratic committees since last year.
By July, Schumer publicly stated his opposition to the Rangel legislation to tax the hedge funds, reportedly because they were important to the financial health of New York City. The Post quoted Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.) explaining, "Hedge funds are to New York what tobacco has been to North Carolina. People don't like to tax their constituents."
Senate Confirms Mukasey, Despite Fudging on Torture
Nov. 9 (EIRNS)On Nov. 8, the Senate voted 53-40 to confirm the nomination of Michael Mukasey to be U.S. Attorney General. Two days before, the Senate Judiciary Committee had sent Mukasey's nomination to the floor over the objections of committee chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) and retired military, intelligence, diplomatic, and law enforcement officers. Mukasey's nomination turned in the committee on the votes of Democrats Dianne Feinstein (Calif.) and Charles Schumer (N.Y.), who offered sophistical arguments to justify their votes, including that Mukasey had assured them that if Congress passed a law outlawing waterboarding, he would obey it. But other outraged Senators pointed out correctly that waterboarding, a technique which dates back to the Spanish Inquisition, is already illegal under U.S. laws and treaty obligations, and that the United States has prosecuted it as a war crime for over 100 years.
Four retired military flag officersMarine Corps Brig. Gen. David M. Brahms, Army Maj. Gen. John Fugh, and Navy Rear Admirals Donald Guter and John Hutsonsent a letter to Judiciary Committee chairman Patrick Leady yesterday, saying that any reluctance to denounce waterboarding as torture "represents both an affront to our law and to the core values of our nation." They also state that the law is clear: "Waterboarding detainees amounts to illegal torture in all circumstances."
BAE Confirms That DOJ Is Still Investigating
Nov. 5 (EIRNS)The U.S. Justice Department's investigation of the British arms firm BAE Systems is still active, despite the Justice Department's policy of silence on the matter, a BAE spokesman confirmed to EIR today.
In an article in the Louisville Courier-Journal about Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell's earmarks for BAE plants in his state of Kentucky, BAE spokesman Greg Caires was quoted as saying: "We continue to cooperate with the ongoing Department of Justice investigation, and it would be inappropriate for us to comment further at this time." Caires confirmed to EIR that he had issued the above statement on Nov. 3.
In late June, BAE itself disclosed that the DOJ was investigating it for possible violations of the Foreign Corruption Practices Act. The probe revolves around millions in bribes paid by the British to Dick Cheney's favorite Saudi, Prince Bandar bin-Sultan.
Meanwhile, the U.K. Home Secretary is still refusing to respond to questions as to why the Home Office hasn't yet complied with the U.S. request for documents and evidence, or when the Home Office expects to do so.