WASHINGTON — The Bush administration applied relentless pressure on interrogators to use harsh methods on detainees in part to find evidence of cooperation between al Qaida and the late Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein's regime, according to a former senior U.S. intelligence official and a former Army psychiatrist.
Such information would've provided a foundation for one of former President George W. Bush's main arguments for invading Iraq in 2003. In fact, no evidence has ever been found of operational ties between Osama bin Laden's terrorist network and Saddam's regime.
The use of abusive interrogation — widely considered torture — as part of Bush's quest for a rationale to invade Iraq came to light as the Senate issued a major report tracing the origin of the abuses and President Barack Obama opened the door to prosecuting former U.S. officials for approving them.
Former Vice President Dick Cheney and others who advocated the use of sleep deprivation, isolation and stress positions and waterboarding, which simulates drowning, insist that they were legal.
A former senior U.S. intelligence official familiar with the interrogation issue said that Cheney and former Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld demanded that the interrogators find evidence of al Qaida-Iraq collaboration....(Click for remainder.)
The Public Record
On the heels of the recent story about Army Chief of Chaplains Maj. Gen. Douglas Carver ignorantly issuing a proclamation for a day of fasting for the Army on the first day of Passover, the Military Religious Freedom Foundation (MRFF) began receiving complaints about Maj. Gen. Carver's endorsement and promotion of an organization called American Defenders of Freedom (ADOF). MRFF receives countless complaints and reports about our military's senior officers endorsing and facilitating the missions and activities of various para-church groups and evangelical organizations that clearly violate both military regulations and the Constitution these officers took an oath to uphold, but this one is just extra special.
ADOF is an evangelical Christian ministry that evangelizes and proselytizes military personnel by using the military's chaplain corps to distribute prayer coins by the tens of thousands sporting the official U.S. military branch emblems -- three out of the four branch emblems, that is. The Navy coin had to be redesigned last year because then Secretary of the Navy Donald C. Winter, who stepped down last month after staying on through the Obama transition, denied ADOF permission to use the Navy emblem on this evangelizing tool. According to the ADOF's January 2008 newsletter, Secretary Winter's respect for the constitutional and military prohibitions on this government promotion of religion was the work of Satan:
"The Navy Prayer Reminder Coin was completely re-designed (an improvement) because the Secretary of the Navy would not give permission to use the official Navy seal on the Navy Prayer Reminder Coin – Satan is always at work."But, ADOF is heartily endorsed and promoted by the Air Force and Army. In fact, Maj. Gen. Carver currently has an ADOF "newsletter insert" download on the Chief of Chaplains Office website's April 2009 newsletter. According to past ADOF newsletters, the promotion of this ministry to the military chaplaincies has been a regular occurrence each spring by both the Air Force and the Army....(Click for remainder.)
In 1935, Sinclair Lewis, author of “Babbitt” and the first American writer to be awarded the Nobel Prize, published a novel entitled “It Can’t Happen Here.”
It was written to influence the 1936 presidential election. The enormously popular ex-governor of Louisiana, Sen. Huey Long, “the Kingfish,” who campaigned to “Share the Wealth” with the people, was widely thought to be a threat to President Franklin Delano Roosevelt in his bid for a second term.
The Lewis novel envisioned someone like Long winning the presidency and installing an American counterpart to the fascist dictatorships already in power in Italy and Germany. Lewis was much influenced by his second wife, Dorothy Thompson, who was one of the most important syndicated political columnists of the 1930s and was greatly concerned about the possibility of populist dictatorship crossing the Atlantic.
Long was not a fascist, although he could have become a dictator. His support was from the poor. Rightist and white-supremacist forces actually formed an armed militia to oppose him, but Long was killed by an assassin, presumably with a family grievance against him, in 1935.
The man who actually opposed Roosevelt in 1936 was Republican Alf Landon of Kansas, a moderate who was defeated by Roosevelt in the greatest presidential landslide in American history. That year, FDR carried all but eight electoral votes. Sinclair Lewis’ fears had been misplaced; “It” didn’t happen here....(Click for remainder.)
By Michael Tomasky
From the second I read the sentence, I knew there was something fishy about it. Many years' experience in reading and then looking into rightwing canards set off the usual alarm bells in my head. So I know how these things work. But even I was shocked after I looked into the truth of the matter.
My daily readings led me to an interview with Newt Gingrich in Christianity Today. The former speaker was asked whether opposition to tax increases was an adequate "uniting message" for his party. Gingrich replied that there had to be more to the party's story. For instance, he said:
You have Obama nominating Judge Hamilton, who said in her ruling that saying the words Jesus Christ in a prayer is a sign of inappropriate behavior, but saying Allah would be OK. You'll find most Republican senators voting against a judge who is confused about whether you can say Jesus Christ in a prayer, particularly one who is pro-Muslim being able to say Allah.That seemed, frankly, ridiculous. I happened to know that the "Hamilton" in question was from Indiana and had a reputation as a moderate-to-liberal jurist. I also happened to know that "her" first name was David, so Gingrich could not get even this basic fact straight (obviously, he assumed, only some sort of Wiccan lesbian could deliver such a ruling!). So I wanted to know more....(Click for remainder.)
By Spencer S. Hsu
The Washington Post
The Obama administration is finalizing plans for a new Pentagon command to coordinate the security of military computer networks and to develop new offensive cyber-weapons, sources said last night.
Planning for the reorganization of Defense Department and intelligence agencies is underway, and a decision is imminent, according to a person familiar with the White House plans.
The new command would affect U.S. Strategic Command, whose mission includes ensuring U.S. "freedom of action" in space and cyberspace, and the National Security Agency, which shares Pentagon cybersecurity responsibilities with the Defense Information Systems Agency.
The Pentagon plans do not involve the Department of Homeland Security, which has responsibility for securing the government's non-military computer domain....(Click for remainder.)
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A Congressional panel is expected to approve legislation on Wednesday that would curb high credit card fees and penalties assessed by many banks that have benefited from the federal government's financial bailout program.
The pro-consumer bill, which would mean sweeping changes for banks that issue cards, is an important test of the political will of Democrats who are pushing for U.S. financial regulation reform.
The bill-writing session by the House Financial Services Committee takes place one day before top executives of big banks and credit card companies meet with President Barack Obama, who campaigned for credit card reforms.
Executives from Bank of America Corp, American Express Co, Citigroup Inc, Wells Fargo & Co, JPMorgan Chase & Co, Capital One Financial Corp, Visa Inc and MasterCard Inc will be among 14 credit card companies expected to attend the Thursday meeting at the White House.
"It's a new era in Washington," said Rep. Carolyn Maloney, a New York Democrat and chief sponsor of the House bill. "It's taken three years of hard work, but I'm delighted that we're on the brink of real protections for consumers."
Her proposed legislation would halt credit cards from imposing arbitrary rate increases and penalties and certain billing practices on balances with different rates. It is expected to win approval by the committee, and later by the full House....(Click for remainder.)
Terrorism-Watching Conservative Blogs Split Over Accusations of Bigotry and Treason
By David Weigel
The Washington Independent
Since the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, jazz musician and Web designer Charles Johnson has devoted his blog, Little Green Footballs, to exposing Muslim extremism in and outside the United States. His targets have included the Council on American-Islamic Relations, filmmaker Michael Moore, Reuters, Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.), Dan Rather, and the late pro-Palestinian activist Rachel Corrie — who some LGF commenters (not Johnson) call “St. Pancake,” a tribute to the Israeli steamroller that killed her. LGF helped write the lexicon of the self-styled “anti-Jihadist” blogosphere — from “moonbat” (”an unthinking or insane leftist”) to “anti-idiotarian” (”anyone who grasps the significance of and does his or her best to combat the post-9/11 political alliance between the ‘Old Left’ and militant Islam”).
But in the early days of Barack Obama’s presidency, LGF has become better known for the various fights it picks with many on the right — including conservative bloggers, critics of Islamic extremism, and critics of Islam in general who used to be Johnson’s fellow travelers.
Johnson has blasted Fox News host Glenn Beck, promoting a video from a Beck-inspired party that shows conservatives ranting about evolution and arguing that “this turn toward the extreme right on the part of Fox News is troubling, and will achieve nothing in the long run except further marginalization of the GOP.” In response to the news that the Department of Homeland Security was watching for increased right-wing extremism — something that most of the conservative blogosphere, like most Republicans, responded to with angry ridicule — Johnson pointed to the recent arrests of right-wing terrorists and criticized bloggers for buying into “distorted claims” about the DHS report. When Obama genuflected before King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia, Johnson found archival video of President Bush bowing to take a medal from the King and urged conservatives to turn down their “hyperventilating nonsense.”
This has the blogger’s peers asking themselves the same question, over and over: What the heck happened to Charles Johnson?
“I don’t think I’ve changed,” Johnson said. “I’ve always been pretty independent. This is something I’ve really tried to put out there on my blog. I don’t consider myself right-wing.”...(Click for remainder.)
Associated Press via Yahoo! News
WASHINGTON – Calling on Americans to volunteer, President Barack Obama signed a $5.7 billion national service bill Tuesday that triples the size of the AmeriCorps service program over the next eight years and expands ways for students to earn money for college. "What this legislation does, then, is to help harness this patriotism and connect deeds to needs," said Obama, a former community organizer in Chicago.
"It creates opportunities to serve for students, seniors and everyone in between," he said. "And it is just the beginning of a sustained, collaborative and focused effort to involve our greatest resource — our citizens — in the work of remaking this nation."
Joining Obama was Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, who has been battling brain cancer. Kennedy championed the legislation with Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, and the bill was named in honor of the Massachusetts Democrat.
Kennedy told the audience that included former President Bill Clinton, New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg and former first lady Rosalyn Carter that Obama's efforts echoed those of his late brother, President John F. Kennedy.
"Today, another young president has challenged another generation to give back to their nation," Kennedy said, citing his brother's advocacy for the Peace Corps....(Click for remainder.)
The Raw Story
In an unusual reversal of roles today, traditionally right-wing Supreme Court Justices formed a majority in a decision which expands, in practice anyway, citizens' Constitutional Fourth Amendment rights.
From the Criminal Lawyer blog:
In a stunning 5-4 decision, the Supreme Court today reversed its longstanding bright-line rule which had permitted warrantless car searches after an arrest, even when there was no concern for officer safety or the preservation of evidence. The case is Arizona v Gant."The high court's conservative majority in recent years has generally sided with the police while cutting back on the rights of criminal suspects in car cases," noted Reuters, reporting on the case in late March after the high court agreed to rule....(Click for remainder.)
Writing for the majority in this important decision, Justice Stevens held that the police may only search the passenger compartment of a vehicle, pursuant to the arrest of a recent occupant, if it is reasonable to believe that the arrested person might access the car while it’s being searched, or that the car contains evidence of the crime for which that person was arrested.
Interestingly, the votes were contrary to common stereotype. The majority, which limited police powers, included the two most right-wing justices in the popular mind, Scalia and Thomas. The minority, which would have expanded police powers, included two fairly liberal justices, Kennedy and Breyer.
It's time for Ken Burns to dust off his Steenbeck. Rick Perry has decided to ease Texas into some kind of secessionist revolt. This was bravely put forth on the historic GOP Tea Bagging Day. So in "The Civil War 2.0" Ken can cast Perry as Jeff Davis, struggling mightily to represent his people, trying to maintain their way of life (through their winter of longing for the glory days of Bush) against the tyrannical onslaught of Yankee oppressors (led by Kay Bailey Hutchison as Lincoln). Cannon and rifles are ready and soon explode in a fusillade of tea! The war objective? Hard to tell, but there's a governor's race coming up. Here's the latest poll:
U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, who has said she plans to run for governor in 2010, leads Perry 56 percent to 31 percent among likely Republican voters, according to a poll released Tuesday by Raleigh, N.C.-based Public Policy Polling.(Click for remainder.)
A key stimulus program to bring Internet service to rural America may not be up to the job of spending its $2.5 billion in extra funding effectively, according to a report (PDF) released Monday by the U.S. Department of Agriculture's inspector general.
The Rural Utilities Service's broadband program faced heavy criticism in 2005 when auditors found irregularities (PDF) with a quarter of the funds the program had received in its first four years of operation. In one case, the program loaned $45 million to wire affluent subdivisions in the Houston suburbs—including one that was built around a golf course and another outside one of the richest cities in Texas.
Monday's report found that the Rural Utilities Service continues to grant loans to areas that already have broadband service and to communities near major cities.
"We remain concerned with RUS' current direction of the broadband program, particularly as they receive greater funding under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act," Assistant Inspector General Robert W. Young wrote. "RUS' broadband program may not meet the Recovery Act's objective of awarding funds to projects that provide service to the most rural residents that do not have access to broadband service."...(Click for remainder.)
By John Aloysius Farrell
WASHINGTON — Barack Obama is discovering that there are some things a president cannot control — like whether Bush administration officials who authorized the use of forceful interrogation tactics in the months after the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks will face a public reckoning and potential legal sanctions.
Obama bowed to that reality today, acknowledging that he cannot rein in Justice Department prosecutors if they determine that the law was broken. And he’s apparently concluded that supporting an independent investigation like that conducted by the 9/11 Commission might be the best way to stave off a polarizing show trial on Capitol Hill.
“I do worry about this getting so politicized that we cannot function effectively, and it hampers our ability to carry out critical national security operations,” Obama said.
Neither the Justice Department, nor Congress, needs a president’s permission to investigate. Indeed, several congressional committees already have been probing how and why torture techniques became part of U.S. interrogation practices, and the Justice Department office of legal ethics is preparing its own report on Bush-era lawyers involved in the decision.
The Senate Armed Services Committee released the latest review on Tuesday night — a declassified account of the investigation the panel conducted last year. It details how, after high-level officials in the Bush administration OK'd the harsh techniques for terrorist suspects held at Guantanamo Bay, the practices spread to Afghanistan and then Iraq, despite protests by some military officials....(Click for remainder.)
Via The Financial Times
WASHINGTON, April 22 - David Kellermann, acting chief financial officer of mortgage giant Freddie Mac, was found dead on Wednesday in his suburban Virginia home, a Fairfax County police spokeswoman said.
Police were called at 4:48 a.m. EDT (8:48 GMT) to Reston, Virginia, spokeswoman Lucy Caldwell told Reuters.
Local media reported that Kellermann’s wife called in an apparent suicide, but Caldwell did not elaborate on the cause of death.
The incident is ”under investigation,” she said.
According to Freddie Mac’s website, Kellermann, 41, was with Freddie Mac for more than 16 years and named acting CFO in September.
Freddie Mac and rival mortgage finance company Fannie Mae were taken over by the U.S. government last year as mounting losses on housing investments weakened their balance sheets and played a role in the U.S. housing and global credit crisis....(Click for remainder.)
By Noelle Straub
Greenwire via The New York Times
How many Coloradans now hold top jobs at the Interior Department?
"So many," says Colorado Sen. Mark Udall (D), "that I understand the cafeteria at Interior is now offering up Rocky Mountain oysters."
Udall wasn't the only lawmaker to make a crack about the Centennial State contingent at Interior during a recent confirmation hearing for Tom Strickland, a former U.S. attorney in Colorado, to be Interior assistant secretary for fish and wildlife and parks.
"We're a little concerned about this Colorado cabal that seems to be settling in," joked Energy and Natural Resources Chairman Jeff Bingaman (D-N.M.).
Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, who until January was himself a U.S. senator from Colorado, has chosen so many of his home-state friends and former colleagues for key positions that some Western lawmakers make cracks or show pride about it, while others -- those who hail from other regions -- express some wariness....(Click for remainder.)
Water levels in some of the world's most important rivers have declined significantly over the past 50 years, US researchers say.
They say the reduced flows are linked to climate change and will have a major impact as the human population grows.
The only area with a significant increase in water flows was the Arctic due to a greater snow and ice melting.
The study was published in the American Meteorological Society's (AMS) Journal of Climate.
Rainfall patterns 'altered'
From the Yellow river in northern China to the Ganges in India to the Colorado river in the United States - the US scientists say that the major sources of fresh water for much of the world's population are in decline.
The researchers analysed water flows in more than 900 rivers over a 50-year period to 2004.
They found that there was an overall decline in the amount of water flowing into the world's oceans....(Click for remainder.)
As the marriage-equality debate moves to the New York state legislature, the state’s leading gay rights advocacy organization released an online-only video today that seeks to deflate three of the myths used by religious groups to oppose same-sex marriage.
The Empire State Pride Agenda's “Marriage Equality and Religion: The Massachusetts Experience” features comments from three religious leaders in the Bay State, where same-sex marriage has been legal since 2004. The Reverend Nancy Taylor of Old South Church; the Reverend Thomas Shaw, Episcopal bishop of the Diocese of Massachusetts; and the Reverend Michael Wayne Walker of Messiah Baptist Church in Brockton discuss how the First Amendment clashes religious groups cite have not come to pass in their state, and are unlikely to present a problem in New York.
Pride Agenda spokesman Josh Meltzer told Advocate.com that the video was prompted by "misinformation campaigns" the organization has observed in other states that leave some people "unclear" about how same-sex marriage actually affects religions and religious institutions.
The video reflects what appears to be an emerging strategy among New York marriage-equality advocates to distinguish between religious and civil marriage. During the press conference last Thursday where Gov. David Paterson announced the introduction of same-sex marriage legislation, openly gay assemblyman Daniel O'Donnell said in his public remarks, "I do not want a pew in your church. I do not want a seat in your synagogue. What I want is a piece of paper that is issued by my government."...(Click for remainder.)
In an April 20 article on a recent Department of Homeland Security intelligence report -- which "assesse[d] that rightwing extremists will attempt to recruit and radicalize returning veterans" -- The Washington Times stated that "[t]he report set off a firestorm of protest from veterans groups." However, the Times ignored the April 15 statement of the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW), titled, "DHS Report Was a Threat Assessment, Not Accusation." In the statement, VFW national commander Glen M. Gardner Jr. said that "[t]he report proves that DHS is doing its job, and that's to protect America and Americans."
The Times also reported that "[v]eterans groups objected to the report's citing of [Timothy] McVeigh, the Gulf War veteran who was executed in 2001 for killing 168 people in the 1995 bombing of a federal building." However, in the VFW statement, Gardner said, "The report should have been worded differently, but it made no blanket accusation that every soldier was capable of being a traitor like Benedict Arnold, or every veteran could be a lone wolf, homegrown terrorist like Timothy McVeigh. It was just an assessment about possibilities that could take place."
According to its website, "The Veterans of Foreign Wars of the United States, with its Auxiliaries, includes 2.2 million members in approximately 8,100 Posts worldwide."...(Click for remainder.)
By Mike Lillis
The Washington Independent
Today, Democratic Sens. Frank Lautenberg (N.J.), Jack Reed (R.I.) and Dianne Feinstein (Calif.) re-introduced legislation to close that loophole by requiring all gun-show vendors to perform background checks on potential customers.
“Allowing sales at gun shows without identification, without accountability and without knowing whether the buyer is a felon or mentally ill, is unacceptable,” Feinstein said in a statement. “This legislation proposes common sense protections that do not limit the rights of law abiding citizens to own and purchase guns.”
But the bill has a tough road ahead. The National Rifle Association, which opposes the proposal, is a juggernaut of political influence in Washington, and Democratic leaders, including President Obama, have all but conceded that gun reforms are likely going nowhere this year....(Click for remainder.)
Watch CBS Videos Online
By David Neiwert
Crooks and Liars
Last night, he even deigned to respond -- first, to Stewart, with smug, self-serving BS, and then to Colbert by attempting comedy. Which, as you can see, might be funny to someone with long-term dementia, but otherwise ... well, Bill, don't quit your day job.
Actually, the self-serving crap was really quite funny:
O'Reilly: Like Mr. Stewart, we like to poke a little fun -- but we're not hateful. Unlike Jon, we give the entire story, because our audience wants that.That gave me quite a chuckle....(Click for original.)
In an April 20 editorial, The Washington Times advanced the "myth" that 17 percent of guns recovered in Mexico have been traced back to the United States. The Times wrote that "[i]t is completely untrue that 90 percent of guns recovered in Mexico are from America. ... Of the ones sent here to be traced, 90 percent turn out to be from America, but most guns recovered in Mexico are not sent here so are not included in the count. Fox News reported that 17 percent is a more accurate number." However, FactCheck.org reported in an April 17 article that "the 17 percent figure is a myth, too. The [Fox News] reporters made some mistaken assumptions about how many guns had actually been traced to U.S. sources. ... The Fox numbers are 'a subset' of the actual total traced to U.S. sources, one official said." FactCheck.org added that if the rough figure provided by Mexico's attorney general is accurate, the real number is "more than double what Fox news has reported."
FactCheck.org wrote of Fox News' 17 percent "myth":
Fox News has put the percentage at only 17 percent, but we find that to be based on a mistaken assumption that throws its figure way off. We can't offer a precise calculation because we know of no hard information on the total number of guns Mexican officials have recovered. But if a rough figure given by Mexico's attorney general is accurate, then the actual percentage of all Mexican crime guns traced to U.S. sources is probably less than half what the president claims, and more than double what Fox news has reported.(Click for remainder.)
By Thomas Frank
The Tilting Yard at The Wall Street Journal
It has been three hard months of political exile for those on the right, a time for them to count their grievances and dress their outrage in the trappings of centuries past. Some have donned colonial outfits to stage tea parties. Others have found the 1860s more to their taste, reviving the fiery language of secession fever.
But they can all take heart from one development in the nation's capital. Good old K Street, where the big tea party never stopped, has all but halted organized labor's effort to make it easier for workers to unionize.
After massive lobbying both by labor and by business, it appears that the Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA), which, as it now stands, would allow workers to organize in many cases merely by signing cards instead of holding elections, will not have the 60 votes required to get past a Republican filibuster in the Senate.
Now, to be pro-labor is to resign yourself to years of failures and defeats, with few tea parties along the way for consolation. Even so, the setback on EFCA has to be a bitter one. Union members worked hard to elect Barack Obama and the Democratic Congress, as they did to put Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton in the White House. And now, just as in those previous two periods of Democratic governance, labor's friends are having trouble enacting basic labor-law reforms....(Click for remainder.)
By Brian Beutler
Talking Points Memo
(Click for remainder.)
On the April 20 edition of CNBC's Power Lunch, co-hosts Sue Herera, Michelle Caruso-Cabrera, Bill Griffeth, and Dennis Kneale all failed to challenge Rep. Mike Pence's (R-IN) debunked claim that the Obama administration and Capitol Hill Democrats are planning to introduce cap-and-trade legislation "which literally could see the utility rates of every American household go up by more than $3,100 per year." Pence's assertion echoes a claim by the House Republican Conference that the administration's FY 2010 budget included "a light switch tax that would cost every American household $3,128 a year"; the conference's staff reportedly pointed to a 2007 study by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) to support its claim. But MIT professor John Reilly, one of the authors of the study, has disputed the GOP's calculation, stating that his study "has been misrepresented" and that the Republicans' claim of an average household cost of $3,128 is "nearly 10 times the correct estimate" based on his study's cap-and-trade model.
On April 1, Reilly wrote a letter to House Republican Leader John Boehner (OH) (which Think Progress posted on its website) stating that there were "several things wrong with [the Republican] calculation," that Republicans' methodology was flawed, and that the study "has been misrepresented." Reilly wrote that this talking point "claims our report estimates an average cost per family of a carbon cap and trade program that would meet targets now being discussed in Congress to be over $3,000, but that is nearly 10 times the correct estimate which is approximately $340." Reilly then detailed several reasons why the Republican conclusion was flawed....(Click for remainder.)
Associated Press via The Denver Post
DENVER—The Colorado House approved a plan Tuesday to eliminate the death penalty and use the money to focus on cold cases.
The measure now goes to the Senate, where it's expected to pass. Gov. Bill Ritter, a former prosecutor, hasn't said whether he would sign the bill.
The bill passed by a single vote, 33-32, after victims' relatives asked lawmakers to help with unsolved slayings.
Rep. Ed Vigil, D-Fort Garland, cast the tie-breaking vote.
Vigil said he was torn by the decision, concerned that he was voting to take away an option for law enforcement to get guilty pleas, and the moral issue of taking a life. Vigil said he also worried that relatives of victims will now expect cold cases to be solved, which he said rarely happens.
"These are false hopes," he said.
Vigil was comforted by Rep. John Kefalas, D-Fort Collins, who said he whispered under his breath, "Thou shalt not kill," as Vigil struggled with his decision and eventually cast the final vote....(Click for remainder.)
The Washington Independent
Declaring that Dawn Johnsen “is so against an unborn child’s right-to-live that she has labeled mothers-to-be ‘fetal containers’,” Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) sent a letter to President Obama today urging him to withdraw her nomination to head the Office of Legal Counsel.
“Nominating Dawn Johnsen to head the Office of Legal Counsel is an insult to pro-life Americans who are willing to work with President Obama to find common ground,” King wrote. “Her personal pro-abortion agenda, previous disparaging comments about pro-life Americans and past criticism of Congress’ ban on partial-birth abortion are evidence that she is not interested in finding common ground with those who oppose her narrow philosophy,” said King in a statement released today.
Johnsen’s legal arguments defending the right to an abortion come from cases she handled as a lawyer at the National Abortion Rights Action League, or NARAL, a position she left in 1993.
King’s statements echo the charges of Senator Arlen Specter and other Republicans at Johnsen’s confirmation hearing, where she was attacked for a statement she made in a 20-year-old footnote to a brief she wrote to the Supreme Court in an abortion case. That footnote was also cited by Andrew McCarthy in the National Review....(Click for remainder.)
By The Denver Post
Though the hazy spectacle pot smokers created Monday — and that they create each April 20 at 4:20 p.m. — grabbed some media attention, it probably did little to advance their cause of legalizing marijuana.
This country has waged an expensive and ineffective "war on drugs," including marijuana, for decades, and it's high time (to rather predictably borrow a phrase) that the debate on whether to decriminalize cannabis reached the halls of Congress.
Interestingly, it's not just the dope smokers in the park calling for legalized marijuana use. Conservative, progressive and libertarian intellectuals alike have argued that we ought to legalize marijuana. The Post's editorial board has long called for an end to the war on pot.
Our opinion meshes, in this instance, with that of the late conservative writer William F. Buckley Jr., who once argued that "the government should treat marijuana more or less the same way it treats alcohol: It should regulate it, control it, tax it, and make it illegal only for children."
President Barack Obama has requested more than $14 billion to fund the drug war at the federal level in 2009. State and local enforcement costs drive that figure far higher.
Year after year, a few hundred thousand people end up in court and prison as a result of drug crimes. Our overcrowded prisons are just one reason to take another look at some of our drug laws....(Click for remainder.)
|The Daily Show With Jon Stewart||M - Th 11p / 10c|
|We Don't Torture|
The Huffington Post
Rick Santelli is an unlikely character to be complaining about taxes and deficits. But it knocks on the door of absurdity when you recognize that he was an organizer of the not- so-spectacular teabagger protest. The head teabagger, Santelli, never protested when George Bush handed out $150 billion to AIG and $29 billion to Bear Stearns. We never heard a word from the head teabagger when his Wall Street cronies were bailed out with taxpayers' money. But Santelli showed indignant outrage when President Obama began spending money on Americans losing their homes to foreclosure. That Santelli teabagging crowd was outraged when Obama created a stimulus package to put average Americans back to work.
I have some great news for the Santelli crowd. But it's probably not what their Wall Street pals are going to want to hear. The Public Interest Research Group (PIRG) found billions of dollars hidden in offshore corporate tax havens. This would no doubt upset the teabaggers to know that there is more than 100 billion dollars worth of tax shelters offshore created by many of Santelli's Wall Street pals. We don't have money to pay for schools, teachers, new roads, and health care, but billions of dollars are sitting in no-ask no-pay corporate tax shelters offshore.
Go online and look at PIRG's data and you will see that those protesters in Florida who took the time to dress up in patriot costumes and hang tea bags all over their body could have found billions of dollars worth of unpaid revenue in corporate tax havens. In fact, last year, Florida taxpayers lost 5 billion dollars in the offshore tax shell game. If you were a California teabagger dressed up like Paul Revere or Martha Washington you probably would have felt overwhelmingly ridiculous once you learned that 11 billion in revenues left that state to places like the Grand Cayman Islands....(Click for remainder.)
The New York Times' David Barstow won a richly deserved Pulitzer Prize yesterday for two articles that, despite being featured as major news stories on the front page of The Paper of Record, were completely suppressed by virtually every network and cable news show, which to this day have never informed their viewers about what Barstow uncovered. Here is how the Pulitzer Committee described Barstow's exposés:
Awarded to David Barstow of The New York Times for his tenacious reporting that revealed how some retired generals, working as radio and television analysts, had been co-opted by the Pentagon to make its case for the war in Iraq, and how many of them also had undisclosed ties to companies that benefited from policies they defended.By whom were these "ties to companies" undisclosed and for whom did these deeply conflicted retired generals pose as "analysts"? ABC, CBS, NBC, MSNBC, CNN and Fox -- the very companies that have simply suppressed the story from their viewers. They kept completely silent about Barstow's story even though it sparked Congressional inquiries, vehement objections from the then-leading Democratic presidential candidates, and allegations that the Pentagon program violated legal prohibitions on domestic propaganda programs. The Pentagon's secret collaboration with these "independent analysts" shaped multiple news stories from each of these outlets on a variety of critical topics. Most amazingly, many of them continue to employ as so-called "independent analysts" the very retired generals at the heart of Barstow's story, yet still refuse to inform their viewers about any part of this story....(Click for remainder.)
The Huffington Post
Senator Russ Feingold, one of the harshest critics of the Bush administration's national security policies, says he cannot bring himself to support President Obama's apparent decision not to investigate or prosecute illegalities from those years.
"Part of what troubles me are the lawyers -- we should see their law school degrees -- who consciously wrote these memos justifying and explaining full well those outrageous arguments," the Wisconsin Democrat said on Tuesday in reference to the Bush-era torture memos released last week. "I cannot join the president, or his spokesman, or [chief of staff] Rahm Emanuel, who said we aren't going [to prosecute these people]. I can't. I just disagree with them."
Later, the Senator took a swipe at some of the rationalizations for avoiding prosecution that have been voiced by Washington lawmakers and pundits.
"If you want to see just how outrageous this is, I refer you to the remarks made by Peggy Noonan this Sunday," he said, referring to the longtime conservative columnist's appearance on ABC's This Week. "I frankly have never heard anything quite as disturbing as her remark that was something to the affect of: 'well sometimes you just have to move on.'"
"Some things in life need to be mysterious," Noonan said on Sunday about the release of the torture memos. "Sometimes you need to just keep walking. ... It's hard for me to look at a great nation issuing these documents and sending them out to the world and thinking, oh, much good will come of that."...(Click for remainder.)
The 183 instances of waterboarding authorized by the Bush administration is the smoking gun. It’s now impossible to overlook that there existed a program of systematic American torture.
This is a problem for the new administration. Torture trials are not going to get them any credit, or earn them any favors. They’ll take the moral superiority, but would just as soon leave aside the practicalities of placing specific blame.
They’re worried, though, that it’s not going to go away. They’re obviously going back and forth right now, trying to figure out which side they ought to be on. The decision to release the secret reports was one impulse; the move to reassure the CIA torturers that they’re above board, another.
But it’s pretty unavoidable. Because the torture was carefully rationalized, the documentation is going to be bureaucratic and meticulous. We will have dispassionately recorded in hundreds of hours of video unimaginable brutality—our dispassion will make the brutality all the more vicious. And it will reach, of course, to ever-and-ever higher places. You don’t do this stuff without covering your ass....(Click for remainder.)
The Huffington Post
As I write this, Obama Press Secretary Robert Gibbs has yet to start his Tuesday briefing. Odds are, he's huddling with top administration officials trying to figure out what answers he'll give to the crack White House press corps when they bombard him with questions about Obama's statement earlier today that any decision to prosecute top Bush Crime Family operatives is up to Attorney General Eric Holder, and any decision to open Congressional hearings is up to, well, Congress.
The statement Obama made at a White House photo op with Jordan's King Abdullah concerned the opinions written by top Bush Justice Department Lawyers "legalizing" torture techniques. Having yesterday cleared the actual torturers -- who were, um, just following "legal" orders when they hit, stomped, slapped, restrained, partially drowned and otherwise committed acts against "detainees" that shredded whatever myths still exist that the United States respects the rule of law, our own and those found in international treaties we have agreed to -- Obama said "...with respect to those who formulated the policies, that is going to be more of a decision for the attorney general within the parameters of various laws". He also opened the way for a Congressional inquiry into the issue when he added, "...if and when there needs to be a further accounting," he hoped that Congress would examine ways to obtain one "in a bipartisan fashion," from people who are independent and therefore can build credibility with the public.
Well, well, well. A move toward justice? An attempt to undo some of the hideous damage the Bush Crime Family perpetrated against the foundations of this republic? A glimmer of light cast over the dark, filthy, sick policies of Cheney, Yoo, Bybee, Libby, Bush, and the rest of the nest of snakes that took this country into what became a slimy, twisted, lawless "reality" they so famously declared they would constantly be creating? If so, there will be no "bipartisan" effort to bring these thugs to justice. In fact, the Republicans in Congress and the Limbots in media will do anything and everything (more tea-bagging? gun rallies? immigrant burnings? lynchings?) to prevent such hearings or investigations ever from taking place....(Click for remainder.)
Senator James Inhofe, the other batshit crazy, searingly stupid Senator from Oklahoma, took time out from his daily, fact-deprived denials of global warming to declare that he plans on filibustering the nomination of Judge David Hamilton of Indiana to the Seventh Circuit because . . . wait for it . . . he thinks Hamilton is an undercover Muslim.
Inhofe's San Andreas-sized faulty logic, via the blog Overruled:
In his conclusion [of Hinrichs v. Bosmah], Hamilton wrote: “If the Speaker chooses to continue any form of legislative prayer, he shall advise persons offering such a prayer (a) that it must be nonsectarian and must not be used to proselytize or advance any one faith or belief or to disparage any other faith or belief, and (b) that they should refrain from using Christ’s name or title or any other denominational appeal.” Further, ruling on a postjudgment motion, Hamilton stated that invoking the name of “Allah” would not advance a particular religion or disparage another. So, praying to Allah would be perfectly acceptable.Talk about a leap of faith. If Inhofe had the reading comprehension skills necessary to score higher than a 200 on the SATs, he'd understand that what Hamilton was actually stating was that according to the Supreme Court's ruling in Marsh v. Chambers, opening a government proceeding with the generic term "God", in any language, be it English, Urdu, or yes, even Arabic, is to be considered nonsectarian and thus, acceptable under the Establishment Clause of the U.S. Constitution. However, specifying "Jesus Christ" is, ipso facto, Christian, and thus, sectarian and violates that silly document we use to create and monitor our laws.
We really do need an I.Q. test for government officials....(Click for original.)
The Huffington Post
Today we're releasing the declassified report of the Senate Armed Services Committee's investigation into the treatment of detainees in U.S. custody. The report was approved by the Armed Services Committee on November 20, 2008 and has, in the intervening period, been under review at the Department of Defense for declassification.
In my judgment, the report represents a condemnation of both the Bush administration's interrogation policies and of senior administration officials who attempted to shift the blame for abuse - such as that seen at Abu Ghraib, Guantanamo Bay, and Afghanistan - to low ranking soldiers. Claims, such as that made by former Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz that detainee abuses could be chalked up to the unauthorized acts of a "few bad apples," were simply false.
The truth is that, early on, it was senior civilian leaders who set the tone. On September 16, 2001, Vice President Dick Cheney suggested that the United States turn to the "dark side" in our response to 9/11. Not long after that, after White House Counsel Alberto Gonzales called parts of the Geneva Conventions "quaint," President Bush determined that provisions of the Geneva Conventions did not apply to certain detainees. Other senior officials followed the President and Vice President's lead, authorizing policies that included harsh and abusive interrogation techniques.
The record established by the Committee's investigation shows that senior officials sought out information on, were aware of training in, and authorized the use of abusive interrogation techniques. Those senior officials bear significant responsibility for creating the legal and operational framework for the abuses. As the Committee report concluded, authorizations of aggressive interrogation techniques by senior officials resulted in abuse and conveyed the message that physical pressures and degradation were appropriate treatment for detainees in U.S. military custody....(Click for remainder.)
Emptywheel @ Firedoglake
By now you've heard Cheney's claim that he asked the CIA to declassify all the great intelligence we got from waterboarding and Greg Sargent's earlier report that Cheney hadn't asked the CIA directly for those documents.
Greg Sargent has an update that explains how the former Fourth Branch intends to get them, now that he's a withering vine.
That whole question of whether Dick Cheney asked the CIA to declassify and release intelligence supposedly proving that the torture worked? Turns out Cheney made the request through the National Archives, a spokesperson for the archives confirms.Remember why Cheney and the National Archives have been in the news of late--the report that, contrary to plan, Cheney decided to keep all his materials at the Archives rather than send them to Dallas to put in Bush's Library. He needs the materials close, you see, so he can access them for his memoirs....(Click for remainder.)
That means that we may, in fact, see the documents that Cheney claims will demonstrate that the Bush torture program collected a whole bunch of useful intelligence, though it may take awhile.
National Archives spokesperson Susan Cooper confirms that Cheney did submit a request for unspecified documents on March 31st. Cooper said that the National Archives had asked the relevant agency — she wouldn’t say which one, but there’s little reason to doubt that it’s the CIA — for the relevant documents this morning.
Cooper confirmed that the docs Cheney asked for were in fact classified. Keep in mind we have no way of knowing what Cheney actually asked for or whether they really say what Cheney claims. It’s now up to the CIA to make the determination whether to declassify the docs Cheney wants. So this could get very, very interesting in various ways.
The Huffington Post
"The decisions that are made in the next six months or so are likely to set the economic course of this country for the next 50 years," says Elizabeth Warren, who chairs the COP, the Congressional Oversight Panel charged with reviewing the banking bailout. "That's what happened coming out of the Great Depression, and I think that will happen now."
So Warren is pushing for Treasury to show us the money. What has been done with the $4 trillion the Treasury Department, Federal Reserve and Federal Deposit Insurance Corporations have poured into the financial houses to date? In February, Warren's committee revealed that Treasury provided the top ten TARP recipients with a subsidy of $78 billion over the market value of the preferred shares purchased for taxpayers, even while stating publicly that the purchases were made "at par."
But it has been hard going. This weeks' brief hearing with Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner represented the first time a Treasury official appeared before the panel. And repeated requests for documents were met with "prolonged silence," in the words of COP commissioner Damon Silvers, until Treasury finally disgorged 10,000 documents this week....(Click for remainder.)
Associated Press via The Huffington Post
WASHINGTON — The Senate on Tuesday confirmed President Barack Obama's choice to be the next U.S. ambassador to Iraq despite fierce opposition from conservatives who complained about the nominee's diplomatic record.
Senators voted 73-23 to confirm career diplomat Christopher Hill as Washington's new envoy to Baghdad over the strenuous objections of Sen. Sam Brownback, R-Kan. Brownback had stalled the approval process for three weeks.
Brownback accused Hill, the Bush administration's chief negotiator with North Korea, of ignoring North Korean human rights abuses and agreeing to a flawed disarmament pact with the regime.
A small group of Brownback's fellow Republicans joined him in voting against Hill on those grounds, because of his lack of experience in the Middle East and over concern that he might have overstepped his authority in negotiating with the North Koreans.
But a majority of senators decided that Hill's confirmation to the critical post should not be delayed any longer. Many argued that Hill, a 32-year veteran of the foreign service, is qualified to run the U.S. Embassy in Iraq, America's largest overseas diplomatic mission....(Click for remainder.)
President says use of waterboarding showed US had 'lost moral bearings' as Dick Cheney says CIA memos showed torture delivered 'good' intelligence.
By Ewen MacAskill and Robert Booth
Senior members of the Bush administration who approved the use of waterboarding and other harsh interrogation measures could face prosecution, President Obama disclosed today .
He said the use of torture reflected America "losing our moral bearings".
He said his attorney general, Eric Holder, was conducting an investigation and the decision rested with him. Obama last week ruled out prosecution of CIA agents who carried out the interrogation of suspected al-Qaida members at Guantánamo and secret prisons around the world.
But for the first time today he opened up the possibility that those in the administration who gave the go-ahead for the use of waterboarding could be prosecuted.
The revelation will enrage senior Bush administration figures such as the former vice-president Dick Cheney.
The Obama administration views the use of waterboarding as torture, while Cheney claims it is not....(Click for remainder.)
The Huffington Post
I really have to object with the way Chuck Todd is characterizing the underlying public pressure that's being brought to bear on President Obama and the White House to investigate and potentially prosecute the authors and the agents of the previous administration's torture regime.
The whole thing is knit up in political process tropes and infused with the pointless melodrama of the day, when a serious and substantive look at this issue is called for.
MITCHELL: They clearly are responding to the letter from Diane Feinstein...and the whole question of whether - in the liberal blogosphere whether they have been too quick to shut down any prosecutions.(Click for remainder.)
TODD: There does seem to be a little bit of a reaction to how this was received on the left. And the president, when he went on in those comments, Andrea, to suggest that he'd be open to some sort of special commission that was bipartisan, you know, he said, on one hand said he's worried about the process getting politicized, and frankly this feels like a political food fight now. Vice President Cheney on one side, President Obama on the other. The hard left, the hard right, fighting over this in the blogosphere. When he talks about - he fears the politicization - that may be too late, so the compromise might be, and the president basically comes out and endorses it in that photo op, questioning that he got there, which is a special commission to look into this but it opens up all sorts of doors on when legal opinions matter and all that. That is just -- this is some touchy situation, issues having to do with legal opinions, the constitution, it's a real tightrope. And the political pressure on both sides is intense.
I first gained access to the OLC memos and learned details about CIA's program for high-value detainees shortly after the set of opinions were issued in May 2005. I did so as Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice's policy representative to the NSC Deputies Committee on these and other intelligence/terrorism issues. In the State Department, Secretary Rice and her Legal Adviser, John Bellinger, were then the only other individuals briefed on these details. In compliance with the security agreements I have signed, I have never discussed or disclosed any substantive details about the program until the classified information has been released.
Having been the executive director of the 9/11 Commission, I'm aware of what some of these captives did. The Commission wondered how captives were questioned (for details on that, see this previously disclosed report), and the matter is now the subject of a federal criminal investigation by special prosecutor John Durham. Nonetheless, the evidence against most -- if not all -- of the high-value detainees remains damning. But the issue is not about who or what they are. It is about who or what we are.
Based on what had earlier been released, I have offered some general views on "Legal Policy for a Twilight War." With the release of these OLC memos, I can add three more sets of comments, each of which could be developed at much greater length.
1. The focus on water-boarding misses the main point of the program.
Which is that it was a program. Unlike the image of using intense physical coercion as a quick, desperate expedient, the program developed "interrogation plans" to disorient, abuse, dehumanize, and torment individuals over time....(Click for remainder.)
The Huffington Post
No timid wimp is former CIA Director Michael Hayden. And he's not reluctant to tell you so. You can find out what a tough guy he really is by reading his opinion piece, written with former Attorney General Michael "Not sure waterboarding is torture" Mukasey in the April 17 Wall Street Journal, defending the use of torture and objecting to the release of the nightmarish memos. We're talking here about "walling", (repeatedly smashing a detainee against a wall), stress positions (hanging a person from the ceiling with feet barely touching the floor -- including a one legged man), sleep deprivation for as long as 11 days, cramped confinement (put in a casket-sized box or smaller -- insects optional), and that medieval favorite, waterboarding.
In fact, it was the torture described in these memos, the existence of secret prisons, Guantanamo Bay, and Abu Ghraib that endangered the security of the United States. What better tools could there be to inflame and recruit new terrorists and instill hatred for our country throughout the Muslim world and beyond? Still Mukasey and Hayden clearly believe that these techniques should have been used and should be used in the future. They are in favor of torture.
Hayden and Mukasey accuse the no-torture policy of inviting "the kind of institutional timidity and fear of recrimination that weakened intelligence gathering in the past, and that we came sorely to regret on September 11, 2001." That's a version of history I actually hadn't heard espoused by anyone ever before -- that had the intelligence community not been weakened by timidity and fear, 9/11 might not have happened. All this time I thought it had more to do with the fact that the White House did nothing to follow up on the August 6, 2001 daily briefing entitled "Bin Laden determined to strike in U.S." that included the warning that "FBI information... indicates patterns of suspicious activity in this country consistent with preparations for hijackings..."...(Click for remainder.)