Nasty Letters To Crooked Politicians

As we enter a new era of politics, we hope to see that Obama has the courage to fight the policies that Progressives hate. Will he have the fortitude to turn the economic future of America to help the working man? Or will he turn out to be just a pawn of big money, as he seems to be right now.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Kenneth Foster's Execution Called Off!!!

Huge Victory against the Death Penalty - HOUSTON -- Texas Gov. Rick Perry today spared the life of inmate Kenneth Foster Jr., just hours before he was set to be executed for a murder he did not personally commit....

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Monday, August 27, 2007

GopPigs set out to steal California by Gaming the 2008 Presidential Vote

California’s proposed Presidential Election Reform Act, filed on July 17 by a Republican lawyer on behalf of Californians for Equal Representation, is starting to shock the political system and occupy talk radio and cable television. A state once considered reliably in the pocket of the Democrats may be in play again

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Friday, August 24, 2007


Originally uploaded by gordony2k.


Thursday, August 23, 2007

Leading Democratic presidential candidates disavow rapid Iraq withdrawal

By Patrick Martin
21 August 2007

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At a televised debate Sunday morning in Iowa, the three leading candidates for the Democratic presidential nomination all rejected calls for a pullout of all American troops from Iraq by the end of this year, declaring such an action either unfeasible or undesirable.

The side-by-side declarations by Senator Hillary Clinton, Senator Barack Obama and former Senator John Edwards demonstrate that if left up to the big business politicians in Washington, the US occupation of Iraq will continue indefinitely with an ever-greater toll in lives lost, destruction of Iraqi society and culture, and a growing danger that the conflict will spill over into neighboring countries.

Debate moderator George Stephanopoulos posed the question of the war in Iraq about half an hour into the debate, which was broadcast over the ABC “This Week” interview program which the former Clinton White House aide now hosts. He noted that Iraq had aroused more interest among voters in Iowa than any other issue. “They all wanted to know what your plans were to get out of Iraq,” he said.

He introduced the question by playing an excerpt of an ad for Senator Joe Biden in which Biden declares—in opposition to calls for an immediate or rapid withdrawal—“We must end this war in a way that doesn’t require us to send” troops back to Iraq later. Biden has carved out a niche as the Democratic presidential candidate most willing to publicly rebuke antiwar sentiment.

Des Moines Register journalist David Yepsen then asked New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson whether he agreed with the Biden ad. Richardson replied no. “To end this war, we have to get all the troops out, all of them. Our kids are dying. Our troops have become targets,” he said.

Richardson, who trails badly in opinion polls both nationally and in early primary and caucus states like Iowa and New Hampshire, has sought to make an appeal to antiwar sentiment to revive his campaign. He has, at least rhetorically, embraced the call for a complete withdrawal of all American troops. Not merely the withdrawal of combat troops, who comprise less than half the US presence in Iraq.

He told the television audience: “We have different positions here. I believe that if you leave any residual forces, then none of the peace that we are trying to bring can happen. And it’s important. And it’s critically important that we do this with an orderly timetable. But what is key is all of the troops out—no residual forces. You leave residual forces behind, the peace cannot begin.”

By calling on Richardson first on Iraq, Stephanopoulos gave each of the leading candidates for the Democratic presidential nomination the chance to publicly reject all-out withdrawal, and they seized on the opportunity with alacrity.

Biden, who is running sixth or seventh in the race, and is believed to be seeking the position of secretary of state in a future Democratic administration, set the tone in his remarks. Claiming to be leveling with the American people, he painted the consequences of an American defeat in Iraq in terms as apocalyptic as those habitually employed by the Bush administration.

“If we leave Iraq and we leave it in chaos, there’ll be regional war,” he said. “The regional war will engulf us for a generation. It’ll bring in the Shia, it’ll bring in the Saudis, it’ll bring in the Iranians, it’ll bring in the Turks.” Biden reiterated his support for de facto partition of Iraq, with US troops used “to separate the parties, give them some breathing room in order to establish some stability.” In any case, he declared, it was physically impossible to withdraw all US troops in less than 12 months.

Clinton, Edwards and Obama then responded, one by one declaring their full agreement with Biden and their opposition to full-scale withdrawal from Iraq.

CLINTON: We need to begin moving our troops out, and we have to do it carefully and responsibly. Joe is absolutely right. Moving troops out cannot happen without careful planning.... I think that, you know, this is going to be very dangerous and very difficult. A lot of people don’t like to hear that. But, if you look at how we would have to take our troops out, plus the equipment, which we would not want to leave, plus what we do with the people in the Green Zone, plus what we do with the Iraqis who sided with us—thousands of them—plus, what we do with the more than 100,000 American contractors who are there—this is a massive, complicated undertaking. And we do have to do it as carefully and responsibly as possible, and I think my plan takes all of that into account.

EDWARDS: I think it would be hard to do by December. I think we can responsibly and in a very orderly way bring our troops out over the next nine or ten months. But one thing I want to say, as I’m listening—I know you’re trying to create a fight up here, I understand that, but any Democratic president will end this war. That’s what we know. And secondly the differences between us, whether it’s Senator Clinton or Senator Dodd or Governor Richardson or Senator Biden, all of whom I have enormous respect for, the differences between all of us are very small compared to the differences between us and the Republican candidates.

OBAMA: I think Joe is right on the issue of how long this is going to take. This is not going to be a simple operation. I think Senator Clinton laid out some of the challenges that were out there. I agree with John Edwards that all of us on this stage I think would begin to bring this war to an end. I think we also can all agree that it’s going to be messy, that there are no good options. There are only bad options and worse options, and we’re going to have to exercise judgment in terms of how we execute this.

Richardson sought to further distinguish himself from the three leading Democratic contenders, pressing them to answer how many residual troops they would leave behind. “I don’t know, is it 25,000, 50,000, 75,000?” he asked. At the same time, he made it clear that he viewed withdrawal of US troops as a maneuver for achieving the same imperialist aims as his fellow Democrats. “My point is that by taking them all out, all our troops are no longer targets,” he said. “And then Al Qaeda and the insurgents, both that see American troops as their prey, will turn on each other.”

In rebuttal, Biden gave an even blunter declaration that Iraq was a failed state that the US government would have to sustain indefinitely. He denounced illusions “that there is any possibility in the lifetime of anyone here of having the Iraqis get together, have a unity government in Baghdad that pulls the country together. That will not happen, George. It will not happen in the lifetime of anyone here.” In other words, the United States will be in Iraq for decades.

There is a clear division of labor among the Democratic presidential candidates. Three Democrats, Richardson, Congressman Dennis Kucinich and former senator Mike Gravel, are posturing, with minor differences, as full-blast antiwar candidates. They have zero chance of winning the presidential nomination, with Richardson widely expected to be seeking to raise his national profile in the hopes of being selected as a vice presidential candidate. Their candidacies serve, not to pressure the Democratic Party to the left, but to give a pro-war imperialist party an antiwar fig leaf.

Clinton, Obama and Edwards are the three candidates most likely to win the Democratic presidential nomination and the general election. They have the most money, the most support in the political establishment, and the most media attention—and therefore the highest ranking in opinion polls.

As plausible contenders for the position of commander in chief, they are constantly called on to reassure the American financial oligarchy—the true decision-making constituency in a presidential campaign—that they will use all necessary means to defend the worldwide strategic and economic interests of American imperialism.

Hence the series of squabbles over Obama’s suggestion that he would be willing, as president, to meet face-to-face with various rulers targeted for overthrow by the US government—Fidel Castro, Hugo Chavez, Kim Jong Il, etc—as well as the possible use of nuclear weapons against Iran or Al Qaeda, or a possible US commando raid into northwest Pakistan.

As potential presidents, all three are at pains to make clear to the ruling elite that, whatever verbal appeals they make to popular antiwar sentiment, they will not give up the territory seized by the Bush administration in Iraq and Afghanistan. Their differences with the Bush administration are quantitative and tactical, not qualitative or strategic.

Their real outlook was summed up by Obama in his description of Bush’s leadership of the war in Iraq: “This is the equivalent of George Bush drove the bus into the ditch, and there are only so many ways you can pull that bus out of the ditch,” he said. Obama indicts Bush, not for waging a criminal war of aggression, but for waging it incompetently. It’s time for a new driver—i.e., a new commander who will execute future imperialist wars with more skill than the current occupant of the White House.

As the New York Times noted last week, in a front-page analysis August 12, “Even as they call for an end to the war and pledge to bring the troops home, the Democratic presidential candidates are setting out positions that could leave the United States engaged in Iraq for years.... The candidates are not only trying to retain flexibility for themselves in the event they become president, aides said, but are also hoping to tamp down any expectation that the war would abruptly end if they were elected.”

Hillary Clinton demonstrated this reality in one remark at the Des Moines debate. The Democratic candidates had to be concerned how their antiwar statements were received, she suggested, declaring: “It’s so important that we not oversell.”

In other words, what truly troubles the leading Democrats is that popular sentiment has moved so sharply against the war that its continuation by a Democratic administration that takes office January 20, 2009 could touch off a political explosion. It’s time to lower expectations, Mrs. Clinton counsels.

See Also:
Democrats conceal pro-war policy in South Carolina debate
[25 July 2007]

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Caught Between the U.S. and Al-Qaeda

Inter Press Service
By Ahmed Ali*

BAQUBA, Aug 20 (IPS) - The major U.S. military operation in Baquba city north of Baghdad has ended, but it has left continuing suffering for residents in its wake.

The U.S. military launched Operation Arrowhead Ripper in Baquba, 50 km northeast of Baghdad, on Jun. 18. Baquba is the capital city of Iraq's Diyala province.

The stated goal of the operation was to eradicate al-Qaeda from the city and other areas in the province. The region has seen some of the highest number of attacks on U.S. troops.

Shortly after launching the operation, the U.S. military admitted that nearly 80 percent of al-Qaeda militants had fled the area.

Residents had been looking for an end to raids and abductions by criminal gangs and sectarian death squads, but the U.S. military operation brought no relief.

"People here feel afraid because the coalition forces always push al-Qaeda out of the cities, but unfortunately they return when the troops retreat," resident Mohammed Hulail told IPS. "So the coalition forces can provide no solution."

A Baquba city official, speaking on condition of anonymity, told IPS that al-Qaeda militants had already returned to parts of the city. "We are now sure that Iraqi police and army cannot defeat al-Qaeda who are well fortified in the streets and buildings."

Residents have learnt to fear enemies on all sides. "People are the victims of this war because they are in the middle point between the American forces and the fighters of al-Qaeda," Jabbar Ibrahim, a secondary school teacher in the city told IPS. "The fighters of al-Qaeda came to control the city, but when the U.S. troops came to fight them, they ran away, leaving civilians to face the shells and the bombs."

Many residents complain of indiscriminate arrests through the U.S. forces' search for al-Qaeda suspects. "Arrests are sometimes made wrongly; simple people who have nothing to do with fighting and violence were arrested, and those who were the real fighters ran away," a resident who declined to give his name told IPS.

The Iraqi Islamic Party has accused the Multi-National Forces operating in the area of killing many people in Baquba in the early weeks of the operation.

"The operations led by the U.S. forces in western Baquba led to the death of more than 350 people, most of whom are still under the rubble," the party said in a statement.

Many residents in this city of 300,000 say that operation Arrowhead Ripper has made living conditions worse. "We spent 12 days without water, electricity and food," Hamid Shaaban, a 51-year-old retired city official told IPS, "And U.S. forces were of little help."

"I have seven children," said Shaaban. "I went to ask U.S. troops for food and water." All he got, he said, was some bottled water. He was then sent away.

The shortage of water hit the city at the worst time of the year. "The temperature was between 45 and 51 degrees C," an elderly woman said. "We have had very long days, it has been terrible."

Most residents IPS spoke to said they would leave if they could, but they either lacked funds or simply did not know where to go.

"We do not have another place to go in order to leave this miserable place," resident Kamil Abid told IPS. "All places are the same, and we have no money to start again."

The U.S. military has often detained people who have stayed home during the attacks and searches. Several residents say a decision to stay on was often seen as a gesture of defiance.

Now almost everyone seems fed up with the violence and intimidation from all sides. "What people want is security in order to get back again to their jobs to earn their living," said the owner of a local food store. "Providing this is the responsibility of the coalition forces and the Iraqi government."

Suspicions abound that the U.S. forces do not really want to solve the problem. "U.S. governments always tend to create an enemy, and then fight him in order to show weak governments, like this one in Iraq, that they cannot do without the support of U.S. power," said a retired army officer.

(*Ahmed, our correspondent in Iraq's Diyala province, works in close collaboration with Dahr Jamail, our U.S.-based specialist writer on Iraq who travels extensively in the region)

Do you have a dysfunctional workplace?

Does your boss act out and throw tantrums like a spoiled child?
Does your company ship most of its product the last 24 hours of the quarter?
Are you afraid to bring up certain hot-button issues in meetings for fear of being humiliated?
Do you spend more time covering your ass than you do sitting on it?
Is your company in a perpetual state of limbo because nobody can make a decision?
Does your company's mission statement change weekly?

These are all signs of a dysfunctional workplace. But don't fret; you're not alone. In fact, an entire lexicon has grown up around dysfunctional corporate behavior. See if you can recognize some of the issues that drive you and your co-workers nuts in these definitions:

Analysis paralysis. Chronic debating that obstructs the decision making process. Often a systemic problem within a company and a symptom of dysfunctional leadership, processes, and pretty much everything else. Also see disruptive management style.

Breathing your own fumes. When executives actually start to believe and make decisions based on the spin-doctored bulls--t they consistently spew out to the media, analysts, investors, customers and employees.

Blowing smoke up someone's ass. Feeding an insincere compliment or bulls--t to someone who should know better but hasn't been around long enough to develop a healthy, cynical filter against that sort of thing. Not to be confused with having your head stuck up someone's ass.

Committing political suicide. Pissing off or going toe-to-toe with your dysfunctional boss, some other self-important executive, or someone one of those people mistakenly trusts more than they trust you. AKA a career ending move.

CYA. Means cover your ass. It's what weak, small-minded people do when they should be doing the right thing instead.

Disruptive management style. Euphemism for an executive who chronically swoops into meetings and makes wild, half-assed decisions based on limited data. Also, an executive prone to mucking with processes and projects and making everyone affected want to strangle him. Can cause strategy or roadmap du jour and analysis paralysis.

Don't s--t where you eat. I think everybody knows this one...except maybe Bill Clinton.

End of quarter panic. The last week of the quarter when everybody--especially sales--wakes up and actually does their job. Usually results in pulling an all-nighter on the last day, followed by 12 weeks of partying.

Going down a rathole. When two or more people get into a non-productive fight or argument over a hot topic where neither side will give in. Often occurs when one pushes another's buttons and can involve emotional outbursts, acting out, cursing and name-calling. See take it offline--the only cure.

Hallway meeting. This is when managers make decisions, in the hallway or in an office or cubicle, they shouldn't be making. The manager who is supposed to be making these decisions is typically missing from hallway meetings. Often the result of passive aggressive behavior and results in strategy or roadmap du jour.

Ivory tower mentality. When senior officers cut themselves off from employees, investors, and customers, typically by adding protective layers of superfluous executives, secretaries, voice mail systems, and outer offices. Caused by a deep fear of confronting their own issues, not because they think they're better than you.

Moral flexibility. I first heard this expression in the movie Grosse Pointe Blank where John Cusack's character is an assassin possessing a certain moral flexibility. Same thing with executives that possess this quality, except the fallout leads to fraud, scandal, and shareholders losing their savings, not their lives.

Passive aggressive behavior. When somebody agrees to a plan against his wishes--typically in a meeting with everyone present--and then goes off and does what he wanted to do in the first place, usually without telling anybody. Similar to an end around, can also be related to back stabbing.

Sacred cow. A project that's immune to the company's typical processes - like operating plans, phase reviews and budgeting--because it's a self-important executive's pet project. Not to be confused with a sacred animal you're not supposed to eat or wear, although drinking its milk is apparently okay.

Silo mentality. When people focus solely on themselves, their department, their division, whatever, to the detriment of the broader organization. Similar to bunker mentality, which is defensive behavior to protect a project or organization that should have been killed long ago.

Strategy du jour. When dysfunctional executives consistently overreact to a single data point or hallway meeting and take the entire organization in a new direction instead of sticking with "the plan." A serious problem that often results in spiraling morale, efficiency and operating performance. AKA roadmap du jour. Not to be confused with a common secondary symptom--reorg du jour.

Take it offline. What you do when one or more people get completely off-track or off-topic in a meeting, sometimes going down a rathole. Also, what you tell two people who are getting into an embarrassing display of childish emotion in what's supposed to be a civilized work environment.

Title inflation. When most of a company's employees are VPs who are not qualified to sweep a normal company's floors.

If you identify chronic evidence of several of these afflictions in your company, you may wish to consider alternative employment options. If, on the other hand, you're the cause, I understand that Lexapro and Celexa work wonders. A little psychotherapy probably wouldn't hurt, either.

There must be dozens more; let us know what we missed. You get extra points for originality.

Bush you Effing Bastard You--Steal Money from Middle Class but leave enough for the bullets, eh?

White House moves to limit health plan: report
Mon Aug 20, 2007 11:13 PM ET

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The Bush administration has adopted new standards that would make it much more difficult for states to extend health coverage to children in middle-income families, The New York Times reported on Monday.

The new standards for the Children's Health Insurance Program were outlined in a letter sent to state health officials on Friday evening, the newspaper said.

The letter from Dennis Smith, the director of the federal Center for Medicaid and State Operations, set a high standard for states that want to raise eligibility for the program above 250 percent of the poverty level, the Times said.

Before making such a change, Smith said, states must demonstrate that they have "enrolled at least 95 percent of children in the state below 200 percent of the federal poverty level" who are eligible for either Medicaid or the child health program, the newspaper said.

Administration officials said the changes were aimed at returning the focus to low-income children and to make sure the program did not become a substitute for private health coverage, the Times said.

Deborah Bachrach, a deputy commissioner in the New York State Health Department told the paper: "No state in the nation has a participation rate of 95 percent."

California wants to increase its income limit to 300 percent of the poverty level, from 250 percent. Pennsylvania recently raised its limit to 300 percent, from 200 percent. The New York state legislature recently passed a bill that would increase its income limit to 400 percent of the poverty level, up from 250 percent, according to the newspaper.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

A travesty of justice: Jose Padilla found guilty

By Joe Kay
17 August 2007

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A Miami, Florida jury found US prisoner Jose Padilla guilty Thursday on three terrorism-related counts. Padilla, a 36-year-old American citizen from Chicago, faces a possible life sentence.

The verdict is a travesty of justice and a testament to the growth of police state measures and the advanced state of decay of democratic rights in the United States.

Padilla was convicted along with two co-defendants—Adham Amin Hassoun and Kifah Wael Jayyousi—on two counts of material support for terrorism and one count of conspiracy to murder, kidnap and maim people overseas. The verdict was reached after only a day and a half of deliberations.

The government immediately declared victory, with Gordon Johndroe, a spokesman for the National Security Council, saying, “We commend the jury for its work in this trial and thank it for upholding a core American principle of impartial justice for all. Jose Padilla received a fair trial and a just verdict.”

Not only is the outcome of the trial the very opposite of a “just verdict” and example of “impartial justice,” it was not the result the government originally intended. The response of the Bush administration contains a substantial element of relief that it was able to secure a guilty verdict. If the administration had had its way, Padilla would never have been presented before a court of law at all.

Padilla was arrested in May 2002 in Chicago’s O’Hare International airport. The government first held Padilla as a “material witness” to the September 11 attacks, but in June of that year, then-Attorney General John Ashcroft held a press conference to announce that Padilla had plotted to explode a radioactive “dirty bomb” somewhere in the United States. He was declared an “enemy combatant” and shifted to a military brig in South Carolina, where he was held in an isolation cell without being charged and without access to a lawyer for three-and-a-half years.

It quickly became clear that the allegations against Padilla were not only sensationalized, but of highly dubious substance. While Padilla evidently had some ties to Islamic fundamentalists, Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz acknowledged at the time that there was “not an actual plan” to carry out a dirty bomb attack.

The portrayal of Padilla as a major terrorist threat who was, in the words of Ashcroft, prepared to inflict “mass death and injury,” served two essential purposes. It came at a convenient time for the Bush administration—amidst revelations that US intelligence agencies and Bush himself had ignored or suppressed warnings of the September 11 terrorist attacks—and enabled the administration to divert attention from the many unanswered questions about its failure to avert the attacks, while promoting the Padilla case as a victory in the “war on terror.”

More fundamentally, the Bush administration wanted to use Padilla to assert its claim that the president could order the indefinite military detention of a US citizen, detained on US soil. On the grounds that he was an “enemy combatant,” Padilla was denied communication with the outside world, stripped of his habeas corpus rights, and subjected to systematic physical and psychological torture.

Throughout his period in military confinement, Padilla suffered under the most horrendous conditions, according to a brief filed by his lawyers. He was imprisoned in severe isolation—the only prisoner in a high security prison bloc. He was caged in a nine-foot by seven-foot cell, with no access to sunlight. He was deprived of sleep, subjected at various times to intense light or complete darkness, tortured with extreme noise, and often shackled in contorted positions. He was given psychoactive drugs and “truth serums,” including LSD and PCP.

This treatment is in flagrant violation of the US Constitution and both American and international law, not to mention the most basic standards of human decency. However, for the Bush administration, Padilla was outside the law. Because he was denied access to the courts, he had no recourse to challenge his detention or seek remedy for his treatment.

In a 2003 brief, Vice Admiral Lowell Jacoby, director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, said that Padilla’s treatment was designed to create a sense of “dependency and trust” necessary for interrogation. In an interview with Democracy Now! yesterday, Dr. Angela Hegarty, who interviewed Padilla for the defense in order to evaluate his mental state, gave an indication of what this “dependency and trust” meant.

According to his family and friends, Hegarty said, “There was something wrong” with Padilla after the prolonged detention. “There was something ‘weird’...Something not right. He was a different man.”

Hegarty said that during her interview with him, Padilla was in a state of “absolute terror, terror alternating with numbness...He was like...a trauma victim who knew that they were going to be sent back to the person who hurt them and that he would...subsequently pay a price if he revealed what happened.”

Hegarty noted, “[T]his was the first time I ever met anybody who had been isolated for such an extraordinarily long period of time...Sensory deprivation studies, for example, tell us that without sleep, especially, people will develop psychotic symptoms, hallucinations, panic attacks, depression, suicidality within days.” But Padilla “had been in this situation, utterly dependent on his interrogators, who didn’t treat him all that nicely, for years.” Hegarty said that what happened to Padilla was “essentially the destruction of a human being’s mind.”

In November 2005, fearing an unfavorable decision by the Supreme Court on its indefinite military incarceration of Padilla and its denial of all due process rights, the government abruptly shifted its position. Padilla was transferred to a civilian prison in Florida and charged with other crimes—crimes that had absolutely nothing to do with the allegation of “dirty bomb” plots and subsequent claims that Padilla was plotting to blow up apartment buildings and hotels in American cities. As a result of this shift, the Supreme Court decided not to hear the case challenging Padilla’s detention, which had the effect of upholding an appellate court decision siding with the government.

The new charges alleged that Padilla, along with his two co-defendants, conspired to commit murder overseas and provide material support for terrorism. In particular, Padilla was said to have participated in an Al Qaeda training camp in Afghanistan in 1998, where he learned how to kill and commit terrorist acts. The main pieces of evidence provided by the government consisted of hundreds of hours of taped phone conversations, obtained through wiretaps, over a period of several years, and a document that was supposedly an application form signed by Padilla to participate in the Al Qaeda camp.

The criminal trial was stacked against Padilla from the beginning. US District Judge Marcia Cooke denied several motions by the defense to throw out the case because of the illegal and inhuman treatment to which the defendant was subjected. Padilla’s lawyers argued that by torturing him, the government had forfeited the right to prosecute him. They also argued that Padilla had become so mentally impaired as a result of his treatment that he was incompetent to stand trial.

The government decided very deliberately not to base its case on any statements made by Padilla during confinement. In this way they sought, successfully, to prevent any discussion of his treatment before the jury.

The actual physical evidence presented by the prosecution was extremely weak. Of the over 300,000 intercepted phone conversations that the government collected, only seven involved Padilla. None of these included any of the “code words” that the prosecution claimed referred to plans to carry out terrorist attacks.

The application presented by the government as evidence that Padilla traveled to Afghanistan is highly dubious. Padilla’s fingerprints were only on the outside pages, suggesting that he handled the document (perhaps in custody), but did not fill it out himself. Besides this form, the government provided no direct evidence that Padilla was ever in Afghanistan.

Relying on this weak evidence, the defense made the decision not to call any witnesses on Padilla’s behalf. The assumption was that the burden of proving the charges “beyond a reasonable doubt” lay with the prosecution, and that this burden had not been met.

The defense will likely appeal several of the decisions made by the judge in the course of the judicial process.

The jury’s decision to convict must be seen within the context of relentless fear-mongering and efforts to whip up hysteria in relation to Padilla’s case and the “war on terror” in general by the government, with the assistance of the media. Top government officials declared Padilla guilty of plotting to commit mass murder before the entire country. The media was filled for weeks in 2002 with details of “dirty bombs” and the destruction they could inflict.

In the trial itself, the prosecution sought to connect Padilla to Osama bin Laden, although it presented no evidence to substantiate such a link, hoping thereby to create a connection in the jury’s minds to the attacks of September 11. During one of the most significant moments in the trial, Judge Cooke allowed the prosecution to show a videotape of a 1997 interview with bin Laden, even though it had no direct relevance to the case.

The Kafkaesque treatment that Padilla has suffered is a warning to all Americans. Such are the conditions that can be meted out to anyone—whether a US citizen or not. According to the legal theory developed by the administration, constitutional rights must be sacrificed in the name of “security” in the “war on terror.”

Padilla’s conviction occurs within the context of a vast expansion of executive powers to spy on the population, deny basic democratic rights, and employ torture on prisoners held throughout the world.

As with every aspect of the administration’s assault on democratic rights, the treatment of Jose Padilla has provoked no serious criticism from the Democratic Party. To the extent that there have been mild complaints within the media and political establishment, it has been from the standpoint that the government has “overreached” in the “war on terror” and thereby damaged US imperialist interests around the world.

The conviction of Padilla comes less than two weeks after the Democrats helped pass a bill gutting the Fourth Amendment of the US Constitution and expanding the ability of the president to spy on the American people. (See “Congress authorizes vast expansion of domestic spying”).

Jose Padilla’s personal tragedy is a manifestation of the deep and irreversible decay of American democracy.

See Also:
Jurors begin deliberations in Jose Padilla trial
[16 August 2007]
Padilla “terrorism support trial” unravels
[30 June 2007]

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Bush political aide Karl Rove resigns

By Jerry White
14 August 2007

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Karl Rove, President Bush’s closest political advisor and chief Republican electoral strategist, announced Monday that he will leave his posts as White House deputy chief of staff and senior advisor at the end of August. Rove first made known the decision in an interview published in Monday’s Wall Street Journal, in which he said he was retiring from politics to spend time with his family in Texas.

According to the interview with Journal editorial page editor Paul Gigot, Rove had been considering leaving the White House for a year, but delayed the move after the Democrats won control of Congress and decided to stay on further to help shepherd the administration’s immigration bill through Congress—an effort that failed due mainly to opposition from congressional Republicans.

Rove personifies the ruthlessness of the US ruling elite in pursuing its interests against the broad masses of people both internationally and within the US. Utterly contemptuous of democratic processes, avid in the use of conspiratorial and legally dubious means, he exemplifies the Bush administration as a whole and, increasingly, the outlook of the dominant factions of the corporate-financial establishment.

Rove joined Bush on the South Lawn of the White House Monday morning for the official announcement. Bush referred to the long years of political collaboration between Rove and the Bush family, which began when Rove, then the head of the College Republicans, first established connections to the elder Bush in 1973.

Rove called the president a “man of far-sighted courage” and reiterated the reactionary themes he had helped make the mainstay of the Bush presidency. He praised Bush for putting “America on a war footing [to] protect us against a brutal enemy in a dangerous conflict that will shape this new century.”

Hailing Bush’s tax cuts for the wealthy, he said, “I’ve seen a leader respond to an economy weakened by recession, corporate scandal and terrorist attacks by taking decisive action to strengthen the economy and create jobs.” Finally, referring to the unprecedented consolidation of executive power, domestic spying and the trampling of Constitutional norms, Rove praised Bush as a “reformer” who had “challenged the Congress and the country to make bold changes to important institutions in great need of repair.”

The resignation of Rove is bound up with the crisis of the Bush administration and the Republican Party as a whole. Once hailed as the brilliant architect of the 2000, 2002 and 2004 electoral victories, Rove is now blamed by many leading Republicans for the defeat in the 2006 midterm election and the prospect of an electoral rout in 2008.

Rove played a major role in linking up the Republicans’ traditional base of support in corporate America and conservative layers in the middle class and working class with the Christian fundamentalist right, and using demagogic appeals to anti-abortion and anti-gay sentiment to win electoral majorities. This was combined with disinformation and lies to justify the war in Iraq and the deliberate sowing of fear of terrorist attacks to push through police state measures within the US.

Popular hostility to the war in Iraq and the increasing economic instability facing tens of millions of working people weakened the effectiveness of such tactics, as the 2006 elections demonstrated.

Rove’s departure may also be intended to distract attention from the swirling legal problems facing the administration. Although he leaves un-indicted, Rove was at the center of the CIA leak case and the purge of US attorneys. He has been subpoenaed by Congress to testify about his involvement in the latter scandal, but has refused to comply, citing the White House’s assertion of executive privilege in denying congressional access to current and former White House aides as well as requested documents.

There is ample evidence that Rove was at the center of a conspiracy to stack the US attorney system with Bush loyalists in order to use federal prosecutions as a means of manipulating elections—by laying trumped-up voter fraud charges against Democratic candidates and pro-Democratic Party voter registration organizations, and suppressing voter turnout of likely Democratic voters, especially minority and working class citizens. Such methods were employed in the 2004 and 2006 elections, and Rove was working to utilize them in key battleground states in 2008.

Asked by the Wall Street Journal about those who say he is leaving to avoid Congressional scrutiny, Rove gave vent to his anti-democratic views, replying, “I know they’ll say that. But I’m not going to stay or leave based on whether it pleases the mob.”

To a great extent, Rove’s abilities as a political tactician were based on his having taken the measure of the nominal political opposition—the Democratic Party. He repeatedly and successfully exploited the organic cowardice and duplicity of the Democrats to win elections and push through the administration’s agenda. At some level, he grasped the basic contradiction of the Democratic Party—between its class nature as a party of the US ruling elite and its need, by virtue of its history and its particular function in American capitalist politics, to posture as a party “of the working man.”

Thus, Rove secured his White House post by helping Bush and the Republican Party steal the 2000 presidential election from Democratic candidate Al Gore, who won the popular vote but meekly complied when the Supreme Court completed the electoral larceny by ordering a halt to vote-counting in Florida.

Rove’s tactic of attacking the Democrats for being “soft” on terrorism in the aftermath of 9/11 secured an election victory for the Republicans in 2002, largely due to the decision of the Democrats not to make the impending war in Iraq an issue.

In 2004, Bush won a second term thanks to the Democrats’ decision to run a right-wing, pro-war campaign behind Senator John Kerry. There is also evidence that electoral fraud and voter suppression in Ohio may have played a significant role.

By the time of the 2006 congressional election, however, the disaster in Iraq, growing divisions within the Republican Party, and rising popular sentiment against the war and the Bush administration found expression in a Republican defeat that resulted in Democratic control of both houses of Congress. It was a result the Democrats neither expected nor particularly desired, and the subsequent eight months have made clear that voters’ hopes a Democratic Congress would end the war and oppose Bush’s attacks on democratic rights were misplaced.

It is significant that Rove waited to announce his resignation until he had helped engineer yet another capitulation by the Democratic Party to the Bush administration. Earlier this month, the Democrats supplied the votes to pass a bill demanded by Bush that effectively repudiates the Fourth Amendment to the US Constitution. In defiance of that amendment’s proscription on “unreasonable searches and seizures,” the Democrats handed the White House and the National Security Agency the power to eavesdrop on the phone calls and emails of Americans without a court warrant or any genuine judicial oversight.

Bush, Rove and company—despite being hated and despised by a large majority of the American people—were confident they would secure the compliance of the Democrats in this unprecedented attack on democratic rights. They knew that the Democrats fear above all else being seen by the US ruling elite as insufficiently ruthless in attacking its enemies both abroad and at home.

In his Wall Street Journal interview, Rove alluded to the domestic spying bill, saying that come the autumn, “we’ll see in the battle over FISA [the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act] a fissure in the Democratic Party.”

The Journal article continued, “On foreign affairs, [Rove] predicts that at least two parts of the Bush Doctrine will live on: The policy that if you harbor a terrorist, you are as culpable as the terrorist; and pre-emption. ‘There may be a debate about degree,’ he says, ‘but it’s going to be hard for any president to reverse that.’”

Rove knows whereof he speaks. All of the leading Democratic candidates are committed to retaining the policy of preventive war—a crime by the standards of the Nuremberg trials—and, in the name of the “war on terror,” continuing the slaughter in Iraq and preparing new and even bloodier wars in the Middle East, Central Asia and elsewhere.

See Also:
Congress authorizes vast expansion of domestic spying
[6 August 2007]

Monday, August 13, 2007

Arianna Huffington: Rove Exits with his Usual M.O.: Delusional, Fanatical,

Having dodged the Plamegate bullet and confident of executive privileging his way out of the U.S. Attorney firings scandal he no doubt masterminded, Rove is heading out the door the doughy personification of the Bush White House.

read more | digg story

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Democrats back down on ending tax windfall for hedge-fund billionaires

By Patrick Martin
4 August 2007

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In a clear demonstration of their subservience to Wall Street, Senate Democrats have pulled back from proposals to end a huge tax loophole for the wealthiest financial speculators—the billionaires who operate hedge funds and private equity firms.

At a hearing Tuesday before the Senate Finance Committee, spokesmen for the big financial interests denounced proposals to tax the compensation of hedge fund operators as ordinary income—at a rate of 35 percent—instead of at the 15 percent rate applied to capital gains.

Gargantuan sums of money are at stake in this discussion. Hedge funds and private equity firms have mushroomed over the past decade into enterprises controlling as much as $2.5 trillion in capital. They pay their executives incomes of as much as $1 billion in a single year. Steven Schwarzman, CEO of Blackstone Capital, netted nearly $600 million in a single day when the firm went public in June, and his stake in the company is valued at over $4 billion.

While the financial arrangements of hedge funds are arcane, the tax loophole is elementary. Hedge fund managers receive two income streams, typically 2 percent of the fund’s total value and 20 percent of the profits. The 2 percent is taxed as income, but the 20 percent of the profits, called “carried interest,” is taxed at the rate of capital gains, although it is return on the investors’ capital, not on the capital of the hedge fund managers. A bill introduced in the House would define carried interest as income, not capital gains, effectively raising the rate from 15 percent to 35 percent.

While Republican senators denounced the proposed tax increase on general principles, since they oppose any form of taxation of the wealthy, the Democratic senators had to tread more carefully, balancing their loyalty to the financial aristocracy with the need to strike a populist pose and present themselves in the guise of advocates of working people.

The lead was taken by two proven advocates of the moneyed interests, Charles Schumer of New York and Christopher Dodd of Connecticut, who distanced themselves from the proposal by House Democrats for a tax increase on all hedge fund and private equity operators, and even from the minimal measure introduced by Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus of Montana, which would raise taxes only on private equity firms like Blackstone that go public by selling shares on the stock exchange.

Schumer has made noises about increasing taxes on the wealthy, but in an interview with the New York Times published the day before the Senate committee hearing, he declared, “I am not a populist,” and offered a series of evasions from a straightforward explanation of why hedge fund billionaires should pay a lower tax rate than the janitors and secretaries who work in their Manhattan offices.

According to the Times account, Schumer said that he had promised Wall Street executives “he would oppose a tax increase as long as it did not also apply to other industries, like energy and real estate. Both in and out of Congress, supporters of increasing taxes on hedge funds and private equity firms say Mr. Schumer’s proposal is a ‘poison pill’ that would generate opposition to the measure from powerful groups—the energy and real estate industries—and derail its prospects for passage.”

Dodd, chairman of the Senate Banking Committee, issued a statement declaring he was “concerned about the potential adverse effects that these proposals would have on capital formation, on job creation, and on institutional investors.” This is just boilerplate to cover blatant favoritism towards the wealthy. Dodd is well aware that private equity firms are implicated in the destruction of tens of thousands of jobs through the takeover of companies which are then “stripped and flipped,” in the gangster-like jargon of the industry.

Dodd’s long shot campaign for the Democratic presidential nomination is financed largely by big financial interests, including the numerous insurance companies in his state and the many Wall Street multi-millionaires and billionaires who reside in posh Connecticut suburbs of New York City, like Greenwich.

Other Democratic senators voiced caution about demands to end the private equity loophole. John Kerry of Massachusetts warned, “You’ve got to think carefully” about the potential consequences of such a move, which could have “downstream impact.” He cited the current turmoil in the stock market as another reason for going slowly, observing, “I think you’ve got to think carefully, particularly with this market.”

Kerry even compared the activities of private equity funds to those of small businesses, claiming, “In a lot of these deals, they are required to put up their money.” The Democrats’ 2004 presidential candidate is married to the billionaire heiress Teresa Heinz.

Ron Wyden of Oregon suggested that instead of a one-off increase for private equity and hedge funds, there should be a broader effort to reform the tax system, ending loopholes for other sections of the super-rich. Like Schumer’s diversion, Wyden’s proposal is an attempt to alibi for his abject subservience to Wall Street interests. His sentiments were echoed by Finance Committee Democrat Ken Salazar of Colorado.

Another Senate Democrat, multimillionaire Maria Cantwell of Washington, herself a software executive before winning a Senate seat in 2000, found another issue to divert attention from the windfall for the private equity bosses. Closing the loophole might hurt the financial performance of pension funds for state employees of Washington and other states, she claimed, because pension fund managers have heavily invested in hedge funds and private equity.

The Senate Democrats’ opposition to increased taxes on the super-rich is directly linked to the flow of funds from these wealthy interests into the Democratic Party’s campaign coffers. In the first six months of 2007, the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee—headed by Schumer—raised nearly $2 million from executives and employees of private equity and hedge fund firms such as the Carlyle Group and the Blackstone Group, according to an analysis by the Center for Responsive Politics.

The Private Equity Council gave 69 percent of campaign contributions to Democrats in 2006, after splitting its donations 50-50 with the Republican Party as recently as 2000.

John G. Gaine, president of the Managed Funds Association, the trade group for hedge funds, hailed Schumer as a “guardian of America’s capital market and, more parochially, New York’s economic interest.”

A column in Fortune magazine openly gloated about the likely Senate roadblock to any increase in taxes on the private equity firms: “In another era, this might be a slam dunk for populist-minded Democrats: A new class of billionaires doesn’t pay the same tax rates as ordinary Americans, leaving tens of millions of dollars more in their pockets to spend on private helicopters and ivy-clad boarding schools and Nantucket summer homes. What better example of Republicans favoring the rich? But wait: These new Greenwich/Manhattan billionaires happen to be donors, friends, and constituents of Democrats—not Republicans.”

Most of the Democratic presidential candidates, including Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, and John Edwards, have declared their support for closing the private equity loophole, in order to posture as friends of the working class and opponents of privilege for the wealthy.

The Fortune comment applauded the cynical division of labor between the presidential candidates and their Senate colleagues: “In the end, the powerful Dodd-Schumer duo could put the kibosh on the tax increase proposal, giving the party the best of both worlds, at least for now: Democratic presidential candidates who continue to issue populist appeals to tax the rich, and a Democratic Congress that leaves its new friends alone.”

Twisted Promises

“It’s time for a change,” said the Democrats. And the voters bought it. Congress changed hands as poll after poll showed a majority looking for a way out of Iraq and the Republican way of doing national security. So what happens?

read more | digg story

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Lessons Not Learned

Senator Russ Feingold (D-WI)

Six years ago, in the aftermath of 9/11, Congress rammed through the USA PATRIOT Act with little consideration of what that bill actually contained. Five years ago, Congress authorized a reckless and ill-advised war in Iraq. One year ago, Congress passed the deeply flawed Military Commissions Act. And late last week, a Democratic Congress passed legislation that dramatically expands the government's ability to conduct warrantless wiretapping, which could affect innocent Americans. It is clear that many congressional Democrats have not learned from those earlier mistakes, two of which happened when Democrats controlled the Senate. Once again, Congress has buckled to pressure and intimidation by the administration.

It should go without saying, but it's important to repeat: every member of Congress supports wiretapping terrorists. And no one thinks that the government should have to get a court order to listen to communications between suspected terrorists in foreign countries, even if those communications happen to pass through the U.S. The FISA bill Congress passed late last week was the latest example of the administration exploiting a legitimate problem to make an outrageous power grab - and unfortunately, it was also just the latest example of Congress giving in to the president's fear-mongering. The very last thing we should be doing is granting this administration -- and this Attorney General in particular -- more authority to conduct wiretaps without adequate judicial supervision. It is the abuse of power by this administration that is one of the main reasons this president and attorney general should be censured.

The American people see through these tactics, and don't buy the president's attempts to use the threat of terrorism to get what he wants any more. Unfortunately, 16 Senate Democrats and an Independent, as well as 41 House Democrats were all too willing last week to let the president successfully employ this ruse yet again.

The bill the president signed yesterday gives free rein to the government to wiretap all the communications of anyone who happens to be outside the United States, for whatever reason, without court oversight. That includes U.S. citizens living or traveling abroad, U.S. service members in Iraq, or journalists reporting from overseas. And that includes the calls and emails of anyone outside the country to people in the U.S. This goes far, far beyond the identified problem of foreign to foreign communications that we all agree should be fixed. What little judicial review the bill does provide is essentially meaningless. The FISA court will decide only whether the government certification that it has put reasonable procedures in place to direct its surveillance against people reasonably believed to be abroad is clearly erroneous. That's nothing more than a rubber stamp. And it provides no protection for Americans who may be calling or e-mailing friends, family or business partners overseas and who have done absolutely nothing wrong.

After all the wrong-doing by this administration, it was disheartening to see Congress bow to its demands one more time. But there is a silver lining to that dark cloud. The Democratic leadership in both the House and the Senate proposed alternative bills that addressed legitimate concerns about foreign-to-foreign communications while also doing a better job of protecting innocent Americans than what the administration was proposing. In particular, Majority Leader Reid, Intelligence Committee Chairman Rockefeller, and Armed Services Committee Chairman Levin responded to specific concerns a number of us raised about a draft Democratic proposal in the Senate. The resulting Senate Democratic bill was far from perfect, but it was vastly better than the administration's proposal.

I am also encouraged by Speaker Nancy Pelosi's call for fixing this flawed legislation as soon as Congress reconvenes in September. We should not delay passing a bill that will end Alberto Gonzales's six-month, oversight-free surveillance holiday. The president will undoubtedly oppose these efforts and the Republicans in the Senate will no doubt filibuster any efforts to reinstate judicial involvement and tighten the controls around the president's eavesdropping authorities. In the face of that expected opposition, Democrats will need to stick together this time to fix the mess that we just created. And at least some Republicans will have to be convinced to support the Constitution.

Clearly, this will be an uphill fight. But it's a fight worth having. Our constitutional rights should not be sacrificed to scare tactics. Congress must stand up to the president. The sooner that Democrats realize that standing tough on national security doesn't mean giving into the administration, the better off they - and the country - will be.

Friday, August 03, 2007

Republican Temper Tantrums Hinder Efforts to Insure Needy Kids (Rep. Lois Capps)

August 1st, 2007

As a school nurse, a mother of three, and a grandmother of seven, I know a thing or two about temper tantrums. Usually they occur when small children are tired, hungry, and frustrated, but yesterday on the House floor I saw a different kind of temper tantrum erupt from some of my Republican colleagues. During debate over a routine agriculture funding bill, some of my Republican colleagues decided to throw a fit over a completely unrelated bill, the Children’s Health and Medicare Protection Act of 2007 (CHAMP Act).

It’s baffling that anyone would throw such a fit over the CHAMP bill. This is legislation that will renew the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), which currently provides health insurance to six million who otherwise would be without it. It would also expand this coverage to include an additional six million children that aren’t covered under the current law. It also makes needed improvements to Medicare to protect the health of seniors and the disabled. And it’s all paid for so we aren’t adding to the national debt.

Supporting children’s health insurance coverage shouldn’t be a partisan matter, and historically it has enjoyed broad bipartisan support. In fact, 43 of our nation’s governors have endorsed the reauthorization of the legislation and expanding coverage to some degree. The same support is found among countless advocacy groups and healthcare organizations like the American Medical Association, AARP, the Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids and the Children’s Defense Fund. In fact, while running for reelection in 2004, President Bush regularly touted his support for the program.

Unfortunately, the President has changed his tune. His proposal for SCHIP would actually reduce coverage for the six million children currently covered by SCHIP and leave the uninsured 12 million still uninsured. He has threatened to veto the bill and yesterday’s shenanigans on the House floor show that what Republicans are after is conflict, not progress on meeting our country’s challenges. The President and congressional Republicans seem to think that if they hold their breath and stomp the ground long enough they’ll get their way.

The victims of all this absurdity are our children without healthcare and their parents. Can you imagine a young child lacking regular physicals and immunizations? What about the constant fear facing parents who are working hard yet are unable to secure healthcare coverage for their children? Or families who go bankrupt trying to pay for costly emergency care because they lack basic insurance? Imagine if your child didn’t have access to routine physicals to ensure that they were growing properly and taking the necessary steps to identify and treat debilitating chronic diseases like diabetes. Passing the Children’s Health and Medicare Protection Act (CHAMP) will be a significant step forward in the effort to make sure parents across our country don’t have to face these kinds of questions.

Today, the House will consider the Children’s Health and Medicare Protection Act of 2007 (CHAMP Act). I hope that my Republican colleagues had a good night’s sleep and a good breakfast so we can avoid another fit of legislative temper tantrums and provide all our kids with healthcare.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

US officials tell New York Times

Vast data mining programs behind 2004 dispute within Bush administration over domestic spying

By Joe Kay
30 July 2007

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A New York Times article published Sunday reports that a dispute within the Bush administration over its domestic spying programs in 2004 centered on so-called “data mining” operations. These programs involve accessing massive databases of communications logs—both foreign and domestic—to search for links and associations between tens of millions of people.

Citing “current and former officials briefed on the program,” the Times reported that “computer searches through massive electronic databases” were the source of the dispute within the Justice Department that led to the threatened resignation of three top Justice Department officials.

The searches enable the government to access to the “metadata” of emails and phone calls of tens of millions of US residents, including “phone numbers or e-mail addresses, as well as dates, times and duration of calls and messages,” according to the Times. Using this information, the government can determine the contacts and associations of any American.

The data mining programs have been previously reported in the press, beginning in December 2005. The Times reported at the time that a handful of giant telecommunications companies had given the National Security Agency (NSA) access to “switches” through which large volumes of phone and internet traffic pass. The Washington Post reported in February 2006 that at least some of those targeted in a separate program involving eavesdropping on telephone and email communications of people residing in the US were chosen through data mining operations. The domestic wiretapping program was first reported by the Times in December of 2005 and quickly acknowledged and defended by President Bush.

Subsequent revelations have exposed the breadth of the programs. In May 2006, USA Today provided details of the NSA’s accumulation of phone records of hundreds of millions of Americans, which involved the collaboration of telecommunications giants AT&T, Verizon and BellSouth.

However, the Bush administration has never officially acknowledged the existence of these data-mining programs. The Times report is further evidence that what the administration has admitted to is only a small component of a vast spying apparatus.

All of these operations violate the Fourth Amendment ban on “unreasonable searches and seizures” and at least some of them violate specific laws, such as the 1978 Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. They pose a fundamental threat to the democratic rights of the American people. Initiated under the pretext of the “war on terror,” they are in fact directed primarily at targeting and monitoring political opposition to the policies of the American ruling elite. Data mining of phone call and email records can be used to generate lists of opponents of the war and other US government policies, to be targeted by mass arrests in the event of a “national emergency.”

The timing of the information leaked to the New York Times indicates that the “current and former officials” who commented anonymously to the newspaper include current members of the Bush administration who are seeking to corroborate testimony by Attorney General Alberto Gonzales and forestall calls by some Senate Democrats for a perjury investigation.

High-level former and current government officials, including former Deputy Attorney General James Comey and the current director of the FBI, Robert Mueller, have testified at congressional hearings into administration domestic spying programs that an internal dispute over the programs in 2004 involved the NSA warrantless wiretapping program. However, Gonzales has denied in sworn testimony that there were any divisions within the administration over wiretapping, and has instead testified that the divisions involved “other intelligence activities.” The report published Sunday by the Times backs up, at least in a technical sense, Gonzales’ testimony.

The leaked report comes as the political conflict in Washington over Gonzales is escalating. Four Democratic members of the Senate Judiciary Committee last week called for the appointment of a special counsel to investigate whether the attorney general perjured himself in testimony before the committee. On Sunday, the New York Times editorial board called for Congress to impeach Gonzales if Solicitor General Paul Clement does not grant the request for a special counsel.

Apart from assertions by anonymous officials, there is no evidence given in the Times article that the dispute was, in fact, confined to “data mining” and not wiretapping. There is no reason to accept at face value the claims of the officials cited by the Times, and the spying may in fact be even broader than the data mining programs combined with the wiretapping program acknowledged by the government. It is entirely possible, for example, that the wiretapping program was not confined, as asserted by the Bush administration, to electronic communications between people in the US and people outside the country, and instead encompassed domestic phone calls and emails as well.

The Times article itself notes, “Some of the officials said the 2004 dispute involved other issues in addition to the data mining, but would not provide details.”

An article published in the Washington Post on Sunday reported, “One source familiar with the NSA program said yesterday that there were widespread concerns inside the intelligence community in 2003 and 2004 over how much Internet and telephone data mining could occur, as well as about the NSA’s direct intercepts of communications without court approval.”

In other words, according to at least several sources, the disputes within the administration—which led ultimately to a determination within the Justice Department in early 2004 that the program was “without legal foundation”—involved not only data mining, but also the NSA wiretapping program. This is precisely what Gonzales has denied under oath.

Testimony by FBI Director Mueller last week before the House Judiciary Committee directly contradicted Gonzales. Asked if the disputes involved the so-called Terrorist Surveillance Program—the Bush administration’s name for the NSA warrantless wiretapping program whose existence it has acknowledged—Mueller replied that the disputes were over “an NSA program that has been much discussed, yes.” The only NSA program that has been “much discussed” is the warrantless wiretapping program, while the data mining operations have been disclosed only in a few newspaper reports.

Mueller supported the testimony of former Deputy Attorney General Comey, who last May indicated that the wiretapping issue was involved in the conflict within the administration. It was Comey who, in the position of acting attorney general, refused to sign off on the program in 2004, setting off a confrontation that led ultimately to the threatened resignations of Comey, Attorney General John Ashcroft and Mueller.

Regardless of the exact nature of the programs in question that led to disputes in 2004, there is no doubt that they continue to this day. Last week, Justice Department spokesman Brian Roehrkasse said that the programs in question “remain highly classified”—that is, that they still exist.

These programs are only part of a much broader erosion of democratic and privacy rights. In another extraordinary intrusion, the US and the European Union have agreed to share personal data on airline passengers traveling to the US. According to a critical report prepared by the EU Parliament, the shared data could include “personal data revealing racial or ethnic origin, political opinions, religious or philosophical beliefs, trade union membership, and data concerning the health or sex life of individuals.”

Despite the fundamental constitutional questions involved, leading Democrats are seeking to confine discussion to the narrow issue of whether or not Gonzales perjured himself when he said there were no disputes within the administration on the so-called Terrorist Surveillance Program.

Speaking on “Face the Nation” Sunday, Patrick Leahy, the Democratic chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, urged Gonzales to correct any statements he may have previously made. “If he doesn’t correct [his testimony], then I think that there are so many errors in there that the pressure will lead very, very heavily to whether it’s a special prosecutor, a special counsel, efforts within Congress,” Leahy said.

The principal hope of Leahy and the other Democrats is that sufficient pressure can be brought to bear to force Gonzales to resign. There are many indications that the Democrats, in order to avoid a direct clash with the Bush administration over its assertion of virtually unlimited powers and its rejection of congressional oversight, would seize on the ouster of Gonzales to declare victory and evade the more fundamental questions of illegal spying and Bush’s assertion of quasi-dictatorial powers.

Far from criticizing the spying programs themselves, Leahy said he was very open to demands from the Bush administration that Congress amend the 1978 Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. Bush said in his weekly radio address on Saturday that he wants the act to be changed in a manner that would expand the ability of the government to carry out warrantless wiretapping.

“If they need to make changes in our intelligence surveillance act, for example, we’ll do that,” Leahy volunteered.

See Also:
Standoff between White House and Congress over US attorney purge, domestic spying intensifies
[28 July 2007]