Saturday, May 20, 2006

Michael Hayden, Khaled el-Masri

I always encourage readers to visit Mikey Likes It! for Mike's thoughts and I'm sure they do. But if you missed Mike Thursday, please read "Surprise interview."

By the way, Mike and I are both blogging this morning. I had a date (which went quite well, thank you for your interest) last night and Mike and Nina had plans as well. We were on the phone at six o'clock trying to figure out how we'd be able to get posts up quickly when we decided, "Let's just post Saturday morning instead."

"Hayden Defends Domestic Spy Program At Confirmation Hearing" (Democracy Now!):
General Michael Hayden appeared before Senate Thursday for the first day of his confirmation hearings to become the new head of the CIA. The former director of the National Security Agency repeatedly defended the legality of the NSA's secret warrant-less domestic eavesdropping program that he helped design.
General Michael Hayden: "When I had to make this personal decision in early October, 2001 -- and it was a personal decision -- the math was pretty straight forward. I could not not do this… We knew that this was a serious issue, and that the steps we were taking, although convinced of their lawfulness, we were taking them in a regime that was different from the regime that existed on 10th September."

General Hayden refused to answer questions during the public portion of the hearing on a number of issues including interrogation methods, secret CIA prisons and the true extent of the government’s surveillance program.

What is with this "personal decision" talk? First off, I thought the Bully Boy had already declared himself "The Decider." Is Hayden trying to usurp the Bully Boy and steal the title?
Second of all, procedures and guidelines (and laws) are in place to be followed. There's no "personal decision" making. The thing is supposed to run like clockwork.

I find Hayden disgusting. Sunny was listening to the Pacifica coverage of the hearing (Thursday) and, between sessions, I kept rushing over to hear bits and pieces. I found it very disappointing. To the point that I kept expecting someone to ask, "Do you need a break, General Hayden, to go to the bathroom?" To which he'd then reply, "I belive that would be better discussed in closing hearings this afternoon." Maybe if the questioneer was Ron Wyden (Democratic Senator from Oregon who did show some life, by the way), he'd follow up with, "Well do you think, if you needed to use the bathroom, you would need to do number one or number two?" Only to have Hayden reply, "I think we need to be very careful about the information we give out to our enemies." It was such a joke. (If Russ Feingold was present, I'm sure he did a wonderful job. He can usually be counted on. Sunny did ask me if he was there because she was impressed with one Democrat's questions, in addition to Wyden's, but I was in a session and she'd missed the name of the senator.)

Pacifica did a great job with the hearings. Larry Bensky and Mitch Jesserich anchored them. The guest who impressed Sunny and I the most was Chip Pitts. We were both listening and I had an hour before the evening session was due to start. When Pitts came on (and C.I. knows Pitts but I don't before anyone thinks I'm praising Pitts just because he's a friend, I don't know him, have never met him) we agreed that was the high point and shut down the computer after he was done. (Sunny, who'd been listening all morning, said that if it weren't for the analysis and the anchors, she couldn't have made it through the hearing -- due to the lack of spirit, spine and life on the part of the Democrats.)

I'm looking at my notes right now and realizing, they're brief, that I have no idea what most of this is about and should have written something while it was fresh. But let me note that Carl Levin had at least one good question (maybe more, but I heard a brief section of his exchange with Hayden). Levin asked, "Does that mean your answer to my question is yes?" I think that perfectly captures how Ollie North-like Hayden was. Pitts noted that Dianne Feinstein made a comment he wasn't sure anyone heard. Feinstein, according to Pitts, had asked at least one question regarding Guantanamo and, at one point afterwards, Feinstein said, "He didn't answer any of them." "Them" being her questions.

I don't care for Feinstein and I don't care for the way she conducts herself in hearings. She always plays it off as though she's just 'the little lady' making comments about how she's not a lawyer so blah, blah, blah. She's a "law maker." As a member of Congress, she's a law maker. She needs to take her position a lot more seriously. And if she felt her questions weren't answered, she needed to do something more than chuckle.

C.I. noted some impressions and this one captures Feinstein:

Such as DiFi who apparently has tried to drop the genteel mask of "miss diane" and come off like a beer commercial with remarks to the effect of "So that's all good." The "BURP" was, apparently, implied. (It's all good, DiFi.)

Captures Feinstein perfectly. "So that's all good"? It's all good, Feinstein? I laughed when I read "The 'BURP' was, apparently, implied."

"Judge Dismisses Case of Wrongfully-Held CIA Detainee" (Democracy Now!):
And a federal judge has dismissed a lawsuit by a German citizen who says U.S. agents mistakenly kidnapped him and sent him to a secret prison in Afghanistan. The man, Khaled El-Masri, alleges he was first detained while on vacation in Macedonia. Once in CIA custody he says he was repeatedly beaten, roughly interrogated by masked men, detained in squalid conditions and denied access to an attorney or his family. He was only released after the CIA realized they had detained the wrong man, and left him alone on an abandoned road in Albania. On Thursday, the judge ruled proceeding with El-Masri's case would harm national security. Ben Wizner, an attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union who is representing al-Masri, said he will file an appeal. Wizner said: "[The ruling] confers a blank check on the CIA to shield even the most outrageous conduct from judicial review."

I often tease Rebecca about being a slow starter in the mornings (which she is) but I see now why she's not a morning blogger. I've got the TV on (a rare thing) trying to see if anything's breaking since it's Saturday. (It's corporate news, so why did I even bother? If it was breaking, it wouldn't be noted unless someone died.) I'm drinking my coffee and trying to think of what else to write?

On the above item, it's a carry over of the Hayden hearings. It's another example of how a serious and needed discussion is shut down with the claims (false) of national security. al-Masri was wronged (putting it mildly) and he's not allowed to have his day in court because of "national security"? That's a stopper, isn't it?

Please read Rebecca's "the ruth & elijah report." I'm turning off corporate news and putting on some music. Dar Williams My Better Self is playing right now.

"Iraq snapshot" ("Democracy Now: Eduardo Galeano," The Common Ills):
Let's start with tomorrow. On Saturday, as the Associated Press and CBS note, the plan is "to swear in Iraq's new prime minister and Cabinet." The AP also notes rumors that Nouri al-Maliki, prime minister to be, "might appoint himself to head the two ministries until all parties can agree." Dropping back to yesterday, Italy's new prime minister, Romano Prodi, has declared the illegal Iraq war a "grave error" notes China's People's Daily Online. Also yesterday, details of the Pentagon's plan to blind drivers at checkpoints was covered by Reuters (and others). Reuters reports that Hussain al-Shahristani will be Iraq's new oil minister -- surprising only to those who didn't follow the "work" of the Iraq Foundation going back to before the illegal invasion. (Translation, war planners are dropping the war dance long enough for a dance of joy.)UNICEF's David Singh estimates "850,000 Iraqi children aged between six and 59 months" suffer "from chronic malnutrition" while the figure for those suffering from "actue malnutrition" is estimated to be 300,000. You didn't discover that in this morning's New York Times, but viewers of Austalia's ABC could see David Singh interviewed on The World Today.
On another Iraqi story that the mainstream media in the United States hasn't shown interest in, Jake Kovco's family (Lorriane and David Small, parents of Jake's wife Shelley Kovco) and the family of Juso Sinanovic (Jasmina Sinanovic -- daughter of Juso) spoke via "community station Radio RPH" reports the AAP which also notes that Mick Martin has "established an appeal for . . . [Jake Kovco's] widow Shelley to supplement what he says is her meagre Australian Defence Force pension."
Today has been a confusing one for the family of Naji al Noaimi -- diplomat with the United Arab Emirates who was kidnapped Tuesday in Baghdad. But he has been released.
In Baghdad today, as CBS and the AP note, a gun fight between resistance and police officers led to the deaths of at least five and the wounded of at least eight. Roadside bombs continued exploding. One resulted in the wounding of three Iraqis, Reuters noted. AP reported on a roadside bomb apparently intended for a police officer who was not at his home -- but his wife and two children were and both were wounded in the explosion. Another roadside bomb resulted in at least one US soldier being wounded when it went off near a convoy.
The Associated Press notes the discovery of four corpses in Baghdad ("bullet-ridden"; "kidnapped and tortured") offering a potential identification of one as the elementary school teacher who was kidnapped.
Six miles out of Kirkuk, police discovered a coprse ("gunshot wounds"; "bearing signs of torture) while in Kirkuk "Mohammed al-Iqabi, an employee of the northern state-oil company, was gunned down" Reuters reports. CNN reports that "U.S. military commanders have decided to send more U.S. troops to the Iraqi city of Ramadi" where the 'pacification' has not taken. The Associated Press notes that "more than 30 shops in a market in Diwaniyah" have been targeted and burned by arsonists.
KUNA notes that Bully Boy was on US television this morning (NBC's Today) and continues to blame his low approval ratings on the Iraq war but he thinks he'll rebound noting, "I have got two and a half years left to be president of the United States and I intend to get a lot done" -- barring, of course, impeachment or prolonged vacations.
Finally, in England, Helene Mullholland reports that an investigation will start again in to the death of David Kelly. Kelly was the scientist who was at least one source for a 2003 report by the BBC that the Tony Blair government "sexed up" the intelligence to sell the case for war. Angry denials from the ruling party led to what some would call a witch hunt. During the witch hunt, Kelly was identified as a source. Shortly afterward, he died (July 18, 2003) and, though his death had been officially ruled a suicide, questions have remained.