Monday, September 18, 2006

A grab bag

Sunny asked me this morning about "Community note from The Third Estate Sunday Review" and then there were e-mails as well so I'll start with that. I don't know yet when I'll be blogging at the end of the week. I'll try to do something in some form on Thursday and Friday but I'm not sure about Wednesday. I'll try to figure that out by tomorrow and have something up here.
(If you haven't read "Community note from The Third Estate Sunday Review," Jim, Dona, Ty, Jess, Ava and C.I. are noting that there will be a Sunday edition of The Third Estate Sunday Review and that there will be a minimum of three posts per day at The Common Ills. The question arises due to the fact that we're all traveling to take part in demonstrations against the war.) Two things that will cheer you up if you're feeling down, Betty's "The Colleague Heist" and Ava and C.I.'s "TV: Call the coroner." Please visit Mikey Likes It! to read Mike's thoughts.

"Bush Appointees Attempt to Brow Beat Senior US Military Officers" (Ann Wright, Common Dreams):
In defining U.S. obligations under the Common Article 3 of the Geneva conventions, Bush’s proposal is that to fulfill U.S. obligations under the Geneva Convention, only detainee treatment that “shocks the conscience” should be barred (and would allow degrading acts that do not shock the conscience of someone chosen by the Bush administration).
The Senate Armed Services committee bill is silent on what constitutes compliance with Common Article 3 and thereby would force CIA officers to treat detainees humanely and to avoid degrading acts, under common understandings of international law. (CIA officers involved in the Bush administration’s secret prisons program have consulted lawyers after being warned that they could face prosecution for illegally detaining and interrogating terrorism suspects and new CIA recruits are advised to take out private liability insurance against the risk of lawsuits as CIA officers will have to pay for their own defense according to the Washington Times (September 10, 2006).
The second key provision of the bill is on access to classified information during military commission trials of terrorism suspects. The Bush administration advocates classified information could be withheld from a defendant if a military judge approves the withholding and if the judge determines that the withholding of classified information would not obstruct a fair trial.
The Senate Armed Services committee bill would give defendant declassified information or substitute summaries when possible. A military judge can dismiss charges if the government objects to a judge’s order that sensitive information be provided to a defendant.
The Bush administration’s violation of international law has severely damaged the reputation of the United States in the international community and has put our military personnel at risk throughout the world.
The browbeating for political ends of our senior military lawyers by the administration is degrading to our professional, volunteer military and calls into question again, the actions of the civilian leadership of this nation. The administration policy approved by Donald Rumsfeld and William Haynes condoning torture and now the silencing of professional views of proposed policies concerning the rules for military commissions trying terrorism suspects undermine the "good order and discipline" of the military and are dangerous for our country.

As noted in "Editorial: Call Us Dixie Chicks -- We're not ready to make nice," Ann Wright spoke early this summer about the need to up the ante and she has all summer long. She has not been silent and she has not lived in fear so, as events take place this week throughout the country, if you're in doubt of your ability to stand up or you're wondering if you have it in you, think of Ann Wright and dig deeper. If you're not able to participate in an organized activity, or maybe you're not into whatever's organized in your area, organize one yourself. Invite friends over, have a house party, whatever works for you, do it.

Two Sundays ago, in "The U.S. vs. John Lennon," C.I. noted that the FBI still had not released all of the files on John Lennon. Like many people, I am a big fan of John Lennon's work and C.I. passed this on just as FYI, but I think I'll share it here.

We all know that a key to preventing future terrorist attacks is sharing intelligence with foreign governments. When Justice Department attorneys urge courts not to release national security information provided by a foreign government under a Freedom of Information Act suit, they argue that the courts should defer to the experts in the Department of Homeland Security and the White House.
But what if such intelligence isn't about today's terrorist threats? What if it's about the anti-war activities of a British rock star during the Vietnam War?
That's precisely what's at issue in a Freedom of Information Act suit pending before the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. The case of John Lennon's FBI files illustrates the federal government's obsession with secrecy, which it justifies with appeals to national security.
Lennon's story, told in the documentary "The U.S. vs. John Lennon,'' opening this week in Los Angeles, revolves around his plans to help register young people to vote in the 1972 presidential election, when President Nixon was running for re-election and the war in Vietnam was the issue of the day. Lennon wanted to organize a national concert tour that would combine rock music with anti-war protests and voter registration. Nixon found out about the plan, and the White House began deportation proceedings against Lennon.
It worked: Lennon never did the tour, and Nixon was re-elected.
Along the way, the FBI spied on and harassed Lennon -- and kept detailed files of its work. The bulk of them were released in 1997 under the Freedom of Information Act after 15 years of litigation. I was the plaintiff.
But the agency continues to withhold 10 documents in Lennon's FBI file on grounds that they contain "national security information provided by a foreign government.'' The name of the foreign government remains classified, though it's probably not Afghanistan. The FBI has argued that "disclosure of this information could reasonably be expected to cause damage to the national security, as it would reveal a foreign government and information provided in confidence by that government.''
U.S. District Judge Robert Takasugi rejected this argument in 2004 and ordered the documents released. The FBI is appealing that decision.
The Lennon FBI files vividly illustrate the administration's problem. "Our democratic principles require that the American people be informed of the activities of their government'' -- those are the words of President Bush in his 2003 executive order on classified information. And he is right.
The Freedom of Information Act is necessary because Democrats and Republicans alike have secrets they want to keep -- secrets about corruption and the abuse of power. But now the White House wants to shield information with a new rationale for secrecy -- protecting the homeland from terrorists.

A national security claim on John Lennon's files? Are any of us really buying that?

In Iraq, the corpses continue to turn up in Baghdad as they did all last week. I belive on the radio yesterday, NPR estimated that, from Wednesday to Sunday, over 150 corpses had been discovered in Baghdad and that most bore signs of torture.

"Iraq snapshot" (The Common Ills):
Monday, September 18, 2006, chaos and violence continue in Iraq with the
AFP counting "[a]t least 62 people" dead, Camp Democracy continues (and extends) in Washington, D.C., in Germany: "Wife of War Profiteer Down!" and Judy Kovco, the mother of Jake Kovco, registers her opinion of the inept hearing into her son's death.
Starting in Australia, photos taken by Australian soldiers serving in Iraq have turned up online.
Rory Callinan (Time) interviewed Angus Houston ("head of the ADF, Air Chief Marshal") about the photos who stated he first learned of the photos from Callinan and that "The way people have mishandled those weapons, that offends me." The Townsville Bulletin deems the photos "offensive and unprofessionl" and states that they feature "mostly from the Darwin-based 2nd Cavalry Regiment and the Brisbane-based 5/7 infantry battalion". [Houston is the witness in the Jake Kovco inquiry who strongly disagreed with Defence Minister Brendan Nelson's 'explanation' for the various reports Nelson gave the press as to Kovco's death. Houston stated Nelson was warned that nothing was known and Nelson was warned of that from the start.]
Though there's no indication that the photos feature Jake Kovco, the prospect that they might is speculated everywhere. Jake Kovco died in Baghdad on April 21st and issues surrounding his death and what happened after have been the subject of an ongoing military inquiry.
Dan Box (The Australian) reports that the "inquiry . . . has warned it may find that the soldier [Jake Kovco] broke army regulations and should bear some responsibility for the circustances of his own shooting." And the inquiry, the Herald-Sun reports, has "requested the pictures and video footage showing soldiers waving the pistols."
Leigh Sales walked viewers through the latest on The 7:30 Report (Australia's ABC) and got reactions from Dan Box ("I don't think the board can deliver any other finding except for an open finding") and a criminologist at Sydney University, Mark Findlay. Findlay told Sales: "This is not just one example of incompetence, this is an example of the conscious interference with relevant evidence and in some situations that interference is almost inexplicable. . . . This wasn't a situation where one piece of evidence was lost or perhaps a minor piece of evidence had been despolied. There are many, many examples of where the evidence hs either been ruined or been put into a situation where, in fact, it's no longer useful to an investigation." Box tells Sales, "There is evidence to support the theory that it was murder. There is evidence to support the theory that it was suicide and there is evidence to support the theory that it was an accident. From what I've seen, there isn't evidence to say conclusively it was any one of those."
Dan Box reports in print (The Australian): "Any adverse finding is expected to rely largely on the evidence from Private Steve Carr, a soldier who served with Kovco in Baghdad." Carr is "Soldier 14," the person whose DNA was found on Jake Kovco's gun, the person who offered his theories to the inquiry on how his DNA ended up on Kovco's gun, and the person whose guesses on DNA transfer were refuted by expert witness (Michelle Franco of the NSW Department of Health's Analytical Laboratories).
Belinda Tasker (The Age) reported: "The lawyer representing Private Kovco's parents, Lieutenant-Colonel Frank Holles, asked Ms Franco whethere the fact that Soldier 14's DNA was found on the gun indicated he had touched it. Ms Franco replied: 'It is consistent with that.'"
Meanwhile Judy Kovco, mother of Jake Kovco, and Ben Kovco, his step-brother,
granted an interview to Kerry O'Brien (7:30 Report). In the interview, Judy Kovco rejects the notion that her son played with guns (a behavior 'heard of' but not seen by anyone testifying in the hearing -- what is known as "hearsay") and notes that her son grew up around guns. Box's conclusion of an the inquiry reaching an opening finding (unable to determine what happened) is something she is prepared for and also prepared that the inquiry might find that her son committed suicide "[b]ut the evidence so far, there is no way known, no, he did not shoot himself. I know what you're saying, but I'm not prepared to go along with that, because there is no way known Jake shot himself purposely."
Kerry O'Brien: That really only leaves two other possibilites, an accidental shooting by somebody else or a murder, both of which it seems to me would involve a major cover-up, a major cover-up. Do you really think that's possible?
Judy Kovco: I certainly do, yes, without a doubt.
Kerry O'Brien: Do you really think that the army would go along with that?
Judy Kovco: They've done it in the past, they have done that in the past.
the interview is getting coverage. Ben Doherty (The Age) has a piece entitled "Someone shot my son: Judy Kovco" which notes that she believes Jake Kovco was either "accidentally shot . . . or murdered". Australia's ABC leads their report with her belief that the military "would go along with a cover-up over her son's death." The Townsville Bulletin closes with Judy Kovco's statements regarding the lack of acountability and emphasizing the fact that as they waited the arrival of Jake Kovco's body, they learned that instead, somehow, Juso Sinanovic had been sent to Australia instead (a problem for Sinanovic's family in Bosnia as well): "The whole thing is just wrong to me, that these are all just acceptable. It is all just acceptable as far as they are concerned."
Box notes that Shelley Kovco (Jake Kovco's widow) is expected to provide provide a statement and that Soldier 14/Steve Carr's "credibility . . . is now expected to come under attack from lawyers representing Kovco and his family." The inquiry was thought to be winding down but, as Conor Duffy reported to Eleanor Hall (The World Today, Australia's ABC), "It's been sitting for three months, and now it seems it's going to have run a little longer. . . . It had been scheduled this week to begin wrapping up."
In Iraq, the talk of the waterless moat (or ditch) continues. The 'crackdown' hasn't worked since it started in June but apparently the moat passes for a new 'toy' or 'gadget' and we're all supposed to be excited. In the real world, the chaos and violence continued.
Al Jazeera reports "a suicide bomber blew himself up at a market in the north-western Iraqi city of Tal Afar".
Al Jazeera also reports that a car bomb "exploded at a police recruitment centre in the western Iraqi city of Ramadi" and killed at least thirteen. CBS and AP note that the Interior Ministry is stating it was two but that al-Arabiya is also noting 13. (Al Jazeera went with what the Ramadi police stated about the Ramadi explosion, not the Ministry back in Baghdad. Reuters also goes with 13.)
AFP notes four women were shot dead in Mosul and four police officers were shot dead near the Syrian border. Reuters notes that four family members were shot dead (with five more wounded) in Baquba while, in Hibhib, two family members were shot dead (two others wounded).
BBC reports that fourteen corpses were discovered in Baghdad, AFP notes three discovered and Babil and two severed heads discovered in Baiji. CBS and AP note that Lt. Col. Fawzi Abdul Karim al-Mousawi was kidnapped Sunday and his corpse was discovered in Basra today.
Turning from the corpses to the morgue,
NBC posts a report by a journalist in Baghdad, whose name is withheld, about reporting and attempting to report from the capital -- the journalist requests permission from the Minister of Health, meets a camera operator at the morgue, have the paperwork checked by an officer and . . . "gunfire erupted all around us."
Lara Logan (CBS) takes a look at life in Baghdad and reports: "This is how it works. Iraqis say: 'If they haven't found the body, then they are probably still alive. Then you can still hope.' That's the only way most people have any idea about the fate of their disapeared loved ones and friends. Sometimes they know immediately. When the lock is broken in the middle of the night and they walk into your home, through the rooms where your children sleep, and drag your sons from their beds and tear your husband out of your arms -- then, even before the bodies are found, you know the men you love most likely are never coming back. Many say the men wear uniforms -- police uniformas. The police say these uniforms are stolen or bought and have nothing to do with them. It doesn't matter anymore. The damage is done."
In Germany,
Melissa Eddy (AP) reports that Jaqueline Battles "has been arrested on suspicion of laundering her husban'd ill-gotten gains after investigators seized about $1 million from her accounts". Eddy notes Battles is a German citizen married to US citizen Mike Battles, of Custer Battles, who, along with partner Scott Custer, was ordered by jury in the United States "to pay $10 million for swindling the U.S. government over Iraqi rebuilding projects in connection with their Middletown, R.I.-based company, Custer Battles LLC."
In peace news,
Camp Democracy continues its activities in Washington DC and has extended the date for the camp to October 1st. Camp Democracy is free and open to the public. John Nichols (The Nation) took part in Sunday events focusing on the issue of impeachment and notes: "Polls and practices suggest that the citizenry well understands the necessity of holding this administration to account -- not to punish Bush or Cheney but to restore the system of checks and balances that has been so warped in this ear of executive whim and lawlessness. And 219 years into this American experiment, as we honor the Constitution that is its foundation, the message from Camp Democracy is clear: It is time to remind politicians and the pundits that: 'This Magistrate is not the King. . . The people are the King.'"
David Lindorff also participated and he notes (Baltimore Chronicle): "It was [Elizabeth] Holtzman who stole the show, with the former member of the House impeachment panel that drew up impeachment articles against Richard Nixon noting that one of those three articles was for spying on American citizens. Holtzman, who has a new book out on impeachment herself -- (The Impeachment of George W. Bush), said that when she and the others on that committee -- Democrats and Republicans alike -- unanimously voted out those articles which led to Nixon's resignation from office, 'I thought we had protected the Constitution for generations to come."
At the start of the year, Elizabeth Holtzman contributed "
The Impeachment of George W. Bush" for The Nation. Lewis Lapham's "The Case for Impeachment" (Harper's) would quickly follow, as would the Center for Constitutional Rights's Articles of Impeachment Against George W. Bush, David Lindorff and Barbara Olshansky's The Case for Impeachment (Olshansky is an attorney with the Center for Constitutional Rights), Holtzman's The Impeachment of George W. Bush and John Nichols' The Genius of Impeachment: The Founders' Cure for Royalism will be published next month. (And there are other books and articles, that's only some of the ones that have come out in 2006.) Today's events have included discussions on Iraq, tomorrow Ray McGovern and Jeff Cohen are among those taking part in Take on the Media Day (And Sherry Glaser will also do some of her standup and hold a workshop on comedy.), Wednesday's activites focus around Women's Peace Day and is joint-sponsored by NOW and CODEPINK (among those scheduled to participate is Howard Zinn). And, to repeat, the camp has extended their schedule, they will not be ending this week but will continue to October 1st -- free and open to the public. A complete schedule can be found here
Remember Take on the Media Day?
Jeff Cohen reports (Consortium News) that the Washington "Post's inexcusable coverage before the war, and its ongoing pro-war editorial bias" is why he will be taking part in the forum on the media at Camp Democracy and that "[t]here will also be a protest march to the Washington Post headquarters that eveing." A lot of people participating and, though donations are welcome, Camp Democracy is free and open to the public. Olshansky, Lindorff, Cohen, Nichols, Holtzman, Zinn, McGovern, Elizabeth de la Vega . . . And that's just a few of the people participating. If you are in the DC area or are planning to be there, David Swanson's Camp Democracy is something to check out.