Wednesday, September 13, 2006

ACLU, Peltier and Iraq

There's a lot going on today. I want to start with a press release, in full, from the ACLU about the illegal spying.

"ACLU Slams Senate Judiciary Committee’s Approval of NSA Spying Bills" (ACLU via Common Dreams):
WASHINGTON -- September 13 -- The American Civil Liberties Union today strongly rebuked the Senate Judiciary Committee for adopting legislation that approves warrantless spying on Americans by the National Security Agency. The move follows a recent court decision finding the surveillance both illegal and unconstitutional. The Bush administration has thus far stonewalled efforts by the committee to conduct meaningful oversight over the program.
"Today, the Senate Judiciary Committee acted as a rubber stamp for the administration’s abuse of power," said Caroline Fredrickson, Director of the ACLU Washington Legislative Office. "Congress has a right and obligation to conduct meaningful oversight on the unlawful actions of the president. But instead of investigating lawbreaking, the Senate Judiciary Committee wants to make it legal. We urge the full Senate to reject any attempts to ratify this illegal program."
By a vote of 10 to 8, the committee approved S.2453, the "National Security Surveillance Act." That bill, crafted by Vice-President Dick Cheney and Chairman Arlen Specter (R-PA) gives the president the option of complying -- or not -- with the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act and the protections of the Fourth Amendment.
The bill would also: vastly increase the government's statutory power to examine all international phone conversations and emails, making warrantless surveillance of Americans' conversations the rule rather then the exception and expand the ability to conduct warrantless physical searches of Americans' homes. Senator Mike DeWine's (R-OH) "Terrorist Surveillance Program Act of 2006" (S. 2455) was approved by a vote of 10 to 8. This bill would weaken the probable cause requirement for spying on people in the US -- sweeping in innocent Americans -- allow extended warrantless surveillance, limit judicial review and punish whistleblowers.
Senator Dianne Feinstein's (D-CA) "Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Improvement and Enhancement Act of 2006" (S. 3001), co-sponsored by Senator Specter, was also approved today in the only bipartisan vote taken by the Judiciary Committee, with the support of Senators Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and Specter, on a vote of 10 to 8. Her bill would restore the rule of law by requiring the president to follow the exclusive procedures set by Congress for wiretapping Americans and it would also streamline the procedures to seek a FISA warrant.
The ACLU has urged Congress to reject any legislation that would authorize the president's continued warrantless surveillance of Americans, as the Specter and DeWine bills would do, and has noted that Congress has failed to thoroughly investigate the secret programs authorized by the president. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales has disclosed that President Bush personally interfered to stop an investigation by the Justice Department's Office of Professional Responsibility into the NSA's warrantless surveillance. Vice President Cheney also personally intervened to block telecommunications companies from giving any testimony to Congress about the extent of the warrantless surveillance of Americans they have assisted the administration in obtaining. And, recently, a federal court in Detroit found the program to be both illegal and unconstitutional. That case is stayed pending appeal.
"The approval of partisan bills to ratify the illegal spying on Americans demonstrates cowardly obedience to the president, to the detriment of the liberty and privacy of the American people and the rule of law," said Lisa Graves, ACLU Senior Counsel for Legislative Strategy. "Stonewalling and illegal spying have been rewarded with the Senate Judiciary Committee's partisan approval of administration misconduct. Only Senator Feinstein's bipartisan bill would help restore the rule of law. We call on the Senate to stand up for the Constitution and reject the Big Brother bills as non-starters that give the administration a blank check."
For more on the ACLU's concerns with the warrantless NSA eavesdropping program, go to:

This is important and something you need to pay attention to. The attempts to make Bully Boy's illegal actions retro-actively legal were going to come this month regardless, but you do have to wonder if the results of the primaries yesterday pushed the legislation up on the schedule. Today, Republicans should have just continued the lie that Saddam Hussein and 9-11 were linked. They did that in the House. On the radio, there was a report on that and that John Murtha had called for the resignation of Donald Rumsfeld as Secretary of State. Robert Byrd, in the Senate, also called for Romsfeld to resign but I heard that over and over today so I thought I'd emphasize John Murtha's resolution in the House. To return to the topic of the illegal spying, if you haven't read C.I.'s "On the Dangers of an Unchecked Bully Boy" please make a point to read it tonight or tomorrow. There's a great deal at stake. Obviously Bully Boy is attempting to head off a very likely impeachment charge should Democrats win control of the House. Beyond his personal motives, there is the very real danger to Americans when a government is no longer answerable to the people.

"30 Years in Prison and the Struggle Continues" (Leonard Peltier, CounterPunch):
Well here it is another year. Another birthday. This one makes me 62 years old. Also this makes it my thirty plus years in prison. I believe it was right after I was illegally convicted in Fargo, North Dokota when I wrote a statement telling everyone that my freedom would only come after the masses had demanded it. But first we would have to unite and organize, to reach them.
[. . .]
I continue to pray and hope that one day I will get the support I need from the American people and one day I will still be able to walk out of prison. So my hopes and spirits are still high at my 62 years of age. I continue on this continued struggle.
We are still finding bits and pieces of new evidence to file new appeals on. Those of you who have followed my case closely I can imagine are thinking How can this be, as there has been so many constitutional violations already. But the same old problem exists. The courts continue to cover up the continued criminal acts of my conviction committed by my prosecutors.
Your help is needed, Give what you can to

So what will it take? A presidential pardon after he's dead? After he's dead and all the ones involved in railroading him are as well? Did you know that in February of this year, his defense was denied FBI papers on the ground of "national security"? Thirty-one years after the alleged crime, what is in those papers, about a domestic event, that rises to the level of "national security"? It's a question to ponder as Republicans in the Senate attempt to wallpower over Bully Boy's own crimes.

Sunny printed up the e-mails today for me and thank you to everyone who wrote. There were three e-mails where I wrote back the sender (community membres) asking them to share their comments about Conniff in the gina & krista round-robin and C.I. told me that the three had passed those on. I think they were much funnier in their comments than I was in mine so, on Friday, if you're a community member, be sure to read the gina & krista round-robin. Also, please visit Mikey Likes It! for Mike's thoughts.

"Iraq snapshot" (The Common Ills):
Wednesday, September 13, 2006 and chaos and violence continue in Iraq claiming the lives of
at least 39 Iraqis (AP), occupation puppet Nouri al-Maliki continues his Tehran visit, the US military announces two deaths (one soldier died Monday, the other Tuesday), United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Anan tells some hard truths, and Camp Democracy continues in Iraq.
reported by CNN yesterday, at least 60 corpses were discovered in Baghdad on Tuesday. The BBC reports: "They were found all over the city, from Sunni areas in the west to Shia districts in the east -- but most were found in largely Sunni west Baghdad. Secretarin killings are not unusal in the city but this is a large number for oen day, a BBC corrspondent says." Reuters reminds of the UN estimate in July (100 people killed each day in Iraq from violence) and notes that "[m]orgue officials" have stopped providing figures. CBS corrspondent Pete Gow provides an audio report here that calls into question the 'success' of the 'crackdown' that's been going on in Baghdad since June. CNN also raises questions about the 'crackdown' and notes: "On Monday, the U.S. Command acknowledged that its [own] report of a dramatic drop in murders in Baghdad last month did not include people killed by bombs, mortars, rockets or other mass attacks, The Associated Press reported. The count only included victims of drive-by shootings and those killed by torture and execution."
Puppet of the occupation Nouri al-Maliki continued the second day of his visit to Tehran.
Devika Bhat (Times of London) reports: "Yesterday, Washington reacted with caution to comments from President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of Iran that he would offer full support in restoring security to Iraq. . . . A member of Mr al-Maliki's Dawa party said . . . Today Ayatollah Ali Khameni, Iran's supereme leader, . . . [blamed] US troops for Iraq's misfortunes and [told] Mr al-Maliki that the way to end instability was for American forces to withdraw altogether." CNN quotes Kahmenei: "A major portion of Iraq's problems will be solved when the occupying forces leave that country, and that is why we desire and hope that occupiers leave Iraq."
Kahmenei's opinions are hardly surprising and,
Nick Wadhams (AP) reports, the Secretary-General of the United Nations, Kofi Annan, declared today "that most leaders in the Middle East believe the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq and its aftermath" is "a real disaster". Annan: "Most of the leaders I spoke to felt the invasion of Iraq and its aftermath has been a real disaster for them. They believe it has destabilized the region."
So it's also not surprising that the
AP reports "a resolution setting a timetable for the withdrawal of all foreign troops" managed to get 104 members of the 275 member Iraqi parliament "before [it] was effectively sheleved by being sent to a committe for review."
In the United States, as Robert Knight noted on
KPFA's Flashpoints yesterday, the Government Accountability Office issued a report on Monday that also recommended Congress members ask themselves several questions such as:
-- What political, economic and security conditions must be acheived before the United States can draw down and withdraw military forces from Iraq?
-- Why have security conditions continued to worsen even as Iraq has met political milestones, increased the number of trained and equipped forces and increasingly assumed the lead for security?
Drew Brown (McClatchy Newspapers) reports on the findings and notes: "Though the Bush administration has hailed each political milestone in Iraq as another step on the march to freedom, the report cited a Defense Intelligence Agency finding that 'the December 2005 elections appeared to heighten sectarian tensions and polarize sectarian divides'."
AFP reports that the US military "announced the deaths of two of its servicemen, taking its total losses in Iraq since the March 2003 invasion to 2,670, according to an AFP count based on Pentagon figures. A soldier was killed on Tuesday, south of Baghdad, while another died of wounds on Monday in the western Al-Anbar province, the military said."
Al-Anbar? On Monday,
Thomas E. Ricks (Washington Post) reported on the assessment of Col. Pete Develin, "chief of intelligence for the Marine Corps in Iraq,"
that "prospects for securing that country's western Anbar province are dim and that there is almost nothing the U.S. military can do to improve the political and social situation there". Today,
Ricks reports that Marine Maj. Gen. Richard C. Zilmer "agrees with the findings of a pessimistic classified report recently filed by his top intelligence officer but also insisted that 'tremendous progress' is being made in that part of the country." Ricks also notes: "According to several Defense Department officials who have read the report, Devlin also argued that the lack of political progress has crated a political vacuum in the province."
And as the war drags on . . .
In Baghdad, as
reported by Amit R. Paley (Washington Post), "a car bomb exploeded near an indoor stadium" killing and injuring a number of people and then, as people came forward to help, "another bomb detonated". CNN puts the toll at 14 dead and 67 wounded. AP later raised the death toll to 19 and noted "[b]ut the U.S. military reported the death toll at 15 killed and 25 wounded, and said the blast was caused by two car bombs."
Also in Baghdad,
Reuters reports a car bomb that was aimed at "police protecting an electricity distribution plant [which] killed eight people and wounded 19." The AP reports that the U.S. military states the bomb ended up "killing at least 12 people and wounding 34."
Still in Baghdad,
Al Jazeera notes two separate mortar attacks the claimed one life (police officer) and left six wounded. Reuters reports that mortar attacks wounded four in Samawa. Back to Baghdad, Demka Bhat (Times of London) reports a mortar attack that killed "[a] further two police" officers.
AP reports that, in Falluja, "two pedistrians were killed and two others injured apparently in the crossfire between U.S. troops and unidentified gunmen" and that a man in his car was shot dead in Baghdad. Reuters reports that an attempted kidnapping of "the owner of a currency exchange shop" in Baghdad resulted in the death of "[t]wo bystanders" and two more wounded.
Reuters reports four corpses were discovered in Suwayra. Reuters also notes that Safaa Ismail Inad's corpse was discovered ("journalist at al-Watan Newspaper") in Baghdad.
In peace news,
Cindy Sheehan (Common Dreams) advises: "Don't wait until the creeping militarism and budding fascism of the Bush State comes knocking at your door for one of your loved ones. It will happen unless we stand up and say 'no' with our loudest and most annoying voices" and urges people to take part in Camp Democracy which is ongoing in Washington, DC and free and open to the public.
Ann Wright (Scoop) writes of the genesis for the Camp (from Camp Casey to Camp Democracy): "Since we were in Bush's backyard in Crawford, why not bring our concerns on the direction of America and the need to use and preserve our democracy to the backyard (or frontyard) of Bush in the White House and to other government officials and lawmakers? Well, that's what Camp Democracy is doing right now. Every day concerned Americans are coming to Camp Democracy to think, listen, and act on important concerns."
Today's events included
The Commission of Inquiry on Crimes Against Humanity Committed by the Bush Administration release of their verdict: GUILTY: "The panel of jurists consisted of Adjoa A. Aiyetoro, William H. Bowen School of Law, Little Rock; former executive director, National Conference of Black Lawyers (NCBL). Dennis Brutus, former prisoner, Robben Island (South Africa), poet, professor emeritus, University of Pittsburgh. Abdeen Jabara, former president, American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee. Ajamu Sankofa, former executive director, Physicians for Social Responsibility-NY. Ann Wright, former US diplomat and retired US Army Reserve Colonel."
Tomorrow's events include peace and election education with
Danny Schechter scheduled to be among the participants with a screening of his documentary WMD: Weapons of Mass Deceptions. And on Sunday, Camp Democracy will host a number of events and the theme will be Impeachment Day. Among those participating: Elizabeth Holtzman, Michael Avery, Ray McGovern, David Green, John Nichols, Marcus Raskin, Elizabeth De La Vega, Dave Lindorff, David Swanson, Jennifer Van Bergen, Geoff King, David Waldman, Dan DeWalt, Steve Cobble, Anthony St. Martin, Cindy Bogard, Mubarak Awad, Susan Crane, Frank Anderson. The camp has daily activities and admission is free. A complete schedule can be found here.
In election,
John Nichols (The Nation) examines the primary win of Keith Ellison in Minnesota: "The Ellison victory was one of several for anti-war Democrats seeking open seats. Others came in in New York, where City Council member Yvette Clarke won a fierce fight for a Brooklyn seat once held by Shirley Chisholm, and in Maryland, where John Sarbanes, the son of retiring Senator Paul Sarbanes, led in a crowded House race. In Maryland's highest-profile race, however, former NAACP head Kweisi Mfume, who was outspoken in his opposition to the war, lost to the decidely more cautious Representative Ben Cardin by a 46-38 margin."