An obscure law approved by a Republican-controlled Congress a decade ago has made the Bush administration nervous that officials and troops involved in handling detainee matters might be accused of committing war crimes, and prosecuted at some point in U.S. courts.
Senior officials have responded by drafting legislation that would grant U.S. personnel involved in the terrorism fight new protections against prosecution for past violations of the War Crimes Act of 1996. That law criminalizes violations of the Geneva Conventions governing conduct in war and threatens the death penalty if U.S.-held detainees die in custody from abusive treatment.
In light of a recent Supreme Court ruling that the international Conventions apply to the treatment of detainees in the terrorism fight, Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales has spoken privately with Republican lawmakers about the need for such "protections," according to someone who heard his remarks last week.
After years of struggling to define their own approach to post-Sept. 11 foreign policy, Democrats seem finally to have hit on one. It's called pandering. In those rare cases when George W. Bush shows genuine sensitivity to America's allies and propounds a broader, more enlightened view of the national interest, Democrats will make him pay. It's jingoism with a liberal face.
The latest example came this week when Democratic senators and House members demanded that Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki either retract his criticisms of Israel or forfeit his chance to address Congress. Great idea. Maliki -- who runs a government propped up by U.S. troops -- is desperate to show Iraqis that he is not Washington's puppet. And the United States desperately needs him to succeed because, unless he gains political credibility at home, his government will have no hope of surviving on its own.
For more than a month after the killings, Sgt. Lemuel Lemus stuck to his story.
“Proper escalation of force was used,” he told an investigator, describing how members of his unit shot and killed three Iraqi prisoners who had lashed out at their captors and tried to escape after a raid northwest of Baghdad on May 9.
Then, on June 15, Sergeant Lemus offered a new and much darker account.
In a lengthy sworn statement, he said he had witnessed a deliberate plot by his fellow soldiers to kill the three handcuffed Iraqis and a cover-up in which one soldier cut another to bolster their story. The squad leader threatened to kill anyone who talked. Later, one guilt-stricken soldier complained of nightmares and “couldn’t stop talking” about what happened, Sergeant Lemus said.
Others suggested that the legislation could also be tied to a Republican proposal to create small-business health plans, which they say could decrease the costs of health insurance for small employers.
“It is not reasonable to increase the payroll of a small business without finding a way to decrease the expenses of small business,” said Representative Steven C. LaTourette of Ohio, another Republican behind the push for a minimum wage vote. He noted that more than 40 Democrats backed the health proposal when it was last considered, and said the Republican leadership did not intend to make the wage bill unacceptable to Democrats.
A majority of respondents, 56 percent, said they supported a timetable for a reduction in United States forces in Iraq, a question the two parties have been sparring over, with the White House and most Republicans in Congress taking the position that setting a timetable would send the wrong message. More than half of that group said they supported a withdrawal even if it meant Iraq would fall into the hands of insurgents.
Americans support the idea of putting an international peacekeeping force on the border between Israel and Lebanon to calm tensions there, the poll found, but most do not want United States troops to be a part of it.
July 27, 2006 — Ever wonder why so many people still seem confused about global warming?
The answer appears to be that confusion leads to profit — especially if you're in some parts of the energy business.
One Colorado electric cooperative has openly admitted that it has paid $100,000 to a university academic who prides himself on being a global warming skeptic.
Intermountain Rural Electric Association is heavily invested in power plants that burn coal, one of the chief sources of greenhouse gasses that scientists agree is quickly pushing earth's average temperature to dangerous levels.
Scientists and consumer advocates say the co-op is trying to confuse its clients about the virtually total scientific consensus on the causes of global warming.
"It sucks. Honestly, it just feels like we're driving around waiting to get blown up. That's the most honest answer I could give you," said Spec. Tim Ivey, 28, of San Antonio, a muscular former backup fullback for Baylor University. "You lose a couple friends and it gets hard."
"No one wants to be here, you know, no one is truly enthused about what we do," said Sgt. Christopher Dugger, the squad leader. "We were excited, but then it just wears on you -- there's only so much you can take. Like me, personally, I want to fight in a war like World War II. I want to fight an enemy. And this, out here," he said, motioning around the scorched sand-and-gravel base, the rows of Humvees and barracks, toward the trash-strewn streets of Baghdad outside, "there is no enemy, it's a faceless enemy. He's out there, but he's hiding."
"My personal opinion, I don't speak for the rest of anybody, I just speak for me personally, I think civil war is going to happen regardless," Steffey responded. "Maybe this country needs it: One side has to win. Be it Sunni, be it Shiite, one side has to win. It's apparent, these people have made it obvious they can't live in unity."
"We just receive promises around here, nothing else," Adnan, 40, told Comstock. "Three years, just promises, and promises and promises."
Comstock wrote down the words: "only promises."
You have to read news stories every so carefully these days. They try to lie to you, but hide the truth so that later, when criticized, they can point to a single word or two and pretend they weren't lying to your face.
And somehow, to me, this paragraph sounds made up:
He kept talking. "They say we're here and we've given them freedom, but really what is that? You know, what is freedom? You've got kids here who can't go to school. You've got people here who don't have jobs anymore. You've got people here who don't have power," he said. "You know, so yeah, they've got freedom now, but when they didn't have freedom, everybody had a job.
Everybody had a job? Like the before-the-war schoolteacher who was making about a dollar a month, who was selling his furniture to stay alive? Yeah, tell me about it. No, that doesn't sound like a soldier talking, that sounds like a reporter. Maybe it's a soldier and maybe not. And of course, Baghdad took all the power in the country before the war, letting the south rot. Now power demand is way, way up, so there are blackouts, and Baghdad shares those with the rest of the country.
Senior Justice Department and intelligence officials urged Congress yesterday to approve new laws to accommodate the government's controversial warrantless eavesdropping program.
Arguing that the 1978 law governing surveillance of terrorists is out of step with current technology, the officials, appearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee, said they previously had not sought new legislation to avoid disclosing a key part of the operation. That is the ability to intercept foreign phone calls and e-mails no matter what their destination as they pass through telecommunications facilities inside the United States, said Lt. Gen. Keith B. Alexander, director of the National Security Agency.
Gonzales said in defense of the proposal that it was "consistent with the rule of law" and that its conditional allowance of hearsay evidence was consistent with the practice of the international tribunals governing war crimes in Rwanda and the former Yugoslavia.
But at a House Armed Services Committee hearing yesterday, law professor Michael P. Scharf -- who helped draft the rules for the Yugoslav tribunal -- testified that administration officials have "painted a misleading picture" on the similarities between their plan and the tribunals' procedures.
Scharf said defendants before the tribunal were entitled in all cases to be present at trial and to know who was confronting them. Only highly trained and experienced judges can rule on the admissibility of hearsay evidence, and evidence collected through inhumane treatment falling short of torture is absolutely excluded, he said.
In other words, right-wing activists, who believed after the 2004 election that GOP lawmakers would finally advance a religious right-style agenda, are now "rejuvenated" despite Republicans failing to actually accomplish anything.
What is there for the far-right to be so excited about? After ignoring the Dobson crowd for the better part of two years, Republicans have recently:
* held unsuccessful votes on gay marriage, flag burning, and the estate tax;
* ignored the base's demands and passed a popular stem-cell research bill that sparked a presidential veto;
* passed a court-stripping measure in the House that almost certainly won't even come up for a vote in the Senate;
* and successfully increased fines on broadcast indecency.
That's it. Stiffer FCC penalties and a bunch of failed measures are enough to "rejuvenate" the base?
Talk about your soft bigotry of low expectations….
It's all fairly standard Democratic boilerplate -- except the candidate is a Republican . And he's getting all kinds of cooperation from the White House, the Republican National Committee and GOP congressional leaders.
Not that he necessarily wants it. "Well, you know, I don't know," the candidate said when asked if he wanted President Bush to campaign for him. Noting Bush's low standing in his home state, he finally added: "To be honest with you, probably not."
The candidate gave the luncheon briefing to nine reporters from newspapers, magazines and networks under the condition that he be identified only as a GOP Senate candidate. When he was pressed to go on the record, his campaign toyed with the idea but got cold feet. He was anxious enough to air his gripes but cautious enough to avoid a public brawl with the White House.
In an attempt to strike a pre-election Republican compromise on immigration, two conservative lawmakers will unveil a plan today that would allow most of the 11 million illegal immigrants in the United States a chance to work here legally, but only after the government certifies that U.S. borders have been sufficiently secured, two congressional aides said.
The proposal -- sponsored by Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison (Tex.) and Rep. Mike Pence (Ind.) -- would pressure illegal immigrants to "self-deport" to their home countries within two years of the law's enactment and apply for a new kind of visa that would allow them to return to the United States quickly and work legally if a job awaits them. They would have to work here for 17 years, however, to be eligible for U.S. citizenship.
Lawmakers in California and New York are considering bills to deter the common courtroom strategy of making a victim's sexual orientation central to a criminal defense.
Both measures would require judges to remind jurors that bias toward the victim cannot influence their deliberations.
California's bill also would instruct juries that gay panic defenses are inconsistent with state laws protecting gays, lesbians and transgenders from discrimination.
It was prompted by the murder of 17-year-old Gwen Araujo, a transgender teenager who was beaten and strangled in 2002 after two men with whom she'd had anal sex learned she was biologically male.
Surely it was coincidence, but I couldn't help notice that in the same week Reed lost, Graham was celebrated in a front-page New York Times profile representative of his rise to national prominence. I chatted with Graham by phone on Tuesday (as it happens, before the polls had closed in Georgia) and Graham suggested that his party needs to unlearn some of the lessons supposedly taught six years ago by his state's primary.
Republicans, he said, need to move beyond mobilizing their base "because our base isn't big enough to propel us to victory 10 years from now."
Conservatives -- of which Graham is emphatically one -- should be wary of a politics based on the idea that to satisfy your own core supporters, "the other side's got to be miserable."
"I want conservatism to be seen as a good solution to people's problems and not go the way of liberals," Graham said. "Liberalism is not a title easily worn now, and that could happen to conservatism."
SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - A federal judge rejected on Thursday a request from the head of U.S. intelligence and other government officials to dismiss a lawsuit against AT&T which alleges the firm illegally allowed the government to monitor phone conversations and e-mail communications.
AT&T asked the court in late April to dismiss the case, and two weeks later the U.S. government also asked the federal judge to dismiss it, citing its state secrets privilege.
Republicans and some conservative Democrats who have backed the president's call to stay the course are finding it increasingly difficult to square their generally optimistic rhetoric with the grim situation on the ground in Baghdad and other cities.
"This escalating trend . . . represents the greatest danger to Iraq as it threatens to erode the government's authority," Ashraf Qazi, the U.N. envoy to Baghdad, said in a statement. "The emerging phenomenon of Iraqis killing Iraqis on a daily basis is nothing less than a catastrophe."
But it is the nature of the violence that may be forcing Republicans and some Democrats to temper their public assertions about the war -- even as they insist that the administration cannot pull out without precipitating an even worse situation. Masked attackers wielding heavy machine guns have killed Shiite mothers and children in a market and hauled Sunnis off buses to be slaughtered in broad daylight. A suicide car bomber killed 53 Tuesday in Baghdad after he beckoned a crowd of day laborers to his explosives-laden minivan.
An AP count showed at least 696 Iraqis were killed in sectarian or war-related violence in the first 18 days of July. That's a sharp rise over the same period last year, when an AP count showed more than 450 Iraqis were killed.
But statistics alone cannot convey the depth of the sectarian brutality.
In Kufa, police said the suicide attacker drove to a street corner where laborers congregate, hoping someone will offer them work for the day. The driver promised jobs, filled the van, and then detonated it on a bustling street.
Sunni gunmen in Mahmoudiya sprayed the crowd of mostly Shiite shoppers Monday with automatic weapons and fired rocket-propelled grenades into the melee, according to police and survivors. In the aftermath, children lay on hospital gurneys, their legs shattered, their bodies writhing in pain.
Nearly every day, police find corpses in Baghdad streets and vacant lots, victims of death squads that hunt down members of the rival sect. The bodies often show signs of horrific torture, including holes drilled into their eyes or skulls.
As a result, many Iraqis — especially those who live in Baghdad and other religiously mixed cities — are terrified. Almost everyone seems to have a relative or acquaintance who has disappeared or died violently.
Federally funded "pregnancy resource centers" are incorrectly telling women that abortion results in an increased risk of breast cancer, infertility and deep psychological trauma, a minority congressional report charged yesterday.
The report said that 20 of 23 federally funded centers contacted by staff investigators requesting information about an unintended pregnancy were told false or misleading information about the potential risks of an abortion.
Care Net's Molly Ford said the centers criticized by Waxman received federal grants for abstinence-only programs they conduct, but not for pregnancy counseling. "The funds are kept entirely separate," she said.
Rep. Barney Frank, D-Mass., one of just a few openly gay members of Congress, said he took the proposal personally. "I think this is motivated, frankly, by a dislike of those of us who are gay and lesbian," he said, and he objected to "people taking batting practice with my life."
Recent Gallup polls show that a majority of Americans say such research is morally acceptable and support federal funding for it. Polls found Republicans more conflicted, with just 51 percent calling embryonic stem cell research morally acceptable and only four in 10 favoring federal funding of such research.
GOP strategists say the differences that the stem cell debate exposed doesn't make life any easier for Republicans trying to maintain their grip on Congress, especially moderates in Democratic-leaning districts.
"The focus is not on the Democrats who opposed the president on stem cells, now it's on the divisions in the Republican Party," said Tony Fabrizio, a GOP pollster.
Questioned by reporters on what the difference was, Boehner seemed tongue-tied. "These were American citizens killed by terrorists. That is a very different policy issue than American soldiers dying on the battlefield protecting the rights and freedoms of American people."
"How so?" a reporter asked.
"How so? You want me to describe the difference between men and women of the military out there defending the American people, and victims - victims - of terrorist activities?" Boehner asked.
"They were both killed by opponents, right? Terrorists or Islamic insurgents?" a reporter pressed.
An exasperated Boehner said: "The World Trade Center victims were victims of a terrorist act here on our shore and I think all Americans were appalled that this did in fact happen. But I think the differences, in terms of the images, are as clear as night and day."
Democracy Alliance also has left some Washington political activists concerned about what they perceive as a distinctly liberal tilt to the group's funding decisions. Some activists said they worry that the alliance's new clout may lead to groups with a more centrist ideology becoming starved for resources.
"Everything we invest in should have not just short-term impact but long-term impact and sustainability," she said. The group requires nondisclosure agreements because many donors prefer anonymity, Wade added. Some donors expressed concern about being attacked on the Web or elsewhere for their political stance; others did not want to be targeted by fundraisers.
The extremist and increasingly deranged rhetoric and tactics found in the right-wing blogosphere -- not only among obscure bloggers but promoted and disseminated by its most-read and influential bloggers -- is, indeed, "a very common disease." When it becomes commonplace to hurl accusations of treason against domestic political opponents, or when calls for imprisonment and/or hanging of journalists and political leaders become the daily fare -- all of which is true for the pro-Bush blogosphere -- those are serious developments. And they merit discussion and examination by the media.
As I began to interview them, it became clear that something had changed in the greasy blue-collar boonies that were central to my own identity. Plain old cannabis had transcended its middle-finger status to become an organizing principle for a real, honest-to-god movement that blurred all political and even religious lines. Thousands of people against the drug war had gathered at Rainbow Farm — Republicans, Democrats, Libertarians, Greens, New Agers, Buddhists, born-agains, Militiamen, UFO enthusiasts, local mayors, police officers, people who called themselves things like The Wood Bitches and Buzz Daily and Cockroach — the vast majority of them responsible adults with children and businesses and churches. Just as the Vietnam War became a central focus for reform movements of the 1960s and '70s, from civil rights to drugs to the new left to radical feminism, the hemp festivals at Rainbow Farm had become a catch-all for discontent. The partiers there were upset about the decay of privacy and property rights and about urine testing in the factories of Elkhart. A lot of them were people with medical conditions like glaucoma and multiple sclerosis and epilepsy who felt they had to fight the pharmaceutical companies to get cannabis restored to them as medicine. They were upset that industrial hemp was illegal even though you couldn't get high off it and it was a potential solution to a raft of environmental troubles. They were against corporate globalism.
They were incensed that their government was treating them like infants. Somehow, in the nonsensical and false climate of red-vs.-blue politics, the potent symbol of all their disparate anger was weed.
The letter to the journal focused on David A. Prentice, a scientist with the conservative Family Research Council. Prentice has been an adviser to Sen. Sam Brownback (R-Kan.) -- a leader in the charge to maintain tight restrictions on the research -- and an "expert source" often cited by opponents of embryonic stem cell research.
Prentice has repeatedly claimed that adult stem cells, which can be retrieved harmlessly from adults, have at least as much medical potential as embryonic cells. He often carries a binder filled with references to scientific papers that he says prove the value of adult stem cells as treatments for at least 65 diseases.
In the letter to Science, however, three researchers went through Prentice's footnoted documentation and concluded that most of his examples are wrong.
The AP-Ipsos poll of 1,000 adults conducted Monday through Wednesday found that President Bush has stopped his political freefall, with his approval rating of 36 percent basically unchanged from last month. Bush received slightly higher marks for his handling of the Iraq war and the fight against terrorism, weeks after his surprise trip to Baghdad and the killing of Iraqi terrorist Abu Musab al-Zarqawi in a U.S. airstrike last month.
The AP-Ipsos survey asked 789 registered voters if the election for the House were held today, would they vote for the Democratic or Republican candidate in their district. Democrats were favored 51 percent to 40 percent.
Not surprisingly, 81 percent of self-described liberals said they would vote for the Democrat. Among moderates, though, 56 percent backed a Democrat in their district and almost a quarter of conservatives -- 24 percent -- said they will vote Democratic.
Although the ACLU accuses the Specter bill of providing a "pardon" for the President's prior criminal conduct -- and also of "expressly create(ing) a retroactive exception to criminal liability when warrantless wiretapping is done at the president’s discretion" -- it seems they are criticizing the bill's recognition of the President's inherent authority to eavesdrop going forward. There is no reference to any express provision providing for retroactive de-criminalization of past violations of FISA, which leads me to believe that it is not, in fact, in this bill, or else the ACLU would emphasize it in their opposition.
I know this is all less than clear, but between figuring out which version of the bill is the current one, and which provisions it contains, the matter itself is unclear. But it seems to me now that although there is a (weak) argument to make that this bill provides retroactive legalization, it does not do so in the explicit sense that the prior Specter bill did. Instead, it merely enables the administration to claim that Congress is now recognizing the administration's inherent authority to eavesdrop -- a point which, even if true, would not (as Hamdan and Youngstown made clear) excuse the administration's exercise of that power in the face of a Congressional statute which imposes limitations on the power.
[W]e seem to have forgotten [a lesson from history], we can boast all we wish about our vaunted freedom and democracy, but in the eyes of the civilized world we wear the mark of Cain.(Emphasis added)
"Now you [Cain] are accursed and will be banished from the very ground which has opened its mouth to receive the blood you have shed. When you till the ground, it will no longer yield you its produce. You shall be a wanderer, a fugitive on the earth." Cain said to the LORD, "My punishment is heavier than I can bear; now you are driving me off the land, and I must hide myself from your presence. I shall be a wanderer, a fugitive on the earh, and I can be killed at sight by anyone. The LORD answered him, "No: if anyone kills Cain, sevenfold vengeance will be exacted from him." The LORD put a mark on Cain, so that anyone happening to meet him should not kill him.(emphasis added)
The problem may be the House, which has taken a harder line and clashed repeatedly with the Senate over immigration legislation, McCain's torture ban, renewal of the USA Patriot Act and budget priorities. Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.) called House-Senate tension "the main dynamic of Congress this year."
"The House thinks the Senate is the cowardly lion, and the Senate thinks the House is the scarecrow without a brain," he said.
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. House on Tuesday approved a Republican-written bill to crack down on Internet gambling, in what critics said was an election-year appeal to the party's conservative base.
The House voted 317-93 to impose a ban on most forms of Internet gambling by making it illegal for banks and credit card companies to make payments to online gambling sites. Internet gambling generates some $12 billion annually worldwide, half from American gamblers.
"This is a scourge on our society. It causes innumerable problems," Republican Bob Goodlatte of Virginia, one of the bill's sponsors, said on the House floor before the vote.
A spokesman for Leach, Greg Wierzynski, denied suggestions the move was politically-motivated. He noted Leach has been pushing Congress to take up the issue for many years.
"If people want to do something, and it doesn't hurt anybody else, we ought to mind our own business," Frank said on Monday. "This is a bill to tell adults not to do something because people in this body disapprove of what they do."
ARLINGTON, Texas - The school district here has expanded its dress codes to include mouths — and earlobes.
Students may no longer wear mouth jewelry known as "grillz" — shiny teeth caps — or the earlobe-stretching practice known as "gauging."
The Bush administration, in an apparent policy reversal sparked by a recent Supreme Court ruling, said today it will extend the guarantees of humane treatment specified by the Geneva Conventions to detainees in the war-on-terror.
In a memo released by the Pentagon this morning, Deputy Defense Secretary Gordon England, citing the Supreme Court's decision, ordered all Pentagon personnel to "adhere to these standards" and to "promptly review" all policies and practices "to ensure that they comply with the standards" of the Geneva Convention's Common Article 3.
Five years after the attacks on the United States, the Bush administration faces the prospect of reworking key elements of its anti-terrorism effort in light of challenges from the courts, Congress and European allies crucial to counterterrorism operations.
The Republican chairman of the House intelligence committee and other members of Congress have complained about not being briefed on classified surveillance programs and huge unprecedented databases used to monitor domestic and international phone calls, faxes, e-mails and bank transfers.
"We are not a parliament, and when we function like a parliament we're unfaithful to the process and our system of government," said Rep. Christopher Shays (R-Conn.), who will preside over the Iraq hearing. "We hurt our country and both branches of government. If we had been more forceful . . . Abu Ghraib would have never happened."
Ever since the rise of the religious right, liberals have longed for a religious counterpart on the left. But that notion was always dubious, and the recent turmoil within the Episcopal Church should put ut to rest for good.
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Liberal values represent the essence of the world's great religions. At the root of all of the great faiths are fundamental beliefs in compassion, justice, love, and charity. We have the right - dare I say the duty? - to express ourselves as moral agents without the impramtur of ecclesiastical authority.
Chief U.S. District Judge Thomas F. Hogan said members of Congress are not above the law. He rejected requests from lawmakers and Democratic Rep. William Jefferson to return material seized by the FBI in a May 20-21 search of Jefferson's office.
In a 28-page opinion, Hogan dismissed arguments that the first-ever raid on a congressman's office violated the Constitution's protections against intials.
"Congress' capacity to function effectively is not threatened by permitting congressional offices to be searched pursuant to validly issued search warrants," said Hogan, who had approved the FBI's request to conduct the overnight search of Jefferson's office.