Friday, October 28, 2005

Bush seeks CIA exemption from ban on cruelty to terror suspects

Bush seeks CIA exemption from ban on cruelty to terror suspects

Jamie Wilson in Washington
Wednesday October 26, 2005
The Guardian

The White House wants the CIA to be exempted from a proposed ban on the abusive treatment of terrorism suspects being held in United States custody.

The Senate defied a threatened presidential veto three weeks ago and passed legislation that would outlaw the "cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment" of anyone held by the US. But the Washington Post and the New York Times, both quoting anonymous officials, said the vice-president, Dick Cheney, proposed a change so that the law would not apply to counter-terrorism operations abroad or to operations conducted by "an element" of the US government other than the defence department.


The ground war in Syria has begun
Tuesday, October 25, 2005
The ground war in Syria has begun

Syria is in grave danger of attack and destruction by the United States, and Iran isn't, simply because the neocons take their marching orders from Israel, and the Likudniks want regime change in Syria, and the ultimate destruction of that country. The secular Syrian government, with its strong ties to pan-Arab nationalism, is the biggest nightmare for the Likudniks, and it is no accident that the two first targets, Iraq and Syria, were both secular governments which fought internal religious strife from Islamists by appealing to Arab identity. The sudden withdrawal of American troops from Iraq, after a suitable time to prepare the country for civil war, including the use of agents provocateurs, was the plan all along, in order to lead to the civil war which will break up Iraq into warring factions, and eventually create the Shi'ite empire led by Iran which is intended to be the new de facto Israeli ally. The similar plan for Syria is to break off the Kurdish east and give it to the new Israeli ally called Kurdistan, and allow for the new Syrian government to be led by the Muslim Brotherhood. Since Israel can't possibly be expected to negotiate with radical Islamists, Israel will immediately permanently confiscate the Golan Heights (necessary for 'security' against the 'radicals' leading Syria), and will soon contrive another war to confiscate more parts of Syria on the way to building Greater Israel.

This plan is much further developed than the most of the disgusting American media is prepared to reveal. In what has already been compared to Kissinger's illegal war in Cambodia, the Americans are now using the ruse of pursuit of insurgents to begin to fight an actual war on Syrian territory (some think it is these guys doing the fighting). The media has to keep this quiet, as it is completely illegal both under American and international law. The Syrians can't talk about it as it would prove that the Syrian government is not in control of Syrian territory, an admission which would lead to a coup. The war, the extent of which we will probably not know for years, is intended to destabilize the current Syrian government and lead to the Israeli goal of regime change. While the neocons appear to be on the run in Washington, their plans continue to develop as if the AIPAC/Niger forgery/Plamegate scandal was just some work of fiction.

Costly kickback scandal unfolds at a U.S. Special Forces base

Costly kickback scandal unfolds at a U.S. Special Forces base
By Leslie Wayne The New York Times

NEW YORK U.S. investigators are looking into a bribery and kickback scandal at the U.S. Special Operations Command involving millions of dollars in equipment used in battle by special operations forces, among them navy Seals and army Green Berets and Rangers.
So far, one civilian procurement contractor at the command, located at MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa, Florida, has pleaded guilty in U.S. court and at least one other indictment is expected. The contractor, William Burke, admitted accepting payments from an individual who represented military contractors seeking to equip the commandos. That person has not been officially identified.
Burke, a special forces procurement contractor since 1999, faces up to 15 years in prison and a fine of $250,000. As part of his plea, Burke will cooperate with U.S. investigators. His lawyer, Daniel Hernandez, declined to comment.
In the meantime, the Special Operations Command is examining all contracts handled by Burke to determine whether soldiers received inferior equipment as a result of the bribes. The contracts cover lightweight communications systems, ammunition, small arms and other equipment carried by U.S. Army, Navy and Air Force Special Forces in Iraq and Afghanistan.
As a result of the war on terror, financing to the command for these elite forces has risen sharply since 2001 and is now around $6 billion a year.
"We are reviewing all contracts that may have been involved," said Kenneth McGraw, a spokesman for the command, which is the headquarters of the special forces. "We do not have the information on the number of contracts that may have been affected. We are conducting a review to make that determination now."
Still, because the case comes after a multibillion-dollar procurement scandal that shook the Pentagon last year and because it involves equipment used by elite troops on dangerous assignments, it is attracting attention in Washington and within the Pentagon.
"It's disconcerting," said Keith Ashdown, a military analyst with Taxpayers for Common Sense, a Washington research group. "These are supposed to be the crème de la crème of forces. If their procurement officers were taking kickbacks, it could be happening anywhere."
Last year, in a high-profile procurement scandal, Darleen Druyun, once the a top weapons buyer for the air force, pleaded guilty to conspiracy and was jailed for having favored Boeing in billion-dollar Pentagon contracts in return for employment there for herself and members of her family.
"If Darleen Druyun is the poster child for corruption at the Pentagon, there are a lot of little Darleen Druyuns running around," Ashdown said. "A lot of this just flies under the radar screen."
Court papers describe a kickback plan in which Burke received payments from the unnamed individual in return for preferential treatment in the awarding of contracts to companies represented by the person.
Burke received $12,000 and "would receive substantial compensation from this other individual 'down the road"' the papers said.
McGraw, the command spokesman, said Burke formed his company in October 2004, and in December, the command received information that led to an investigation by the office of the special operations inspector general.
In February, the office of the special forces inspector general, which cannot investigate criminal cases, referred the case to the Pentagon Defense Criminal Investigative Service and the FBI.
Burke is scheduled to be sentenced in 60 to 90 days.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

GI's and Syrians in Tense Clashes on Iraqi Border

GI's and Syrians in Tense Clashes on Iraqi Border

James Risen & David E. Sanger

New York Times
October 15, 2005

A series of clashes in the last year between American and Syrian troops, including a prolonged firefight this summer that killed several Syrians, has raised the prospect that cross-border military operations may become a dangerous new front in the Iraq war, according to current and former military and government officials.

The firefight, between Army Rangers and Syrian troops along the border with Iraq, was the most serious of the conflicts with President Bashar al-Assad's forces, according to American and Syrian officials. It illustrated the dangers facing American troops as Washington tries to apply more political and military pressure on a country that President Bush last week labeled one of the "allies of convenience" with Islamic extremists. He also named Iran.

One of Mr. Bush's most senior aides, who declined to be identified because of the sensitivity of the subject, said that so far American military forces in Iraq had moved right up to the border to cut off the entry of insurgents, but he insisted that they had refrained from going over it.

But other officials, who say they got their information in the field or by talking to Special Operations commanders, say that as American efforts to cut off the flow of fighters have intensified, the operations have spilled over the border - sometimes by accident, sometimes by design. Some current and former officials add that the United States military is considering plans to conduct special operations inside Syria, using small covert teams for cross-border intelligence gathering.

The broadening military effort along the border has intensified as the Iraqi constitutional referendum scheduled for Saturday approaches, and as frustration mounts in the Bush administration and among senior American commanders over their inability to prevent foreign radical Islamists from engaging in suicide bombings and other deadly terrorist acts inside Iraq. Increasingly, officials say, Syria is to the Iraq war what Cambodia was in the Vietnam War: a sanctuary for fighters, money and supplies to flow over the border and, ultimately, a place for a shadow struggle.

Covert military operations are among the most closely held of secrets, and planning for them is extremely delicate politically as well, so none of those who discussed the subject would allow themselves to be identified. They included military officers, civilian officials and people who are otherwise actively involved in military operations or have close ties to Special Operations forces.

In the summer firefight, several Syrian soldiers were killed, leading to a protest from the Syrian government to the United States Embassy in Damascus, according to American and Syrian officials. A military official who spoke with some of the Rangers who took part in the incident said they had described it as an intense firefight, although it could not be learned whether there had been any American casualties. Nor could the exact location of the clash, along the porous and poorly marked border, be learned.

In a meeting at the White House on Oct. 1, senior aides to Mr. Bush considered a variety of options for further actions against Syria, apparently including special operations along with other methods for putting pressure on Mr. Assad in coming weeks.

American officials say Mr. Bush has not yet signed off on a specific strategy and has no current plan to try to oust Mr. Assad, partly for fear of who might take over. The United States is not planning large-scale military operations inside Syria and the president has not authorized any covert action programs to topple the Assad government, several officials said. "There is no finding on Syria," said one senior official, using the term for presidential approval of a covert action program. "We've got our hands full in the neighborhood," added a senior official involved in the discussion.

Some other current and former officials suggest that there already have been initial intelligence gathering operations by small clandestine Special Operations units inside Syria. Several senior administration officials said such special operations had not yet been conducted, although they did not dispute the notion that they were under consideration.

Whether they have already occurred or are still being planned, the goal of such operations is limited to singling out insurgents passing through Syria and do not appear to amount to an organized effort to punish or topple the Syrian government.

According to people who have spoken with Special Operations commanders, teams like the Army's Delta Force are well suited for reconnaissance and intelligence gathering inside Syria. They could identify and disrupt the lines of communications, sanctuaries and gathering points used by foreign Arab fighters and Islamist extremists seeking to wage war against American troops in Iraq.

What the administration calls Syria's acquiescence in insurgent operations organized and carried out from its territory is a major factor driving the White House as it conducts what seems to be a major reassessment of its Syria policy.

The withdrawal of Syrian troops from Lebanon earlier this year in the wake of the assassination in February of Rafik Hariri, the former Lebanese prime minister, in Beirut led to a renewed debate in the White House about whether - and how - to push for change in Damascus.

With no clear or acceptable alternative to Mr. Assad's government on the horizon, the administration now seems to be awaiting the outcome of an international investigation of the Hariri assassination, which may lead to charges against senior Syrian officials. Detlev Mehlis, the German prosecutor in charge of the United Nations investigation of the killing, is expected to complete a report on his findings this month. If Mr. Mehlis reports that senior Syrian officials are implicated in the Hariri assassination, some Bush administration officials say that could weaken the Assad government.

"I think the administration is looking at the Mehlis investigation as possibly providing a kind of slow-motion regime change," said one former United States official familiar with Syria policy. The death - Syrian officials called it a suicide - on Wednesday of Interior Minister Ghazi Kanaan of Syria, who was questioned in connection with the United Nations investigation, may have been an indication of the intense pressure building on the Assad government from that inquiry.

Zalmay Khalilzad, the United States ambassador to Iraq, issued one of the administration's most explicit public challenges to Damascus recently when he said that "our patience is running out with Syria."

"Syria has to decide what price it's willing to pay in making Iraq success difficult," he said on Sept. 12. "And time is running out for Damascus to decide on this issue." Some hawks in the administration make little secret of their hope that mounting political and military pressure will lead to Mr. Assad's fall, despite their worries about who might succeed him. Other American officials seem to believe that by taking modest military steps against his country, they will so intimidate Mr. Assad that he will alter his behavior and prevent Syrian territory from being used as a sanctuary for the Iraqi insurgency and its leadership.

"Our policy is to get Syria to change its behavior," said a senior administration official. "It has failed to change its behavior with regard to the border with Iraq, with regard to its relationships with rejectionist Palestinian groups, and it has only reluctantly gotten the message on Lebanon." The official added: "We have had people for years sending them messages telling them to change their behavior. And they don't seem to recognize the seriousness of those messages. The hope is that Syria gets the message."

There are some indications that this strategy, described as "rattling the cage," may be working. Some current and former administration officials say that the flow of foreign fighters has already diminished because Mr. Assad has started to restrict their movement through Syria.

But while he appears to be curbing the number of foreign Arab fighters moving through Syria, the American officials say he has not yet restricted former senior members of Saddam Hussein's government from using Syria as a haven from which to provide money and coordination to the Sunni-based insurgency in Iraq. "You see small tactical changes, which they don't announce, so they are not on the hook for permanent changes," a senior official said about Syria's response. "They are doing just enough to reduce the pressure in hopes we won't pay attention, and then they slide back again."

In an interview with CNN this week, Mr. Assad denied that there were any insurgent sanctuaries inside Syria. "There is no such safe haven or camp," he insisted. In this tense period of give and take between Washington and Damascus, the firefight this summer was clearly a critical event. It came at a time when the American military in Iraq was mounting a series of major offensives in the Euphrates Valley near the Syrian border to choke off the routes that foreign fighters have used to get into Iraq.

The Americans and Iraqis have been fortifying that side of the border and increasing patrols, raising the possibility of firing across the unmarked border and of crossing it in "hot pursuit." From time to time there have been reports of clashes, usually characterized as incidental friction between American and Syrian forces. There have been some quiet attempts to work out ways to avoid that, but formal agreements have been elusive in an atmosphere of mutual mistrust.

Some current and former United States military and intelligence officials who said they believed that Americans were already secretly penetrating Syrian territory question what they see as the Bush administration's excessive focus on the threat posed by foreign Arab fighters going through Syria. They say the vast majority of insurgents battling American forces are Iraqis, not foreign jihadis.

According to a new study by the Center for Strategic and International Studies, intelligence analysis and the pattern of detentions in Iraq show that the number of foreign fighters represents "well below 10 percent, and may well be closer to 4 percent to 6 percent" of the total makeup of the insurgency. One former United States official with access to recent intelligence on the insurgency added that American intelligence reports had concluded that 95 percent of the insurgents were Iraqi.

This former intelligence official said that in conversations with several midcareer American military officers who had recently served in Iraq, they had privately complained to him that senior commanders in Iraq seemed fixated on the issue of foreign fighters, despite the evidence that they represented a small portion of the insurgency. "They think that the senior commanders are obsessed with the foreign fighters because that's an easier issue to deal with," the former intelligence official said. "It's easier to blame foreign fighters instead of developing new counterinsurgency strategies." Top Pentagon officials and senior commanders have said that while the number of foreign fighters is small, they are still responsible for most of the suicide bombings in Iraq. Gen. John P. Abizaid, commander of United States Central Command, said on Oct. 2 on the NBC News program "Meet the Press" that he recognized the need to avoid "hyping the foreign fighter problem."

But he cautioned that "the foreign fighters generally tend to be people that believe in the ideology of Al Qaeda and their associated movements, and they tend to be suicide bombers." "So while the foreign fighters certainly aren't large in number," he said, "they are deadly in their application."

The Strongman's Story

The Strongman's Story

By Noy Thrupkaew, The American Prospect
Posted on October 21, 2005

A new documentary about Peru's former leader Alberto Fujimori may ping American viewers with uncomfortable similarities to our own war on terrorism.

Early on in Ellen Perry's jaw-dropper of a documentary, Fall of Fujimori, the controversial former leader of Peru is seen applying his makeup, dabbing on foundation with a sponge and peering into a mirror. It's a disarming and curious moment, made all the more incongruous by the information that has preceded it: Alberto Fujimori is living in exile in Japan, wanted on charges of corruption, kidnapping, and murder in Peru.

In its own way, the scene is a subtler reworking of the footage of U.S. pols primping, prepping, and running spit-covered combs through their hair in Michael Moore's Fahrenheit 9/11. Like Moore's film, Fujimori aims to show its viewers what goes on behind the stagecraft of politics and the ugliness behind its faade. Perry has a lighter hand than Moore does, however; as a result, her film disturbs in a more nuanced fashion. She intrigues, perturbs, and asks many questions, but provides few answers -- an approach that will likely provoke viewers into scurrying to find out more about the underreported story of Peru and its self-anointed savior-turned-strongman.

"Hollywood actors pale next to my husband," says Susan Higuchi, Fujimori's former wife. And indeed, the former president seems to have a knack for framing his dramatic narrative: By turns, he presents himself as the ethnic outsider who could speak for Peru's indigenous groups, the tough-on-terrorism leader, the school-builder. On camera, Fujimori has a gentlemanly affability, only occasionally broken by his overweening confidence in the story of his presidency.

"God gives everyone a duty," he says. "I really like the work of a president." He's a true believer, all right -- in himself.

Perry charts the arc of Fujimori's rise and fall against the backdrop of Peruvian history -- the government's brutal battles with leftist guerrillas, the country's' towering inflation, and its lack of infrastructure, particularly in rural areas. The son of Japanese immigrants, Fujimori was a university president at the time of Peru's 1990 elections, a quintessential dark-horse candidate who was completely untried in politics. Yet, by dint of his ethnic otherness (the Peruvians dubbed him "El Chino," the Chinese one), and his insistence on driving into shantytowns in a "Fujimobile," one commentator explains, Fujimori was able to secure a surprising victory.

As presented by Perry, Fujimori's reign is a fascinating study in means and ends. Thousands of deaths in terrorist attacks, the all-out pursuit of a shadowy leader, a campaign against suspects that included torture -- these elements of Peru's story may ping U.S. viewers with uncomfortable similarities to our own "war on terrorism." As Perry frames it, Peru serves as a potent warning of the corruption that can take root when power is wielded in the name of righteousness.

"Terrorism was done in the name of revolution," says Fujimori. "I started a revolution myself ... for the citizens."

Citing the country's battles with the Maoist Shining Path movement and the Marxist-Leninist Tupac Amaru Revolutionary Movement, Fujimori declared a "self-coup" and dissolved his congress -- in effect, he declared martial law and set himself up as dictator. While his government did much to quell the violent leftist movements in his country, and was, according to some of the film's commentators, a positive force on the whole, Fujimori's regime was later marked by the terror he claimed to eradicate. The president's adviser to the national intelligence service, Vladimiro Montesinos, ran amok, bribing politicians, detonating bombs outside naysayers' homes, and setting paramilitary death squads on suspected leftists. Fujimori's detractors claim Montesinos operated with the full knowledge and support of the president; Fujimori's supporters, meanwhile, declare El Chino's innocence.

Perry's film doesn't draw conclusions for its viewers, presenting instead a wealth of footage from which we can form our own arguments. The film is a masterwork of editing -- Perry punctuates her points with often gory footage of prisons, death-squad raids, even a home video shot by Fujimori's son that shows the president and Montesinos making knowing references to covering up some dirty deed. Interspersed with the found footage are fascinatingly candid interviews with Fujimori as he travels around Tokyo, meeting and greeting right-wing politicians and admirers. Why on earth is he doing these interviews? a viewer may think, before the answer comes clear: Fujimori still believes in himself as a righteous leader.

The result is a compelling portrait of a charming man corrupted by his own grandiose visions. But Fujimori's training as a scientist (he was an agricultural engineer and lecturer in mathematics before he was president) occasionally peeks through, to fascinating effect; he appears as a reality-based individual fighting with the myth-making hero. He explains the convoluted rationalization he used to justify running for a third, illegal term -- and suddenly stops himself, laughingly admitting, "Okay, it might sound a little forced." He calmly tells Perry that he and his wife would eat dinners together even as she ran for the presidency against him. After the filmmaker's astonished follow-up question, he pauses and then the faade breaks apart. "It was crazy!" he declares. "It was completely absurd."

The film has a brisk pace -- at times, perhaps, a bit too fast. Perry doesn't explain Fujimori's original platform, nor does she delve sufficiently into Peru's disenchantment with its Spanish-descended intellectual and political elite, an anger that contributed largely to voters throwing their support behind a nearly unknown candidate.

Similarly, the complex racial and class dynamics in Peru are not fully explored, and too often, she relies on voiceovers without telling her viewers who is speaking. Occasionally these missteps converge, as when one anonymous commentator likens Fujimori to "a bloodthirsty samurai." Who is the fool who said that? And why isn't Fujimori's Japanese-ness, and the roles of Japanese in Peruvian society -- not just his "otherness" or "not-Spanish" qualities -- more fully addressed, save for this throwaway comment?

All in all, however, Perry's film is a complex personal portrait, set against a political landscape remarkable for both its turmoil and international relevance to the current wars on terrorism. This story sheds light on issues that transcend its borders, and, like many a good story, it gets better and better -- or crazier, as the case may be. Fujimori, for example, just this month announced that he intends to run for president in Peru's April 2006 elections. "El Chino," he said with a smile, "will be back."

Noy Thrupkaew is a Prospect senior correspondent.

CIA leak illustrates selective use of intelligence on Iraq

Wed., Oct. 26, 2005
CIA leak illustrates selective use of intelligence on Iraq

Knight Ridder Newspapers

WASHINGTON - The grand jury probe into the leak of a covert CIA officer's name has opened a new window into how the Bush administration used intelligence from dubious sources to make a case for a pre-emptive war and discarded information that undercut its rationale for attacking Iraq.

CIA officer Valerie Plame was outed in an apparent attempt to discredit her husband, former Ambassador Joseph Wilson, after he challenged President Bush's allegation in his 2003 State of the Union speech that Iraq had tried to buy uranium for nuclear weapons from the African nation of Niger.

A Knight Ridder review of the administration's arguments, its own reporting at the time and the Senate Intelligence Committee's 2004 report shows that the White House followed a pattern of using questionable intelligence, even documents that turned out to be forgeries, to support its case - often leaking classified information to receptive journalists - and dismissing information that undermined the case for war.

The State of the Union speech was one of a number of instances in which Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney and their aides ignored the qualms of intelligence professionals and instead relied on the claims of Iraqi defectors and other suspect sources or, in the case of Niger, the crudely forged documents.

Like the Niger allegation, almost all of the administration's claims that Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein had to be ousted before he could develop nuclear, biological or chemical weapons, use them against America or give them to al-Qaida terrorists have turned out to be false. No such weapons or programs have been found, and several official inquiries have concluded that there was no cooperation between Iraq and al-Qaida.

The indictments that may come in the CIA leak case this week aren't expected to delve into the administration's use of intelligence. The Senate Intelligence Committee agreed to examine the issue in 2004, when it reported on the spy agencies' errors, but it hasn't done so.


The White House launched its public campaign to build support for a U.S.-led invasion of Iraq in August 2002.

Top aides led by White House Chief of Staff Andrew Card and known as the White House Iraq Group directed the effort, according to current and former U.S. officials who requested anonymity because of the ongoing investigation.

The group included I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, Cheney's chief of staff, and Karl Rove, Bush's chief political adviser, who are at the center of the Plame probe.

Other members were then-National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice and her deputy and now successor, Stephen J. Hadley, White House communications strategists Karen Hughes, Mary Matalin and James R. Wilkerson and legislative liaison Nicholas E. Calio.

The Iraqi National Congress, an exile opposition group whose leader, Ahmad Chalabi, was close to Cheney and others, had begun feeding Western reporters Iraqi defectors' tales that Saddam was training Islamic extremists to hit U.S. targets and hiding banned weapons shortly after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.

The INC, which was deeply distrusted by the State Department, the Defense Intelligence Agency and the CIA, piped the same information into Cheney's office and the Pentagon, according to a June 2002 letter to the Senate Appropriations Committee from the group's Washington spokesman.

In an Aug. 26, 2002, speech, Cheney highlighted the main themes of the administration's case for war.

Iraq, he charged, was "amassing" chemical and biological weapons, and "many of us are convinced that Saddam Hussein will acquire nuclear weapons fairly soon" and could give them to terrorists.

There was no solid U.S. intelligence to support his assertions, and no such finding by the U.N. International Atomic Energy Agency, which oversaw the destruction of Saddam's pre-1991 Gulf War nuclear weapons program.

U.S. intelligence had no evidence of any alliance between Iraq and al-Qaida, and many analysts doubted that Saddam would give such weapons to Islamic extremists.

Those views were set out in intelligence analyses, according to a report on Iraq intelligence by the Senate Intelligence Committee.

The White House, however, based its case on an analysis by a secretive Pentagon unit formed by then Undersecretary of Defense Douglas Feith, a proponent of attacking Iraq. The Pentagon analysis concluded that Saddam and al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden were working together. The Pentagon and the CIA later disowned the findings.


On Sept. 8, 2002, The New York Times quoted unnamed U.S. officials as saying that Iraq had tried "to buy thousands of specially designed aluminum tubes" believed to be intended for centrifuges, devices that enrich uranium for nuclear weapons.

The story quoted an unnamed senior administration official as saying that "nuclear weapons are his (Saddam's) hole card" and that delaying his overthrow would make him "harder ... to deal with."

The story reinforced the Bush administration's charge that the United States couldn't wait for proof that Iraq was developing nuclear weapons.

Its appearance in the nation's most influential paper also gave Cheney and Rice an opportunity to discuss the matter the same day on the Sunday television talk shows. They could discuss the article, but otherwise they wouldn't have been able to talk about classified intelligence in public.

"Iraq has made several attempts to buy high-strength aluminum tubes used to enrich uranium for a nuclear weapon," Bush said to the U.N. General Assembly five days later.

But U.S. intelligence experts disagreed over the tubes' purpose.

A majority of U.S. agencies, including several with no expertise on the subject, agreed that the tubes could be used for centrifuges.

But after consulting U.S. nuclear laboratories, the Department of Energy and the State Department's Bureau of Intelligence and Research concluded that the tubes were most likely for ground-to-ground rockets, not for centrifuges.

The International Atomic Energy Agency later reached the same conclusion.


In conjunction with Bush's U.N. speech, the White House released a report, "A Decade of Deception and Defiance," which purported to lay out evidence that Iraq was violating a U.N. ban on possessing chemical, biological and nuclear weapons.

There's no evidence that the CIA or the DIA cleared the paper.

A number of the assertions it made were based on exaggerated and fabricated information from Iraqi defectors provided by the INC. One of them, Adnan Ihsan al Haideri, whose statements were also the basis of a Dec. 20, 2001, New York Times article, showed "deception" in a CIA-administered polygraph three days before the article appeared. When U.S. weapons inspectors took him back to Iraq, he couldn't identify a single illicit weapons facility.

Why Bush Is Unimpeachable--Cracks Appear in the Constitution

Published on Wednesday, October 26, 2005 by Ted Rall
Why Bush Is Unimpeachable
Cracks Appear in the Constitution
by Ted Rall

New York -- The phone rings with a blocked caller ID but I know who it is. My friend the film critic has just put down the same article I've just finished reading, a front-page blockbuster in the New York Daily News. It says that George W. Bush knew about Karl Rove's scheme to blow CIA agent Valerie Plame's cover for years, that he was Rove's partner in treason from the start, that his claims of ignorance were lies. The News article is anonymously sourced but we know it's 100 percent true because the White House won't deny that Bush is a traitor.

"So they'll impeach him now, right?"

My friend asked the same thing in 2001 when recounts proved Bush lost Florida, when the 9/11 fetishist admitted that he'd never even tried to catch Osama, when WMDs failed to turn up in Iraq, and when his malignant neglect killed hundreds of Americans in post-Katrina New Orleans.

"This means impeachment. Right?" Wrong.

Any one of Bush's crimes towers over the combined wickedness of Nixon and Clinton. And there are so many to choose from! How many times has Bush "made false or misleading public statements for the purpose of deceiving the people of the United States" (a key count in the Nixon impeachment)?

Stop laughing, you.

Unfortunately for my friend and the United States, impeachment is a political process, not a legal one. Nixon and Clinton faced Congresses controlled by the other party. Because Bush belongs to the same party as the majorities in the House and Senate, nothing he does can get him impeached.

Our failed Constitutional system means we're stuck with this disastrous demagogue for three more years. Gloat now, Republican readers, but party loyalty's stranglehold on impeachment can easily take the form of a complacent Democratic Congress overlooking the misdeeds of a batty Democratic president.

Any safe can be cracked; every system of safeguards breaks down eventually. We can't get rid of Bush because the Founding Fathers, who were smart enough to think of just about everything, dropped the ball when they drafted the article that provides for presidential impeachment. Because there were no national political parties back in 1787, their otherwise ingenious system of checks and balances failed to account for the possibility that a Congress might choose to overlook a president's crimes.

Small parties were active on the state and local level during the late 18th century, but James Madison, George Washington and most of the other Founders despised these organizations as harbingers of petty "factionalism" that ought to be banned or severely limited. Washington used the occasion of his 1796 farewell address to decry "the baneful effects of the spirit of party generally. It serves always to distract the public councils and enfeeble the public administration," he warned. "It agitates the community with ill-founded jealousies and false alarms; kindles the animosity of one part against another; foments occasionally riot and insurrection...In governments purely elective, it is a spirit not to be encouraged." Voting blocs were the enemy of good government.

In the new republic, Madison wrote in his seminal Federalist No. 10, political arguments should be considered on their own merits. Since candidates for and holders of political office would be judged solely as individuals, Congressmen would focus on the greater good rather than political alliances when weighing whether to impeach a president. Even when parties began to emerge as a national force in 1800, few politicians would have argued that a Democratic-Republican president should be safe from impeachment unless the Federalist Party happened to control Congress.

Another Constitutional breakdown, concerning the separation of powers, occurred in June 2004. More than a year after the Supreme Court decided in Rasul v. Bush that the nearly 600 Muslim men and young boys being held incommunicado at Guantánamo Bay were entitled to have their cases heard by U.S. courts, they remain in cold storage--no lawyers, no court dates. The Bush Administration simply ignored the ruling.

"[Bush's] Justice Department," Dahlia Lithwick wrote in Slate, "sees [the ruling] through the sophisticated legal prism known as the Toddler Worldview: Anything one doesn't wish to accept simply isn't true." Because the Founding Fathers never anticipated the possibility that the nation's chief executive would treat its final judgments with the respect due an out-of-state parking ticket issued to a rental car, the Supreme Court has been rendered as toothless as a gummy bear.

The more you look, the more you'll find that our Constitution has been subverted to the point of virtual irrelevance. The legislative branch has abdicated its exclusive right to declare war to the president, who was appointed by a federal court that undermined the states' constitutional right to manage and settle election disputes. Individuals' protection against unreasonable searches have been trashed, habeas corpus is a joke, and double jeopardy has become routine as those exonerated by criminal court face second trials in civil court. Our system of checks and balances has collapsed, the victim of a citizenry more interested in entertaining distraction than eternal vigilance.

Where evil men rule, law cannot protect those who sleep.

© 2005 Ted Rall

U.N.: 2,000 Firm Gave Iraq Illicit Funds

U.N.: 2,000 Firm Gave Iraq Illicit Funds,1282,-5372879,00.html

Thursday October 27, 2005 6:16 AM


Associated Press Writer

UNITED NATIONS (AP) - More than 2,000 companies paid about $1.8 billion in illicit
kickbacks and surcharges to Saddam Hussein's government through extensive
manipulation of the U.N. oil-for-food program in Iraq, according to key findings of
a U.N.-backed investigation obtained by The Associated Press.

The report - to be released in full Thursday by the committee probing claims of
wrongdoing in the $64 billion program - indicates that about half the 4,500
companies doing business with Iraq paid illegal surcharges on oil purchases or
kickbacks on contracts to supply humanitarian goods.

The investigators reported that companies and individuals from 66 countries paid
illegal kickbacks through a variety of devices while those paying illegal oil
surcharges came from, or were registered in, 40 countries. The names will be
included in Thursday's report but were not in the key findings obtained Wednesday by
the AP.

Thursday's final report of the investigation led by former U.S. Federal Reserve
chairman Paul Volcker strongly criticizes the U.N. Secretariat and Security Council
for failing to monitor the program and allowing the emergence of front companies and
international trading concerns prepared to make illegal payments.

According to the findings, the Banque Nationale de Paris S.A., known as BNP, which
held the U.N. oil-for-food escrow account, had a dual role and did not disclose
fully to the United Nations the firsthand knowledge it acquired about the financial
relationships that fostered the payment of illegal surcharges.

The oil-for-food program was one of the world's largest humanitarian aid operations,
running from 1996-2003.

Under the program, Iraq was allowed to sell limited and then unlimited quantities of
oil provided most of the money went to buy humanitarian goods. It was launched to
help ordinary Iraqis cope with U.N. sanctions imposed after Saddam's 1990 invasion
of Kuwait and became a lifeline for 90 percent of the country's population of 26

But Saddam, who could choose the buyers of Iraqi oil and the sellers of humanitarian
goods, corrupted the program by awarding contracts to - and getting kickbacks from -
favored buyers, mostly parties who supported his regime or opposed the sanctions. He
allegedly gave former government officials, journalists and U.N. officials vouchers
for Iraqi oil that could then be resold at a profit.

Tracing the politicization of oil contracts, the new report said Iraqi leaders in
the late 1990s decided to deny American, British and Japanese companies allocations
to purchase oil because of their countries' opposition to lifting sanctions on Iraq.
At the same time, it said, Iraq gave preferential treatment to France, Russia and
China which were perceived to be more favorable to lifting sanctions and were also
permanent members of the Security Council.

Volcker's previous report, released in September, said lax U.N. oversight allowed
Saddam's regime to pocket $1.8 billion in kickbacks and surcharges in the awarding
of contracts during the program's operation from 1997-2003.

According to the new findings, Iraq's largest source of illicit income from the oil-
for-food program was the more than $1.5 billion from kickbacks on humanitarian

The smuggling of Iraqi oil outside the program in violation of U.N. sanctions poured
much more money - $11 billion - into Saddam's coffers during the same period,
according to a finding in the new report.

Volcker's Independent Inquiry Committee calculated that more than 2,200 companies
worldwide paid kickbacks to Iraq in the form of ``fees'' for transporting goods to
the interior of the country or ``after-sales-service'' fees, or both.

The report to be released Thursday chronicles Saddam's manipulation of the program
and examines in detail 23 companies that paid kickbacks on humanitarian contracts
including Iraqi front companies, major food providers, major trading companies, and
major industrial and manufacturing companies.

According to the findings, the program was just under three years old when the Iraqi
regime began openly demanding illicit payments from its customers. The report said
that while U.N. officials and the Security Council were informed, little action was

The report is the fifth by Volcker and wraps up a year-long, $34 million
investigation that has faulted Secretary-General Kofi Annan, his deputy, Canada's
Louise Frechette, and the Security Council for tolerating corruption and doing
little to stop Saddam's manipulations. The investigation also accused Benon Sevan,
the former head of the U.N. oil-for-food program, of taking $147,000 in illegal

Dozens of Abu Ghraibs

Published on Wednesday, October 26, 2005 by Inter Press Service
Dozens of Abu Ghraibs
by Gustavo Capdevila
GENEVA - U.S. human rights groups have denounced before the U.N. Human Rights Committee that there are perhaps dozens of secret detention centres around the world where Washington is holding an unknown number of prisoners as part of its "war on terror".

This week in Geneva, the Committee began to examine the United States' compliance with the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, particularly with regard to its anti-terrorism activities.

There are locations you know about, like Guantánamo, Abu Ghraib, and Bagram in Afghanistan, but there are other locations which you know exist, but you don't know exactly how many or where they are.
Priti Patel, attorney and representative for Human Rights First
On Monday, the members of the Committee, made up of 18 independent experts with recognised competence in the field of human rights, heard presentations from U.S. non-governmental organisations that accuse Washington of grave rights violations.

Priti Patel, an attorney and representative of the New-York based group Human Rights First, reported to the Committee members on the secret detention centres for individuals allegedly linked to terrorism.

"There are locations you know about, like Guantánamo, Abu Ghraib, and Bagram in Afghanistan," commented Patel, "but there are other locations which you know exist, but you don't know exactly how many or where they are."

According to Patel, these are transient facilities in Iraq and Afghanistan that are close to conflict zones, but move around, to wherever the United States decides.

"There are around 20 of them in Afghanistan, but you don't know how many people are being held there, and you don't know how they are being treated," Patel told IPS.

"And then there is the worst case scenario, which is you don't know even their location," she added.

For example, Patel remarked, "we don't know if people have been held in Diego Garcia (a small island in the Indian Ocean, home to a U.S. military base), but we have enough credible reports to make us believe it."

And while the United States refuses to deny or confirm the existence of these secret detention centres, "we know that at least 36 people have been held in secret locations," she stressed.

Monday's meeting with U.S. human rights organisations coincided with the announcement that although the United States had been late in presenting its second and third periodic reports to this specialised U.N. body, the reports were finally received last week.

The latest U.S. government report to the Human Rights Committee has yet to be made public, but civil society activists said that in addition to a general overview of compliance with the International Covenant, it also contains responses to specific questions formulated by the Committee with respect to allegations of abuse in the context of anti-terror activities.

Over recent years, the Committee has called on Washington to submit overdue reports and also to explain the consequences of the provisions adopted by the United States as part of these activities.

The Committee has expressed particular concern over the implications of the Patriot Act, passed in October 2001 as one of the first anti-terrorism measures adopted by the United States after the Sept. 11 terror attacks in New York and Washington that same year, which claimed some 3,000 lives.

Civil society sources said that in a letter that accompanied the presentation of the report, the U.S. permanent representative to the United Nations and other international organisations in Geneva, Kevin E. Moley, specified that the document also contained references to the United States' application of the Patriot Act.

Moley also noted that as a matter of courtesy, the report was accompanied by a separate description of the individuals currently in the custody of the U.S. armed forces, captured during operations against the Taliban Afghan Islamic extremist movement and the Al Qaida terrorist network, as well as those captured during the invasion, war and occupation of Iraq since March 2003.

This issue was one of the primary concerns expressed to the United States by the Committee, as well as the central theme of the presentations made by U.S. human rights groups to the Committee members.

Monique Beadle of the World Organisation for Human Rights USA told IPS that the activists had expressed their concerns to the Committee about U.S. non-compliance with the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, but placed particular emphasis on the situation of detainees, especially those who are held in places where torture is practiced.

Beadle referred to the specific case of Ahmed Omar Abu Ali, a U.S. citizen who was in Saudi Arabia for religious studies when he was arrested by Saudi authorities under the direction of the United States.

He was detained incommunicado without charge for 18 months in a Saudi prison, where "he was subjected to all kinds of evil treatment," said Beadle "There are scars on his back from the torture he was subjected to," she reported.

Beadle's organisation filed a habeus corpus on his behalf in the District of Columbia. "The judge in the case recognised that if we could show that the U.S. was playing a role in the custody and detention of Mr Abu Ali, it could be held accountable."

The judge's decision "was quite embarrassing for the U.S. government," she noted.

Without charges ever being laid in Saudi Arabia, Abu Ali was transferred to the United States, where he remains in custody, accused by the U.S. government of association with alleged terrorists.

"What this indicated is that the U.S. had control over his custody at all times, because at the last moment, when it was no longer convenient for him to be held in Saudi Arabia, it was very easy for them to bring him over," Beadle remarked.

Beadle also referred to the practice of transferring prisoners to countries like Egypt or Syria, where they will likely be subjected to torture.

"It is well known by the U.S military that Egypt and Syria are places where detainees are tortured, and in fact they use this knowledge to their advantage in questioning other detainees," she noted.

Beadle described the process by which detainees in Guantánamo are put in sensory deprivation and then on a plane, which flies around for several hours and lands back in Guantánamo, although the detainees are made to believe that they have been taken to Egypt.

"The guards tell them in Arabic, welcome to Egypt. If you don't participate in this interrogation, we are going to torture you," she explained.

The U.N. Human Rights Committee will take the denunciations made by these non-governmental organisations into account when it studies the report submitted by the United States, most likely during its session here next July.

The Committee is currently holding its last session of the year, which will wrap up Nov. 3. The first session next year will take place in March at U.N. headquarters in New York.

The report presented by the United States will not be distributed by the U.N. until it has been translated into all of the U.N. working languages, which could take at least three months. Nevertheless, the civil society groups believe that the U.S. State Department will post the report on its website in the coming days.