Saturday, November 05, 2005

U.S. Should Repay Millions to Iraq, a U.N. Audit Finds

U.S. Should Repay Millions to Iraq, a U.N. Audit Finds

An auditing board sponsored by the United Nations recommended yesterday that the United States repay as much as $208 million to the Iraqi government for contracting work in 2003 and 2004 assigned to Kellogg, Brown & Root, the Halliburton subsidiary.

The work was paid for with Iraqi oil proceeds, but the board said it was either carried out at inflated prices or done poorly. The board did not, however, give examples of poor work.

Some of the work involved postwar fuel imports carried out by K.B.R. that previous audits had criticized as grossly overpriced. But this is the first time that an international auditing group has suggested that the United States repay some of that money to Iraq. The group, known as the International Advisory and Monitoring Board of the Development Fund for Iraq, compiled reports from an array of Pentagon, United States government and private auditors to carry out its analysis.

A spokeswoman for Halliburton, Cathy Mann, said the questions raised in the military audits, carried out in a Pentagon office called the Defense Contract Auditing Agency, had largely focused on issues of paperwork and documentation and alleged nothing about the quality of the work done by K.B.R. The monitoring board relied heavily on the Pentagon audits in drawing its conclusions.

"The auditors have raised questions about the support and the documentation rather than questioning the fact that we have incurred the costs," Ms. Mann said in an e-mail response to questions. "Therefore, it would be completely wrong to say or imply that any of these costs that were incurred at the client's direction for its benefit are 'overcharges.' "

The Pentagon audits themselves have not been released publicly. Ms. Mann said Kellogg, Brown & Root was engaged in negotiations over the questioned costs with its client in the work, the United States Army Corps of Engineers and Developmentas been set for resolution of these issues," Ms. Mann said. The monitoring board, created by the United Nations specifically to oversee the Development Fund - which includes Iraqi oil revenues but also some money seized from Saddam Hussein's government - said because the audits were continuing, it was too early to say how much of the $208 million should ultimately be paid back.

But the board said in a statement that once the analysis was completed, the board "recommends that amounts disbursed to contractors that cannot be supported as fair be reimbursed expeditiously."

The K.B.R. contracts that have drawn fresh scrutiny also cover services other than fuel deliveries, like building and repairing oil pipelines and installing emergency power generators in Iraq. The documents released yesterday by the monitoring board did not detail problems with specific tasks in those broad categories, but instead summarized a series of newly disclosed audits that called into question $208,491,382 of K.B.R.'s work in Iraq.

A member of the monitoring board said questions about the contracts "had been lingering for a long time." Once the audits are completed, said the board member, who asked not to be identified because he did not want to be seen as speaking for the United Nations, the results will give the Iraqi government "the right to go back to K.B.R. and say, 'Look, you've overbilled me on this, this is what you could repay me.' "

The monitoring board authority extends only to making recommendations on any reimbursement. It would be up to the United States government to decide whether to make the payments, and who should make them. But Louay Bahry, a former Iraqi academic who is now at the Middle East Institute in Washington, said the board's findings would stoke suspicions on the street in Iraq, where there had always been fears that the United States invaded the country to control its oil resources.

"Something like this will be caught in the Iraqi press and be discussed by the Iraqi general public and will leave a very bad taste in the mouth of the Iraqis," Mr. Bahry said. "It will increase the hostility towards the United States."

The audits may also come at a bad time for the Bush administration, since Vice President Dick Cheney's former role as chief executive of Halliburton has led to charges, uniformly dismissed by Mr. Cheney and the company, that it received preferential treatment in receiving the contracts. The early Kellogg, Brown & Root contracts in Iraq were "sole sourced," or bid noncompetitively.

"The Bush administration repeatedly gave Halliburton special treatment and allowed the company to gouge both U.S. taxpayers and the Iraqi people," Representative Henry A. Waxman, a California Democrat who is the ranking minority member of the House Committee on Government Reform, said in a statement on the new audits. "The international auditors have every right to expect a full refund of Halliburton's egregious overcharges."

Some of those contracts were paid for with American taxpayer money, but others were financed by Iraqi oil proceeds. Because the monitoring board was created to oversee those proceeds, its audits focus only on the work that was financed with Iraqi money. The board consists of representatives from the United Nations, the International Monetary Fund, the Arab Fund for Economic and Social Development, the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development and the Iraqi government.

Besides the Pentagon audits, reports from the private auditing firm K.P.M.G. and the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction, a United States government office, were used by the monitoring board.

Because Kellogg, Brown & Root employs K.P.M.G. separately for its own internal audits, the firm recused itself from some of the work on K.B.R. The recusal temporarily threw some of the auditing work into disarray, since K.P.M.G. had initially said that the conflict would not prevent it from proceeding. Ultimately, the special inspector general took over some of the work that K.P.M.G. dropped.

But some of the K.P.M.G. audits that were carried out, relying on Iraqi ministry documents, turned up what appears to be clear evidence of mismanagement and corruption among Iraqi officials that was apparently unrelated to the K.B.R. work. In its report on the Iraqi Oil Ministry, the auditing firm used the euphemism "nonrefundable fees" for bribes in the awarding of oil contracts. "We found two cases," the report said, "where nonrefundable fees ($10,000 and $20,000) were charged to obtain tender documents (total contract value $150,302,897)."

Other entries suggest the existence of $600,000 in ghost payrolling in the Electricity Ministry and additional evidence of bribes.

The K.P.M.G. audits also show ample evidence of the chaos that permeated the early reconstruction effort in Iraq, with paperwork on hundreds of millions of dollars of contracts won by firms other than K.B.R. that were lost or never completed, making it difficult or impossible to tell if the work was carried out properly.

White House to Onion: Stop using seal

White House to Onion: Stop using seal
Symbol 'being used inappropriately,' says spokesman

Wednesday, October 26, 2005; Posted: 9:04 a.m. EDT (13:04 GMT)

WASHINGTON (Reuters) -- The White House is not amused by The Onion, a newspaper that often spoofs the Bush administration, and has asked it to stop using the presidential seal on its Web site.

The seal was still on the Web site on Tuesday at the spot where President George W. Bush's weekly radio address is parodied.

With headlines like "Bush To Appoint Someone To Be In Charge Of Country" and "Bush Subconsciously Sizes Up Spain For Invasion," The Onion is popular with readers looking for a little laughter with their politics.

White House spokesman Trent Duffy said people who work in the executive mansion do have a sense of humor, but not when it comes to breaking regulations.

"When any official sign or seal is being used inappropriately the party is notified," Duffy said.

"You cannot pick and choose where to enforce that rule. It's important that the seal or any White House insignia not be used inappropriately," he said.

Duffy said while he does not personally read The Onion, he admitted knowing others in the White House who do. "Like everyone else, we like a good laugh."

Scott Dikkers, editor-in-chief of the satirical newspaper, said its lawyer disagrees with the White House assessment.

"I've been seeing the presidential seal used in comedy programs most of my life and to my knowledge none of them have been asked not to use it by the White House," Dikkers said.

"I would advise them to look for that other guy Osama (bin Laden) ... rather than comedians. I don't think we pose much of a threat," Dikkers said.

Copyright 2005 Reuters. All rights reserved.This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.


Cheney's Office Implicated in Torture of Prisoners

Cheney's Office Implicated in Torture of Prisoners

Vice President Dick Cheney's office was responsible for issuing the directives which led to U.S. soldiers to abuse prisoners in Iraq and Afghanistan, according to a NPR interview with Col. Lawrence Wilkerson, former chief of staff to Secretary of State Colin Powell.

Wilkerson says he traced a trail of memos authorizing the questionable practices through Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld's office directly to Cheney's vice presidential staff.

Wilkerson paraphrased the directions given to U.S. soldiers: "We're not getting enough good intelligence and you need to get that evidence, and, oh, by the way, here's some ways you probably can get it. And even some of the ways that they detailed were not in accordance with the spirit of the Geneva Conventions and the law of war."

In recent weeks, Wilkerson has been very critical of the "cabal" run by Rumsfeld and Cheney in planning the Iraq war.

Troop movements raise fears in Africa
Troop movements raise fears in Africa

THE African Union expressed concern yesterday over the reported movements of military personnel and hardware on both sides of the demilitarised zone separating the Ethiopian and Eritrean armies.

Alpha Oumar Konare, the AU Commission chairman, spoke a day after a senior UN official monitoring the border said he feared a new war after Eritrea attempted to send troops into the zone during the past ten days.
The AU Commission said: "This has the potential to escalate into a military confrontation, with far-reaching implications for the two countries and the region as a whole."

Mr Konare urged both sides to "exercise restraint".

UN peacekeepers patrol a buffer zone set up after a two-and-a-half year border war ended in 2000. Eritrea has recently imposed restrictions on the UN troops.

Meles Zenawi, the Ethiopian prime minister, said yesterday that Ethiopia was watching events on the Eritrean side of the border. "The Ethiopian forces are ready to take all the necessary measures to defend the country's sovereignty," he said.

The AU warning came after UN peacekeepers said this week that Ethiopian troops and tanks - previously 25 miles from the demilitarised zone - were now 12 miles away, while about 120 Eritrean troops have tried to get into the zone.

Goading China-Of Madmen and Nukes

Goading China
Of Madmen and Nukes


Chinese Major General Zhu Chenghu told journalists last July that China is prepared to use nuclear weapons against the United States if it targets Chinese ships, aircraft, or territory in a confrontation over Taiwan. "We Chinese will prepare ourselves for the destruction of all of the cities east of Xian. Of course the Americans will have to be prepared that hundredsof cities will be destroyed by the Chinese," he warned.

With Zhu's suicidal nuclear threats as backdrop, U.S. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld told his military counterparts in Beijing last month that "advances in China's strategic strike capacity raise questions" about its intentions. Rumsfeld suggested that "greater clarity would generate more certainty in the region."

Excellent points, Mr. Secretary. But China, of course, is not the only state to amass nuclear weapons to defend and advance its interests. Although other Chinese officials disavowed Zhu's remarks, he is not the first to suggest, officially or unofficially, that his government is "mad" enough to use massive nuclear force against conventional attacks.

Since the beginning of the nuclear age, U.S. presidents have developed policies and issued statements intended to make nuclear threats appear credible and create uncertainty about when and where they might be used. As unnerving as China's estimated arsenal of 100-400 nuclear weapons and Zhu's remarks may be, Beijing's official no-first-use policy arguably makes its posture more restrained than that of the United States today.

To deter other nuclear-armed states, particularly Russia, from attacking with their nuclear arms, current U.S. strategy calls for the maintenance of a massive arsenal of approximately 2,200 deployed strategic nuclear warheads on high alert through 2012 and beyond. In addition, the United States will still possess some 3,000 additional strategic warheads in storage and several hundred substrategic weapons.

The Pentagon's March 2005 draft "Doctrine for Joint Nuclear Operations" also outlines a wide range of options to deal with non-nuclear scenarios. It would allow for the possible first use of nuclear weapons to help support U.S. forces or allies against conventional attacks, such as a conflict with China over Taiwan, as well as other scenarios, including pre-emptive nuclear strikes on suspected chemical or biological weapons targets in non-nuclear-weapon states.

Given the absence of a hostile, well-armed nuclear adversary, U.S. conventional military dominance, and the possibility that additional states might acquire nuclear weapons, is such a large U.S. arsenal and expansive view of the role of nuclear weapons necessary, justifiable, and sustainable? No.

There is no conceivable circumstance in which the United States would need to use or could justify the use of nuclear weapons to fight or terminate a conventional conflict with a non-nuclear adversary. On several occasions, U.S. presidents from Truman and Eisenhower to Kennedy, Nixon, and George H. W. Bush have considered the limited use of nuclear weapons in tactical situations, but they have always rejected doing so. The calculus should be no different today.

Policies that assert a war-fighting role for nuclear weapons only deepen the risk of proliferation. They undermine existing pledges by nuclear-weapon states that they will not use nuclear arms against countries without them. They give states such as North Korea and Iran a cynical excuse to maintain their nuclear weapons options and send a green light to nuclear rivals India and Pakistan to contemplate their battlefield use.

The lessons of the Cuban missile crisis and other U.S.-Soviet confrontations during the Cold War make clear that even limited nuclear engagement risks escalation and unacceptable annihilation. Nuclear weapons are, therefore, not a realistic war-fighting option in a conventional conflict against a nuclear-armed adversary.

Some nuclear acolytes believe new types of weapons are needed to provide "credible" options against future adversaries and targets, including underground bunkers and chemical or biological threats. Such thinking ignores the reality that employing any nuclear weapon would produce disproportionate and unacceptable collateral destruction and severe political fallout.

A saner nuclear weapons policy is feasible and overdue. As long as the United States and others possess nuclear weapons, their role should be limited to deterring other states from using them. Further, if that is their only function, there is no reason why the United States cannot observe a policy of no-first-use. Nor would there be any need to develop and test new nuclear-weapon capabilities or maintain Cold War-sized arsenals on high alert, a condition that risks accidental or unauthorized launch.

It has been 60 years since the last nuclear bomb was used in war. Perhaps more than any other state, the United States has the most to lose if others not only seek to acquire nuclear weapons but come to view them as legitimate and useful instruments of coercion and war. But if U.S. policymakers expect nuclear restraint from China and other states, they must reconsider and readjust the role of U.S. nuclear forces.

Daryl G. Kimball is director of the Arms Control Association.

A Cheney-Libby Conspiracy, or Worse?

A Cheney-Libby Conspiracy, or Worse?
Reading between the Lines of the Libby Indictment
By John W. Dean

Friday 04 November 2005

In my last column, I tried to deflate expectations a bit about the likely consequences of the work of Special Counsel Patrick Fitzgerald; to bring them down to the realistic level at which he was likely to proceed. I warned, for instance, that there might not be any indictments, and Fitzgerald might close up shop as the last days of the grand jury's term elapsed. And I was certain he would only indict if he had a patently clear case.

Now, however, one indictment has been issued - naming Vice President Cheney's Chief of Staff Lewis "Scooter" Libby as the defendant, and charging false statements, perjury and obstruction of justice. If the indictment is to be believed, the case against Libby is, indeed, a clear one.

Having read the indictment against Libby, I am inclined to believe more will be issued. In fact, I will be stunned if no one else is indicted.

Indeed, when one studies the indictment, and carefully reads the transcript of the press conference, it appears Libby's saga may be only Act Two in a three-act play. And in my view, the person who should be tossing and turning at night, in anticipation of the last act, is the Vice President of the United States, Richard B. Cheney.

The Indictment: Invoking the Espionage Act Unnecessarily

Typically, federal criminal indictments are absolutely bare bones. Just enough to inform a defendant of the charges against him.

For example, the United States Attorney's Manual, which Fitzgerald said he was following, notes that under the Sixth Amendment an accused must "be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation." And Rule 7(c)(1) of the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure requires that, "The indictment . . . be a plain, concise and definite written statement of the essential facts constituting the offense charged." That is all.

Federal prosecutors excel at these "plain, concise and definite" statement indictments - drawing on form books and institutional experience in drafting them. Thus, the typical federal indictment is the quintessence of pith: as short and to the point as the circumstances will permit.

Again, Libby is charged with having perjured himself, made false statements, and obstructed justice by lying to FBI agents and the grand jury. A bare-bones indictment would address only these alleged crimes.

But this indictment went much further - delving into a statute under which Libby is not charged.

Count One, paragraph 1(b) is particularly revealing. Its first sentence establishes that Libby had security clearances giving him access to classified information. Then 1(b) goes on to state: "As a person with such clearances, LIBBY was obligated by applicable laws and regulations, including Title 18, United States Code, Section 793, and Executive Order 12958 (as modified by Executive Order13292), not to disclose classified information to persons not authorized to receive such information, and otherwise to exercise proper care to safeguard classified information against unauthorized disclosure." (The section also goes on to stress that Libby executed, on January 23, 2001, an agreement indicating understanding that he was receiving classified information, the disclosure of which could bring penalties.)

What is Title 18, United States Code, Section 793? It's the Espionage Act - a broad, longstanding part of the criminal code.

The Espionage Act criminalizes, among other things, the willful - or grossly negligent - communication of national-defense related information that "the possessor has reason to believe could be used to the injury of the United States or to the advantage of any foreign nation." It also criminalizes conspiring to violate this anti-disclosure provision

But Libby isn't charged with espionage. He's charged with lying to our government and thereby obstructing justice. So what's going on? Why is Fitzgerald referencing the Espionage Act?

The press conference added some clarity on this point.

Libby's Obstruction Has Blocked an Espionage Act Charge

The Special Counsel was asked, "If Mr. Libby had testified truthfully, would he be being charged in this crime today?" His response was more oblique than most.

In answering, he pointed out that "if national defense information which is involved because [of Plame's] affiliation with the CIA, whether or not she was covert, was classified, if that was intentionally transmitted, that would violate the statute known as Section 793, which is the Espionage Act." (Emphasis added). (As noted above, gross negligence would also suffice.)

But, as Fitzgerald also noted at his press conference, great care needs to be taken in applying the Espionage Act: "So there are people," he said, "who argue that you should never use that statute because it would become like the [British] Official Secrets Act. I don't buy that theory, but I do know you should be very careful in applying that law because there are a lot of interests that could be implicated in making sure that you picked the right case to charge that statute."

His further example was also revealing. "Let's not presume that Mr. Libby is guilty. But let's assume, for the moment, that the allegations in the indictment are true. If that is true, you cannot figure out the right judgment to make, whether or not you should charge someone with a serious national security crime or walk away from it or recommend any other course of action, if you don't know the truth.... If he had told the truth, we would have made the judgment based upon those facts...." (Emphases added.)

Finally, he added. "We have not charged him with [that] crime. I'm not making an allegation that he violated [the Espionage Act]. What I'm simply saying is one of the harms in obstruction is that you don't have a clear view of what should be done. And that's why people ought to walk in, go into the grand jury, you're going to take an oath, tell us the who, what, when, where and why - straight." (Emphasis added)

In short, because Libby has lied, and apparently stuck to his lie, Fitzgerald is unable to build a case against him or anyone else under Section 793, a provision which he is willing to invoke, albeit with care.

And who is most vulnerable under the Espionage Act? Dick Cheney - as I will explain.

Libby Is the Firewall Protecting Vice President Cheney

The Libby indictment asserts that "on or about June 12, 2003 Libby was advised by the Vice President of the United States that Wilson's wife worked at the Central Intelligence Agency in the Counter-proliferation Division. Libby understood that the Vice President had learned this information from the CIA."

In short, Cheney provided the classified information to Libby - who then told the press. Anyone who works in national security matters knows that the Counter-proliferation Division is part of the Directorate of Operations - the covert side of the CIA, where most everything and everyone are classified.

According to Fitzgerald, Libby admits he learned the information from Cheney at the time specified in the indictment. But, according to Fitzgerald, Libby also maintained - in speaking to both FBI agents and the grand jury - that Cheney's disclosure played no role whatsoever in Libby's disclosure to the media.

Or as Fitzgerald noted at his press conference, Libby said, "he had learned from the vice president earlier in June 2003 information about Wilson's wife, but he had forgotten it, and that when he learned the information from [the reporter] Mr. [Tim] Russert during this phone call he learned it as if it were new."

So, in Fitzgerald's words, Libby's story was that when Libby "passed the information on to reporters Cooper and Miller late in the week, he passed it on thinking it was just information he received from reporters; that he told reporters that, in fact, he didn't even know if it were true. He was just passing gossip from one reporter to another at the long end of a chain of phone calls."

This story is, of course, a lie, but it was a clever one on Libby's part.

It protects Cheney because it suggests that Cheney's disclosure to Libby was causally separate from Libby's later, potentially Espionage-Act-violating disclosure to the press. Thus, it also denies any possible conspiracy between Cheney and Libby.

And it protects Libby himself - by suggesting that since he believed he was getting information from reporters, not indirectly from the CIA, he may not have had have the state of mind necessary to violate the Espionage Act.

Thus, from the outset of the investigation, Libby has been Dick Cheney's firewall. And it appears that Fitzgerald is actively trying to penetrate that firewall.

What Is Likely to Occur Next?

It has been reported that Libby's attorney tried to work out a plea deal. But Fitzgerald insisted on jail time, so Libby refused to make a deal. It appears that only Libby, in addition to Cheney, knows what Cheney knew, and when he knew, and why he knew, and what he did with his knowledge.

Fitzgerald has clearly thrown a stacked indictment at Libby, laying it on him as heavy as the law and propriety permits. He has taken one continuous false statement, out of several hours of interrogation, and made it into a five-count indictment. It appears he is trying to flip Libby - that is, to get him to testify against Cheney - and not without good reason. Cheney is the big fish in this case.

Will Libby flip? Unlikely. Neither Cheney nor Libby (I believe) will be so foolish as to crack a deal. And Libby probably (and no doubt correctly) assumes that Cheney - a former boss with whom he has a close relationship - will (at the right time and place) help Libby out, either with a pardon or financially, if necessary. Libby's goal, meanwhile, will be to stall going to trial as long as possible, so as not to hurt Republicans' showing in the 2006 elections.

So if Libby can take the heat for a time, he and his former boss (and friend) may get through this. But should Republicans lose control of the Senate (where they are blocking all oversight of this administration), I predict Cheney will resign "for health reasons."

John W. Dean, a FindLaw columnist, is a former counsel to the President.

Iraq war has exposed us to terror at home, says Meyer,12956,1635053,00.html

Iraq war has exposed us to terror at home, says Meyer

Ewen MacAskill and Julian Glover
Saturday November 5, 2005
The Guardian

Britain's former ambassador to Washington, Sir Christopher Meyer,
delivers a damaging critique of Tony Blair's approach to the war in Iraq
in an interview in the Guardian today.

Sir Christopher, who had a ringside seat in the decision-making that led
to the war, unfavourably contrasts Mr Blair with the boldness and
attention to detail of Margaret Thatcher. He says Lady Thatcher took
pride in knowing more detail than her officials. "That is why it was
terrifying to be summoned into her presence because if you did not know
your stuff, she would expose you. There was never that danger with Tony

He takes issue with the prime minister's claim that the war has not
exposed Britain to terrorist attacks: "There is plenty of evidence
around at the moment that home-grown terrorism was partly radicalised
and fuelled by what is going on in Iraq. There is no way we can credibly
get up and say it has nothing to do with it. Don't tell me that being in
Iraq has got nothing to do with it. Of course it does."

Sir Christopher gave the interview to mark the publication of DC
Confidential, the first account by an insider of the decision-making
that led to war, to be serialised in the Guardian from Monday.

Unusually for a diplomat, his account is revealing about a host of
cabinet ministers who passed through the Washington embassy, such as
John Prescott and Jack Straw, and exposes the vanities of advisers such
as Lord Levy, Mr Blair's Middle East envoy.

But the part of the book which will attract the most attention concerns
Mr Blair and his dealings with George Bush in the run-up to war. He
portrays the PM as a man of moral and philosophical certitude but not
overly interested in the nitty-gritty of policy. In the interview, he
says it would be wrong to see Mr Blair as "an empty vessel". He adds:
"By God, in British politics, when on top of his game, his speeches are

Sir Christopher, who supported the war, sat in on the crucial meetings
between Mr Blair and Mr Bush, reading transcripts of their private phone
calls and regularly meeting figures such as Dick Cheney, the
vice-president, and Donald Rumsfeld, the defence secretary.

He reveals that the Foreign Office, which raised doubts about the wisdom
of the war, had been even more marginalised by Downing Street than had
until now been realised. He said he dealt almost exclusively with
Downing Street in the 18 months before the war and could recall few, if
any, phone calls with the Foreign Office in that time.

Sir Christopher said he had reflected hard on his time in Washington and
its influence on the Iraq war. Although he supported the war and still
feels it was right in principle, he now believes that much could have
been done differently.

The Consequences of Covering Up-Washington Post withholds info on secret prisons at government request

Action Alert

The Consequences of Covering Up
Washington Post withholds info on secret prisons at government request


On November 2, the Washington Post carried an explosive front-page story about secret Eastern European prisons set up by the CIA for the interrogation of terrorism suspects. While the Post article, by reporter Dana Priest, gave readers plenty of details, it also withheld the most crucial information--the location of these secret prisons--at the request of government officials.

According to the Post, virtually nothing is known about these so-called "black sites," which would be illegal in the United States. Given the abuses at Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo Bay, news that the U.S. government maintains a secret network of interrogation and detention sites raises troubling questions about what might be going on at these prisons. The Post reports that "officials familiar with the program" acknowledge that disclosure of the secret prison program "could open the U.S. government to legal challenges, particularly in foreign courts, and increase the risk of political condemnation at home and abroad."

But the Washington Post did its part to minimize those potential risks:

"The Washington Post is not publishing the names of the Eastern European countries involved in the covert program, at the request of senior U.S. officials. They argued that the disclosure might disrupt counterterrorism efforts in those countries and elsewhere and could make them targets of possible terrorist retaliation."

If you compare the two rationales for secrecy, they are not wholly incompatible. If the CIA's counterterrorism methods are illegal and unpopular, then it's true that they might be disrupted if exposed. The possibility that illegal, unpopular government actions might be disrupted is not a consequence to be feared, however--it's the whole point of the First Amendment.

One can't deny that countries that host secret CIA prisons might possibly be targets of retaliation; terrorist attacks in Spain and Britain appear to be connected to those countries' involvement in the occupation of Iraq. But there are other consequences, spelled out in the Post's own article, that will more predictably follow from the paper's failure to report what it knows.

Without the basic fact of where these prisons are, it's difficult if not impossible for "legal challenges" or "political condemnation" to force them to close. As the Post notes, there has been "widespread prisoner abuse" in U.S. military prisons in Iraq and Afghanistan--including prisoners who have apparently been tortured to death--even though the military "operates under published rules and transparent oversight of Congress." Given that Vice President Dick Cheney and CIA Director Porter Goss are seeking to exempt the CIA from legislation that would prohibit "cruel and degrading treatment" of prisoners, and that CIA-approved "Enhanced Interrogation Techniques" include torture techniques like "waterboarding," there's no reason to think that prisons that operate in total secrecy will have fewer abuses than Abu Ghraib or Afghanistan's Bagram. Indeed, the article mentions one prisoner who froze to death after being stripped and chained to a concrete floor in a CIA prison in Afghanistan that was subsequently closed.

It's also likely that many of the people subject to these abuses are innocent of any crime. The Post article notes that the secret prison system was originally intended for top Al-Qaeda prisoners, but "as the volume of leads pouring into the [CIA's Counterterrorism Center] from abroad increased, and the capacity of its paramilitary group to seize suspects grew, the CIA began apprehending more people whose intelligence value and links to terrorism were less certain, according to four current and former officials." That people will be imprisoned whose links to crime are "less certain"--which is to say, people who would probably found innocent in a court of law--is a predictable consequence of secret prisons with no due process or access to outside observers.

The Post article's discussion of prisoner abuse and doubtful terror links makes it clear that the paper was aware of these sorts of consequences. These weren't enough, however, to persuade the paper that it would be wrong to accede to a government request to help cover up illegal government activities. (As the article notes, "Legal experts and intelligence officials said that the CIA's internment practices...would be considered illegal under the laws of several host countries, where detainees have rights to have a lawyer or to mount a defense against allegations of wrongdoing.")

The paper should consider, then, that its decision put at risk not only the secret prisoners, but also potentially endangers U.S. soldiers and civilians. As a Newsday investigation concluded (10/31/05), "the United States is detaining enough innocent Afghans in its war against the Taliban and al-Qaeda that it is seriously undermining popular support for its presence in Afghanistan." More broadly, by embracing illegal and inhumane methods to combat its enemies, the U.S. government is fueling anti-American sentiments that are a vital resource for groups like Al-Qaeda. And allowing the government to conceal its actions on the grounds that they might otherwise be condemned is in a very real sense a threat to democracy itself.

The Post's decision has struck some experts as enormously significant. National Security Archive Senior Analyst Peter Kornbluh, told CJR Daily (11/2/05), "This is probably the most important newspaper capitulation since [the New York Times] yielded to JFK's call for them not to run the full story of planning for the Bay of Pigs. By withholding the country names, the Post is directly enabling the rendition, secret detention, and torture of prisoners at these locations to continue. That is a ghastly responsibility."

But the Post is not the only U.S. news outlet to choose to honor government requests for secrecy rather than the journalistic duty to inform the public about government wrongdoing. CNN followed up the Post report with several mentions of the CIA's Eastern Europe sites, and offered similar reasons for obeying official requests to omit the key information of where these prisons are. CNN reporter David Ensor said (11/2/05), "U.S. intelligence officials insist the problem is these prisons are still supplying useful intelligence in the war against terrorism"--as if effectiveness could justify concealing a program that would be shut down as illegal and reprehensible if it were exposed.

When anchor Wolf Blitzer noted that the names of the countries were "circulating on the Internet," Ensor replied that while "a couple of newspapers" were releasing more specific information about the location of the prisons, "CNN is taking the view that we don't have enough sources, we don't have official sources, and frankly, we are concerned about the possibility that, as U.S. officials have said to us, lives could be as stake." Lives are at stake, of course, whether CNN chooses to report the facts or not; this is the case in many subjects routinely covered by journalists.

The "other newspapers" that Ensor referred to included the Financial Times, which reported on November 3:

"Human Rights Watch, a U.S. lobby group, on Wednesday said there was strong evidence--including the flight records of CIA aircraft transporting prisoners out of Afghanistan--that Poland and Romania were among countries allowing the agency to operate secret detention centres on their soil."

Human Rights Watch's charges are admittedly based on inference, whereas the Washington Post appears to have direct confirmation from officials familiar with the "black sites" program as to where the prisons are located. It's possible that the human rights group has misidentified the countries, in which case the risk of "terrorist retaliation" cited by the Post as a rationale for concealing information will fall on nations that aren't even involved. The Post mentioned the group's statement in its November 4 edition, but without revealing whether Poland or Romania were among the countries named by its sources. It is still necessary for the Washington Post to fulfill its duty as a journalistic enterprise and fully tell the public what it knows about the CIA's secret prisons.

Torture in Our Name

Torture in Our Name
By Ray McGovern
t r u t h o u t | Perspective

Friday 04 November 2005

Wednesday's article by the Washington Post's Dana Priest regarding CIA-run secret prisons abroad and the intense maneuvering this week in Congress over whether to legislate another ban on torture have again brought the issue of torture front and center. The next several days will show whether Congress has slipped its moral mooring.

Seldom have moral lines been so clearly drawn as they are on the issue of torture - the morality of which, until recently, was not controversial. I thought we knew, as a country, where we stood on torture.

The immediate issue is whether American armed forces and intelligence personnel should be permitted or forbidden to torture detainees. Very shortly, lawmakers on Capitol Hill will have to decide whether to approve a blanket ban on torture that applies to all US personnel, to limit the ban to the Defense Department (thus exempting the CIA), or to duck the issue entirely by dropping an amendment offered by Senator John McCain to the defense appropriations bill that would ban "cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment of persons under the custody or control of the United States government."

That amendment passed the Senate on October 5 by a 90-9 vote. But immediately Vice President Dick Cheney, with CIA Director Porter Goss in tow, descended on McCain pleading for an exemption for the CIA. The proposed exemptions stated that the measure:

Shall not apply to clandestine counterterrorism operations conducted abroad, with respect to terrorists who are not citizens of the United States, that are carried out by an element of the United States government other than the Department of Defense ... if the president determines that such operations are vital to the protection of the United States or its citizens from terrorist attack.

You Mean Cheney/Bush Seek Authority to Torture?

It's not that they seek such authority. They believe they already have it - and do not want Congress messing with what they see as the president's authority as commander in chief. The context for the White House position is key. The words are stuck in a quagmire of gobbledygook, but what the administration has already authorized is clear.

After the publication in spring 2004 of the photos of detainee abuse at Abu Ghraib, the administration released a raft of documents with a rhetorical flourish claiming the documents showed that there was no policy allowing the abuse of prisoners. The whole thing was rather surreal; the documents showed just the opposite. It was as though the White House thought we couldn't read.

Most striking was a memorandum of February 7, 2002, signed by President George W. Bush, on the treatment of al-Qaeda and Taliban detainees. That memorandum records the president's unilateral determination that the Geneva Convention on prisoners of war "does not apply to either al-Qaeda or Taliban detainees." The determination was of dubious validity because there is no provision in the Geneva Conventions that would countenance a unilateral decision to exempt prisoners from Geneva protections.

I will spare you most of the torturous language offered by the president's lawyers. Suffice it to say that paragraph 3 of his February 7 memorandum contains a gaping loophole that, in effect, authorizes torture:

As a matter of policy, the United States Armed Forces shall continue to treat detainees humanely and, to the extent appropriate and consistent with military necessity, in a manner consistent with the principles of Geneva. (Emphasis added.)

How Did We Stoop So Low?

President Bush and Vice President Cheney set the tone. According to counterterrorism chief Richard Clarke, it began on the evening of 9/11. Immediately after the president's 8:30 p.m. TV address to the nation, he met with Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and Clarke in a bunker under the East Wing of the White House. In his book, Against All Enemies, Clarke describes the president as "confident, determined, and forceful:"

I want you all to understand that we are at war ... any barriers in your way, they're gone. Any money you need, you have it ... I don't care what the international lawyers say, we are going to kick some ass.

The vice president tipped his hand to Tim Russert during an interview on NBC's Meet the Press on September 16, 2001. The conversation centered on the US response to 9/11. After discussing military capabilities, Cheney shifted focus:

We also have to work, though, sort of the dark side ... A lot of what needs to be done will have to be done quietly, without any discussion, using sources and methods that are available to our intelligence agencies ... it's going to be vital for us to use any means at our disposal ...

Alluding to restrictions on US intelligence gathering, Russert asked, "Will we lift some of those restrictions?"

Oh, I think so ... It is a mean, nasty, dangerous dirty business out there ... we need to make certain that we have not tied the hands of our intelligence communities in terms of accomplishing their mission.

... and Interrogations?

At a joint hearing of the House and Senate intelligence committees on September 26, 2002, Cofer Black, then the head of the Counterterrorism Center at CIA, emphasized the need for "operational flexibility," adding that intelligence operatives cannot be held to the "old" standards. Addressing interrogation, Black said:

This is a highly classified area, but I have to say that all you need to know: there was a before-9/11 and an after-9/11. After 9/11 the gloves came off.

There is fresh evidence that within days of 9/11, Bush and Cheney told then-CIA director George Tenet to set CIA interrogators free from the customary restrictions. In her November 2 article on the mini-gulag system of secret CIA-operated prisons overseas, Dana Priest reported that on September 17 - that is, the day after Cheney's comment on NBC about working "the dark-side" - Bush signed a secret "finding" giving the CIA broad authorization to disrupt terrorist activity, including permission to kill, capture, and detain al-Qaeda members anywhere in the world.

Authorization for "rendering" detainees to other countries for interrogation, as well as the establishment of secret prisons abroad, were probably subsumed under that broad presidential finding. Still, one can assume that Tenet and, indeed, the president himself would seek reassurance that they would be legally protected from prosecution in the future. And this would account for the flurry of lawyerly activity in early 2002.

Why were then-White House counsel Alberto Gonzales and David Addington, then counsel to Vice President Cheney (and recently appointed to replace I. Lewis Libby as chief of staff) and their counterpart attorneys at Justice and Defense at such pains to square the circle to make torture "legal?" Addington reportedly took the lead in drafting the famous memorandum sent by Gonzales to the president on January 25, 2002, which described as "quaint" and "obsolete" some of the Geneva provisions, and reassured the president that there was "a reasonable basis in law" that, if he exempted Taliban and al-Qaeda detainees from Geneva protections, he could still avoid possible future prosecution for war crimes. And so, Bush signed the February 7 memorandum, and Tenet's hired thugs could feel more at ease employing so-called "Enhanced Interrogation Techniques" - including "water-boarding," during which a detainee is repeatedly brought to the point of drowning.

In her report, Dana Priest made it clear that only the chair and ranking members of the House and Senate intelligence committees were briefed on the secret prisons, and this is probably what happened with respect to other quasi-legal activities as well. But there is a problem. Members of Congress, however much they may enjoy being privy to real secrets and as prone as many are to give intelligence activities a wink and a nod, cannot make illegal activities legal. And that's the rub.

Enter the Straight Man

When John McCain, who knows torture up-close and personal, decided to force the issue by offering an amendment to the $453 billion defense appropriation bill, he and the 89 other Senators who voted for the amendment threw down the gauntlet. That bill includes about $50 billion for operations in Iraq. The issue is now joined.

If you have read down this far, it will come as no surprise that Cheney is leading the fight against the amendment. It is an unseemly spectacle. Here we have a novice on things military - with multiple draft deferments to escape the war in Vietnam - importuning McCain, a highly decorated officer and torture victim, to allow torture to continue in Iraq and elsewhere. No matter. Cheney had already descended on McCain and other Senators last July and tried to twist their arms to put the amendment aside. They rebuffed him, and did so again last week when he and CIA chief Porter Goss made a quixotic attempt to amend the McCain amendment.

This was too much for a handful of CIA professionals. When they protested, they were reminded by Goss's staff that he is "on record" forbidding the use of torture by CIA officers. More gobbledygook. This disingenuous reply came even as the Goss/Cheney duo lobbied the Hill to modify the McCain amendment so there would be no legal problems for CIA personnel engaging in torture - or for the CIA director who condoned it.

Lawmakers have been meeting this week to seek ways to reconcile the two versions of the defense bill. The fate of the McCain amendment, which is only in the Senate version, hangs in the balance. Recent maneuvering among House Republicans suggests a newfound squeamishness regarding torture. On the McCain amendment they appear reluctant to march in lockstep with the Cheney/Bush administration and bear the opprobrium of, in effect, voting for torture.

Following the example of Senate majority leader Bill Frist, who pulled the defense authorization bill off the floor last July rather than force Senators to choose between McCain and torture, Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert has bought time by delaying a vote. He has been warned by many of his Republican colleagues that they will side with McCain. So Hastert needs time to try to find some way to avoid black eyes for Cheney and the president - blacker still, if the administration follows through on its threat to veto any bill that includes a blanket ban on torture. Hastert may, in fact, find some face-saving solution. Three of the nine Republican Senators who voted against the McCain amendment reportedly are on the Senate/House conference committee. What emerges will be a moral barometer. It will be interesting to see if the barometer keeps falling.

Shepherds Awake!

... and speaking of moral barometers: one hopeful sign came Wednesday with word that the president's own United Methodist Church's Board of Church and Society, in an almost unanimous vote, issued a strong statement against torture, urging Congress to create an independent, bipartisan commission to investigate detention and interrogation practices at Guantanamo, Iraq, and Afghanistan. There are reports that Methodist bishops may issue a similarly strong statement next week.

Until now, the lukewarm mainstream churches have not been able to find their voice - a throwback to the unconscionably passive stance adopted by the Catholic and Lutheran churches co-opted by Hitler in the 1930s. Let us hope that other churches, synagogues, and mosques start tuning in to what is going on and bite the bullet, like the Methodists.

Otherwise, our government's view will prevail. As described by one former CIA lawyer, that view is:

The law of the jungle; and right now we happen to be the strongest animal.

On Tuesday, Defense Secretary Rumsfeld turned down a request by UN human rights investigators to meet with detainees at Guantanamo, where at least 24 hunger strikers are being force-fed. Rumsfeld said the US would grant such access only to the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC). Last year the ICRC accused the US military of using tactics "tantamount to torture" at Guantanamo.

Ray McGovern, a former CIA analyst, is co-founder of Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS). He now works for Tell the Word, the publishing arm of the ecumenical Church of the Saviour in Washington, DC.

A shorter version of this article has appeared on


Cheney Taps Torture Memo Author to Replace Scooter Libby
By Amy Goodman
Democracy Now!


For full coverage of the CIA leak investigation, go to our Special Coverage page: Mr. Fitzgerald Calling.

Rioting in French suburbs 'well organized'

Rioting in French suburbs 'well organized'
Thu Nov 03 2005 14:56:34 ET

French Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy said Thursday that the riots in several Paris suburbs over the previous night were "not spontaneous" but rather "well organized."

"What we saw in the department of Seine-Saint-Denis overnight was not spontaneous, it was perfectly organized. We are looking into by whom and how," Sarkozy told French news channel i-tele.

The interior minister also said the government would not allow "troublemakers, a bunch of hoodlums, think they can do whatever they want" in the country.

A force of 1,000 police were assigned late Thursday to Seine-Saint-Denis, following the previous night of violence which affected about half of the 40 towns in the department, mostly communities of immigrants from Africa, officials said.

Venezuela Asserts Right to Give Jets to Cuba or China

Venezuela Asserts Right to Give Jets to Cuba or China
Vice president appears to defy U.S. in dust-up over Caracas' failure to get parts for its F-16s.
By Chris Kraul
LA Times Staff Writer

November 4, 2005

CARACAS, Venezuela — Tweaking already strained relations with the United States on the eve of a hemispheric summit, Venezuelan Vice President Jose Vicente Rangel said Thursday that his country would be within its rights in giving U.S.-made fighter jets to Cuba or China.

The controversy over the planes, a fleet of 22 F-16s sold to a previous Venezuelan administration, began Tuesday when President Hugo Chavez complained that the U.S. had refused to sell him spare parts for the aging aircraft. A deal Chavez made to buy parts from Israel was canceled after the U.S. intervened.

Chavez said Tuesday that the parts dispute might prompt him to simply give the aircraft to Cuba or China, so that those countries could "learn about the technology" — a move that would raise U.S. security concerns. It wasn't clear Tuesday whether Chavez was joking, until Rangel's statement Thursday asserted that such a gift was permissible.

The statement appeared to challenge U.S. Ambassador William Brownfield, who said Wednesday that Venezuela was contractually forbidden to sell or give away the aircraft without approval from the United States.

U.S. government sources said Venezuela had forfeited its right to buy spare parts because it would not allow the Pentagon to regularly inspect the aircraft and ensure they were secure, a standard provision of such deals. Rangel, though, said it was the U.S. that had violated the deal by denying Venezuela access to spare parts.

"The Venezuelan government by virtue of these acts is the victim once more of unacceptable pressures which correspond to the colonial vision of the George Bush administration," Rangel said in his statement.

Venezuela is a major supplier of oil to the U.S., but relations between the Bush administration and Chavez's government have been touchy. The U.S. has been wary of Chavez's close ties with Cuban President Fidel Castro, while Chavez has accused Washington of backing a short-lived 2002 coup against him.

Chavez has warned that the U.S. could invade Venezuela to seize the country's oil fields. On Thursday, Venezuelan troops staged a mock assault on the coastal enclave of San Juan de las Galdonas to prepare for such an event. Reports from the scene said that when the troops came ashore, hundreds of local men, women and children shouted at them, "Gringos, go home!"

The dispute over the F-16s could add to tensions this weekend at the Summit of the Americas in Mar del Plata, Argentina, which both Chavez and President Bush are attending. Chavez has vowed to oppose Bush's efforts to lobby for the stalled Free Trade Area of the Americas pact.

The F-16 spat is not the first between the two countries over aircraft. Last year, Venezuela gave some U.S.-built T-34 jet pilot training aircraft to Bolivia without getting approval from the United States, despite stipulations in the original transfer agreement. Venezuela ignored complaints from the U.S. that it wasn't informed before the move. The United States gave the planes to Venezuela in the 1970s, officials said.

Chavez brought up the possible gift of the F-16s to Cuba and China at a ceremony Tuesday at the presidential palace to mark the signing of a satellite production agreement with China. Representatives of the Chinese government were present, and the mention of the possible gift prompted applause and laughter.

Venezuela bought the F-16s in the early 1980s and for a long time was the only Latin American nation to possess the sophisticated warplanes, a reflection of the once-warm relations between the two countries.

Friday, November 04, 2005

Bush backs human rights; protesters call him 'fascist'
Bush backs human rights; protesters call him 'fascist'
Argentina hosts 34 leaders, thousands of protesters

Friday, November 4, 2005; Posted: 1:20 p.m. EST (18:20 GMT)
MAR DEL PLATA, Argentina (CNN) -- As thousands of protesters demonstrated against him outside the Summit of the Americas on Friday, President Bush said he viewed his participation as an "opportunity to positively affirm our belief in democracy and human rights and human dignity."

Bush said he already had met with leaders of several Central American countries, which he described as "young democracies" eager to implement a free trade agreement.

The Central America Free Trade Agreement was narrowly approved by Congress in July after a intense push by the White House.

Earlier, thousands of protesters had greeted a train bringing a group of fellow demonstrators from Buenos Aires -- including Bolivian presidential hopeful Evo Morales and Argentinian soccer legend Diego Maradona.

Chanting "Fascist Bush! You are the terrorist!" the protesters massed along the sides of the train, trying to shake hands with those inside.
No comment on leak scandal

Bush began his day with praise for Argentine President Nestor Kirchner. Neither leader took questions at a brief media appearance together.

In an apparent reference to his unpopularity in the region, Bush said to Kirchner, "It's not easy to host all these countries -- particularly not easy to host perhaps me. But thank you for doing it."

Kirchner, speaking through a translator, said the two had "a very important meeting" and were "quite candid" in discussions on numerous issues "related to our bilateral relations."

Later, speaking alone with reporters, Bush deflected questions about political problems at home. It was the first time he had taken questions since the indictment of I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, Vice President Cheney's top aide.

Bush said he would not talk about the indictment, or the future of political adviser Karl Rove.
Economics on the agenda

One of the top economic issues for Friday's host nation involves the International Monetary Fund.

Argentina is seeking a new IMF loan agreement. The fund helped the country out of a major economic crisis in 2002. But Argentine leaders have complained that they're not getting the kind of deal they need now.

"The president was quite firm in his belief that the IMF ought to have a different attitude toward Argentina," Bush said.

He did not express support for Argentina's position, instead sticking by previous assertions that he would leave that between Argentina and the IMF.

Bush said Kirchner has made "wise decisions" that helped Argentina's economy change "in quite dramatic fashions." He added that Kirchner's economic track record makes it possible for him to "take his case to the IMF with a much stronger hand."
Chavez rift downplayed

Bush will come face-to-face at the summit with a man his administration has criticized as a menace to hemispheric stability -- Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, a left-leaning populist who routinely denounces Bush as "Mr. Danger" and refers to the United States as "the Empire."

Among the ways Chavez has chosen to tweak Washington's nose is by embracing Cuban President Fidel Castro, who was not invited to the summit because he is not democratically elected.

U.S. officials downplayed any Bush-Chavez subplot at the proceedings.

"This summit is not about Hugo Chavez," U.S. national security adviser Stephen Hadley told reporters Wednesday. "We've had some long-standing concerns about the policy for his government. This is not news."

Bush said when he encounters Chavez "I will of course be polite. That's what the American people expect their president to do, be a polite person."

Bush, who had not been to Argentina, will also make stops in Brazil on Saturday and Panama on Sunday.

CNN's Dana Bash and Lucia Newman contributed to this report.

Senate endorses oil drilling in Alaska wildlife refuge
Senate endorses oil drilling in Alaska wildlife refuge
Measure would also ban exports of crude from region

Friday, November 4, 2005; Posted: 2:07 a.m. EST (07:07 GMT)
WASHINGTON (AP) -- The Senate insisted Thursday on opening up the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge for drilling after being blocked by environmentalists for decades, then voted overwhelmingly to prohibit exporting any of the oil pumped from the region.

With a 51-48 vote, the Senate approved requiring the Interior Department to begin selling oil leases for the coastal plain of the Alaska refuge within two years.

Repeated attempts to approve such drilling have failed in the Senate because drilling supporters were unable to muster the 60 votes needed to overcome a filibuster by opponents. This year, drilling supporters attached language ending the ban on drilling in the refuge to a budget measure that is immune from filibuster.

Opening the refuge, which was set aside for protection 44 years ago, has been one of President Bush's top energy priorities.

Bush, in Argentina for a two-day summit, hailed the vote.

"Increasing our domestic energy supply will help lower gasoline prices and utility bills," he said in a statement. "We can and should produce more crude oil here at home in environmentally responsible ways. The most promising site for oil in America is a 2,000-acre site in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, and thanks to technology, we can reach this energy with little impact on the land or wildlife."

Bush and other drilling advocates argue that the country needs the estimated 10.5 billion barrels of oil that are believed to lie beneath the refuges coastal tundra in northeastern Alaska and slow the growing dependence on oil imports. The United States now uses about 7.3 billion barrels of oil a year.

"America needs this American oil," said Sen. Ted Stevens, R-Alaska. He called opposition to pumping the refuge's oil "ostrich-like" and said the refuge's reserves are "crucial to the nation's attempt to achieve energy independence."

Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Washington, who led the effort to continue the ban, called drilling in the refuge a gimmick that will have little impact on oil or gasoline prices, or U.S. energy security.

"Using backdoor tactics to destroy America's last great wild frontier will not solve our nation's energy problems and will do nothing to lower skyrocketing gas prices," Cantwell argued.

The House is considering a measure that also includes a provision to open ANWR to oil companies. It cleared the Budget Committee on Thursday but has garnered so much opposition for various reasons that House leaders are thinking about jettisoning the contentious refuge drilling section.

The Senate's decision to keep the provision in its bill "gives us a little more flexibility," said Acting Majority Leader Roy Blunt, R-Missouri. A decision on ANWR would then be made when the House and Senate try to mesh their two budgets.

Meanwhile, the Senate, in an 86-13 vote, required that none of the oil from ANWR be exported. Otherwise "there is no assurance that even one drop of Alaskan oil will get to hurting Americans," said Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Oregon, a drilling opponent who nevertheless sponsored the no-export provision. He co-sponsored the amendment with Sen. Jim Talent, R-Missouri, who strongly supports drilling there.

Drilling supporters argued that ANWR will give the country more domestic oil production, so fewer barrels will have to be imported. Today about 60 percent of the oil used in the United States is imported.

But no oil is likely to flow from ANWR for 10 years and peak production of about 1 million barrels a day isn't expected until about 2025, according to the Energy Department. Currently, the United States used about 20 million barrels of oil a day.

Environmentalists have cited a report by DOE's Energy Information Administration that concluded that ANWR oil would only slightly affect gasoline prices and marginally lower the growth of imports by 2025, when imported oil would account for 64 percent of U.S. demand instead of 68 percent without ANWR's oil.

Environmentalists said drilling platforms and a spider web of roads and pipelines will threaten the ecology of the refuge's coastal plain which is used by caribou, polar bears, musk oxen and millions of migratory birds that land there during warmer parts of the year.

They have referred to the area as North America's Serengeti, a reference to the African wildlife paradise. Proposing to drill for oil in ANWR has raised the passions of conservationists of all political stripes, according to William Meadows, president of the Wilderness Society. "It would translate into a real outpouring of anger directed toward members of Congress," he said.

Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, has countered that modern drilling techniques and stringent environmental regulations will safeguard the coastal plain and its wildlife. "We can develop ANWR oil without harm to the environment and to the wildlife that live there," she said, adding that development would create tens of thousands of jobs both in Alaska and elsewhere.

The provision in the budget bill assumed $2.5 billion in federal revenue from oil lease sales over the next five years. Alaska would get a like amount as well as half of future oil royalties from the refuge. That's one reason Alaska's senators have fought for years to approve oil exploration in the refuge, which was set aside in 1961 for special protection.

Copyright 2005 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

GOP Leaders to Bush: 'Your Presidency is Effectively Over'

From Capitol Hill Blue

The Rant
GOP Leaders to Bush: 'Your Presidency is Effectively Over'
Nov 4, 2005, 08:13

A growing number of Republican leaders, party strategists and political professional now privately tell President George W. Bush that his presidency "is effectively over" unless he fires embattled White House advisor Karl Rove, apologizes to the American people for misleading the country into war and revamps his administration from top to bottom.

"The only show of unity we have now in the Republican Party is the belief that the President has failed the party, the American people and the presidency," says a longtime, and angry, GOP strategist.

With the public face of support for Bush eroding daily from even diehard Republicans, the President faces mounting anger from within his party over the path that may well lead to loss of control of Congress in the 2006 midterm elections and the White House in 2008.

"This presidency is in trouble," says a senior White House aide. "Even worse, I don't know if there is a way out of the trouble."

Congressional leaders journeyed to the White House before Bush left on his South American tour this week to tell the President that his legislative agenda on the Hill is dead, his latest Supreme Court nominee faces a tough confirmation fight in the Senate and he is facing open revolt within party ranks.

"The Speaker is having an increasingly difficult time holding his troops in line," says a source within the office of House Speaker Dennis J. Hastert. "Anger at the President grows exponentially with each passing day."

At a recent White House strategy session, internal party pollsters told the President that his approval rating with Americans continues to slide and may be irreversible, citing his failed Iraq war, the failed Supreme Court nomination of Harriet Miers and his failure to deal decisively on a number of fronts, including Hurricane Katrina, the economy and the Valerie Plame scandal.

In meetings, leaders and strategists have suggested a number of things that Bush must do to try and save his presidency and GOP prospects in upcoming elections, including:

* Apologize to the American people, Congress and our allies for misleading them on the reasons for invading Iraq;
* Revamp the White House staff from top to bottom;
* Fire Rove.

"We keep coming back to Rove," says a GOP pollster. "He has escaped indictment, so far, but the feeling within the party is that another shoe is ready to drop and the longer he waits to jettison Rove the greater the damage. As long as Karl Rove remains at the President's side, the Bush presidency is effectively over and he is just riding out the days until the nation elects a Democrat to replace him. Even with Rove gone the damage may be irreparable."

Bush, however, has dug his heels in on Rove. When a GOP strategist suggested last weekend that the President fire Rove, Bush exploded.

"You go to hell," he screamed at the strategist. "You can leave and you can take the rest of these lily-livered motherfuckers with you!" The President then stormed out of the room and refused to meet further with any other party leaders or strategists.

Bush's escalating temper tantrums and his intransigence on political issues increase Republican worries about the long term effects on both his presidency and the party's prospects in upcoming elections.

"Right now, George W. Bush is the Republican Party's chief liability," says a GOP strategist who has advised Presidential campaigns for 30 years. "The entire political future of the party and perhaps the nation now rests on the shoulders of a President that no one - Democrat or Republican - believes in or trusts."

White House Pressured Over Allegations of Torture, Secret Prisons

Published on Friday, November 4, 2005 by
Agence France Presse
White House Pressured Over Allegations of Torture, Secret Prisons

Mounting criticism of US maltreatment of hundreds of "war on terror" detainees, and new evidence that the CIA runs secret prisons around the world, have put the White House on the defensive over an alleged policy of permitting torture.

On Thursday the two houses of Congress began discussions to finalize a bill that would ban any torture by US forces. President George W. Bush has threatened to veto it, even as he has denied sanctioning torture.

The same day, a former top state department official told a radio program that the office of Vice President Dick Cheney was behind directives which encouraged US forces's torture of detainees in Iraq and Afghanistan.

That followed a Washington Post report a day earlier that the CIA has operated a network of secret prisons in eight countries where about 30 people were being held and interrogated.

"Virtually nothing is known about who is kept in the facilities, what interrogation methods are employed with them, or how decisions are made about whether they should be detained or for how long," the Post said.

Without conceding the prisons exist, on Wednesday Bush's national security adviser, Stephen Hadley, insisted that the government will do what is necessary to fight the war on terrorism.

However, Hadley said, "The president has been very clear we're doing that in a way that is consistent with our values and that is why he's been very clear that the United States will not torture."

But US political leaders and human rights groups say the evidence is mounting that the US has repeatedly violated human rights statutes and the Geneva Conventions in its treatment of prisoners in the war on terror, including more than 500 in the Guantanamo, Cuba US naval prison.

Former president Jimmy Carter denounced what he said was "a profound and radical change in the basic policies or moral values of our country" in reaction to the Post report.

"This is just one indication of what has been done under this administration to change the policies that have persisted all the way through our history," said Carter.

The White House appeared increasingly caught between its denials of a torture policy and its resistance to outside scrutiny of its detainee treatment.

Katherine Newell Bierman, a lawyer for Human Rights Watch, noted that the Post's sources were CIA people themselves, rebelling against torture.

"This is not something necessarily that the people in the intelligence community really want to do," she said.

"This kind of policy paints the US into a corner. It's only a matter of time before this information comes out."

On Thursday Colonel Lawrence Wilkerson, former chief of staff to Secretary of State Colin Powell, told National Public Radio he had traced a trail of memos and directives authorizing detainee abuse directly to Cheney's staff.

"There was a visible audit trail from the vice president's office through the secretary of defense, down to the commanders in the field," authorizing practices that led directly to US soldiers abusing prisoners in Iraq and Afghanistan, Wilkerson said.

Another sign of trouble for the White House was the rejection earlier this week by UN Human Rights rapporteurs of a Pentagon invitation to observe conditions at Guatanamo.

The Pentagon's invitation came in the midst of a three-month-old hunger strike that defense lawyers say has involved as many as 200 detainees in protest over their indefinite detentions.

The rapporteurs refused to accept the offer because they would not be permitted to meet prisoners.

Alleged US torture policies are under challenge in several suits to force the government to accord basic rights to Guantanamo detainees, most of whom have been held for nearly four years without charges or access to legal representation.

A separate challenge looms in a defense funding amendment authored by Senator John McCain which would ban "cruel, inhuman and degrading" interrogations of detainees by US forces and agents under any conditions.

McCain, who was tortured as a prisoner of war in Vietnam, proposed the amendment after an army captain testified that US soldiers routinely abused detainees in Iraq in 2003-04, having been told Geneva Conventions did not apply.

The Senate, dominated by Bush's own Republican party, passed the bill in October in a 90-9 vote.

On Wednesday the House of Representatives began reviewing the amendment.

Rather than embrace the law, however, Bush has threatened to veto it. And at the same time, Cheney has said that the law should exclude the CIA.

Doing so, said a human rights lawyer, would create a situation where people seized by one agency could be "rendered" to the CIA where they could disappear along with their rights.

"You have the opportunity for internal renditions", said Eugene Fidell, president of the National Institute of Military Justice.