Saturday, March 11, 2006

Milosevic feared he was being poisoned: lawyer

Top News Article |

Milosevic feared he was being poisoned: lawyer
Sat Mar 11, 2006 1:07 PM ET

BELGRADE (Reuters) - Former Yugoslav leader Slobodan Milosevic feared he was being poisoned in his detention cell in The Hague, his lawyer Zdenko Tomanovic said on Saturday hours after the tribunal announced Milosevic's death.

"Today, I have filed an official request to the tribunal to have the autopsy carried out in Moscow, having in mind his claims yesterday that he was being poisoned in the jail," Tomanovic told reporters in The Hague.

Acting on a request from Milosevic, Tomanovic said he had made a request for protection for his client to the Russian embassy in The Netherlands and to the Russian Foreign Ministry in Moscow.

"I demanded protection for Slobodan Milosevic over his claims that he was being poisoned. I still haven't received any reply and that's all I have to say at this time," the lawyer said.

Milosevic conducted his own defense at the war crimes trial. Tomanovic acted as his legal representative in other matters as well as helping him prepare his defense.

Milosevic's death raises questions

Top News Article |

Sat Mar 11, 2006 8:54 PM ET

By Alexandra Hudson

AMSTERDAM (Reuters) - The U.N. war crimes tribunal hopes an autopsy on Slobodan Milosevic on Sunday will clear up the cause of his death in his cell only months before a verdict was due in his four-year-old trial.

Milosevic, branded the "Butcher of the Balkans" for conflicts that tore Yugoslavia apart in the 1990s, was found dead on Saturday, prompting some world figures and relatives of war victims to say they had been robbed of justice.

As questions were raised as to why the trial had dragged on for so long, a tribunal spokeswoman said there was no indication the 64-year-old former Yugoslav president -- who suffered from a heart condition and high blood pressure -- committed suicide.

Milosevic's lawyer Zdenko Tomanovic told reporters his client had feared he was being poisoned but the tribunal rejected a request for the autopsy to take place in Russia.

Milosevic rose to the top of Yugoslav politics in the power vacuum left by the 1980 death of Yugoslavia's post-World War Two communist dictator Marshal Josip Broz Tito.

Elected Serbian president in 1990, he ruled with an iron grip until his overthrow in 2000. There was little sign of grief in Serbia, now in talks on first steps toward EU membership.

Milosevic was charged with 66 counts of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes in indictments covering conflicts in Bosnia, Croatia and Kosovo as Yugoslavia imploded.

The charges included involvement in the siege of Sarajevo during the 1992-95 Bosnia war and the 1995 massacre of 8,000 Muslims in the U.N. "safe area" of Srebrenica, Europe's worst single atrocity since World War Two.

Serbia and Montenegro's Minister for Human Rights and Ethnic Minorities, Rasim Ljajic, would travel to The Hague on Sunday with two pathologists for the autopsy, officials said.

Milosevic's trial, Europe's most significant war crimes case since top Nazis were tried after World War Two, began in February 2002.


The tribunal faces questions from those who feel robbed of justice about why the trial had gone on so long compared with the one-year life of Nuremberg and the more limited scope of Saddam Hussein's trial in Iraq.

Milosevic's ill-health had repeatedly interrupted his trial. Last month, the court rejected his bid to go to Russia for medical treatment, noting the trial was nearly finished.

The tribunal also faces questions over monitoring of inmates at its detention center because Milosevic's death was the second within a week after the suicide of former rebel Croatian Serb leader Milan Babic.

A former ally of Milosevic already convicted for war crimes, Babic was a key witness against the former Yugoslav leader, accusing him of bringing shame on Serbs.

Normal detention center procedures mean inmates are checked every 30 minutes during the night.

U.N. chief prosecutor Carla del Ponte, due to hold a news conference in The Hague at 1100 GMT, said: "The death of Slobodan Milosevic, a few weeks before the completion of his trial, will prevent justice to be done in his case."

But she said in a statement others must be punished for the crimes he was accused of and said six war crimes suspects still at large, including former Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic and his military commander Ratko Mladic, must be arrested.

European Union foreign ministers reminded Serbia on Saturday it must arrest the fugitives or risk its bid to join the bloc.

Milosevic's death occurred at a difficult time for Serbia with Kosovo poised to win independence and Montenegro also set to vote on a split from Belgrade in a referendum in May.

Only a single wreath and two candles were placed at Milosevic's Socialist Party headquarters and a handful of mourners displayed posters. Hardline nationalist parties said he should be buried in the national heroes' cemetery.

Helen Thomas | Lap Dogs of the Press

Helen Thomas | Lap Dogs of the Press

Lap Dogs of the Press
By Helen Thomas
The Nation

Friday 10 March 2006

Of all the unhappy trends I have witnessed - conservative swings on television networks, dwindling newspaper circulation, the jailing of reporters and "spin" - nothing is more troubling to me than the obsequious press during the run-up to the invasion of Iraq. They lapped up everything the Pentagon and White House could dish out - no questions asked.

Reporters and editors like to think of themselves as watchdogs for the public good. But in recent years both individual reporters and their ever-growing corporate ownership have defaulted on that role. Ted Stannard, an academic and former UPI correspondent, put it this way: "When watchdogs, bird dogs, and bull dogs morph into lap dogs, lazy dogs, or yellow dogs, the nation is in trouble."

The naive complicity of the press and the government was never more pronounced than in the prelude to the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq. The media became an echo chamber for White House pronouncements. One example: At President Bush's March 6, 2003, news conference, in which he made it eminently clear that the United States was going to war, one reporter pleased the "born again" Bush when she asked him if he prayed about going to war. And so it went.

After all, two of the nation's most prestigious newspapers, the New York Times and the Washington Post, had kept up a drumbeat for war with Iraq to bring down Dictator Saddam Hussein. They accepted almost unquestioningly the bogus evidence of weapons of mass destruction, the dubious White House rationale that proved to be so costly on a human scale, not to mention a drain on the Treasury. The Post was much more hawkish than the Times - running many editorials pumping up the need to wage war against the Iraqi dictator - but both newspapers played into the hands of the Administration.

When Secretary of State Colin Powell delivered his ninety-minute "boffo" statement on Saddam's lethal toxic arsenal on February 5, 2003, before the United Nations, the Times said he left "little question that Mr. Hussein had tried hard to conceal" a so-called smoking gun or weapons of mass destruction. After two US special weapons inspection task forces, headed by chief weapons inspector David Kay and later by Charles Duelfer, came up empty in the scouring of Iraq for WMD, did you hear any apologies from the Bush Administration? Of course not. It simply changed its rationale for the war - several times. Nor did the media say much about the failed weapons search. Several newspapers made it a front-page story but only gave it one-day coverage. As for Powell, he simply lost his halo. The newspapers played his back-pedaling inconspicuously on the back pages.

My concern is why the nation's media were so gullible. Did they really think it was all going to be so easy, a "cakewalk," a superpower invading a Third World country? Why did the Washington press corps forgo its traditional skepticism? Why did reporters become cheerleaders for a deceptive Administration? Could it be that no one wanted to stand alone outside Washington's pack journalism?

Tribune Media Services editor Robert Koehler summed it up best. In his August 20, 2004, column in the San Francisco Chronicle Koehler wrote, "Our print media pacesetters, the New York Times, and just the other day, the Washington Post, have searched their souls over the misleading pre-war coverage they foisted on the nation last year, and blurted out qualified Reaganesque mea culpas: 'Mistakes were made.'"

All the blame cannot be laid at the doorstep of the print media. CNN's war correspondent, Christiane Amanpour, was critical of her own network for not asking enough questions about WMD. She attributed it to the competition for ratings with Fox, which had an inside track to top Administration officials.

Despite the apologies of the mainstream press for not having vigilantly questioned evidence of WMD and links to terrorists in the early stages of the war, the newspapers dropped the ball again by ignoring for days a damaging report in the London Times on May 1, 2005. That report revealed the so-called Downing Street memo, the minutes of a high-powered confidential meeting that British Prime Minister Tony Blair held with his top advisers on Bush's forthcoming plans to attack Iraq. At the secret session Richard Dearlove, former head of British intelligence, told Blair that Bush "wanted to remove Saddam Hussein through military action, justified by the conjunction of terrorism and WMD. But the intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy."

The Downing Street memo was a bombshell when discussed by the bloggers, but the mainstream print media ignored it until it became too embarrassing to suppress any longer. The Post discounted the memo as old news and pointed to reports it had many months before on the buildup to the war. Los Angeles Times editorial page editor Michael Kinsley decided that the classified minutes of the Blair meeting were not a "smoking gun." The New York Times touched on the memo in a dispatch during the last days leading up to the British elections, but put it in the tenth paragraph.

All this took me back to the days immediately following the unraveling of the Watergate scandal. The White House press corps realized it had fallen asleep at the switch - not that all the investigative reporting could have been done by those on the so-called "body watch," which travels everywhere with the President and has no time to dig for facts. But looking back, they knew they had missed many clues on the Watergate scandal and were determined to become much more skeptical of what was being dished out to them at the daily briefings. And, indeed, they were. The White House press room became a lion's den.

By contrast, after the White House lost its credibility in rationalizing the pre-emptive assault on Iraq, the correspondents began to come out of their coma, yet they were still too timid to challenge Administration officials, who were trying to put a good face on a bad situation.

I recall one exchange of mine with press secretary Scott McClellan last May that illustrates the difference, and what I mean by the skeptical reporting during Watergate.

Helen: The other day, in fact this week, you [McClellan] said that we, the United States, are in Afghanistan and Iraq by invitation. Would you like to correct that incredible distortion of American history?

Scott: No. We are ... that's where we are currently.

Helen: In view of your credibility, which is already mired ... how can you say that?

Scott: Helen, I think everyone in this room knows that you're taking that comment out of context. There are two democratically elected governments in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Helen: Were we invited into Iraq?

Scott: There are democratically elected governments now in Iraq and Afghanistan, and we are there at their invitation. They are sovereign governments, but we are there today.

Helen: You mean, if they asked us out, that we would have left?

Scott: No, Helen, I'm talking about today. We are there at their invitation. They are sovereign governments.

Helen: I'm talking about today, too.

Scott: We are doing all we can to train and equip their security forces so that they can provide their own security as they move forward on a free and democratic future.

Helen: Did we invade those countries?

At that point McClellan called on another reporter.

Those were the days when I longed for ABC-TV's great Sam Donaldson to back up my questions as he always did, and I did the same for him and other daring reporters. Then I realized that the old pros, reporters whom I had known in the past, many of them around during World War II and later the Vietnam War, reporters who had some historical perspective on government deception and folly, were not around anymore.

I honestly believe that if reporters had put the spotlight on the flaws in the Bush Administration's war policies, they could have saved the country the heartache and the losses of American and Iraqi lives.

It is past time for reporters to forget the party line, ask the tough questions and let the chips fall where they may.


The Dubai Deal You Don't Know About

The Dubai Deal You Don't Know About
By Daren Fonda
Time Magazine
Thursday 09 March 2006

Even as one company gives up on US ports, a different Middle Eastern firm remains a major contractor for the Navy.

With midterm elections approaching, no politician wanted to go home and explain to voters why a company controlled by the government of Dubai was taking over operations at six US ports-without so much as a meow of protest from Congress. As it turns out, that won't be necessary. Dubai Ports World, the firm at the center of the controversy, announced today that it would give up its bid to manage US ports, agreeing to transfer the contracts to a "US entity."

Yet while one Dubai company may be giving up on US ports, another one shows no signs of quitting the US-or of giving up a contract with the Navy to provide shore services for vessels in the Middle East. The firm, Inchcape Shipping Services (ISS), is an old British company that last January was sold to a Dubai government investment vehicle for $285 million. ISS has more than 200 offices around the world and provides services to clients ranging from cruise ship operators to oil tankers to commercial cargo vessels. In the US, the company operates out of more than a dozen port cities, including Houston, Miami and New Orleans, arranging pilots, tugs, linesmen and stevedores, among other things. The firm is also a defense contractor which has long worked for Britain's Royal Navy. And last June, the US Navy signed on too, awarding ISS a $50 million contract to be the "husbanding agent" for vessels in most Southwest Asia ports, including those in the Middle East, according to an unclassified Navy logistics manual for the Fifth Fleet and a press release from ISS.

Why is a Dubai shipping services company doing business with the Pentagon when handing over US port operations to the emirate would supposedly compromise national security? Because it makes sense. Call it the reality of living in a globally connected business world. Your IBM laptop is now manufactured by a Chinese company that may outsource customer support to an Indian firm and the logistics to FedEx. Dubai companies aren't just buying overseas assets like hotels in New York and wax museums in London; they're providing jobs and business for US companies.

Boeing, for one, can only hope it doesn't receive a frosty reception the next time it wants to sell airplanes to Dubai's booming airline, Emirates. Rival Airbus would be more than happy to take advantage of Washington's creeping protectionism.

The Navy, for one, has long understood that it would be virtually impossible to rely solely on Western-owned companies for critical services. It simply couldn't operate without local firms providing logistics support at the 200 ports its ships visit around the world. After the bombing of the USS Cole in 2000, the Navy undertook a wide-scale review of contracting procedures, including those involving ship husbanding. As a result of that review, the Navy took several steps to increase the security of ships in foreign ports, but maintained its system of contracting. "We've been doing business in the Persian Gulf for 60 years," says a Navy official who was unable to confirm the details of the ISS contract. Moreover, Dubai is considered one of the best-equipped ports for the Navy-it's also a crucial logistical base for operations in the region, including those in Iraq and Afghanistan.

No question, the husbanding contract provides the potential for mischief. Husbanding agents arrange everything from fuel to spare parts to fresh vegetables for vessels at ports of call. More critically, they often provide security, like erecting concrete barriers and what the military calls "force protection." Husbanding agents often learn weeks in advance of a ship's schedule so as to be prepared when the vessel arrives, information that the Navy keeps closely guarded since it could be invaluable in the hands of terrorists. The suicide bombing of the Cole, for instance, occurred less than three hours after the ship had completed mooring in the harbor of Aden, Yemen. "It would have been much more difficult for the bombers to execute the attack without some previous knowledge of the ship's schedule and its intent to pull into Aden," says a former Navy officer.

Contacted by TIME, a spokesman for ISS confirmed the existence of the contract, but said that confidentiality terms prevented him from discussing it. A statement issued by the firm declared that "ISS has undergone rigorous external security checks" and has "comprehensive internal policies on security." Regarding its US port operations, the company states that all port staff "are fully vetted and cleared and undergo a background check to enable them to work within the port limits."

While ISS doesn't appear eager to discuss its defense work, a press release issued last fall offers some details. The release states that ISS "will be responsible for providing all the logistics requirements of US Navy and Coast Guard ships in ports throughout the [Middle East] region." The release also notes that ISS may be asked to provide services for US military training exercises and "contingency operations inland." ISS's partner for those services? None other than KBR, the division of Halliburton - Vice President Dick Cheney's old firm - that has won billions of dollars in contracts for the Iraq war and reconstruction. Ironically, Halliburton's name has come up as a possible candidate to be the "US entity" to take over the US ports management from Dubai Ports World.

ISS, in fact, isn't the only Dubai company that has won big business with the Pentagon. In December 2004, another such firm, Seven Seas Shipchandlers, won a $700 million contract to be the prime vendor for maintenance and repair operations for troops in the US Central Command region, which includes the Middle East. Seven Seas has also provided food supplies to US troops in Iraq. Another Dubai-based firm, MAC International, is under contract to deliver $67.2 million worth of police trucks to the Army. Those vehicles, however, will bear a stamp that should please any Washington pol: Made In Detroit.

Milosevic dies in jail: UN tribunal

News One Article |

Sat Mar 11, 2006 8:37 AM ET

By Nicola Leske

THE HAGUE (Reuters) - Former Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic has died, the UN tribunal said on Saturday, just months before his trial for genocide and war crimes in the Balkans wars in the 1990s was expected to conclude.

"Milosevic was found lifeless on his bed in his cell at the United Nations detention unit," the tribunal said in a statement.

"The guard immediately alerted the detention unit officer in command and the medical officer. The latter confirmed that Slobodan Milosevic was dead."

The UN court said the Dutch police and a Dutch coroner were called in and started an inquiry. A full autopsy and toxicological examination have been ordered. Milosevic's family has been informed, it added.

A tribunal spokeswoman said she could not comment on the cause of death until the autopsy was completed, but added: "We have no indication that it was suicide."

French Foreign Minister Philippe Douste-Blazy told reporters in Salzburg that Milosevic had died of natural causes.

"I would like to spare a thought for all those who suffered so much from ethnic cleansing, tens of thousands of men, women and children, which Milosevic conceived and planned," he said.

Milosevic, 64, suffered a heart condition and high blood pressure which had repeatedly interrupted his trial in The Hague on charges of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes during the bloody disintegration of Yugoslavia in the 1990s.

As news of the death swept through the Balkans, an official of Milosevic's Socialist Party, Zoran Andjelkovic, said: "We expect the tribunal to explain how was it possible, and why they did not let him have treatment in Russia".

Another Socialist party official, reached on his car phone, said simply: "They killed him, the bastards."


Cardiologists treating Milosevic in The Hague had warned he was at risk of a potentially life threatening condition known as a hypertensive emergency, when surges in blood pressure can damage the heart, kidneys and central nervous system.

Last month, the tribunal rejected a request by Milosevic to travel to Russia for specialist medical treatment, noting that his trial -- that has already lasted four years -- was in the final stages and he might not return to complete it.

Milosevic, who was overthrown in 2000 and sent to The Hague in June 2001, said last month his health was worsening and he was hearing noises in his head. A lawyer by training, Milosevic was defending himself.

Steven Kay, a lawyer appointed by the tribunal to help Milosevic prepare his case, said the former Serb strongman had told him a few weeks ago he had no intention of taking his own life after working so hard to defend himself.

"He knew the risk that he was taking," Kay told BBC television, adding the pressure of defending himself raised his blood pressure but the case was expected to wrap up soon.

"There was an end in sight."

Milosevic's brother lives in Russia and prosecutors suspect his wife and son do too. The prosecution had opposed his release despite a promise by Russia to return him, fearing he could say his health stopped him from traveling back to The Hague.

Milosevic had used up more than four-fifths of the 150 days allotted for his defense, suggesting the case could have been wrapped up in the next few months barring any new delays. Judges would then need several months to deliberate before a verdict.

Milosevic was charged with 66 counts of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes in complex indictments covering conflicts in Bosnia, Croatia and Kosovo in the 1990s. He had declined to enter a plea.

Last week, former rebel Croatian Serb leader Milan Babic committed suicide at the tribunal's detention center. Babic had testified against Milosevic and was in The Hague to appear in the trial of another top Croatian Serb.

(Additional reporting by Douglas Hamilton in Belgrade)

Slobodan Milosevic Found Dead in His Cell- AP

Slobodan Milosevic Found Dead in His Cell
6 minutes ago
Slobodan Milosevic, the former Yugoslav leader who orchestrated the Balkan wars of the 1990s and was on trial for war crimes, was found dead in his prison cell at the U.N. detention center near The Hague, the U.N. tribunal said Saturday. He was 65.
A tribunal press officer in The Hague said Milosevic was found dead in his bed, apparently of natural causes.
Milosevic, who has been on trial on 66 counts of war crimes since Feb. 2002, has been in chronic ill health from a heart condition and stress.
Copyright © 2006 The Associated Press.

'Why' examines rise of military-industrial complex

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'Why' examines rise of military-industrial complex

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

"In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence ... by the military-industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist."

President Dwight Eisenhower delivered his famous _ and unheeded warning _ days before he left office and too late for him to do anything about it. Ike knew that complex firsthand because he presided over its extraordinary rise in the Cold War, but he condemned it anyway.

"Why We Fight," a documentary by the director of "The Trials of Henry Kissinger," is a low-key but penetrating history of how the wedding of the Pentagon and defense industry, now joined by Congress and neo-conservative think tanks, has caused Ike's prediction to come true with the "disastrous rise of misplaced power" that is the Iraqi occupation.

"There's no exit strategy (in Iraq) because we never intended to leave," claims Chalmers Johnson, a former CIA agent who effectively gives the historic framework for President Bush's military adventure. He claims that "14 military bases" are under construction in Iraq.

Also effective are Karen Kwiatkowski, a retired U.S. Army officer and vocal war critic; U.S. Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., whose interview is cut short when Vice President Dick Cheney calls; Wilton Sekzer, a retired New York cop who lost a son in the 9/11 attack; a Baghdad morgue doctor sadly reading off the civilian victims of American "smart bombs" that missed their targets; and a perpetually grinning William Kristol, neo-con poster boy.

In case you're thinking this film is just another Michael Moore imitator, think again. Eugene Jarecki is a careful polemicist who makes his case slowly from a diverse collection of interviews and history rather than broad stunts for easy laughs.

We now know the reasons for invading Iraq were invented or distorted. "Why We Fight" (the title comes from a series of World War II propaganda films) aims to explain how the very forces Eisenhower warned us of in 1961 have come to dominate America's foreign and military policies, which are now one and the same, Jarecki argues.

"We elected a government-contractor vice president," says Charles Lewis, who runs an investigative journalism think tank, in reinforcing Jarecki's thesis.

Much of "Why We Fight" is old news, but it's still information that matters.

(Bob Hoover can be reached at bhoover(at)

(Distributed by Scripps Howard News Service,

Tycoon in war-crimes probe - 11 Mar 2006 - World News

Tycoon in war-crimes probe - 11 Mar 2006 - World News

Tycoon in war-crimes probe

By Robert Verkaik

Media tycoon Robert Maxwell was being investigated for war crimes and was to be interviewed by police just before he mysteriously drowned 15 years ago.

Revelations that Maxwell, once a captain in the British Army, knew that he faced a possible life sentence for murdering an unarmed German civilian in 1945 lend support to the theory that he later took his own life.

A Metropolitan Police file shows that weeks before he died detectives had begun questioning members of Maxwell's platoon and were preparing a case for the Crown Prosecution Service.

He would have been told about the inquiry and knew that if found guilty he would be the first Briton to be prosecuted for war crimes.

The War Crimes Act 1991 was enacted just six months before Maxwell's body was found floating in the Atlantic on November 5, 1991 after he had been holidaying on his luxury yacht the Lady Ghislane. No one has been able to explain how he died.

But the police file shows that by that time officers had already been able to establish the location in Germany where Maxwell was alleged to have killed an unarmed German civilian in cold blood.

The shooting on April 3, 1945 was first disclosed by Maxwell's authorised biographer Joe Haines in 1988.

Maxwell is quoted in the book as describing how he tried to capture a German town by threatening the population with a mortar bombardment, a tactic that had proved successful on a nearby village hours earlier.

In a letter to his wife, published in the book, Maxwell writes: " ... so I sent one of the Germans to go and fetch the mayor of the town. In half an hour's time he turned up and I told him that he had to go to tell the Germans to surrender and hang the white flag otherwise the town will be destroyed. One hour later he came back saying that the soldiers will surrender and the white flag was put up so we marched off, but as soon as we marched off a German tank opened fire on us. Luckily he missed so I shot the mayor and withdrew."

The police file says: "The reported circumstances of the shooting gave rise to an allegation of war crimes. To some extent, the reporting of the shooting incident were confirmed by Mr Maxwell in an interview he gave in 1988 to the journalist Brian Walden."

But the police could do nothing until Parliament had enacted the war crimes legislation, which had been introduced to prosecute Nazi war criminals living in Britain.

It was only when a member of the public made a complaint under the new legislation that an official investigation could begin. Two officers from the police's historic war crimes unit began tracing members of Maxwell's platoon but had been unable to find a witness to the alleged shooting of the mayor.

On November 5, 1991, at the age of 68, Maxwell is presumed to have fallen overboard from the Lady Ghislane, which was cruising off the Canary Islands, and his body was subsequently found floating in the Atlantic Ocean. The official verdict was accidental drowning, though many people, including members of his own family, believe he took his own life.

In was only after his death that it emerged that he had plundered the Mirror Group pensions' funds to bail out his ailing media empire.

Shortly after his bodied was buried in Jerusalem the police passed the conclusions of their investigation to the Crown Prosecution Service.

The police file says that "it was determined that the case could be progressed no further, and it was closed in March 1991."

The file also shows that, although a lot of work had gone into the case, the police had not been able to find a reliable witness to corroborate the account in the Haines biography. They had also raised concerns about having to rely on the quotes attributed to Maxwell in the book. But Maxwell would not have known this and may have felt that the net was closing in.

Maxwell was immensely proud of his war record. He had fought bravely with the British Army from the beaches of Normandy to the bombed-out buildings of Berlin. In January 1945 his courageous actions won him a Military Cross, which was awarded to him by Field Marshal Sir Bernard Montgomery.

But his hatred for the German people was borne out of his own bitter experiences. Later he was reported to have said that the two things he hated most were Germans and taxes.

By 1991 he had become very ill, with only one properly functioning lung and a serious heart condition. He must have known he was living on borrowed time and the prospect of spending his remaining life in prison for war crimes may have been too much for him to bear.

The only Briton to be convicted for war crimes in Britain was Anthony Sawoniuk, who was given two life sentences for the murder of 18 Jewish men and women in Eastern Europe during World War II. He died in prison last year aged 84.


Britain gave Israel plutonium, files show

Guardian Unlimited Politics | Special Reports | Britain gave Israel plutonium, files show

Britain gave Israel plutonium, files show

Richard Norton-Taylor
Friday March 10, 2006
The Guardian

Britain secretly supplied Israel with plutonium during the 1960s despite a warning from military intelligence that it could help the Israelis to develop a nuclear bomb, it was disclosed last night. The deal, made during Harold Wilson's Labour government, is revealed in classified documents released under the Freedom of Information Act and obtained by BBC2's Newsnight programme.

The documents also show how Britain made hundreds of shipments to Israel of material which could have helped in its nuclear weapons programme, including compounds of uranium, lithium, beryllium and tritium, as well as heavy water.

Article continues
Israel asked Britain in 1966 to supply 10mg of plutonium. Israel would have required almost 5kg of plutonium to build an atomic bomb, but British defence intelligence officials warned that 10mg had "significant military value" and could enable the Jewish state to carry out important experimental work to speed up its nuclear weapons programme.

Documents show that the decision to sell plutonium to Israel in 1966 was blocked by officials in both the Ministry of Defence and the Foreign Office, who said: "It is HMG's policy not to do anything which would assist Israel in the production of nuclear weapons." But the deal was forced through by a Jewish civil servant, Michael Michaels, in Tony Benn's Ministry of Technology, which was responsible for trade in nuclear material, according to Newsnight.

Peter Kelly, who was British defence intelligence's expert on the Israeli nuclear weapons programme, knew Mr Michaels. He told Newsnight he believed Mr Michaels knew that Israel was trying to build an atomic bomb, but that he had dual loyalties to Britain and Israel.

Mr Benn told the programme that civil servants in his department kept the deals secret from him and his predecessor, Frank Cousins.

He had always suspected that civil servants were doing deals behind his back, but he never thought they would sell plutonium to Israel. He told Newsnight: "I'm not only surprised, I'm shocked. It never occurred to me they would authorise something so totally against the policy of the government.

"Michaels lied to me, I learned by bitter experience that the nuclear industry lied to me again and again." He thought Wilson may not have known that Britain was helping Israel to get the bomb.

Last year Newsnight showed that in the late 1950s Harold Macmillan's Conservative government provided Israel with 20 tonnes of heavy water to start up its Dimona reactor. Newsnight said it learned that Jack Straw had admitted to the Liberal Democrat leader, Sir Menzies Campbell, that Britain knew the heavy water was destined for Israel, and that in 1961, Macmillan even made a failed attempt to get it back.

Media Matters - O'Reilly: Blowing Iran "off the face of the earth ... would be the sane thing to do"

Media Matters - O'Reilly: Blowing Iran "off the face of the earth ... would be the sane thing to do"

Summary: On his radio program, Bill O'Reilly stated: "You know in a sane world, every country would unite against Iran and blow it off the face of the Earth. That would be the sane thing to do."

On the March 8 broadcast of his nationally syndicated radio show, Bill O'Reilly stated: "You know, in a sane world, every country would unite against Iran and blow it off the face of the earth. That would be the sane thing to do." O'Reilly made the remark during a discussion of Iran's recent threat to cause "harm and pain" to the U.S. if it pursues sanctions against Iran in the U.N. Security Council because of Iran's developing nuclear program.

As Media Matters for America has documented, O'Reilly recently declared that "it's just a matter of time ... before we have to bomb" Iran.

From the March 8 edition of Westwood One's The Radio Factor with Bill O'Reilly:

O'REILLY: And let's do the No-Spin News. In Vienna, Iran has threatened the U.S.A. with, quote, "harm and pain" for its role in trying to get the United Nations to discipline Iran over the nuke issue. OK. It's the usual saber-rattling. You know, we'll hurt you, we'll do this, that, and the other thing. Now, what Iran is doing is they perceive that America is weakened because of the conflict in Iraq and the division at home, OK? So they're saying, "Hey, we'll just push the envelope as far as we can push it and see what happens. So we think that Bush is a damaged president, his approval ratings are low, Iraq is chaos -- we're helping that out, by the way." Iran is helping Iraq to be in chaos by allowing the terrorists to go through that country and arming them and teaching them how to make bombs and all of that.

You know, in a sane world, every country would unite against Iran and blow it off the face of the earth. That would be the sane thing to do, just go in and remove the government, because this is a terrorist state. But we can't do that, and now, the U.S.A. is basically has to take this kind of rhetoric. I mean, there's nothing else we can do but go to the United Nations and say to the Security Council, "Look, you can't let these people have nuclear weapons. If you do, there's going to be a war." So it's between war and sanctions.


Feds Squelch Capitol Hill Blue

Feds Squelch Capitol Hill Blue

Originally published Mar 09, 2006

Willysnout tells you what Doug Thompson can't - Thompson and his crew
were under surveillance through his site (the aforementioned Capitol
Hill Blue), and forced him to change a column they didn't like.

Thompson is best known for "The Rant" - a regular online column which
has lately been highly critical of the current White House. (He's also
been critical of the Clinton White House - Thompson just has it out
for authority.)

Well, the current authority doesn't like that.

The offending article reported that Thompson, who also owns the
web hosting company that puts Capitol Hill Blue online, had received a
request under the USA Patriot Act from the FBI for information about
the publication, its contributors, its personnel and its readers. It
was only through his ownership of the hosting company that Thompson
was aware of the government's surveillance.

The FBI's request instructed Thompson not to reveal who had made
the information request or what law had authorized it. Thompson
refused to provide the information and revealed the letter and its
contents in Capitol Hill Blue. At that point, a U.S. attorney
threatened Thompson with jail unless he not only removed the
information, but revised the article discussing it.

To avoid going to jail, Thompson complied.

Think about it, folks. A publication has been not only censored,
but forced to submit new content acceptable to the government.

And now that the Patriot Act has just been signed to another contract
extension, we have more of this to look forward to.

Whoops. There's someone at the door. I'll be righ

Brussels briefing - South Ossetia accord eludes Georgia and Russia / Europe / Brussels briefing - South Ossetia accord eludes Georgia and Russia

South Ossetia accord eludes Georgia and Russia
>By Neil Buckley
>Published: March 10 2006 10:29 | Last updated: March 10 2006 10:29

In the outer office of Mikheil Saakashvili, the Georgian president, framed newspaper front pages celebrate last May’s visit by US President George W. Bush to the country he hailed as a “beacon of democracy”. Yet barely an hour’s drive from the capital, Tbilisi, tensions threaten to explode into conflict between Georgian and Russian troops and to undermine Mr Saakashvili’s two-year drive for reform and integration with the west.

The flashpoint is South Ossetia, a slab of land stretching south from the Russian-Georgian border. The region declared independence from Georgia in the Soviet Union’s dying days, sparking fighting in 1991-92 ended by a Russian-brokered ceasefire.

Tempers have been fraying since Georgia’s parliament last month adopted a resolution accusing Russian peacekeepers of trying to “annex” the region, and calling for their replacement by an international force. Moscow’s response was fury, prompting an exchange of threats and insults that has caused concern in both the US and the European Union.

Russia’s 58th Army has been conducting exercises just north of the Georgian border. Tbilisi says Russian combat aircraft have several times violated its airspace, which Moscow denies.

Moscow has stopped issuing visas to Georgians in response to Tbilisi’s alleged footdragging in issuing visas to Russian peacekeepers.

Gleb Pavlovsky, a political analyst and television pundit connected to the Kremlin, accused Mr Saakashvili of stirring up war in South Ossetia, suggesting darkly this could be averted with “a single bullet”.

All this comes weeks after Mr Saakashvili indirectly accused Moscow of being responsible for pipeline explosions that left Georgia shivering without Russian gas during a record cold spell.

In a recent late-night interview in his office, the Georgian president said he held firmly to his suspicions on the pipeline incident, and had passed intelligence to his international partners.

“Serious people know what we know, and I think it is quite substantial – intelligence that substantiates some of our strong suspicions,” he said.

Russian president Vladimir Putin has blamed the explosions on terrorists, accusing Mr Saakashvili of being hysterical.

The pipeline dispute and South Ossetian tensions add up to the most serious Russo-Georgian rift since the “Rose” revolution of November 2003 installed Mr Saakashvili and inspired revolutions in Ukraine and Kyrgyzstan. They also underline the trials Mr Saakashvili faces in rebuilding Georgia’s economy and moving towards Nato and EU membership, with a powerful northern neighbour reluctant to relinquish its grip on a country it dominated for 200 years.

Beyond the bluster from both sides, however – and the danger of fighting breaking out by accident, as it nearly has several times in recent weeks – the mood in Tbilisi is not for war. Mr Saakhashvili says Georgia would never try to retake South Ossetia by force.

“We can’t get into fighting with the Russians. We are not crazy,” he says. He does not believe Russia wants to see violence either.

But the stand-off illustrates how little progress Mr Saakashvili has made towards restoring Georgia’s territorial integrity, a year after Tbilisi presented a South Ossetian peace plan, well received by the international community.

Mr Saakashvili charges that Russia has an interest in keeping tensions simmering in both South Ossetia and Georgia’s larger separatist enclave of Abkhazia, to complicate Tbilisi’s aims of attracting foreign investment and joining Nato.

The Georgian parliament’s claim that Moscow’s peacekeeping mission to Ossetia has been transformed into something with “all the elements of annexation” is well founded, he says. In the past two years, Moscow has issued thousands of Russian passports to South Ossetians, allowing Russia to argue that its peacekeepers are protecting its own citizens.

After years of stalling, Russia had agreed on a timetable to withdraw from two Soviet-era military bases in southern Georgia. European institutions and the US were also engaged more actively than ever before in pursuing a South Ossetian settlement.

But in October the Georgian parliament passed a tough resolution on Russia’s forces in South Ossetia that led directly to last month’s demand for their replacement.

Raytheon wins $100m airport pact - The Boston Globe

Raytheon wins $100m airport pact - The Boston Globe

Raytheon wins $100m airport pact
Security system deal lifts firm's push into homeland defense

By Robert Weisman, Globe Staff | March 8, 2006

Four major airports in the New York City area have hired Raytheon Inc. for more than $100 million to put together an antiterrorist surveillance system that would monitor the airports' perimeters.

Raytheon, a Waltham defense and aerospace company, will lead a team of contractors that will deploy a mix of radar, sensors, video motion detectors, closed-circuit TV monitors, and electronic fences at John F. Kennedy International and LaGuardia in New York and Newark Liberty International and Teterboro in New Jersey.

The two-year contract from the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which continues to beef up its security in the aftermath of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, is symbolically important for Raytheon as it repackages its communications, sensor, and command-and-control technologies for the military to defend airports, borders, and ports.

''Raytheon's research and development in the homeland security area, and the projects they're working on, have considerable potential," said Paul Nisbet, analyst for JSA Research in Newport, R.I. ''Selling the New York airports is probably the best first step you could have for an airport defense system. If it works there, it's the kind of technology that could be used at every major airport in the country."

But the company will face stiff competition from rival Lockheed Martin Corp., among others, as it seeks to expand its foothold in the burgeoning homeland security market.

Several of the technologies in the New York airports' ''perimeter intrusion detection system" are already deployed individually at other airports across the country, including infrared surveillance cameras at Logan International Airport in Boston.

But Raytheon is marketing its approach as the first that can feed data from multiple sources into integrated command-and-control consoles that can simultaneously monitor, for example, an attempt to cut through a security fence and an effort to land a boat near the runway of a seaside airport.

''A single operator will be able to make an assessment of an incursion and perform a dispatch," said Richard J. Dinka, Raytheon's director of air space management and homeland security.

Pasquale DiFulco, spokesman for the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, said the system, details of which were reported in yesterday's Star-Ledger newspaper in New Jersey, is part of a $2.3 billion investment in security operations and capital improvements since 2001, when the port authority lost 84 of its employees in the terror attacks. ''Our airport facilities are of paramount importance to us," he said.

Raytheon, which is bidding on similar airport security contracts in the Middle East, hopes to market its perimeter system widely. Andrew B. Zogg, vice president for air-space management and homeland security at a Raytheon site in Marlborough, estimated the business could be worth $300 million to $500 million in five years. ''This is our entry into airport security systems in the United States along with the opportunity for international orders," he said.

Zogg said Raytheon currently has about 25 employees working in Marlborough on systems to safeguard airports, and that number could more than double in the next few years.

The company has been working on several other homeland security initiatives, including Vigilant Eagle, a grid of sensors on towers and buildings that would protect commercial jets from shoulder-fired missiles.

At least initially, however, that would not be part of the perimeter intrusion detection system being deployed in New York and New Jersey.

Homeland security still represents just a fraction of the more than $20 billion Raytheon rings up in annual revenue, but company officials expect the business to grow substantially in coming years. Nisbet estimated overall industry revenue from homeland security, now several billion dollars a year, could double in the next seven years.

At its Naval Integration Center in Portsmouth, R.I., the company has developed Project Athena, an integrated maritime defense system that Raytheon is marketing to coastal port authorities.

And, last month, the company put in a bid with the Department of Homeland Security to be prime contractor for a $2.5 billion secure border initiative, known as SBInet, to protect the Canadian and Mexican borders from terrorist infiltration. That contract is scheduled to be awarded this fall.

Rival defense and electronics companies, however, are marketing competing technologies to protect airports, seaports, and borders. Lockheed Martin, the largest US military contractor, also is vying for the SBInet contract, while airport authorities have been fielding bids from L3 Communications, SAIC, and ADT Security Services, the prime contractor for the Massachusetts Port Authority.

Dennis Treece, director of corporate security for Massport, said Logan International Airport in Boston is currently installing a $5 million ''camera intrusion detection system" that uses infrared cameras and analytic software to track potential threats.

Treece said he provided his counterparts at the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey with the performance specifications of the system at Logan, which is much smaller than most of the airports in the New York area.

''People complain about Logan being small, but one advantage of being small is it's easier to protect," Treece said.

Robert Weisman can be reached at

Friday, March 10, 2006

The Australian: We could take out Iran N-sites: Israeli general [March 11, 2006]

The Australian: We could take out Iran N-sites: Israeli general [March 11, 2006]

We could take out Iran N-sites: Israeli general
Abraham Rabinovich, Jerusalem
March 11, 2006

GENERAL Moshe Ya'alon, a former chief of staff of the Israel Defence Forces, has revealed that Israel could neutralise the Iranian threat for several years by hitting dozens of targets spread around the country.

General Ya'alon told the Hudson Institute in Washington on Thursday that the Iranian sites could be struck with greater accuracy than was achieved by the air force in its frequent "targeted assassinations" of Palestinian militants in the Gaza Strip.

His remarks, the most explicit yet about Israel's capacity to strike at Iran's nuclear sites, drew sharp criticism from officials in Israel who have been attempting to maintain a low profile on the issue in order to leave it as a matter for the international community.

"You don't talk about these things in public," said a senior official, "particularly when there are journalists present."

The general's comments came as Acting Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said that if his Kadima party won this month's national elections, he would aim to establish the country's final borders with the Palestinian Authority within four years.

Although Mr Olmert expressed a readiness to negotiate these borders with a Hamas government if it recognised Israel and disavowed violence, he indicated that this was not likely to happen. The new borders would then be set unilaterally by Israel.

Mr Olmert said for the first time that the security barrier being built on the West Bank parallel to the pre-Six Day War boundary would serve as the new border, although its alignment might be shifted in places - either deeper into the West Bank or closer to Israel.

In Washington, General Ya'alon noted that unlike Palestinian targets, which were generally travelling in vehicles, nuclear sites were stationary.

He added that the job could also be done by means other than an air force attack, an apparent reference to missiles.

"It would be preferable for other nations to do the job," he was quoted as saying, "but you can't rule out Israel."

The retired general said the Iranians could complete their know-how on building a nuclear device within the next six to 18 months and could build one within three to six years.

A sharp counter-strike against Israel could be expected, General Ya'alon said, including the launching of missiles from Iran and action by the Hezbollah militia in Lebanon, who have been provided by Iran with 12,000 rockets capable of hitting up to 80km inside Israel.

He said that Israel's Arrow anti-missile missile was fully deployed and capable of intercepting the Iranian missiles.

ABC News: Did the Pentagon Try to Develope a Secret 'Spaceplane'?

ABC News: Did the Pentagon Try to Develope a Secret 'Spaceplane'?

Did the Pentagon Try to Develope a Secret 'Spaceplane'?
Air Force and NASA Reportedly Worked on 'Blackstar' Project

March 10, 2006 -- - It sounds like something out of a science-fiction movie: an aircraft that can orbit around Earth and spy or swoop down on unsuspecting enemies from the heavens.

But according to the industry trade magazine Aviation Week & Space Technology, the U.S. government attempted to develop such a craft in secret but eventually canceled the program, either for budgetary or operational reasons.

Bill Scott, who wrote the article, said the craft -- nicknamed "Blackstar," "Black Magic" and "Speedy" -- was actually made up of two separate vehicles.

"I call it a two-staged orbit system, because the two aircraft have to work together," Scott said.

A carrier craft called the SR-3 would carry a smaller "spaceplane" on its underbelly into the atmosphere while moving at supersonic speeds.

Once at the right altitude, the smaller orbiter would be deployed, fire its rockets and blast into space.

Blackstar Details Reported But No Confirmation
Scott said he had recently learned from an "extremely good source who was briefed on the program" that the small orbiter craft was named XOV, which stood for experimental orbital vehicle.

The vehicle would have likely been used primarily for reconnaissance, operating as kind of a manned satellite.

"The manned orbiter's primary military advantage would be surprise overflight," according to Aviation Week & Space Technology's article. "There would be no forewarning of its presence prior to the first orbit, allowing ground targets to be imaged before they could be hidden. In contrast, satellite orbits are predictable enough that activities having intelligence value can be scheduled to avoid overflights."

While in orbit, the craft could also carry and drop a suite of high-tech sensors capable of acquiring detailed images of ground targets.

Scott said the program was started in the 1980s, just as NASA experienced difficulties with the space shuttle.

As the Air Force realized it needed quick and safe access to space, Blackstar was born.

Many aviation experts held doubts about the existence of the program, however, and no one from the Air Force or NASA was immediately available to comment on the article.

Though his sources told him the program had been canceled, Scott expected the Air Force and NASA would revisit it one day.

Copyright © 2006 ABC News Internet Ventures

you ever known them to erase anything before?--Pentagon admits errors in spying on protesters

Pentagon admits errors in spying on protesters - U.S. News -

Pentagon admits errors in spying on protesters
NBC: Official says peaceful demonstrators’ names erased from database
MSNBC and NBC News
Updated: 8:45 a.m. ET March 10, 2006

The Department of Defense admitted in a letter obtained by NBC News on Thursday that it had wrongly added peaceful demonstrators to a database of possible domestic terrorist threats. The letter followed an NBC report focusing on the Defense Department’s Threat and Local Observation Notice, or TALON, report.

Acting Deputy Undersecretary of Defense Roger W. Rogalski’s letter came in reply to a memo from Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., who had demanded answers about the process of identifying domestic protesters as suspicious and removing their names when they are wrongly listed.

“The recent review of the TALON Reporting System ... identified a small number of reports that did not meet the TALON reporting criteria. Those reports dealt with domestic anti-military protests or demonstrations potentially impacting DoD facilities or personnel,” Rogalski wrote on Wednesday.

“While the information was of value to military commanders, it should not have been retained in the Cornerstone database.”

Threats directed against Defense Department
In 2003, the Defense Department directed a little-known agency, Counterintelligence Field Activity (CIFA), to establish and “maintain a domestic law enforcement database that includes information related to potential terrorist threats directed against the Department of Defense.” Then-Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz also established TALON at that time.

The original NBC News report, from December, focused on a secret 400-page Defense Department document listing more than 1,500 “suspicious incidents” across the country over a 10-month period. One such incident was a small group of activists meeting in a Quaker Meeting House in Lake Worth, Fla., to plan a protest against military recruiting at local high schools.

In his Wednesday letter, Rogalski said such anomalies in the TALON database had been removed.

“They did not pertain to potential foreign terrorist activity and thus should never have been entered into the Cornerstone database. These reports have since been removed from the Cornerstone database and refresher training on intelligence oversight and database management is being given,” Rogalski wrote.

Rogalski said only 43 names were improperly added to the database, and those were from protest-related reports such as the Quaker meeting in Florida.

“All reports concerning protest activities have been purged,” the letter said.

TALON reports provide “non-validated domestic threat information” from military units throughout the United States that are collected and retained in the Cornerstone CIFA database. The reports include details on potential surveillance of military bases, stolen vehicles, bomb threats and planned antiwar protests. In the program’s first year, the agency received more than 5,000 TALON reports.

Nearly four dozen antiwar meetings listed
The Defense Department document provides an inside look at how the U.S. military has stepped up intelligence gathering since 9/11. The database includes nearly four dozen antiwar meetings or protests, including some that have taken place far from any military installation, post or recruitment center, according to NBC News’ Lisa Myers, who first wrote about the story in December.

Among those listed were a large antiwar protest in Los Angeles in March 2004 that included effigies of President Bush and antiwar protest banners, a planned protest against military recruiters in December 2004 in Boston, and a planned protest in April 2004 at McDonald’s National Salute to America’s Heroes — a military air and sea show in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.

The Fort Lauderdale protest was deemed not to be a credible threat, and a column in the database concludes: “U.S. group exercising constitutional rights.” Two-hundred and forty-three other incidents in the database were discounted because they had no connection to the Department of Defense — yet they all remained in the database.

The Department of Defense has strict guidelines (.PDF link ), adopted in December 1982, that limit the extent to which it can collect and retain information on U.S. citizens.

Still, the database includes at least 20 references to U.S. citizens or U.S. persons. Other documents obtained by NBC News show that the Defense Department is clearly increasing its domestic monitoring activities. One briefing document stamped “secret” concludes: “[W]e have noted increased communication and encouragement between protest groups using the Internet,” but no “significant connection” between incidents, such as “reoccurring instigators at protests” or “vehicle descriptions.”

Earlier domestic intelligence gathering
The military’s penchant for collecting domestic intelligence is a trend, Christopher Pyle, a former Army intelligence officer, told NBC News when the report was first broadcast.

During the Vietnam War, Pyle revealed the Defense Department monitored and infiltrated antiwar and civil rights protests in an article he published in the Washington Monthly in January 1970.

The public was outraged and a lengthy congressional investigation followed that revealed the military had conducted probes on at least 100,000 American citizens. Pyle got more than 100 military agents to testify that they had been ordered to spy on U.S. citizens — many of them antiwar protesters and civil rights advocates. In the wake of the investigations, Pyle helped Congress write a law placing new limits on military spying inside the U.S.

But Pyle said some of the information in the database suggests the military may be dangerously close to repeating its past mistakes.

“The documents tell me that military intelligence is back conducting investigations and maintaining records on civilian political activity. The military made promises that it would not do this again,” he said.
NBC News' Lisa Myers and the NBC Investigative Unit contributed to this report.

© 2006


US Contractor Guilty of $3 Million Fraud in Iraq

US Contractor Guilty of $3 Million Fraud in Iraq

Contractor Bilked US on Iraq Work, Federal Jury Rules
By Charles R. Babcock
The Washington Post

Friday 10 March 2006

Custer Battles is told it should pay more than $10 million in damages.

Two Army veterans and their company cheated the US government on a contract to furnish Iraq with a new currency in 2003 and should pay more than $10 million in assorted damages, a federal jury in Alexandria ruled yesterday.

In the first civil fraud verdict arising from the war effort, the eight-member panel decided, after two days of deliberation, in favor of two former workers who claimed in a lawsuit that Custer Battles LLC created phony Cayman Island companies to overcharge the Coalition Provisional Authority that ran Iraq after the US-led invasion in 2003.

"This is a smashing victory for US taxpayers and these whistle-blowers though the Bush administration did nothing to help," said Alan M. Grayson, the attorney for the plaintiffs, Robert Isakson and William Baldwin. Under the federal False Claims Act, citizens can sue on behalf of the government and the Justice Department can then decide whether to join the suit, which it did not in the Custer Battles case.

The company, which had offices in Northern Virginia and Rhode Island, was founded in 2002 by Scott Custer, a former Army Ranger, and Michael Battles, a West Point graduate who also served in the CIA. The war in Iraq brought it meteoric growth, as it picked up CPA contracts to manage security at Baghdad International Airport and help distribute the country's new currency.

The lawsuit named the two co-founders, along with Joseph Morris, who managed the currency contract.

During the three-week trial, Grayson called the company executives "war profiteers," while defense attorneys called the accusers "bounty hunters."

The trial has been complicated by the murky legal status of the CPA and the various sources of money it used to try to rebuild the country. US District Judge T.S. Ellis III told the jury that they could only consider fraud charges on the first $3 million spent on the Custer Battles currency contract - out of a total of about $20 million - because that clearly came from the US Treasury.

Attorneys for Custer and Battles did not return calls yesterday seeking comment. Barbara Van Gelder, Morris's attorney, said that because the judge has yet to rule on whether the CPA is a government entity "the impact of the jury's decision is in limbo."

Grayson said yesterday that there are "dozens" of other fraud cases about contracts in Iraq that remain sealed because the department has not decided whether to join them or not. He called such delay "a dereliction of duty." His clients will get 25 to 30 percent of the awarded damages, with the rest going to the US Treasury, he said.

The law allows for triple damages. Grayson said the jury also added another $230,000 in back pay for Baldwin, who said he was demoted for complaining about the company's actions, and more than $400,000 in fines for specific fraudulent acts.

During the trial, retired Brig. Gen. Hugh Tant III told jurors that Custer Battles's performance amounted to "probably the worst I've seen in my 30 years in the Army." Tant had been overseeing the firm's work on the currency conversion contract.

He testified that of the 36 trucks the firm supplied, 34 did not work. When he confronted Battles, he said Battles responded: "You asked for trucks and we complied with our contract and it is immaterial whether the trucks were operational."

Custer and Battles both took the stand to deny that the offshore companies were designed to trick the government into paying more.

Molly Ivins | The Progress Myth in Iraq

Molly Ivins | The Progress Myth in Iraq

The Progress Myth in Iraq
By Molly Ivins

Wednesday 08 March 2006

Austin, Texas - It was such a relief to me to learn we are making "very, very good progress" in Iraq. As the third anniversary of our invasion approaches, I could not have been more thrilled by the news reported by Gen. Peter Pace, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, on a Sunday chat show. Vice President Dick Cheney's take was equally reassuring: Things are "improving steadily" in Iraq.

I was thrilled - very, very good progress and steady improvement, isn't that grand? Wake me if anything starts to go wrong. Like someone bombing the al-Askari Mosque in Samarra and touching off a lot of sectarian violence.

I was also relieved to learn - via Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, so noted for his consistently accurate assessment of this war - that the whole picture is hunky-dory to tickety-boo. Since the bombing of the mosque, lots of alarmists have reported that Iraq is devolving or might be collapsing into civil war. They're sort of jumping over the civil war line and back again - yep, it's started; nope, it hasn't - like a bunch of false starts at the beginning of a football play.

I'm sure glad to get the straight skinny from Ol' Rumsfeld, who has been in Iraq many times himself for the typical in-country experience. Like many foreign correspondents, Rumsfeld roams the streets alone, talking to any chance-met Iraqi in his fluent Arabic, so of course he knows best.

"From what I've seen thus far, much of the reporting in the US and abroad has exaggerated the situation," Rumsfeld said. "We do know, of course, that al Qaeda has media committees. We do know they teach people exactly how to try to manipulate the media. They do this regularly. We see the intelligence that reports on their meetings. Now I can't take a string and tie it to a news report and then trace it back to an al Qaeda media committee meeting. I am not able to do that at all."

No horsepoop? Then can I ask a question: If you're able to monitor these media committee meetings, how come you can't find Osama bin Ladin?

But, Brother Rumsfeld warns us, "We do know that their goal is to try to break the will; that they consider the center of gravity of this - not to be in Iraq, because they know they can't win a battle out there; they consider it to be in Washington, D.C., and in London and in the capitals of the Western world."

I'm sorry, I know we are not allowed to use the V-word in relation to Iraq, because so many brilliant neocons have assured us this war is nothing like Vietnam (Vietnam, lotsa jungle; Iraq lotsa sand - big difference). But you must admit that press conferences with Donny Rum are wonderfully reminiscent of the Five O'Clock Follies, those wacky but endearing daily press briefings on Southeast Asia by military officers who made Baghdad Bob sound like a pessimist.

Rumsfeld's performance was so reminiscent of all the times the military in Vietnam blamed the media for reporting "bad news'" when there was nothing else to report. A briefing officer once memorably asked the press, "Who's side are you on?" The answer is what it's always been: We root for America, but our job is to report as accurately as we can what the situation is.

You could rely on other sources. For example, the Pentagon is still investigating itself to find out why it is paying American soldiers to make up good news about the war, which it then passes on to a Republican public relations firm, which in turn pays people in the Iraqi media to print the stuff - thus fooling the Iraqis or somebody. When last heard from, the general in charge of investigating this federally funded Baghdad Bobism said he hadn't found anything about it to be illegal yet, so it apparently continues.

Meanwhile, Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad told the Los Angeles Times that Iraq is "really vulnerable" to civil war if there is another attack like the al-Askari bombing. By invading, said Khalilzad, the United States has "opened the Pandora's box" of sectarian strife in Iraq.

Could I suggest something kind of grown-up? Despite Rumsfeld's rationalizing, we are in a deep pile of poop here, and we're best likely to come out of it OK by pulling together. So could we stop this cheap old McCarthyite trick of pretending that correspondents who are in fact risking their lives and doing their best to bring the rest of us accurate information are somehow disloyal or connected to al Qaeda?

Wrong, yes, of course they could be wrong. But there is now a three-year record of who has been right about what is happening in Iraq - Rumsfeld or the media. And the score is: Press, 1,095; Rumsfeld, 0.

Iran Shock & Awe Spin Moves into Hyperdrive

Another Day in the Empire

It is interesting to follow the corporate media’s take on Iran’s response to threats of military action, most recently amplified by John Bolton and Dick Cheney in speeches delivered to the primary constituency of the United States government, AIPAC. Iran’s “President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s [comments about retaliating if his country is attacked] came as Tehran struck an increasingly threatening tone, with the top Iranian delegate to the U.N. atomic watchdog agency warning a day earlier that the United States will face ‘harm and pain’ if the Security Council becomes involved,” according to ABC News. “Some diplomats saw the comments as a veiled threat to use oil as a weapon, though Iran’s oil minister ruled out any decrease in production. Iran also has leverage with extremist groups in the Middle East that could harm U.S. interests.”

Of course, the “veiled threats” of Cheney and Bolton do not merit such commentary from these anonymous diplomats, more than likely neocons. ABC simply characterizes U.S. Undersecretary of State Nicholas Burns’ threat to “seek a so-called [United Nations] Chapter 7 resolution, which can be enforced with military action” as the “toughest talk so far has come from Washington.”

It would be perfectly natural for Iran to use oil as a weapon if attacked by the United States, Israel, and any nation that supports a Chapter 7 resolution resulting in a military attack. It also makes perfect sense for Iran to leverage “terrorist” organizations during an attack (Iran allegedly supports Hamas, the PIJ and Ahmad Jibril’s PFLP-GC in Palestine and Hezbollah in Lebanon; it should be noted that both Hamas and Hezbollah are democratically elected political organizations).

Iran’s supreme leader Ali Khamenei was spot on when he declared: “This time they have used nuclear energy as an excuse. If Iran quits now, the case will not be over. The Americans will find another excuse” as a pretext to shock and awe his country, as they went through several excuses in the lead-up to the invasion and occupation of Iraq.

In addition to the United States, several European countries are lining up behind the Straussian neocon threat to attack Iran, as most recently demonstrated by Austrian Chancellor Wolfgang Schuessel, who indicated the “USA, Russia, China and Europe are in agreement on” preventing Iran’s nascent nuclear program, completely legal under Article IV(1) of the 1968 Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty, signed by Iran in 1970.

“Nothing in this Treaty shall be interpreted as affecting the inalienable right of all the Parties to the Treaty to develop research, production and use of nuclear energy for peaceful purposes,” the article states. Iran claims its nuclear program is for energy purposes.

Meanwhile, in the House of Corporate Whores, otherwise known as the House of Representatives, Thomas Lantos of California, senior Democrat whore on the International Relations Committee, has declared his intention to “push forward with legislation imposing mandatory sanctions on foreign firms working in Iran, despite administration concerns that the bill could split the international coalition against Iran’s nuclear programme,” in other words such a bill may jeopardize the impending Straussian neocon effort to shock and awe Iran.

“Iran’s quest for nuclear arms requires us to do two things: squeeze Iran’s economy as much as possible and do so without delay,” averred Lantos. Of course, an effort to “squeeze Iran’s economy” will result in misery and privation for the Iranian people, but then this does not bother Democrats. It should be remembered that the “feel your pain” Democrat Bill Clinton was responsible for most of the human misery inflicted under the medieval siege-like Iraq sanctions.

“After a year of intensive diplomacy, the five major nuclear powers—the United States, Britain, France, Russia and China—are united in agreeing that ‘Iran is seeking nuclear weapons’ but the proposed law could blow the coalition apart,” Nicholas Burns warned. For the Straussian neocons, such a blow-out would be unfortunate, although it certainly wouldn’t put a kink in their effort to target Iran, as they have held this threat dear for more than a decade.

Finally, Condi Rice has thrown in her two cents. “We may face no greater challenge from a single country than from Iran, whose policies are directed at developing a Middle East that would be 180 degrees different than the Middle East we would like to see develop,” Rice told a Congressional hearing in Washington. “This is a country that is determined, it seems, to develop a nuclear weapon in defiance of the international community which is determined that they should not get one.”

Never mind that the above mentioned countries are not about to give up their nukes and the sanctimonious United States is the only country to actually ever use nukes—not against a true adversary, mind you, but an all-but defeated enemy, or rather its civilians in Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

“Rice also alleged that Iran was the ‘central banker for terrorism” in the Middle East, accusing the Islamic Republic of supporting terrorist attacks in Iraq, the Palestinian territories and Lebanon,” reports al-Jazeera. Of course, Condi did not offer any evidence that Iran supports attacks against the occupiers in Iraq—never mind that Iran’s support of the Sunni and Ba’athist resistance would be absurd, considering the country fought a horrific war against the secular Saddam Hussein in the 1980s.

No mention either of Israel’s terrorist attacks against thousands of people in “the Palestinian territories,” the vast majority innocent civilians (according to the Palestine Red Crescent Society and the IDF, or rather IOF, since September 29, 2000, 3,821 Palestinians and 1,084 Israelis have been killed; see this chart). Nor did Condi bother to mention that in fact the “terrorist” group in Lebanon is Hezbollah, a legitimate resistance organization formed when Israel illegally invaded Lebanon and supported by most Lebanese.

As the shock and awe campaign against Iran unfolds before our eyes, such details are irrelevant. However, it appears the United Nations is no longer irrelevant, as Bush claimed it was in the lead-up to the invasion of Iraq, and Europe is eager to put to rest its stigmatization as a passel of wimps, irresolute in the face of Islamic terrorism, never mind that much of this terrorism was created by the United States, Britain, and their various clients.

Daily Kos: BREAKING: Sandra Day O'Connor Speaks out and unbelievably says

Daily Kos: BREAKING: Sandra Day O'Connor Speaks out and unbelievably says

BREAKING: Sandra Day O'Connor Speaks out and unbelievably says
by philinmaine
Fri Mar 10, 2006 at 06:25:12 AM PDT

I don't have all the story but Justice O'Connor has BLASTED the Republicans for their partisan attacks on the courts. She stated (paraphrase) that partisan attacks on the courts for political purposes must stop. She included references to cutting a court's budget, intimidation, and poisioning the public against the judicial system. Wow! Then she said something off the charts...

* philinmaine's diary :: ::

She closed by saying (paraphrase) that it takes a long time to become a dictatorship but better to stop the slide at the beginning than the end. That's Right..Sandra Day O'Connor used the word dictatorship. Not some 'nutty blogger' not some 'left wing lezzy' but the most venerated, praised, widely respected, Justice O'Connor.

The audio was on NPR..I suppose the lead could be 'NPR finds its balls' cause I've been scouring the net and can't find the speech but the audio will be on the net at 10AM

I don't care if this diary gets recommended or not (I had a good diary yesterday that got pretty much ignored) but I hope this gets picked up. Her statements were right on the mark, Molly Ivins could not have said it better. Thank you Justice O'Connor, from the bottom of my heart I salute your guts and courage. You told it as it is except you may have left out that we're well into the slide down the slippery slope (or maybe you inferred). UPDATE: I've been informed the audio is now live. Listen here: I followed the comments and yes, she was wrong in 2000 but she's right now. Would that it was then but listen to the now. UPDATE: Thanks to Karen for the following: I've transcribed the NPR audio ...and here are excerpts. Reporting is Nina Totenberg, NPR legal affairs correspondent, who attended the speech. ...O'Connor said attacks on the judiciary by some Republican leaders pose a direct threat to our constitutional freedoms... Our effectiveness," she said, "is premised on the notion that we won't be subject to retaliation for our judicial acts." The nation's founders wrote repeatedly, she said, that without an independent judiciary to protect individual rights from the other branches of government, those rights and privileges would amount to nothing. And then she took aim at former GOP House leader Tom Delay. She didn't name him, but she quoted his attacks on the courts at a meeting of the conservative Christian group Justice Sunday last year, when Delay took out after the courts for rulings on abortion, prayer and the Terri Shiavo case... Then she nailed Cornyn: It gets worse, she said, noting that death threats against judges are increasing. It doesn't help, she said, when a high-profile senator suggests that there may be a connection between violence against judges and decisions that the senator disagrees with. Re recent suggestions for "so-called" judicial reforms, judicial budget cuts, etc., -- "I," said O'Connor, "am against judicial reforms driven by nakedly partisan reasoning." ..."We must be ever vigilant against those who would strong-arm the judiciary into adopting their preferred policies. It takes a lot of degeneration before a country falls into dictatorship," she said, "but we should avoid these ends by avoiding these beginnings." The truth doesn't hurt unless it should. -Church marquee by Karen Wehrstein on Fri Mar 10, 2006 at 07:21:17 AM PDT

ABC News: Soldiers Back From Iraq, Unable to Get Help They Need

ABC News: Soldiers Back From Iraq, Unable to Get Help They Need

Soldiers Back From Iraq, Unable to Get Help They Need
Department of Veterans Affairs Facing Staggering Burden of Providing Health Care to Returning Troops

DONNA, Texas, March 9, 2006 — - Eugene Simpson doesn't like to complain. Paralyzed in a bomb attack in Iraq, his initial care was excellent, but ever since then he has felt adrift.

"There are thousands of soldiers in worse condition than I am, and they're OK," he said. "They're making it."

Getting to the nearest Veterans Administration hospital that can best treat his paralysis means a three-hour roundtrip, and the VA isn't paying for therapists closer to home. So he does without.

The numbers of war veterans enrolled in the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs has continued to grow, and many feel the strain.

"I want to excel and advance and get stronger," said Simpson. "But at the same time, I don't want to pull a muscle or do the wrong exercise that can hurt a certain part of my body, because then I'll be helpless."

In Texas, a group of veterans staged a protest march covering the distance to the nearest VA hospital: 250 miles.

"[It takes] four-and-a-half to five hours .. one way," said Vietnam War vet Polo Uriesti.

Uriesti said his father, a veteran of World War II, suffers a greater hardship. But he said the headaches and flashbacks of post-traumatic stress still flare up without warning.

"I just ... it chokes me up," said Uriesti.

The VA acknowledged some veterans suffer those problems but said most do not.

"Last year, 97 percent of veterans who came to us for a primary care appointment got that appointment within 30 days, and 95 percent of those who came for an acute care appointment got it within 30 days," said R. James Nicholson, secretary of Veterans Affairs.

Audit: VA Fudged Reports

But an inspector general's audit found real problems with the way the VA has come up with those numbers. The audit found that some VA staff, feeling "pressured," actually fudged the numbers, and error rates were as high as 61 percent.

In Atlanta, one veteran who the VA said got an appointment within a week actually waited nearly a year.

Another veteran in Boston who reported seeing a VA doctor within hours actually waited 472 days.

The VA said it has been steadily improving the system, but many veterans' groups worry the situation will only get worse as new Iraq veterans keep pouring in.

"The numbers are simply going to overwhelm them, and they are not going to have the proper funds to deal with these folks on a long-term, chronic basis," said David Gorman of the advocacy group Disabled American Veterans.

Uriesti worries what his two sons, set to serve again in Iraq, may face if they need care, given the gaps in the VA system so many veterans now face.

ABC News' Erin Hayes filed this report for "World News Tonight."

US Shrugs off Iraq Civil War, Ghraib Closure Played Down

Islam Online- News Section

"…Iraqi security forces deal with it (civil war) to the extent they're able to," Rumsfeld said. (Reuters)

WASHINGTON, March 10, 2006 ( & News Agencies) – The United States said Iraq's civil war would be the responsibility of the Iraqi security forces, not the US troops as a leading human rights group rebuked Washington for plans to shut down the notorious Abu Ghraib prison and move prisoners to other detention facilities in Iraq.

"The plan is to prevent a civil war and to the extent one were to occur to have the ... Iraqi security forces deal with it to the extent they're able to," Reuters quoted US Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld as telling the Appropriations Committee on Thursday, March 9.

Rumsfeld, along with US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, appeared before the Committee to defend the Bush administration's request for nearly $70 billion more for the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.

Last February, up to 350 people were killed in reprisal attacks on Sunni mosques and people triggered by the bombing attack that destroyed the golden dome of Imam Ali Al-Hadi shrine, one of Iraq's most celebrated Shiite religious sites.

Rumsfeld said that the Iraqi security forces will deal with the civil war once erupts.

"Senator, I can say that certainly it is not the intention of the military commanders to allow that to happen," he responded to Sen. Robert Byrd, a West Virginia Democrat, who asked for assurance that emergency war funds would not be used to put US troops "right in the middle of a full-blown Iraqi civil war."

"And ... at least thus far the situation has been such that the Iraqi security forces could for the most part deal with the problems that exist."

Analysts have questioned how capable Iraqi security forces would be without the aid of US forces and the degree to which they are loyal to the central government.


"A change of scenery neglects to address the real problem -- the failure to completely safeguard detainees from arbitrary and indefinite detention," Schulz said.

Some US Senators, however, kept skeptical about the situation in the war-torn country.

"You've been telling the American people that the situation in Iraq is not that dire," said Sen. Herb Kohl of Wisconsin.

"But Mr. Secretary, with all due respect and speaking for a majority of the American people, that is hard to swallow. From the beginning, the administration's Iraq strategy has been an amalgamation of misdirection and missteps."

US President George W. President Bush, whose low job approval ratings are partly because of the Iraq war, has refused to set a timetable for the troops to come home.

He said that US forces can be withdrawn from Iraq as Iraqi security forces take over security.

Army Gen. John Abizaid, who oversees US military operations in Iraq, said the security situation in Iraq was changing "from insurgency" – a US term for the Iraqi resistance - towards "sectarian violence."

He, however, said that the situation was controllable by Iraqi security forces and US-led foreign forces.

Earlier, Rice's testimony was interrupted by a protester who shouted "blood is on your hands" and "how many of you have children going to war?"

Another protestor also shouted "Fire Rumsfeld. Fire Rumsfeld. This is an illegal and immoral war."

Three years after selling the Iraqi war to the Bush administration and American public, a number of influential neo-conservatives admitted on Thursday, March 9, Iraq was now more dangerous than before the invasion-turned-occupation.

"Change of Scenery"

Meanwhile, Amnesty International slammed the new US plans to shut down the notorious Abu Ghraib prison, saying the plans were "little more than a new paint job," Agence France-Presse (AFP) reported.

"A change of scenery neglects to address the real problem -- the failure to completely safeguard detainees from arbitrary and indefinite detention," William F. Schulz, executive director for Amnesty International USA said.

"Rather than being moved to a better facility, detainees held by US-led Multinational Forces (MNF) must be given an opportunity for a meaningful judicial review.

The US military said on Thursday that it plans to shut down the notorious prison and transfer prisoners to other jails in Iraq.

"We do have plans and are in the process of building other facilities to move detainees who are under US control out of Abu Ghraib," US General Peter Pace said.

Amnesty said that detainees must know why they were being held and if charged, given fair trial.

The US military is holding about 14,500 detainees in Iraq, 4,500 of whom are held at the Abu Ghraib prison.

An Amnesty report on Monday, March 6, said that the arbitrary US detention in Iraq has been a recipe for abuses against detainees.

The Abu Ghraib prison gained further notoriety under the US occupation when it was revealed that US forces had abused Iraqi detainees there in 2003.

Pictures of the abuse, including some showing bloodied and naked prisoners smeared with excrement or forced to perform sexual acts, stoked anti-US sentiment across the world.

U.S. to Hand Over Abu Ghraib to Iraq

Gmail - [ourrealnewsplace] U.S. to Hand Over Abu Ghraib to Iraq

U.S. to Hand Over Abu Ghraib to Iraq

Associated Press Writer
41 minutes ago

The U.S. military said Thursday it would begin moving
thousands of prisoners out of Abu Ghraib prison to a
new lockup near Baghdad's airport within three months
and hand the notorious facility over to Iraqi
authorities as soon as possible.

Abu Ghraib has become perhaps the most infamous prison
in the world, known as the site where U.S. soldiers
abused some Iraqi detainees and, earlier, for its
torture chambers during Saddam Hussein's rule.

The sprawling facility on the western outskirts of
Baghdad will be turned over to Iraqi authorities once
the prisoner transfer to Camp Cropper and other U.S.
military prisons in the country is finished. The
process will take several months, said Lt. Col. Barry
Johnson, a U.S. military spokesman in Baghdad.

Abu Ghraib currently houses 4,537 out of the 14,589
detainees held by the U.S. military in the country.
Iraqi authorities also hold prisoners at Abu Ghraib,
though it is not known how many.

The U.S. government initially spoke of tearing down
Abu Ghraib after it became a symbol of the scandal.
Widely publicized photographs of prisoner abuse by
American military guards and interrogators led to
intense global criticism of the U.S. war in Iraq and
helped fuel the Sunni Arab insurgency.

But Abu Ghraib was kept in service after the Iraqi
government objected. Planning for the new facility at
Camp Cropper began in 2004, Johnson said.

Gen. Peter Pace, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of
Staff, said the U.S. wants to turn Abu Ghraib over to
the Iraqis fast as possible.

"There are facilities being built so that the U.S. can
pull out of Abu Ghraib. Then it will be up to the
Iraqi government to decide what they want to do. I do
not know that the Iraqi government had decided. It's
an Iraqi decision, I just don't know that they've made
that decision."

But the Iraqis were all but certain to use Abu Ghraib
as a jail for some time at least, because they do not
have the money to build new ones.

The Iraqi Cabinet announced Thursday that it hanged 13
insurgents, the first executions of militants since
the ouster of Saddam.

The announcement listed the name of only one of those
hanged, Shukair Farid, a former policeman in the
northern city of Mosul, who allegedly confessed that
he had worked with Syrian foreign fighters to enlist
fellow Iraqis to kill police and civilians.

"The competent authorities have today carried out the
death sentences of 13 terrorists," the Cabinet
announcement said.

Farid had "confessed that foreigners recruited him to
spread the fear through killings and abductions," the
government said.

A judicial official said the death sentences were
handed down in separate trials and were carried out in

"The 13 terrorists were tried in different courts and
their trials began in 2005 and ended earlier this
year," an official of the Supreme Judiciary Council
said, speaking on condition of anonymity because he
feared reprisal from insurgents.

In September, Iraq hanged three convicted murderers,
the first executions of any convicts since Saddam's
ouster in April 2003. The men, considered common
criminals rather than insurgents, were convicted of
killing three police officers, kidnapping and rape.

Capital punishment was suspended during the formal
U.S. occupation, which ended in June 2004, and the
Iraqis reinstated the penalty two months later for
those found guilty of murder, endangering national
security and distributing drugs, saying it was
necessary to help put down the persistent insurgency.

The authorities also wanted to have the option of
executing Saddam if he is convicted of crimes
committed by his regime. Under the former dictator,
114 offenses were punishable by death.

Saddam and seven co-defendants are on trial for
allegedly massacring more than 140 people in Dujail,
north of Baghdad, after an assassination attempt
against him there in 1982.

Death sentences must be approved by the three-member
presidential council headed by President Jalal
Talabani, who opposes executions. In the September
hangings and again in the Thursday executions,
Talabani refused to sign the authorization himself but
gave his two vice presidents the authority.

Also Thursday, a series of explosions rocked Baghdad,
including a car bomb that struck a Sunni mosque and a
shooting that killed a total of 17 civilians and
wounded 31 as a dust storm enveloped the capital.

One of the deadly blasts targeted an Iraqi army patrol
in the mostly Sunni western neighborhood of Amariyah,
killing nine civilians and wounding six, according to
an Interior Ministry official, Major Falah

A car bomb also exploded near the Sunni Al-Israa
Walmiraj mosque in east Baghdad, killing five
civilians and wounding 12 others, police Capt. Mahir
Hamad Mousa said.

Police reported finding five more blindfolded,
handcuffed bodies killed execution-style, three of
them near Fallujah, west of Baghdad , and two others
in the Sadr City Shiite slum in the east of the

The U.S. military reported the death of another
Marine, killed Wednesday in insurgency-ridden Anbar
province. At least 2,305 U.S. service members have
died since the war started in March 2003, according to
an Associated Press count.

Meanwhile, an Iraqi Justice Ministry official said the
U.S. military had released two senior members of
Saddam's former regime, including a deputy prime
minister, after finding they were not involved in
crimes against humanity.

Abdel Tawab Mullah Huweish, a former deputy prime
minister and minister of military industrialization,
and Saeed Abdul-Majid al-Faisal, former Foreign
Ministry undersecretary, were released Feb. 23, said
Justice Ministry official Busho Ibrahim Ali.

Huweish, who had been in custody since May 2, 2003,
was one of the 55 most-wanted members of Saddam's

"They were freed because there is no proof that they
committed crimes against humanity," Ali said.

In political developments, Shiite politicians said
they asked President Talabani, a Kurd, to convene
parliament March 19, one week past the constitutional
deadline, marking an apparent compromise in the battle
over a second term for Prime Minister Ibrahim
al-Jaafari, a Shiite.

Shiite legislators Khaled al-Attiyah and Khudayer
al-Khuzai told The Associated Press that the request
for parliament to convene had been delivered to
Talabani. On Sunday, the president sought to issue a
decree that would have called the parliament into
session on March 12, as spelled out in the

But the move was blocked when one of two vice
presidents — a Shiite — initially refused to co-sign
the decree as required by law. Vice President Adil
Abdul-Mahdi relented Wednesday, but the issue still
faced heated opposition from other Shiite political
forces, especially in the powerful bloc loyal to
radical cleric Muqtada al-Sadr.