United States News Digest
Conyers, Waxman Cite Vote Suppression on Election Day
Representatives John Conyers (D-Mich) and Henry Waxman (D-Calif) wrote a letter Jan. 12, to the Government Accountability Office (GAO) on long waits in line to vote on Election Day, Nov. 2, 2004. Lyndon LaRouche has condemned these "irregularities" as cases of voter suppression, a violation of Federal law. The letter cites nearly 1,400 reports of excessively long lines at the polls in 32 states. The letter requests that the GAO investigate the reports, identify the voting jurisdictions where the long lines occurred, and identify the issues that need to be addressed to reduce the waiting times.
Washington State GOP Can't Get Over Gregoire Victory
Democrat Christine Gregoire, the former state Attorney General, was inaugurated Jan. 12 as the new Governor of Washington state, but the Republican Party is refusing to accept the final recount verdict in which she won by 129 votes. This seems to conflict with GOP demands on the floor of Congress Jan. 6, that Democrats "get over it" (the outcome of the Presidential election), and forget challenging vote-suppression in Ohio.
The Republican Party has filed suit in a state court in a sparsely populated, heavily Republican county in eastern Washington, seeking to have the entire gubernatorial election annulled and run over again. Suddenly, the Republicans have discovered that the election was flawed by fraud and irregularities in King County (Seattle), which they had not noticed when it appeared, before the final recount, that their candidate Dino Rossi had won. The Republicans are trying to get an order for a new election, which would then have to be decided by the state Supreme Court, and possibly, by the Legislature. Meanwhile the Building Industry Association of Washington and other business groups are running radio and TV ads which say, "We don't even know who our legitimate Governor is."
The determination of the Republicans to fight Gregoire's victory in Washington indefinitely, even though they lack any of the kind of evidence of fraud against the election which Democrats and others gathered in Ohio, is a useful lesson to those in the Democratic Party who counselled polite submission after John Kerry's concession speech.
Supreme Court Throws Out Mandatory Sentencing
Reflecting the institutional assertion of the U.S. Supreme Court against Congress and the Executive Branch, the Court Jan. 12 threw out the mandatory sentencing guidelines which, for the past 10 years, had all but eliminated judges' discretion in sentencing. Henceforth, according to the Court, the sentencing guidelines enacted by Congress in 1984, will only be "advisory," rather than mandatory.
There were two related, and at times contradictory rulings, with only one Justice (Ruth Bader Ginsburg) being in the majority in both cases. One ruling said that the guidelines violated the Sixth Amendment's guarantee to trial by jury, because judges are required to increase sentences by considering factors which were not decided by the jury. The other said that the guidelines should remain in place, but that they should be regarded as advisory. A sentencing determination is still subject to review by an appellate court.
It is not yet clear what the effect will be on the Federal courts and prison system. Some observers predict a flood of appeals, while others say that they don't expect things to change very much. The Justice Department said it was "disappointed" by the ruling, and it urged judges to follow strict sentencing guidelines. It is expected that Congress, under control of right-wing Republicans, will rewrite the sentencing laws, perhaps trying to get around the Supreme Court ruling.
Judges who have been angry about Congressional restrictions on their ability to use their judgment and discretion were generally pleased, according to reports. "I'm really elated, and I think more judges will be, too," said Judge Jack Weinstein of the Federal court in Brooklyn, New York. "It gives us the discretion to deal with individual cases without being unnecessarily harsh. This is now, if Congress leaves it, a marvelous system."
Barry Scheck, president of the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, said, "For 20 years, Federal courts have been forced to impose unjust, irrational sentences based upon unproven allegations, speculative calculation and the worst kind of hearsay. Congress should welcome this opportunity to create a just and fair sentencing system, not a quick fix."
Bush Picks Right-Wing Zealot To Head Homeland Security
Right-wing zealot and former Federal prosecutorand Whitewater persecutor of President Bill Clinton and First Lady Hillary Rodham ClintonMichael Chertoff was nominated by President George W. Bush on Jan. 12, to head the Department of Homeland Security.
Background: Chertoff worked for former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani (then U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York) as a Federal prosecutor in the 1980s, prosecuting organized-crime cases. He then went to the U.S. Attorney's Office in New Jersey, and became U.S. Attorney there in 1990, until 1994. He then became special counsel for the Senate Banking Committee's trumped-up Whitewater investigation, where he became known for his aggressive and nasty pursuit of the Clintons.
DOJ role: In 2001, he was appointed to head the Justice Department's Criminal Division, where he oversaw the round-up and detentions of over 1,000 people after Sept. 11, mostly Arab and Muslim males. Out of all these detentions, only one man was eventually charged with a terrorist offense.
In June 2003, the DOJ Inspector General issued a report, after reviewing the cases of 762 suspects detained on immigration charges after 9/11. None of these was ever charged with a terrorism crime, but they were held an average of 80 days each, many under extremely harsh conditions. The rule was "guilty until proven innocent." This was part of Ashcroftand Chertoff'sshifting of DOJ and FBI policy, from investigating and prosecuting crimes, to "prevention" and "disruption" of alleged terrorist networks.
He also helped to write the Patriot Act, and participated in the drafting of loosened investigative guidelines for the FBI.
Chertoff also oversaw the prosecutions of so-called "al-Qaeda sleeper cells," in the U.S. (see below)in which Federal prosecutors have used the threat of draconian prison sentences to coerce guilty pleas and cooperation from targetted Muslim defendants. In none of these cases, was any of those targetted actually engaged in serious planning acts of terrorism against the United States.
Why now? In 2003, President Bush named Chertoff as a judge on the Third Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals. Many observers are asking why he would step down from a lifetime appeals court appointment, to head such a notoriously dysfunctional agency as DHS. One theory is that he craves a Supreme Court appointment, and that may be part of the deal offered him. As Bush noted, since Chertoff has already undergone three Senate confirmation hearings, the White House expects him to breeze through another one. His most recent confirmation vote was for the Third Circuit; the vote was 88-1, with Sen. Hillary Clinton the only opponent.
Howard Dean Enters Race for DNC Head
Former Vermont Governor, failed Democratic Presidential candidate, and Internet fundraising champion Howard Dean formally entered the race for chairman of the Democratic National Committee, on Jan. 11.
"The Democratic Party needs a vibrant, forward-thinking, long-term presence in every single state, and we must be willing to contest every race at every level," Dean wrote in his letter to the party.
Also running are former Indiana Rep. Timothy Roemer, former Texas Rep. Martin Frost; former Denver Mayor Wellington Webb; Simon Rosenberg, founder of the New Democratic Network; Donny Fowler, son of former DNC chair Don Fowler; and David Leland of Ohio.
Doris Matsui Will Run To Replace Her Husband
Mrs. Doris Matsui will run for the Congressional seat that her recently deceased husband Robert held for 26 years, the Sacramento Bee reported Jan. 11. Mrs. Matsui is a political figure in her own right, having been both a Washington lobbyist and a Clinton White House official.
More Signs of Intelligence Shutdown
The new CIA Director, Porter Goss, has cut what used to be the daily meeting of the counterterrorism task force, down to three times a week, the Washington Post reported Jan. 10. These sessions were initiated by then-director George Tenet and were held at CIA headquarters every evening. One official said this causes the staff to "lose the immediacy" that the daily briefings created. He further described how the FBI and Pentagon are "beginning to eat into former CIA areas," and carry out their own operations, instead.
Bush Admin. Bribes Media To Promote 'Education' Program
In an exposé that the White House has assured EIR is not "the norm," Armstrong Williams, a conservative black media personality, has admitted being paid $240,000 to promote President Bush's so-called education policy, "No Child Left Behind." The payments were made to a production company Williams owns, and they made radio and TV ads featuring Education Secretary Rod Paige promoting Bush's number one domestic program. Williams is a former aide to the late South Carolina Senator Strom Thurmond (R), and later to Clarence Thomas, before he became a U.S. Supreme Court Justice.
Hardened Criminals Treated Better than Gitmo Prisoners
A lawyer representing 12 Kuwaiti detainees held at the U.S. prison camp in Guantanamo, Cuba, told reporters in Washington Jan. 6 that the conditions the detainees are being held in "do not comply with international law or any law in the U.S.," since they have "never been tried or convicted of anything." Kristine A. Huskey, of the Shearman and Sterling law firm, went to Guantanamo near the end of December to meet her clients for the first time. There were no signs of physical torture, she said, "But I can tell you that these people have been there for three years. They had no access to lawyers. They have not been able to talk to their families. They have been in isolation and, from what I saw, they had no reading material, maybe the Koran. They had very little bedding and they get very little exercise, day after day, month after month. And that to me is torture under any law in the United States and in international law... You could see it in their eyes that they have gone through hell."
The families of the Kuwaitis are demanding that the U.S. government put the detainees on trial so that they can prove their innocence.