United States News Digest
Perle Faces SEC Lawsuit for Hollinger Shenanigans
Former Defense Policy Board chairman and neoconservative Richard Perle may be facing an Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) civil suit within two months, that could bar him from serving on the boards of any companies. Perle was warned of the possible action due to his alleged role in the looting of Hollinger International, Inc., then owned by Lord Conrad Black, through a so-called Wells Notice from the SEC, and he has responded denying wrongdoing.
But, the question is: What part of Perle's nefarious activities with Hollinger is the SEC investigating? Perle said, after Bloomberg disclosed the Wells Notice, that: "I didn't benefit from any of the transactions that they looked at."
Perle was one of three members of the Finance Committee who looked the other way, when Lord Black engaged in a scheme with other cronies to sell off Hollinger's highly lucrative regional pressostensibly to pay down debtwhile pocketing certain fees, called "non-competition" fees, that came with the deal, to the tune of $85 million. Perle now claims, like the rest of the board (which includes Henry Kissinger), that he was "duped" by Black.
However, during this time, Perle received $3.1 million in undisclosed bonuses at Hollinger, for running an IPO vulture Internet firm called Hollinger Digital. As just one example of Hollinger Digital shenanigans, an internal Hollinger report to the SEC, which was to form the basis of a recovery suit for some $400 million, noted that Perle convinced Black to put $2.5 million of company cash in Trireme Partners L.P., a venture capital fund that Perle and Gerald Hillman (later co-opted to the Defense Policy Board by Black) had set up to invest in homeland security technology after 9/11.
The report, crafted by former SEC chairman Richard Breeden, said of Perle: "His executive committee performance falls squarely into the head-in-the-sand behavior that breaches a director's duty of good faith and renders him liable for damages...." Upon seeing the Breeden report, Perle said, "I was blown away."
Army Concerned About Recruiting Fall-Off
Newly installed Secretary of the Army Francis Harvey told reporters at the Pentagon on March 23, that, "there is a forecast that we will not meet the monthly goal," for March and April, something that Army personnel chief Lt. Gen. Franklin Hagenbeck had testified to the Senate Armed Services Committee, a week earlier. Harvey noted that the Army, through February, was at 94% of its goal, year to date, the Army Reserve was at 90%, and the Army National Guard at 75%. "So, obviously, "I'm concerned about the National Guard," he said. The fall-off in recruiting is usually attributed to the Iraq war, especially because parents are convincing their recruit-eligible children that it's not worth getting killed there.
As for what the Army is going to do about it, he noted that the number of recruiters is already being increased by one-third, and cash bonuses for enlistments are also being increased. The Army will also being aiming its advertising campaigns at parents. "We're going to be very pro-active to pointing out to recruits and their parents the value of serving the country," Harvey said, emphasizing patriotism and service to country. "We're talking getting that message to the influencers, including parents, including teachers."
Anti-Rendition for Torture Amendment Introduced in Congress
On March 16, Rep. Ed Markey (D-Mass) successfully shepherded through an amendment to the $81 billion supplemental appropriations bill that outlaws the spending of any money appropriated by the bill to violate the Convention Against Torture, as well as any laws and regulations promulgated to implement it. Unfortunately, the legislation that Markey has also introduced to explicitly outlaw rendition, has little chance of being taken up by the GOP-controlled Congress. New York Times columnist Bob Herbert on Feb. 28, quoted a spokesman for House Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-Ill) saying that Hastert does not support the bill. When asked, why suspected terrorists shouldn't be brought to the U.S. for prosecution, the spokesman said, "Because U.S. taxpayers should not necessarily be on the hook for their judicial and incarceration costs."
Judge Extends Order Blocking Transfers from Guantanamo
On March 22, a Federal judge in Washington extended for ten days, his temporary restraining order barring the U.S. government from transferring Guantanamo detainees to the custody of foreign countries, noting that this would remove detainees from the reach of the U.S. courts, and prevent them from pursuing their legal claims for freedom in those courts.
It has been reported that the Bush Administration has plans to transfer a significant portion of the 540 detainees still at Guantanamo to other countries, generally their home countries, where the detainees could be imprisoned and, their families fear, tortured.
Judge Henry Kennedy said that he needs more time to determine if the court has jurisdiction over transfer decisions, and whether the court can order the government to give the lawyers for detainees advance notice of transfers, so that they can object if necessary.
The planned transfers are viewed by many as another variant on the Administration's "rendition to torture" policy.
Reid Leads Bipartisan Delegation to Iraq
Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev) led a bipartisan group of seven Senators, to observe the training of the Iraqi security forces, in advance of the Senate debate on an $80 billion supplemental appropriation bill for Iraq. With Reid were Democrats Richard Durbin (Ill), Barbara Boxer (Calif), Patty Murray (Wash), and Ken Salazar (Colo), and Republicans Robert Bennett (Utah) and Lamar Alexander (Tenn). They had the opportunity to watch training sessions, get a briefing from Gen. George Casey, the U.S. commander in Iraq, and to speak personally to Iraqi leaders of all factions.
At a March 22 press conference, Reid stressed that the security question was at the forefront of economic stability. "We all know that this country will never be secure with the United States being here only. The only way it will be secure is the Iraqis having a security force, that they can handle their own problems here.... Until that takes place, there's nothing that can be done to stabilize the economy...."
During the questions, an Iraqi journalist commented that, the "Iraqi people didn't feel the benefit of these [previous] $18 billion," and suggesting, "that you should spend this on electricity," clearly showing the state of affairs after two years of rebuilding, Halliburton style.
Levin Slams DOD for Redacting FBI Memo on Torture
Sen. Carl Levin (D-Mich) forced the Justice Department to release some previously redacted material from the Defense Department, showing that the redactions had hidden FBI criticisms of the interrogation methods. "As I suspected," said Levin, "the previously withheld information had nothing to do with protecting intelligence sources and methods, and everything to do with protecting the DOD from embarrassment." The redacted portions of the memo, which Levin posted on his website on March 21, had argued that the evidence obtained by coercive methods was "suspect at best," and undermined future prosecutions. Also revealed is that the FBI had gone to Gen. Geoffrey Miller (who ran the torture at Guantanamo, and then brought the same methods to Iraq, on Rumsfeld's orders), and then to DOD General Counsel William Haynes (who rammed the torture memo down the throats of the protesting JAGS in the Working Group before the Iraq war), obviously without any success.
Hagel Says Senate Should Protect Minority Rights
In an article on the looming Senate showdown over the filibuster, the March 21 Baltimore Sun cited Senators Chuck Hagel (R-Neb) and John McCain (R-Ariz) as two among a number of Republicans who oppose banning the filibuster for judicial nominees. The article quotes Hagel:
"The United States Senate is the one body of government that protects minority rights. That's a very basic part of the United States Senate, and the filibuster is one of the tools to do that. I would hope we don't come to that fork in the road when the Majority Leader [Bill Frist] ... would feel that he would have no other option than to exercise a nuclear option."
Elliot Minchberg of People for the American Way, is quoted as saying that there are "somewhere between two and 12 Senators" that haven't yet declared themselves on the plan to change the Senate rules.
RNC: GOP Could Lose Control of House in 2006
Columnist Robert Novak wrote on March 19 that the Republican National Committee has warned the House GOP that they could lose 25 seats in the 2006 mid-term elections, and thereby lose control of the House for the first time since 1994. The current balance in the House is 232-203. Some Capitol Hill Republicans believe (or claim to believe), that the RNC is just trying to frighten them, Novak adds.