United States News Digest
Texas Judge Rules Against Tom DeLay's PAC
Texas State District Judge Joe Hart ruled on May 26 that Bill Ceverha, the treasurer of the political action committee formed by House Majority Leader Tom Delay (R-Texas), had violated state election code by not reporting hundreds of thousands of dollars in campaign contributions. In a letter outlining his ruling, he said that the moneymuch of it corporate contributionsshould have been reported to the Texas Ethics Commission. The judge ruled that the PAC, Texans for a Republican Majority (TRMPAC), will have to pay nearly $200,000, to be divided among the Democrats who brought suit.
Reid and Pelosi: Medicaid Commission Wrong
In a brief statement issued May 26, Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev) and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif) said they could not accept a non-voting advisory role on President Bush's Medicaid Commission, as announced by Health and Human Services Secretary Mike Leavitt. "Unfortunately, the partisan nature of the commission and the lack of voting rights are not our only reasons for refusing to appoint members," the two lawmakers said their statement. "We fundamentally disagree with the premise that this commission should make recommendations on how to cut Medicaid outlays by $10 billion by Sept. 1." Senior Democrats on the Congressional committees overseeing Medicaid also declined to participate.
FBI Memos Cite Koran Abuse at Guantanamo
Despite the Pentagon's continued denial of religious abuse at Guantanamo, newly disclosed FBI memos written by agents at Guantanamo in 2002 include complaints from prisoners that guards had mistreated the Koran, according to a May 25 ACLU press release.
In one 2002 summary, an FBI interrogator noted a specific allegation that guards had flushed a Koran down the toilet. The prisoner said that "the guards in the detention facility do not treat him well," the FBI agent wrote. "Their behavior is bad. About five months ago, the guards beat the detainees. They flushed a Koran in the toilet. The guards dance around when the detainees are trying to pray. The guards still do these things." Others reported the Koran being kicked, withheld as punishment, and thrown on the floor, and said they were mocked during prayers.
The ACLU notes that the release of the FBI interviews follows the disclosure last week of Defense Department documents regarding other cases in which military personnel mistreated the Koran, and used a religious symbol to taunt detainees.
In the newly released FBI documents, one detainee told FBI interviewers that using the Koran as a reprisal or as an incentive for cooperation has failed, and that the only result would be the damage caused to the reputation of the United States once what had occurred was released to the world.
"The United States government's own documents show that it has known of numerous allegations of Koran desecration for a significant period of time," said Amrit Singh, an ACLU attorney.
Cheney Intimate Named as Number Two at Justice
Timothy Flanigan has been nominated by the White House to be Deputy Attorney General, serving directly under Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, in the Justice Department. Flanigan was previously Deputy White House Counsel, serving as the number two to Gonzales there also. In 2001, in the days and weeks following 9/11, he worked closely with Dick Cheney's legal counsel David Addington, in crafting the scheme of military tribunals as a means of circumventing both U.S. military law and the criminal justice system, and also in rejecting the application of the Geneva Conventions to the so-called war on terrorism.
Diverse Group Calls for Independent Torture Probe
A group of prominent conservatives and liberals, including two former Republican Congressmen, is calling for Congress and the President to establish a bipartisan, independent commission to investigate abuse of prisoners at U.S. detention facilities. The call, which was released at a May 25 press conference in Washington, D.C., is sponsored by the Liberty and Security Initiative of the Constitution Project, funded by George Soros's Open Society Institute. The co-chairs are David Keene of the American Conservative Union and David Cole, professor of law at Georgetown University. Others participating in the press conference were:
* John Podesta, Clinton Chief of Staff, now president of the Center for American Progress
* Thomas Pickering, former Ambassador and Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs in the Clinton Administration
* former U.S. Rep. Bob Barr (R-Ga)
* former U.S. Rep. Mickey Edwards (R-Okla)
* Eugene Fidell of the National Institute for Military Justice (NIMJ)
* retired Coast Guard Capt. Kevin Barry, also NIMJ.
* John Whitehead, Rutherford Institute.
During the question period, EIR's correspondent noted that there had been a similar initiative launched last September by a group of retired military flag officers, and that it had fallen by the wayside, under tremendous pressure from the Administration to keep the lid on the torture scandal. EIR asked: "Are you encouraged by what happened in the Senate in the past few days, where a bipartisan group of Senators came together and overcame a lot of pressure to accomplish something very significant? Does that give you hope that there's a new climate now, in which your initiative could be taken up?"
Podesta and Barr both downplayed the importance of the action in the Senate, but Edwards acknowledged that he does see a similarity between what happened around the filibuster and this initiative. "What happened the other night, was a reassertion by the Congress, that it's not just a matter for the Executive Branch to make all the important determinations," Edwards said, and added that so far, it is only the Executive that has conducted any investigation of prisoner abuse. "We think the Congress of the United States ought to be more involved and assert itself.... So in that way, there is a similarity with what happened around the judicial nominations."
Amendments to Patriot Act Marked Up in Secret Session
The Senate Intelligence Committee is preparing legislation to give the FBI unlimited subpoena power as part of amendments to the Patriot Act, signed into law six weeks after the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks. Parts of the act are set to expire at the end of this year.
In drafting legislation to make certain provisions permanent, Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Pat Roberts (R-Kans) is also working to expand the FBI's authority in terrorism and espionage cases. The intelligence panel held a closed session to mark up the legislation on May 26, even though Senate Democrat Ron Wyden (Ore) had asked Roberts to open the session to the public. Roberts' draft bill calls for giving the FBI expanded subpoena power (administrative subpoenas) that would enable agents involved in terror investigations to obtain records, electronic data or other evidence, without approval from a judge or grand jury.
On May 24, Joseph Onek, Senior Counsel of the Constitution Project, testified before the Intelligence Committee regarding the use of such administrative subpoenas, which are used in many other types of investigations, but are being sought by the government for use by the FBI against terrorist suspects. Onek said that administrative subpoenas are generally used for limited purposes to obtain specific types of records. But under the new proposals, such subpoenas would be seeking records relating to foreign intelligence and terrorism, an enormous range of activities with virtually no limit to the types of records that the FBI will be able to get. Included could be financial, employment, transportation, medical, and library records.
Another problem with the new draft is that the FBI's subpoenas must be kept completely secret whenever the FBI says that national security requires non-disclosure. So, a person whose First Amendment rights are violated will not be able to complain to the press, the Congress, or the public. Said Onek: "We should not permit, for the first time in our history, the massive use of secret subpoenas that have not been approved by a judge."
Republicans Revolt Against Bush on Stem-Cell Bill
Fifty House Republicans revolted against both President George Bush and House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Texas) on May 24, by voting in favor of a bill to expand stem-cell research. The bill passed by a vote of 238 to 194, with 50 Republicans in favor. The previous week, Bush had threatened to veto the bill if it passed. Tom DeLay led the effort to defeat the bill. Although the votes for the bill fell short by 50 votes of the two-thirds majority required to overturn a Presidential veto, the vote is a further significant reflection of the growing bipartisan revolt against Bush and DeLay, his henchman in the House.