United States News Digest
Cheney Faces Deposition in Investor Lawsuit
Former Halliburton CEO Dick Cheney faces a deposition in a class-action investor lawsuit against the company. The suit was recently revived after languishing for four years, following a quick settlement reached by the lawyers in what smells like a put-up job. A new judge on the case vacated the settlement, and the plaintiffs against Halliburton now have an aggressive lawyer, William Lerach, who has fought such corporations as Enron and Citigroup. Lerach has recast the complaint in the case to portray Cheney and "Cheney's team" as the wrongdoers who fabricated and deceived.
The Nation, in its June 21 issue, indicates why Lerach wants to deposition Cheney: "Brushing aside facts and subordinates' warnings, CEO Cheney made a series of daring but wrong decisions that were disastrous for the company. The managerial incompetence was compounded by fraudulent accounting gimmicks that concealed the company's true condition. Cheney, however, relentlessly issued bullish assurances, hiding the losses and pumping up the stock price." The Nation pointedly notes, "Cheney's performance as CEO predicted his behavior as Veep: the willful ignorance and bullying manipulation of policy, the arrogance that led the country into deep trouble."
More Evidence of NSA Spying on Internet Traffic
In addition to the documentary evidence previously submitted by two former AT&T employees about secret rooms in AT&T facilities in San Francisco and elsewhere, now two former AT&T employees have described an ultra-high-security, secret room in the company's network operations center near St. Louis in Bridgeton, the San Francisco Chronicle reported June 21. All AT&T employees who have access to it undergo a six-month security clearance investigation, similar to those undergone by NSA employees.
The Bridgeton facility manages all the routers and circuits for all AT&T domestic and international Internet traffic, which amounts to about one-third of all Internet traffic in the United States. The use of this facility could also be part of a secret data-mining program, say various experts.
GOP Mutiny Blocks Voting Rights Act Reauthorization
A revolt by a group of Republican House members led to the cancellation of a planned vote June 21 to reauthorize key provisions of the 1965 Voting Rights Act, according to The Hill June 22. It had been expected that the bill would pass with strong bipartisan support, since many key Republicans, including House Judiciary Committee chairman James Sensenbrenner, support it, as does the Bush Administration. The key promoter of the renewal is Rep. John Conyers (Mich), the ranking Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee.
The Voting Rights Act itself does not expire; what is at issue is the reauthorization of certain key provisions which do expire in 2007the most important of which are those requiring certain states with a history of voter discrimination to receive "pre-clearance" before making any changes in their voting procedures, and the minority-language provisions, requiring multilingual ballots and special assistance for voters for whom English is a second language.
A group of Republicans from Georgia and Texas objected to the renewal of the pre-clearance provisions, and those members, plus some from Northern states, objected to the multilingual requirements, leading House Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-Ill) to pull the bill, under the informal rule that no bill will come to a vote without the support of a majority of Republicans.
PBS Exposes 'The Dark Side' of Iraq War
In its 90-minute "The Dark Side" documentary June 20, PBS's Frontline presented a forceful indictment particularly of Dick Cheney's role in fabricating intelligence and creating parallel intelligence entities, to provide justification for invading Iraq. While the documentary didn't include any material not already covered by EIR, it presented it in a concise and hard-hitting way. It documented the workings of the Cheney/Rumsfeld "cabal" going back to the Ford Administration, when both concluded that, as a result of Watergate, Presidential power "had to be restored."
Through interviews with former CIA, DIA, and NSC analysts, the full texts of which are available on www.pbs.org, "The Dark Side" reveals in great detail the lengths to which Cheney went to produce the intelligence he needed to go to war, including bludgeoning experienced CIA analysts, placing his own agents in key positions, and lying repeatedly even in the face of solid evidence that debunked his assertions regarding Saddam's WMD or attempts to purchase uranium yellowcake from Niger.
Among those interviewed were Colin Powell's former chief of staff, Col. Lawrence Wilkerson, former NSC official Richard Clarke, former CIA analyst Paul Pillar, former acting CIA Director John McLoughlin, former CIA al-Qaeda/bin Laden desk chief Michael Scheuer, former CIA Deputy Director Richard Kerr, and authors Ron Suskind and Bob Woodward.
Democrats Bring Up Resolution on Iran
On June 21, the House International Relations Committee was forced to mark up a resolution, sponsored by Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Calif), demanding documents relating to Bush Administration plans and strategies on regime change or military strikes against Iran. Lee noted the policy shift that has taken place since May 31 but warned, echoing Lyndon LaRouche on this point, that the Bush Administration policies of regime change and preemptive war are still in place. "Diplomacy," she said, "is not simply a check box that we mark off on the way to war."
Not surprisingly, the committee perfunctorily disposed of Lee's resolution with a voice vote to report it adversely. Voting with the Republicans against it was Rep. Tom Lantos (D-Calif), the ranking Democrat on the committee.
House GOP Leadership Slaps at Bush on Immigration
House Speaker Dennis Hastert announced June 20 that Republican chairmen of various House Committees will be holding "field hearings" on immigration throughout August, up until the Labor Day weekend. The hearings will be "at the discretion" of the chairmen of Homeland Security, Government Reform, Judiciary, and possibly other committees of the House; and GOP aides told the Washington Post June 21 that they will be discussingi.e., attacking and attempting to discreditvarious aspects of the immigration bill passed by the Senate, which President Bush supports.
The GOP leadership's action makes it unlikely that any House-Senate conference committee negotiations will take place until September, when the House leaders have finished dragging the Senate's "amnesty" bill through the mud of the field. Thus, it makes it very unlikely that Bush will see any immigration bill passed in this Congress, according to Members quoted, such as Minority Whip Rep. Roy Blunt (R-Mo) and Rep. Tom Tancredo (R-Colo).
"The House [GOP] move was widely viewed as a slap at Bush," reported the Post, adding that Hastert et al. interpreted Brian Bilbray's ability to hang on and win a special election in a heavily Republican district two weeks ago, to Bilbray's running hard against Bush's "guest-worker" plan by name.
Government Contracting Out of Control
A new report released on June 19 by the staff of Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif), the ranking member on the House Government Reform committee documents that government-by-contract has ballooned out of control under the Bush Administration. According to the report, Federal contracting grew from $203 billion a year in 2000 to $377.5 billion in 2005, an increase of 86%. "Under President Bush," the report says, "the Federal government is now spending nearly 40 cents of every discretionary dollar on contracts with private companies, a record level." Nearly half the growth in discretionary spending during this period was accounted for by the growth in contracting.
The Pentagon, not surprisingly, accounted for most of this growth, going from $133.5 billion spent on contracts in 2000, to $270 billion in 2005. The top five contractors in 2005 accounted for $80 billion or 21% of all Federal procurement spending, with Lockheed Martin at the top of the heap with $25 billion made from government contracting in 2005. The fastest growing contractor, however, is Dick Cheney's Halliburton, which went from $763 million from contracting in 2000 to nearly $6 billion in 2005, an increase of an astounding 672% over the five years. Abuse of the contracting process also climbed, with an even faster rate of growth of non-competitive contract, which grew 115%, from $67.5 billion in 2000 to $145 billion in 2005.
The cost to the taxpayers of this windfall for a relatively small segment of the private sector has been enormous as well. The report identifies 118 contracts, collectively worth $745.5 billion, that have experienced significant surcharges, wasteful spending, or mismanagement during the same period. The report identifies three major contracting "binges" since 2001, these being Iraq reconstruction, homeland security, and Hurricane Katrina. "Each initiative has been characterized by extensive waste, fraud, abuse and mismanagement in contract spending," the report says.
Military-Industrial Complex Takes Care of Its Own
At least 90 officials of the Bush/Cheney Department of Homeland Security and its Office of Homeland Security predecessor are now executives, consultants, or lobbyists for companies that collectively do billions of dollars' worth of domestic security business, according to the New York Times June 18. For example, former DHS Secretary Tom Ridge is now a director of Savi Technology, whose RFID technology was promoted by DHS during Ridge's tenure, and Ridge stands to profit handsomely off his Savi stock options, now that Lockheed Martin is buying the company.