United States News Digest
Rockefeller Vows Oversight of Intelligence Community
Senate Intelligence Committee chairman Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.), during the confirmation hearing Feb. 1 for retired Adm. Michael McConnell to be Director of National Intelligence, established at the outset that he intends to perform oversight of the intelligence community. In his opening statement, Rockefeller said, "It is no secret that I have not been happy in the past with decisions by the Administration to restrict access to required information by our members and staff." He added that "Depriving our committee of the information it needs, or over-restricting access to the information, not only weakens Congressional oversight of secretive intelligence programs, it generates unnecessary suspicion and, worst of all, undercuts the effectiveness of these activities." His second question to McConnell was, "Do you believe there are categories of information that should be withheld from Congress?" McConnell replied that he understands the responsibility of Congress, and that "My philosophy is to provide the information you need to do oversight." He added that there are exceptions written into law dealing with operational matters, but "my hope is that these would be few and far between."
Several members of the committee asked follow-up questions along the same vein. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) asked McConnell, "What would you do if you became aware that the Bush Administration was cherry-picking intelligence in order to justify going to war?" McConnell replied that such behavior is inappropriate and that he would notify all those who should be notified, including the Committee.
Senate Panel Will Investigate Pentagon's Covert Operations
The new Democratic majority in Congress plans to look into whether the Pentagon, under former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, obtained the proper authorization for covert operations and notified Congress as required under the law, the Wall Street Journal reported Jan. 31. The hearings, scheduled by Senate Select Committee on Intelligence chairman Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.) to begin March 1, will also investigate whether the Pentagon conducted activities that legally are the responsibility of the CIA. The focus will be on military covert activity overseas, notably in Afghanistan and Iraq.
Federal law requires a written Presidential finding and notification of the Congressional intelligence committees, when a covert action is to be carried out.
In a November 2006 report, the Congressional Research Service found reason to question whether the Pentagon was trying to evade the requirements of the law.
Former Army Lt. Gen. William Odom was quoted as saying, "Rumsfeld just ran loose," adding, "You have to have a system where you hold people accountable for making the decisions."
CFR Iran Expert Ridicules U.S. Intelligence on Iran
On Jan. 31, Ray Takeyh of the Council on Foreign Relations told the House Foreign Affairs Committee dominated by Project Democracy and Zionist lobby whackos, that there is no realistic military option, because military action relies on precise intelligence. He said that any intelligence assessment on Iran that begins with "According to U.S. intelligence..." should be treated "with skepticism and derision." He countered the extreme caricatures of Iran presented by the other witnesses, and most of the Congressmen, by describing the culture and relative economic development of that nation.
Not Enough Matériel for Troops Surge
Aside from the most widely asked question: whether or not George Bush's "surge" of 21,500 more troops into Iraq is going to help the situation there, there is the issue of the logistical support that they need once they're there. The Washington Post reported on Jan. 30 that both the Army and the Marines are scrambling to assemble enough armored trucks, humvees, and other equipment for the deployment's support. The Army needs 1,500 2-ton and 5-ton trucks for the additional troops, but Lt. Gen. Steven Speakes, the Army's deputy chief of staff for force development, said it will take until summer for the Army to supply and outfit the additional trucks. One senior Army official told the Post that vehicle shortages are "inevitable" unless "five brigades of up-armored humvees fall out of the sky."
Right now, the Army is pooling equipment from non-deployed units to equip those that are getting ready to deploy. Army Chief of Staff General Peter Schoomaker testified, last week, that this practice "increases risk for our next-to-deploy units and limits our ability to respond to emerging strategic contingencies." The situation is even worse in Army National Guard units, which have only 40% of the equipment they need.
Some Knew Pre-War Iraq Intelligence Was Wrong
Iraq pre-war intelligence was not just "wrong, but some knew it was wrong," Sen. Byron Dorgan (D-N.D.) asserted on the Senate floor Jan. 29, during the business session and debate on the minimum-wage bill. Dorgan's lead-in speech in support of the bill denounced the Bush-Cheney plan to "deepen the Iraq war"; a war, he said, we got into by intentionally wrong intelligence. Dorgan, first spoke of the shame of the Administration's failure to provide for returning Iraq and Afghanistan War veterans who have been maimed. On this, he said he will conduct oversight investigation hearings into the lack of funds.
He then issued a denunciation of Bush's rejection of the Baker-Hamilton report and the lack of credibility of the President and Vice President. He continued, charging that the intelligence was wrong and some knew it was wrong. Dorgan gave a few examples, mentioning the intelligence source Curveball, who, he said, was a drunk and a fabricator. The Germans thought his information was unreliable, but this Administration used it to justify the war. Then there were the aluminum tubes and yellow cake from Niger mythsthe same thinghe insisted. We were misled, and it is not just me saying this, but Col. Lawrence Wilkerson, who said there's been the perpetration of a hoax. This must end, he argued: No one has answered for this. No oversight was done in the last Congress. He concluded, stating, We've been in this war longer than we were in World War II and it is now a civil war. Monies spent on this war could be spent on the desperately needed domestic prioritieshousing, health care, job creation, etc.
Republicans Worried About Holding Onto the Presidency
Syndicated columnist Robert Novak wrote Jan. 29, that "Republicans think withdrawal of troops must begin in the next six months for their party to have any chance at retaining the Presidency in 2008." Novak adds that there is "almost no enthusiasm for the surge," even among Republicans in the Senate.
Senator Joe Biden (D-Del.), interviewed on ABC-TV Jan. 28, said that he doubts even 20% of the Senate will say that Bush is headed in the right direction.
Poll Workers Convicted for 'Rigged' Ohio Recounts
Two Cleveland poll workers were convicted on felony charges stemming from "rigged" recounts of Ohio's 2004 Presidential election. The convictions have come down in Cuyahoga County, where Democratic candidates traditionally run up huge majorities. County Prosecutor Kevin Baxter opened the Cuyahoga trial by charging that "the evidence will show that this recount was rigged.... This was a very hush operation."
According to the SCOOP Independent News Jan. 29, "A statewide recount, paid for by the Green and Libertarian Parties, was marred in 87 of the state's 88 counties by the types of illegalities that led to this week's convictions. Only in Coshocton County was a full, manual recount performed. Throughout the rest of the state, under the direction of Republican Secretary of State J. Kenneth Blackwell, mandatory random sampling was not done, as prescribed by law. Instead, poll workers illegally chose sample precincts for recounting where they knew there would be no problems, and then routinely recounted the rest of the ballots by machine, rendering the recount meaningless."
Further prosecutions may now hinge on what the convicted poll workers "might tell prosecutors about the role played by higher-ups. The assumption is widespread that the decision to consciously designate test precincts, rather than choose them at random, must have been at least tacitly approved by Secretary of State Blackwell," write Fitrakis and Wasserman.
Maine Demands Repeal of Federal ID Card Law
The Maine Legislature passed a measure Jan. 25, which calls for the repeal of the national Real I.D. Act of 2004, which would create a national digital identification system by 2008, Reuters reported Jan. 25. The Maine resolution said the law would cost the state $185 million, fail to boost security, and put people at greater risk of identity theft. Maine House Majority leader Hannah Pingree called the law a "massive unfunded federal mandate." She added, "We cannot be spending millions of state dollars on an initiative that does more harm to our state than good," she said. Similar measures are pending in eight other states.