United States News Digest
Cheney Ordered 'Enhanced' Interrogation Techniques
Aug. 2 (EIRNS)The July 20 Executive Order authorizing the CIA to use "enhanced" interrogation techniques came from the Vice President's office and his top lawyer David Addington, according to a leading human rights activist. It is well-known that earlier, Cheney and Addington were the primary advocates of ignoring the Geneva Conventions and U.S. anti-torture laws after the 9/11 attacks.
The disclosure about Cheney role came during a conference call discussing the release of a new report, "Leave No Marks: Enhanced Interrogation Techniques and the Risk of Criminality," released by Physicians for Human Rights and Human Rights First.
Elisa Massimino, Washington director of Human Rights First, said that there was a lot of debate within the Administration over whether the Executive Order was needed. CIA director Gen. Michael Hayden wanted clarification of the interrogation policy, Massimino said, although most CIA personnel were comfortable abiding by the revised Army Field Manual on Intelligence Interrogations (which bars such techniques). "My sense is, it's still coming out of the Vice President's office and David Addington," Massimino said.
Cheney White House Strong-Arms Congress on New Wiretap Law
Aug. 2 (EIRNS)Over the past week, the White House has been putting heavy pressure on Congress to immediately pass new legislation to give the Administration more leeway to monitor phone calls and e-mails of "suspected terrorists." Fearful of being labelled as "soft on terrorism," many Democrats are backsliding on their earlier insistence that Congress should not pass any new legislation modifying the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) until the Administration had fully disclosed the scope of the domestic surveillance program put in effect after September 2001.
This program, it is well-established, was run by Vice President Dick Cheney; it was Cheney who provided all the classified briefingssuch as they wereto Congressional leaders. And it has now been reported that it was Cheney who ordered then-White House Counsel Alberto Gonzales to go to Attorney General John Ashcroft's hospital room in 2004 to try to get the heavily-sedated Ashcroft to override the determination by the top Justice Department officials that the program, as it then existed, was illegal.
Had Congress forced the issue of disclosure of the full Cheney programwhich likely included massive collection of data on Americans from telecommunications companies and then "mining" that data to find new targets for monitoring and surveillanceit would be clear whether the Administration's current demands were legitimate.
According to Newsweek and the Los Angeles Times, the reason for the Administration's desperation is that a judge of the FISA Court recently imposed new restrictions on the National Security Agency (NSA)'s ability to intercept, without a specific warrant, overseas phone calls and e-mails which are routed through U.S. facilities.
Senate Intelligence Committee chairman Jay Rockefeller (D-W.V.), according to the McClatchy newspapers, has rejected one White House proposal which would bypass the FISA court. "The Administration has offered a proposal that would ... permanently grant the Attorney General excessive surveillance powers, by giving him sole authority to direct surveillance, while completely removing the FISA court from the process," Rockefeller said. "That is simply unacceptable."
Senate Committee Is Briefed on Iraq Withdrawal Plan
Aug. 2 (EIRNS)Sens. Hillary Clinton (D-N.Y.), John Kerry (D-Mass.), and Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) announced today the introduction of a bill that would require the Pentagon to keep the relevant Congressional committees informed of the status of contingency planning for the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq. This is the latest chapter of an escalating battle between Clinton and Vice President Dick Cheney, who opined to a CNN interviewer July 31 that Undersecretary of Defense Eric Edelman's response to Clinton, regarding her request to be briefed on ongoing contingency planning, "was a good letter." In that July 16 letter, Edelman had proclaimed that "Premature and public discussion of the withdrawal of U.S. forces from Iraq" would embolden the enemies of the United States. In a letter responding to Cheney, Clinton noted that Secretary of Defense Robert Gates "expressed regret that 'this important discussion went astray' and reaffirmed his commitment to Congress's constitutional oversight role." Cheney's comments on CNN, Clinton wrote, "have left me wondering about the true position of the Administration. Therefore, I am writing to President Bush asking that he set the record straight about the Administration's position regarding the role of Congress in oversight of the war."
In announcing the legislation, Clinton said, "We must oversee the Bush Administration, as the Constitution demands, and that four years of mistakes and mismanagement in Iraq require." She also said that "we must not redeploy out of Iraq with the same combination of arrogance and incompetence with which the Bush Administration exhibited deploying into Iraq." Kerry added that Cheney's comments "come from a Vice President who would be very hard pressed to produce evidence that he has been correct about one judgment or one public statement that has been made with respect to Iraq."
Prior to the announcement of the bill, the Senate Armed Services Committee, of which Clinton is a member, received a closed-door briefing from the Defense Department on exactly the contingency planning she was asking about. Press reports earlier in the week had suggested that the briefing might be delivered by Edelman, himself, but Clinton did not indicate if that was the case.
McCaffrey Blasts Rumsfeld's Destruction of the Military
Aug. 1 (EIRNS)Gen. Barry McCaffrey (USA-ret.), in a statement prepared for the Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee of the House Armed Services Committee yesterday, blasted the "disastrous state" of U.S. ground combat forces. "Congress has been missing-in-action during the past several years, while undebated and misguided strategies were implemented by former Secretary Rumsfeld and his team of arrogant and inexperienced civilian associates in the Pentagon. The JCS has failed to protect the Armed Forces from bad judgment and illegal orders. They have gotten us in a terrible strategic position of vulnerability. The Army is starting to crack under the strain of lack of resources, lack of political support and leadership from both the Administration and this Congress, and isolation from the American people who have now walked away from this war."
The remainder of McCaffrey's statement was dedicated to providing the evidence to back up his opening remarks. The Army is unable to handle any additional contingencies that may arise because it doesn't have enough troops; the Army National Guard has been weakened by too many deployments and equipment shortages; middle ranking officers and enlisted personnel are leaving both the active duty and the reserve forces at high rates; recruiting and training standards have been compromised; and the logistics system, because it depends so heavily on private contractors, "is a house of cards."
During his verbal remarks, McCaffrey told the subcommittee that the force in Iraq has to be drawn down to about ten brigades, because in April, "the Army starts to unravel at an accelerated rate." He said that the Army, for all of the missions that are being required of it, should actually have 825,000 soldiers (current plans call for expanding the Army to 547,000 soldiers by 2012). It is presently incapable of carrying out any military function except for maneuver warfare, because of the lack of manpower.
Report on Global Health Suppressed by Bush Administration
July 29 (EIRNS)The existence of a report prepared by then-Surgeon General Richard Carmona, and suppressed because it did not toe the Bush Administration's political line, was revealed in Carmona's July 10 testimony before the Congressional Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, chaired by Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.). Carmona told the Committee that throughout his tenure, the role of Surgeon General had been marginalized and sabotaged, and that he was made answerable to political appointees with partisan agendas.
Responding to a question from Rep. Diane Watson (D-Calif.), Carmona testified that a report that he had spent a year preparing, with input from experts from all over the world, on "global health," covering the threat of an avian flu pandemic, SARS, and AIDS, was suppressed when he refused demands that it be revised to conform with the health policies of the Administration. At the time, this aspect of Carmona's testimony was largely ignored by the media, which chose instead to cover Administration attempts to dictate policy on right-wing wedge issues such as sex education and stem cell research. Now a copy of the draft report has apparently been leaked to the Washington Post, which covered it in a front-page story July 29.
According to the Post, the 65-page draft report described the link between poverty and poor health and urged the U.S. government to help combat widespread diseases as a key aim of its foreign policy, noting that diseases Americans once read about as affecting people in regions most of us would never visit, are now capable of reaching us directly.
While Carmona, in his testimony, refused to say which Administration officials were responsible for the report's suppression, asking that he be permitted to address this in a closed session, the Post notes that three people involved in the preparation of the report identified William R. Steiger, head of the Office of Global Health Affairs in the Department of Health and Human Services. According the Post, Steiger, who has no formal background in public health, has long-standing ties to the Bush family and to Vice President Dick Cheney.