United States News Digest
Mercenary Lobby Distances Itself from Blackwater
Oct. 12 (EIRNS)The International Peace Operations Association, the trade group for private military companies, announced today that Blackwater USA formally withdrew its membership in the association. On Oct. 8, IPOA's executive committee authorized an independent review of Blackwater "to ascertain whether Blackwater USA's processes and procedures were fully sufficient to ensure compliance with the IPOA Code of Conduct," which appears to have precipitated Blackwater's withdrawal. IPOA claims that its code of conduct "is a set of ethical and professional guidelines for companies in the peace and stability operations industry," and that it "stresses human rights, corporate ethics, International Humanitarian Law, transparency, accountability, and responsibility and professionalism in relationships with employees, clients, and partner companies."
Gonzales Probe May Lead to Criminal Charges
Oct. 11 (EIRNS)The Justice Department's investigation of former Attorney General Alberto Gonzales is expanding and branching into new areas. According to media accounts, including Newsweek and the Associated Press, both the Justice Department's Inspector General and its Office of Professional Responsibility are investigating Gonzales's conduct and the statements he made to Congress, and the former White House Counsel has now hired a criminal defense lawyer "to help him beat the rap," as Newsweek puts it.
DOJ Inspector General Glenn Fine, who initially was investigating Gonzales's statements around the U.S. Attorney firings, has now expanded his probe to include allegations that Gonzales lied to Congress about the warrantless wiretap program, and about the March 2004 visit to then-Attorney General John Ashcroft's hospital room to pressure Ashcroft into re-approving the wiretap programwhich was run illegally under Dick Cheney's direction. Gonzales had testified under oath that "there has not been any serious disagreement" about the surveillance program, while other witnesses, including former Deputy Attorney General James Comey, had testified about intense disputes over the program, to the extent that Comey and other top DOJ officials threatened to resign over it.
Fine's investigators have been interviewing people involved in the Ashcroft hospital room confrontation, and sources say that Gonzales's camp is worried that Fine could make a criminal referral to the DOJ Public Integrity Section, or ask for the appointment of a special counsel to determine if Gonzales should be prosecuted.
Bush Threatens Veto of Dems' New Surveillance Bill
Oct. 11 (EIRNS)President Bush yesterday threatened to veto the newly introduced legislation which would roll back parts of the expanded electronic surveillance bill jammed through Congress by Dick Cheney and the White House in August.
Both the House Judiciary and Intelligence Committees marked up the RESTORE Act, introduced by Judiciary Committee chairman John Conyers and Intelligence Committee chairman Silvestre Reyes. The bill would require renewed oversight by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) Court, which was virtually eliminated in the August bill. It would also require a court order for any interception of an American's communications.
During the Judiciary Committee session, Republican members went berserk, accusing Democrats of giving Constitutional rights to Osama bin Laden and overseas terrorists. In similar terms, Bush made a statement saying, "Today the House Intelligence and Judiciary Committees are considering a proposed bill that, instead of making the Protect America Act permanent, would take us backward.... Terrorists in faraway lands are plotting and planning new ways to kill Americans ... and it would be a grave mistake for Congress to weaken this tool."
The White House and many Congressional Republicans are particularly exercised about the Conyers-Reyes refusal to give retroactive immunity to telecommunications companies that participated in the illegal wiretap program instituted after Sept. 11, 2001.
'Dwell Time' Is Central Issue in Army Readiness
Oct. 9 (EIRNS)While the Pentagon officially opposes any Congressional attempts to increase the time between deployments for soldiers and marines who have already spent too much time in Iraq, efforts by the Army's top leadership to increase that "dwell time" and decrease length of deployments show that it is central to Army readiness. Army Chief of Staff Gen. George Casey, speaking to reporters yesterday, during the annual conference of the Association of the U.S. Army, said that the Army is "out of balance," though he insisted that it is not broken or hollow. However, the Army is being forced to do more than it ever has before, at the expense of the all-volunteer force and future readiness. When asked to elaborate on this by EIR, Casey said that Army units are deploying and redeploying so quickly that they can only focus on counterinsurgency operations. Brigades that are not deployed are only focussed on preparing for their next deployment to Iraq. "We need to get to the point where we get about 18 months at home, so we can do full spectrum training, in addition to counterinsurgency operations," Casey said.
Army Secretary Pete Geren added that it is his and Casey's goal to increase dwell time, although neither of them could indicate when that might happen. Geren could only promise that no one is considering tours longer than the current 15 months.
Lugar Urges Bush To Accept Putin Missile Defense Plan
Oct. 8 (EIRNS)Sen. Richard Lugar (R-Ind.), the ranking Republican on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, compared Russian President Vladimir Putin's missile defense proposal to President Reagan's Strategic Defense Initiative, and urged the Bush Administration to move forward on it at the Defense and Foreign Ministers meeting at the end of this week in Moscow.
"President Putin's proposal is not a new concept," Lugar said, speaking today at the Brookings Institution. "In fact, it is surprisingly similar to the strategic vision that President Ronald Reagan laid out more than two decades ago. I am pleased that the Administration is seriously studying Putin's offer on missile defense. While the utilization of former Soviet radar stations may or may not assist in tracking missiles fired from rogue states, sharing information gathered by U.S. and NATO systems to Russia, and possibly linking radar and early warning systems, would be useful in ensuring transparency and reaffirming our cooperative approach.
"The U.S. and Russia should also consider the establishment of jointly manned radar facilities and exchanges of early-warning data," Lugar continued. "They might also consider joint threat assessments as well as undertake bilateral discussions on options for missile defense cooperation. Lastly, we might consider placing Russian liaison officers at U.S. missile defense tracking sites in exchange for U.S. officers in Russian strategic command centers. The transparency gained from such steps would be useful in offering reassurances that these radars are not meant for spying on Russia."
U.S. Commander: Keep Troops in Europe vs. 'Resurgent' Russia
Oct. 12 (EIRNS)The U.S. military paper Stars and Stripes reported today that the commander of United States Army Europe, Lt. Gen. David McKiernan, said 40,000 U.S. troops should be in Europe, due to concerns about a "resurgent Russia." McKiernan stated: "There are potentially dangerous places and conditions in the European area of responsibility. We don't know what's going to happen, in terms of a resurgent Russia." Speaking to reporters in Washington, he said that U.S. military commanders were keeping close watch on Russia. "We keep an eye on certain indicators, some of which we've seen already," such as a resumption of long-range reconnaissance flights, "arms sales to nation-states that [the United States] has differences with," and signs of Russian involvement in border conflicts in Georgia and Azerbaijan, he said. "I think what would be troublesome would be overt military actions outside of Russia to influence things. We have to keep an eye on this and see how it plays out."
At the same time, he stressed his desire for cooperation with the Russian military. "From a military leader's perspective, I want to train with the Russian military. I believe in my heart there will be an opportunity in the future where we'll be on the same side," McKiernan said.
McKiernan opposes plans to reduce U.S. troop strength in Europe to 24,000. He said the main focus now was Iraq and Afghanistan, but did not know what might happen "down the road with Russia." He added: "We still have forces in Kosovo, and we still don't have the final political settlement. What happens if that turns violent? Who has to respond to that? It's NATO, and the European Command, for the United States capabilities." He also said that there are "places near the Caspian Sea Basin that are very dangerous places that are not resolved."
McKiernan had been the ground commander during the March 2003 U.S. invasion of Iraq, and had been promoting the idea of a rapid U.S. troop draw-down and rebuilding of the Iraqi Army right away, to take charge of security in much of the country. His proposals were rejected by Cheney and company, and he was removed from Iraq when Paul Bremer was sent in to dismantle the Iraqi military and the Ba'ath Party. In that sense, McKiernan was part of the "Shinseki school" that has been warning about the overstretching of U.S. armed forces.