United States News Digest
Dodd Puts a Hold on FISA Reform Legislation
Oct. 19 (EIRNS)Sen. Chris Dodd (D-Conn.) announced yesterday that he is putting a hold on the legislation to reform the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA), thus preventing it from being brought to the Senate floor for full consideration. Dodd took this action after cowardly Democrats on the Senate Intelligence Committee caved in to White House demands to give retroactive immunity to telecommunications companies for their participation in the illegal domestic wiretap program from 2001 to 2008.
In a statement appearing on his website, Dodd, who is also a candidate for the Democratic Presidential nomination, charged that in granting immunity to the telecommunications companies, the proposed FISA reform "sets a dangerous precedent" by granting the President sweeping authorization to violate Americans' constitutionally guaranteed right to privacy. "It is unconscionable that such a basic right has been violated," Dodd said, and warned that anyone who aided and abetted the President, whom he characterized as a perpetrator in these illegal activities, "will be held accountable." Meanwhile, in the House, Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) has pulled from the floor the Conyers-Reyes RESTORE bill which does not grant immunity, and which would restore much of the role of the FISA Court in overseeing the surveillance program.
Conyers To Administration: 'Fess Up About Pre 9/11 Spying
Oct. 16 (EIRNS)Rep. John Conyers (D-Mich.), the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, is demanding that the Administration inform the committee, with an immediate briefing and documents, about its surveillance activities against Americans that were already underway before the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks.
In a letter sent yesterday to Director of National Intelligence Michael McConnell and to the Justice Department's National Security Division chief Kenneth Wainstein, Conyers asks about the recent revelations by Joseph Nacchio, the former CEO of the telecommunications company Qwest, that he was asked by the NSA for warrantless access to customer phone records months before 9/11, and also that he was subject to retaliation for his refusal to cooperate.
"It is crucial," Conyers wrote, "that Congress be fully informed of all the Administration's surveillance activities involving telecommunications companies, particularly in light of the Administration's request that retroactive immunity from liability be provided to these companies and Administration officials."
Nacchio's revelations were first reported in the Rocky Mountain News last week. In addition, the New York Times reported Oct. 14 that Nacchio's lawyers have quoted from one of several lawsuits filed last year against telecommunications companies, that seven months before the Sept. 11 attacks, around the same time as Nacchio's meeting with NSA officials, another major telecommunications company, AT&T, began development of a facility for monitoring long distance calls and Internet traffic for the NSA. The lawsuit contends that this gave the NSA unlimited, unrestricted, and unfettered access to phone call information and Internet traffic on AT&T's network prior to 9/11.
Congress Fails To Overturn Bush's SCHIP Veto
Oct. 18 (EIRNS)The House of Representatives today, by a vote of 273 to 156came 13 votes short of the two-thirds majority required to overturn President Bush's "No Child Left Alive" veto on SCHIPS (State Children's Health Insurance Program), which would have extended health insurance to millions of children of working families who can't afford it. The vote was similar to the original House vote on the SCHIPS Reauthorization Act, which was 265 to 159, with 45 Republicans voting with the Democrats. This time, 44 Republicans voted with the Democrats.
Gates Tries To Put a Lid on Blackwater Explosion
Oct. 18 (EIRNS)For the first time, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates said, during a Pentagon briefing this afternoon, that there is a conflict between the U.S. military mission in Iraq and that of the private security contractors. He said that the contractors, "in the objective of completing the mission of delivering a principal safely to a destination, just based on everything I've read and what our own team has reported, there have been instances where, to put it mildly, the Iraqis have been offended and not treated properly. So, those kinds of activities work at cross purposes to our larger mission in Iraq." Gates said that his goal is to work with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to "see how we reconcile those missions and bring it together."
Lyndon LaRouche noted that Gates must try to take some action to limit the mercenary fiasco in Iraq, but will not touch the central problem of the George Shultz/Felix Rohatyn "privatization" of the military.
Gates: We're on a Path Forward with Russia
Oct. 18 (EIRNS)Secretary of Defense Robert Gates told reporters at the Pentagon, that he and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice had "rather direct discussions" with Russian President Putin and their Russian counterparts. "Although some real differences remain between our countries, I think we've developed a path forward in several areas." He added, regarding regular meetings of the so-called 2-plus-2 (foreign and defense ministers of each country), "I think that'll help improve relations and lines of communication between the two countries." And, as part of that process, Gates reported that the Russian defense and foreign ministers have been invited to come to Washington in about six months.
Pelosi's Armenian Genocide Resolution Dead in the Water
Oct. 19 (EIRNS)As of Oct. 18, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi was saying nothing about the fate of the provocative Armenian Genocide resolution, which she had promised to bring to the floor for a vote. She is now reportedly reconsidering that pledge.
A day earlier, she would only say that "it remains to be seen" whether the resolution would come up for a vote. And as opposition to the measure grows, it appears likely that it will be set aside altogether. Pennsylvania Rep. John Murtha, one of several Democrats who withdrew their support for the resolution, stated on Oct. 17 that "if it came to the floor today, it would not pass," given that there are between 55 to 60 Democrats who oppose it. Several key Democrats are suggesting that the resolution is "for all practical purposes, dead," commentator Jim Lobe reported on Oct. 19 in antiwar.com.
U.S. Supreme Court Halts Another Execution
Oct. 18 (EIRNS)The U.S. Supreme Court halted the execution of a Virginia inmate yesterday, just four hours before he was to be put to death. Last month, the High Court halted two Kentucky executions in order to review whether the lethal injection method used by most states violates the U.S. Constitution's prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment. Death penalty opponents believe that this amounts to a de facto moratorium on all executions by lethal injections in the United States, until the Supreme Court decides the issue.
Associated Press reports that the U.S. is now on track for the lowest number of executions in a yearabout 50since the mid-1990s.
Wolf Calls Virginia's Dulles Greenway a Ponzi Scheme
Oct. 18 (EIRNS)On Oct. 16, Rep. Frank Wolf (R-Va.) held a news conference at an office park overlooking the Dulles Greenway, the 14-mile private toll road in Northern Virginia, to announce that the Republican Attorney General of Virginia would be investigating the financial affairs of MacQuarie Infrastructure Group, the Australian company which bought the toll road from its previous owners. Wolf, who has said that Virginia must treat its roads as a public utility and take them back, had written an open letter to the Attorney General, quoting the Oct. 2 issue of Fortune magazine, which said that Macquarie borrows money and uses it to pay dividends now, the way a homeowner might take out as a home equity line to pay a credit card bill. The Fortune article quoted financial analyst Jim Chanos, an early critic of Enron, saying, "Borrowing future growth to pay investors today bears the hallmarks of a Ponzi scheme."
Wolf emphasized the Ponzi scheme quote in the letter he mailed to his constituents.