United States News Digest
Wexler Demands Impeachment Hearings
Jan. 18 (EIRNS)Florida Democrat Rep. Robert Wexler gave a short, impassioned speech on the floor of the House on Jan. 15: "In this time, at this moment, Congress must stand for the truth. If we fail to act, history may well judge us complicit in the alleged crimes of Vice President Cheney.... In the history of our nation, we have never encountered a moment where the actions of a President or a Vice President have more strongly demanded the use of the power of impeachment." Wexler held up a thick packet containing the names of almost 189,000 Americans who had responded quickly to his call for support of hearings on Rep. Dennis Kucinich's (D-Ohio) impeachment resolution. He is publishing a few thousand names into the Congressional Record every day over the coming months, and has sent a letter to Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers (D-Mich.), praising his work on oversight of balance of powers, and asking Conyers to "hold a sober investigation and let the facts determine the outcome."
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi acknowledged that she is under enormous pressure for protecting Dick Cheney from impeachment proceedings, in responding to a question at her press conference on Jan. 17. "Members of your caucus have accused you of silence and denial ... in [not] having impeachment hearings concerning Vice President Dick Cheney." Why not "have hearings and see whether or not there were impeachable crimes?" a reporter asked. After a monologue about legislative "successes" (which have brought the Democratic Congress down to a 10% approval rating), Pelosi spilled the beans: "And you're right. I am criticized for it [blocking impeachment hearings on Cheneyed.], not only in my caucus, but across the countrybecause I go through airports, and people have buttons as if they knew I was coming."
Holt Calls for Return to Paper Ballots
Jan. 17 (EIRNS)Rep. Rush Holt (D-N.J.) today introduced an emergency bill into the House Representatives, which offers $600 million to voting districts to convert to paper ballots and/or put in auditing systems in time for the November Presidential election. Lyndon LaRouche has often said that all elections have to be conducted by paper ballot. Holt's bill has been the dubbed "The Confidence in Voting Act of 2008," and seeks to address the problems that have been shown with the use of electronic voting machines, one of which is that there is no paper trail to assist in recounts. Holt said "he crafted the emergency bill because the House has not approved his earlier measure that mandated the use of backup paper ballots and audits in time for the Presidential election."
DOJ Is 'AWOL' in Prosecuting Contractor Crimes in Iraq
Jan. 16 (EIRNS) Human Rights First released a report today on holding contractors working for the U.S. government overseas accountable for abuses and crimes that they commit. While the U.S. military has held approximately 60 courts martial of U.S. soldiers for homicide in Iraq, no civilian contractors have been prosecuted for violent crimes against Iraqi civilians. But, as human rights lawyer Scott Horton, one of the authors of the report, made clear, the problem is hardly one of gaps in the law, but rather the lack of interest on the part of the Bush/Cheney Justice Department to do its primary job, which is law enforcement. "The DoJ has gone AWOL," Horton said.
When EIR asked Horton to expand on why he thought the Justice Department has not been prosecuting crimes by American contractors, he said, "That's a great question for the DoJ. We only seem to see action when an issue involving contractors has been on the front pages for some time." He noted that in the Abu Ghraib scandal, the Army Criminal Investigative Division quickly and thoroughly prepared a case file on 11 contractors involved in the abuses of detainees at that prison, which was then turned over to the U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia, but the DoJ hasn't done anything in the three years since.
Horton also cited the Sept. 16, 2007 incident in Nisoor Square in Baghdad, where Blackwater guards killed 17 people. The DoJ should have been conducting the investigation from the outset, but they didn't show up until two weeks later, and by then, the State Department had already made a mess of things by giving immunity to some of the Blackwater guards.
The third case cited by Horton was that of Jamie Lee Jones, a former KBR employee who was raped by fellow contractors while in Iraq, which the DoJ has also failed to act on. When the House Judiciary Committee held a hearing late last year on her case, the Department didn't show up.
State AGs Meet To Clamp Down on MySpace Crime
Jan. 15 (EIRNS)The offices of 49 of the 50 U.S. states' Attorneys General reached agreement with representatives of MySpace yesterday, to limit the social networking site from spreading "pornography, harassment, cyberbullying and identity threats," according to Associated Press.
Though the press has pushed the line that the agreement is to stop "sexual predators" from using MySpace, no agreement is going to stop these Internet sites from spreading crime. Texas AG Greg Abbott refused to participate, saying, "We are concerned that our signing the joint statement would be misperceived as an endorsement of the inadequate safety measures."
MySpace trumpeted the agreement as a "landmark step forward in providing new protections for teenage members." Parry Aftabt, who heads an organization to protect children on the Internet, told AP that "20 percent of teens have met someone online that they had never met in person, and there are numerous examples of sexual abuse arising from MySpace encounters."
The LaRouche PAC, which has circulated hundreds of thousands of copies of the pamphlet "Is the Devil in Your Laptop?" has catalyzed what the press has identified as "mounting pressure" on elected and law enforcement officials to do something about MySpace, owned by right-wing media baron Rupert Murdoch. MySpace has reportedly more than 110 million active users worldwide, and Facebook, owned by Bill Gates, claims more than 61 million active users.
Neocons Complain That Iran NIE Was Slanted
Jan. 14 (EIRNS)Stung by its inability to "get a war on" in Iran, today's Wall Street Journal does its best to show the neocons how they lost the battle of ideas. The article describes the creation of the National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) on Iran, which said that Iran had stopped its nuclear weapons program in 2003. The Journal draws battle lines between the "bureaucrats" at the State Department and the neocons. Unlike with the war in Iraq, where neocons, using "intelligence" from sources such as the notorious "Curveball," when it comes to Iran, so far, the bureaucrats have held back the dogs of war. The article in the (Rupert Murdoch-controlled) Journal traces the actions of "veteran State Department official" Thomas Fingar, one of the "leading architects" of the Iran report. With the "reconfiguration of the intelligence landscape in late 2004," Fingar moved to the newly created Department of National Intelligence (DNI), from where he directed the process leading to the Iran NIE.
The neocons have formulated a coordinated response, saying that the "doves" at State are now lording it over the "hawks." They quote a scowling Cheneyac David Wurmser saying, "This all smells like policy validation," but never once acknowledging that all their "intelligence" of "weapons of mass destruction," and "aluminum tubes," not to mention Saddam's trying to "buy yellowcake in Niger," were complete fabrications. Fingar responded, "The idea that this [the NIE] was written by a bunch of nonprofessional renegades or refugees is just silly."
Court of Appeals Okays Waterboarding Torture
Jan. 13 (EIRNS)Director of National Intelligence (DNI) Mike McConnell reportedly said, in an interview in the coming week's New Yorker, that waterboarding would be torture if it were used against him, or if the subject were taking water into his lungs. McConnell, however, according to news reports, declined "for legal reasons" to say whether the technique categorically should be considered torture.
Meanwhile, the U.S. Court of Appeals in Washington, D.C. (considered to be second only to the Supreme Court) on Jan. 11 issued a ruling dismissing a lawsuit by four British Muslims who allege that they were tortured and subjected to religious abuse in the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo, after their capture in Afghanistan. McClatchy Newspapers' report on the ruling comments, "It appeared to be the first time that a federal appellate court has ruled on the legality of the harsh interrogation tactics that U.S. intelligence officers and military personnel have used on suspected terrorists held outside the United States since the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001."
The claim of a violation of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA), which had survived lower court dismissals of other claims, was dismissed by the Court of Appeals because the plaintiffs were aliens held outside the United States, so the RFRA's definition of "person" whose religion had been burdened, did not apply to them. Judge Janice Rogers Brown reportedly dissented from parts of the Court of Appeals opinion, saying that "it leaves us with the unfortunate and quite dubious distinction of being the only court to declare those held at Guantanamo are not 'person[s].' This is a most regrettable holding in a case where plaintiffs have alleged high level U.S. government officials treated them as less than human."