United States News Digest
House Recesses Without Passing Cheney's Wiretap Amnesty Bill
Feb. 15 (EIRNS)The House of Representatives left town today for a 12-day recess, without renewing the Protect America Actleaving President Bush and Republican members of Congress screaming that this leaves the country vulnerable to terrorists. That is a lie: All the currently-existing authorized electronic surveillance continues without interruption, so there is no "gap" in coverage. Director of National Intelligence Michael McConnell acknowledged this in an interview with National Public Radio this morning, admitting that surveillance "is not the real issue," and explaining: "The issue is liability protection for the private sector," because there is no retroactive immunity for them.
This immunity is actually an amnesty for Vice President Dick Cheney, who personally ran the illegal wiretap and data-mining program. If Congress were to do what the White House wants, no one would ever find out what Cheney and Co. did, and what they are still doingwhich observers believe to be much more than they have ever admitted.
A day earlier, the Senate caved in to White House demands, with 19 Democrats joining 49 Republicans, voting to give retroactive immunity to telecommunications companies that participated in Cheney's warrantless wiretap program, conducted from at least 2001 through 2004.
The House yesterday did approve contempt citations against White House officials Josh Bolten and Harriet Miers over their refusal to cooperate on the investigation of the firing of U.S. Attorneys, and their claim that they could refuse to testify due to executive privilege. The vote triggered a walkout by the Republicans, who said the House should be instead be passing wiretap legislation.
U.S. Military To Shoot Down Errant Spy Satellite
Feb. 14 (EIRNS)In an operation not too dissimilar to that carried out one year ago by China, the U.S. will launch a Navy missile from a cruiser sometime soon, to try to shoot down a disabled military reconnaissance satellite. The spy satellite is expected to fall to Earth early next month. Soon after launch 14 months ago, its control computer failed. There is no way to either predict, or control, where the 5,000-pound satellite will enter the atmosphere. The concern is that large pieces that do not burn up in the heat of reentry could do damage on Earth, as could the toxic fuel that is still on board. Deputy National Security Advisor James Jeffries briefed reporters today at the Pentagon on the decision.
Breitbart.com comments, "shooting down a satellite is particularly sensitive because of the controversy surrounding China's anti-satellite test last year ... [which drew] immediate criticism from the U.S. and other countries." James Oberg, space expert and military space analyst, explained to NBC News that perhaps more than any damage caused by falling fuel and pieces, the military is concerned that if any of the top secret hardware, such as sensor equipment or the computer's memory unit, fell into the wrong hands, "it could be exploited by hostile intelligence agencies."
China Scholar: U.S. Should Cooperate with China in Space
Feb. 12 (EIRNS)Gregory Kulacki, a China scholar from the Union of Concerned Scientists, speaking at a seminar sponsored by the New America Foundation (NAF), reported on his impressions of the Chinese space program and its much-discussed anti-satellite (ASAT) test. Kulacki has had long experience in China as a teacher and a researcher, and close relations with Chinese space researchers.
While China will certainly utilize any spinoffs from their innovations which are of a "dual use" nature, Kulacki said, it is not the military applications which are the thrust of the R&D efforts.
Kulacki and a colleague from NAF, Jeffrey Lewis, had spoken to many Chinese scientists on the ASAT test. Their conclusions were that the ASAT program, which dates from the 1970s, and which had been accelerated after President Reagan's announcement of the SDI program in 1983, had been allotted a certain amount of money to develop a basic anti-satellite capability. "The people involved probably felt that they could only prove their proper use of the funding by producing some result," Kulacki said. "While they had undoubtedly permission to go ahead, it's not clear that those higher up were fully aware of the extent of the space debris that would result from the test. This would explain the failure of the foreign ministry to say anything whatsoever immediately after the test."
Kulacki also noted that the muzzling of NASA scientists visiting China was counterproductive. While there are indications China would prefer to cooperate with the U.S., on some level, on space exploration, they will pursue their goals on their own if they are given the cold shoulder.
Selling Rohatyn-Style Privatized Infrastructure
Feb. 12 (EIRNS)The hard sell to privatize America's public infrastructure is on. Budgets are tight, so what better time to press the Mussolini corporatist agenda on state and local officials. Attendees at a March 3-4 conference on "Public Private Partnership for Transportation Infrastructure Assets in North America," to be held New York City, will be schooled in everything from how to clinch a PPP project, from state laws to tax laws, to which hedge funds, attorneys, and insurance company investors provide the best services. These snake-oil salesmen are touring the country to sell their wares to desperate but foolish officials looking to build a road or rail or water project.
U.S. Orders Prince Bandar's Assets Frozen in BAE Civil Case
Feb. 10 (EIRNS)A Washington, D.C. Federal judge has temporarily frozen some of the U.S. assets of Saudi Arabia's former ambassador to the United States, Prince Bandar bin Sultan, as part of an ongoing civil class action suit, involving alleged payoffs of $2 billion by BAE Systems, the British arms manufacturer. The civil suit was brought by the City of Harper Woods Employees' Retirement System, a shareholder in BAE, accusing the company, along with Riggs National Bank and its successor, PNC Financial Group, and Prince Bandar, of "intentional, reckless and negligent breaches of their fiduciary duty." The lawsuit charges that the defendants deprived company shareholders of funds through the massive bribery scheme.
Federal District Court judge Rosemary M. Collyer issued a temporary restraining order on Feb. 5, preventing the Saudi prince from removing proceeds from real estate sales from the United States. Bandar has been attempting to sell two luxury properties in Colorado and California, with a combined value of an estimated $300 million. A Feb. 14 hearing is scheduled, to determine whether the TRO should be extended through an injunction.
As EIR has uniquely reported, the real story behind the BAE Saudi oil-for-weapons barter deal is much bigger than the billions of dollars in bribes paid to Prince Bandar and a host of other Saudi officials and princes. The real story is that at least $100 billion in offshore, off-the-books funds have been accumulated since the original "Al-Yamamah" deal was signed in 1985, and those funds have been used to finance covert intelligence operations around the globe, including the Afghanistan "mujahideen" war against the Soviet Union, the Iran-Contra arms-for-hostages scheme, and the channeling of Soviet-made weapons to Africa.
In December 2007, then British Prime Minister Tony Blair ordered the Serious Fraud Office (SFO) to shut down its investigation into the BAE Saudi scandal, invoking British national security interests. Just before leaving office, Blair inked another deal between BAE and the Saudi Ministry of Defense, worth an estimated $8.7 billion. However, in the furor that followed the shutdown of the British investigation, the U.S. Department of Justice opened its own investigation, still ongoing, into the BAE bribery, under the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, and U.S. anti-money laundering laws. The Justice Department is probing the bribes paid to Prince Bandar by deposits in American banks, including Riggs National Bank. The Harper Woods lawsuit is taking up the same bribery allegations, on behalf of American BAE shareholders.