Sunday, July 30, 2006

Terror detainees protected by the Bush administration

President Bush said in no uncertain terms of the detainees in American custody that, "We do not torture." Considering the unambiguously humane manner in which they must be treated, it's unclear why the attorney general, Alberto Gonzalez, feels it necessary to ask Republican congressmen to write new law. He's asking them to write legislation that would grant U.S. personnel involved in the terrorism fight new protections against prosecution for past violations of the War Crimes Act of 1996. Why would they need protection from prosecution if they do not torture?

Perhaps it's not torture the administration is concerned about. The War Crimes Act of 1996 actually permits capital punishment if US-held detainees die in custody. That could be particularly bad for some members of the Third Brigade Combat Team of the 101st Airborne Division. A sergeant from the brigade said he had witnessed a deliberate plot by his fellow soldiers to kill three handcuffed Iraqis and a cover-up in which one soldier cut another to bolster their story. The squad leader threatened to kill anyone who talked. The three detainees were shot and killed by the soldiers. Apparently, Gonzalez thinks troops committing brutal acts such as these will need protection from prosecution when they have their day in court.

Meanwhile, the White House is also busy making their recommendations on how to conduct detainees' days in court when they are prosecuted for terror. Under these recommendations, hearsay evidence would be allowed unless it was deemed to be unreliable. Defendants also would be barred from their own trials if it were necessary to protect national security. Since it would not be permissible to implement these recommendations under the more defendant-friendly courts martial system, the administration is recommending that enemy combatants be tried under the more stringent military tribunal system. The Bush administration clearly feels that people suspected of terror do not warrant the same legal rights as those suspected of murder.

Apparently, Bush is so confident that detainees captured by those under his command are treated with the greatest fairness and care that there's no need for them to have the basic human rights that the US Constitution provides people being tried in a court of law. He's somehow convinced that the detainees are terrorists even though they have not been tried in a court of law or permitted to present any evidence that might show that they did not commit the crimes of which they're accused (if any charges have been levied at all).

Saturday, July 22, 2006

Mutiny in the CIA

President Bush is losing control of his own administration. Never mind that he is the chief executive at the top of the chain of command of all administrative agencies. He is now being undermined from the highest ranks of the CIA.

Republican congressman and chairman of the House intelligence committee, Peter Hoekstra, wrote a private letter to Bush on May 18. In it, he expressed concerns that the CIA deputy director, Stephen Kappes, engaged in a leak offensive to undermine the president's administration. He went on to say that Stephen Kappes was part of a "a strong and well-positioned group within the agency" that "intentionally undermined the administration and its policies."

This dissidence is well deserved and it should come as no surprise. After all, once you start connecting the dots, it becomes clear that nothing has caused greater damage to the CIA's integrity and reputation than Bush's envoy, Dick Cheney.

Friday, July 14, 2006

Two out of three branches of government agree that Bush is wrong

Although the Government Accountability Office (GAO) is part of the Republican-dominated legislative branch of government, it's still critical of the leader of the Republican party. Earlier this week, the GAO released a report regarding rebuilding Iraq. The GAO found that the Bush administration's planning efforts for stabilizing and rebuilding Iraq fall short in at least three key areas:
  1. It only partially identifies which U.S. agencies are responsible for implementing key aspects of the strategy or resolving conflicts among the many implementing agencies.
  2. It does not fully address how U.S. goals and objectives will be integrated with those of the Iraqi government and the international community, and it does not detail the Iraqi government's anticipated contribution to its future security and reconstruction needs.
  3. It only partially identifies the current and future costs of U.S. involvement in Iraq, including the costs of maintaining U.S. military operations, building Iraqi government capacity at the provincial and national level, and rebuilding critical infrastructure.
Releasing the report to a House subcommittee, David M. Walker, the U.S. comptroller general, told the congressmen that President Bush did not give proper consideration to conditions on the ground and said the administration is not demanding accountability for the $1.5-billion per week that the United States spends in Iraq.

That same day, Bush was touting a projected deficit of $296-billion. However, the White House's own Office of Management and Budget (OMB) projects a deficit of $423-billion. For 2007, it still expects a $354-billion deficit. Perhaps Bush should consult his own budget office before spouting numbers. Furthermore, the Wall Street Journal reports that economic policy experts believe that the Bush tax cuts aren't going to create enough growth either to solve the nation's long-term fiscal challenges or to erase what is still a significant budget deficit.

Before we look at the Supreme Court's finding that Bush's tribunals violate not only the Geneva Convention, but also U.S. military rules, let's stop here. After all, it's no fun if the title of the post doesn't sound a little like TV commercials we see promoting consumer products. It would have been too unbelievable had we heard "three out of three dentists surveyed choose..."

Friday, July 07, 2006

Be afraid, be very afraid!

After bouncing from yellow to orange to yellow to orange to yellow countless times, Bush's Homeland Security Advisory System on the threat level no longer terrorizes Americans as he intended it to do. As his primary tool for keeping Americans in line with his agenda, Bush constantly has to find new tactics to frighten America. His latest is to have foiled bomb plots "leaked" to the press.

Today's story is about a disrupted plot by eight terrorists to blow up a commuter train tunnel connecting New Jersey and Manhattan. After painting this scary story as "what we believe was the real deal" by FBI assistant director Mark Mershon, he put America at ease by assuring us that US authorities had collaborated with foreign ones to break up the attack before it occurred. So just how well developed was the plan and how real was the danger?

Mershon conceded that the plot was in its preliminary stages. He said, "They were about to go to a phase where they would attempt to surveil targets, establish a regimen of attack and acquire the resources necessary to effectuate the attacks." When you analyze the statement, you realize that means the terrorists had not even begun to even attempt surveillance of the tunnel. In fact, none of the suspects had ever even been to the United States. What Mershon really said was that the terrorists had not even formulated a systematic plan of attack or acquired the materiel and equipment needed to execute the non-existent plan. What the plot boiled down to was nothing more than some extremists brainstorming by email some outlandish ideas of how they might try to hurt America. Considering how much Bush has driven foreigners to hate America, this sort of thing must go on countless times every day around the world.

We found out more about this when New York City police commissioner Raymond Kelly was interviewed on the News Hour today. He validated the fact that the plot was nothing more than transmissions on the Internet and:
"...was still very much in the planning phase. Nothing of an operational nature had gone forward. They had not obtained, again, to the best of our knowledge, the means to go forward with actually executing this plan."
How dangerous are these terrorists really? Even though their whereabouts are known, other than their "ringleader," the other seven are simply "being observed" rather than captured. This should come as no surprise considering how tenuous any credible connection with al Qaeda or other known terrorist organizations elsewhere in the world is. Kelly admitted that such connections are yet "to be determined" (i.e. not established). Regardless, he went on to say that "al Qaeda is, in many ways, a -- you know, a philosophy or an inspiration these days. It's not the -- you know, a tightly-knit organization that perhaps it once was."

This plot was just the second in a series. A couple of weeks ago, federal agents captured the "Miami Seven" -- a group of homeless religious fundamentalists living in a warehouse. They were accused of plotting to bomb Chicago's 110-story Sears Tower and wage other attacks inside the United States. However, like the plot broken up today, FBI deputy director John Pistole admitted it was "more aspirational than operational." That's quite the understatement. Anyone who watched CNN's interview of member Brother Corey on television could see that this troupe is sadly lacking in the capability of fully rational thinking.

So be afraid, America, be very afraid! Thank Bush's administration for their crack detective work to intercept these grave threats to our safety. As long as Bush keeps you terrorized, he holds on to the last shred of undeserved credibility in his arsenal.