Daily Archives: June 15, 2004

Revolution Now? by Kryton

These are 26 very senior centrists, many appointed by Republican administrations. And they are strong in their belief that Bush has damaged America’s national security in near-irreparable ways. How angry someone is at the Bush administration is determined not by how far left he is, but how well he understands Bush’s policies.

Is this bad news for Bush? I suppose we will only see after Wednesday.

CNN Reports wrote:

Former officials to condemn Bush foreign policy

WASHINGTON (CNN) — Several former presidential diplomatic and military officials have signed a statement condemning the Bush administration’s foreign policy, saying that it has harmed national security, one of the document’s signers said Sunday.

Many of the signers were appointed by Republican administrations.

Phyllis Oakley, the deputy State Department spokeswoman during former President Ronald Reagan’s second term and an assistant secretary of state under former President Bill Clinton, said the statement was “prompted by a growing concern, deeply held, about the future of the country’s national security.”

The statement clearly calls for defeat of the Bush administration, she said, although it does not endorse any candidate.

“We are on the wrong track, and we need a fundamental change,” said Oakley.

20 former ambassadors among signers

The statement, which will be released Wednesday, was signed by 20 former U.S. ambassadors, including William Harrop, who was appointed ambassador to Israel by former President George Bush in 1991.

Military commanders who signed the document include retired Marine General Joseph P. Hoar, commander in chief of U.S. Central Command over-seeing the Middle East in 1991; and retired Admiral William Crowe Jr., chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff 1985-89.

The signers called themselves Diplomats and Military Commanders for Change.

Oakley said the group is representative of very senior, former government officials who “have spent their lives working to erect the stature and posture of the U.S. as a leader in the world … and we simply see that edifice crumbling.”

Oakley also said that releasing the statement was not an easy decision.

“We’re all career [public] servants who have never taken a political stand,” she said. “What we want to get on record is our profound concern about the future security of the U.S.”

The press doesn’t have a spin ready-made for this, so it’s trying to overlook it. The supposedly “liberal” NYTimes ran this story in a tiny AP piece on page A16.

Bush has been condemned by every past head of the Joint Chiefs of Staff except the current one. I don’t think that has ever happened before

Bush has also been condemned in the harshest language by his own former head of “Faith-based Initiatives,” former Treasury Secretary, former Counterterrorism Chief, a number of former Generals, former handpicked Mideast envoy, ten retired CIA officers including two station chiefs, an ambassador handpicked by Cheney to investigate the yellowcake fiasco, researchers at the War College and others whose names I’m too tired to type right now.

Some of the big, smoking gun memos, such as the one in which the White House asked how much torture it could get away with and the Justice Department asserted a royal prerogative in the Presidency, were leaked by the growing roster of internal enemies of the White House and the Pentagon.

Will it affect Bush? Cheney went ahead and lied about Saddam and Al Qaeda again this week, after both Powell and Bush admitted they have no evidence of any connection whatsoever. Obviously, the BA feels the Big Lie strategy will overcome any facts.

The problem is, this press release is the tip of an iceberg. The entire machinery of the professional government, from the Armed Services to the CIA, is nearly in full-scale rebellion against the White House. (It was the CIA that chose to raid the Chalabi stronghold that the Pentagon had paid for, against CIA warnings.) They’ve all had enough. And they are about to reveal all of the smoking guns and buried skeletons.

Ashcroft Overstepping Again

John Ashcroft has accused an Ohio man of plotting to blow up a mall on so little evidence that it amounts to wishful thinking–or his imagination.

Attorney General John Ashcroft announced the indictment at a Justice Department news conference, repeating his warnings about the threat posed by Al Qaeda. “Current credible intelligence indicates that Al Qaeda wants to hit the United States and to hit us hard,” Mr. Ashcroft said. “We know our enemies will go to great lengths to lie in wait and to achieve the death and destruction they desire.”The indictment against Mr. Abdi makes no mention of the alleged plot to blow up a shopping mall. That reference was contained in the motion filed by prosecutors to keep Mr. Abdi in custody. The government’s motion said that Mr. Abdi, Mr. Faris and other co-conspirators “initiated a plot to blow up a Columbus area shopping mall, and accepted bomb-making instructions from one of those co-conspirators.”

Their evidence for these charges amounts to nothing more than the fact that Abdi made an unscheduled trip to Ethiopia. They claim he went ‘to study what one government document in the case described as “radio usage, guns, guerrilla warfare, bombs and ‘anything to damage the enemy,’ ” ‘ but they’ve offered zero proof he did any such thing. In the wake of that joke of a trial in Utah and the travesty in Oregon, both of which cases Ashcroft lost because the JD couldn’t produce any evidence whatever that any of their charges had a basis in anything resembling a hard fact, these new accusations have to be taken with a large beaker of salt. As usual, Kathy at Random Thoughts sums up the situation cogently.

So here’s the problem. I don’t believe Ashcroft. I don’t know if information he released is true or if he’s stretching the truth for political gain. I don’t know if this guy is really a terrorist or just a poor immigrant who was fingered by a prisoner that was being tortured or tempted. I don’t know if he really violated immigration law or if Ashcroft found it convenient to say so, since then he can lock the guy up indefinitely with no due process. I don’t know if the intelligence they’re using as a basis of arrest is credible. I don’t know if he really did get military training in Ethiopia or if he got religious instruction. I don’t know if there was really a plot to bomb a mall since there’s no evidence of it except maybe a roving wiretap that caught a bad joke or two. I don’t know if this guy is a terrorist or a dupe.I do know one thing. If we can’t trust the public pronouncements of the Attorney General of the United States, we’ve got a problem

Um, Kath? We’ve got a problem….

Addendum: Krugman on Ashcroft

No question: John Ashcroft is the worst attorney general in history.

For an example of changing the subject, consider the origins of the Jose Padilla case. There was no publicity when Mr. Padilla was arrested in May 2002. But on June 6, 2002, Coleen Rowley gave devastating Congressional testimony about failures at the F.B.I. (which reports to Mr. Ashcroft) before 9/11. Four days later, Mr. Ashcroft held a dramatic press conference and announced that Mr. Padilla was involved in a terrifying plot. Instead of featuring Ms. Rowley, news magazine covers ended up featuring the “dirty bomber” who Mr. Ashcroft said was plotting to kill thousands with deadly radiation.Since then Mr. Padilla has been held as an “enemy combatant” with no legal rights. But Newsweek reports that “administration officials now concede that the principal claim they have been making about Padilla ever since his detention — that he was dispatched to the United States for the specific purpose of setting off a radiological `dirty bomb’ — has turned out to be wrong and most likely can never be used in court.”

Last week Mr. Ashcroft, apparently in contempt of Congress, refused to release a memo on torture his department prepared for the White House almost two years ago. Fortunately, his stonewalling didn’t work: The Washington Post has acquired a copy of the memo and put it on its Web site.Much of the memo is concerned with defining torture down: if the pain inflicted on a prisoner is less than the pain that accompanies “serious physical injury, such as organ failure,” it’s not torture. Anyway, the memo declares that the federal law against torture doesn’t apply to interrogations of enemy combatants “pursuant to [the president’s] commander-in-chief authority.” In other words, the president is above the law.

The memo came out late Sunday. Mr. Ashcroft called a press conference yesterday — to announce an indictment against a man accused of plotting to blow up a shopping mall in Ohio. The timing was, I’m sure, purely coincidental.

Go read the rest.

Halliburton Under Fire, Finally

Halliburton’s standard treatment of the US govt as a Golden Goose whose treasury it could loot at will, what with the Vice President having once been its CEO and getting the contracts without having to bid along with a blank check and all the other seemingless endless perks, like total non-oversight, is at last coming in for a beating at the hands of the Pentagon Audit Agency and its own ex-employees.

The Pentagon’s Defense Contract Audit Agency found that Halliburton’s system of billing the government for billions of dollars in contracts was “inadequate in part,” failing to follow the company’s internal procedures or even to determine whether subcontractors had performed work.At the same time, four former Halliburton employees issued signed statements charging that the company had routinely wasted money. Among other things, they said the company had paid $45 apiece for cases of soda and $100 per bag of laundry, and had abandoned nearly new, $85,000 trucks in the desert for lack of spare parts.

“There was this whole thought process that we can spend whatever we want to because the government won’t crack down in the first year of a war,” said Marie deYoung, a former logistics officer with the company.

Trust me, the ‘first year of a war’ bit is totally irrelevant: Halliburton has a long history of acting this way even when there’s no war to excuse it. They have been regularly accused of outrageous overcharging, ‘questionable’ accounting practices, lack of oversight of subcontractors and their own people, and lack of accountability. There isn’t a damn thing new here. Some of us pointed out that history when the Veep’s office handed his ex-employer a $$Billion$$ worth of govt contracts on the Golden Platter of a no-bid process that pointedly excluded more comepetent, reputable firms before they’d even had a chance to make their case.

But when the Vice president of the United States used to be your CEO and still gets a cut of your profits, you don’t figure you have to worry about little shit like curtailing the level of your theft. In fact that’s a good reason to steal even more than usual. So they did.

This is your corporate-owned-and-operated govt in action. Hope you enjoy it.

Army May Courtmartial Abu Ghraib Whistleblower

Sgt Sam Provance blew the Abu Ghraib situation wide open when he gave interviews to the American press after lodging his charges with military investigators. Provance, reassigned to Heidelberg, Germany, is apparently about to be courtmartialed by the Army–for not blowing his whistle soon enough.

When asked why he chose to jeopardize his career, Provance said: “I started getting bothered because innocent people were being held and they were getting lost in the system, and the military wanted to keep it secret. The abuse was being done by more than just a few bad apples. I don’t think military investigators had any interest in finding out how many people were involved.”Military investigators asked Provance why he failed to disclose what he knew after he arrived at Abu Ghraib last fall. [MajGen George] Fay, Provance said, told him, “You could have busted this thing wide open” if he had alerted officials earlier. The Army has informed Provance that he could face charges for not quickly divulging abuse allegations.

“I didn’t come forward earlier because I didn’t see anything,” Provance said. “It was just things I had heard. If somebody denied it, I’d have looked pretty stupid. I’d be the boy who cried wolf.”

The threatened courtmartial is nothing more than a blatant attempt by the Army to punish the messenger while appearing to be concerned with ‘justice’. It doesn’t seem like the storm has taught them very much. BAU for the Army.

CCR Sues CACI and Titan

The Center for Constitutional Rights announced today that it was suing Iraq contractors CACI and Titan under the RICO racketeering law for violations relating to the torture at Abu Ghraib. This is the first time any private contractor has been threatened with legal punishment for the torture their employees oversaw, largely because Bush signed an executive order declaring that no private American company working for the US govt in Iraq could be held responsible, legally, for anything it did that may have contravened either domestic or international law.

Racketeering charges may seem like a stretch but hang in there for a minute: CCR is basically arguing that RICO is relevant because the companies engaged in patently illegal activities for the purpose of making money–precisely what RICO forbids.

CACI and TITAN are publicly traded corporations that provide interrogation and translation services to U.S. government agencies. According to the complaint, beginning in January 2002, and continuing to the present, the two companies began providing services ranging from interrogation and interpretation to intelligence gathering and security. The complaint reveals that both companies were increasingly dependent on government contracts for revenue. Titan, for example, developed a unit known as “National Security Solutions,” which added 21 percent to its revenue growth in 2003.“We believe that CACI and Titan engaged in a conspiracy to torture and abuse detainees, and did so to make more money,” said Susan Burke of Montgomery, McCracken, Walker and Rhoads, an attorney for the plaintiffs. “It is patently clear that these corporations saw an opportunity to build their businesses by proving they could extract information from detainees in Iraq, by any means necessary. In doing so they not only violated a raft of domestic and international statutes but diminished America’s stature and reputation around the world.” (emphasis added)

In other words, the assumption here is that the Bush Admin had made it clear to the companies that if they didn’t get the information that was wanted, by whatever means necessary, their contracts would be in jeopardy and they would lose a fifth of their revenue–or more. Faced with the choice of losing business or breaking the law to keep it, CCR is arguing, CACI and Titan made a deliberate corporate decision to break the law, bringing RICO into force.

It’s a brilliant legal strategy in a way because it could force the companies to defend themselves by admitting that the BA pressured them into illegal activity and that they had government approval of their tactics. It’s also a dicey legal strategy because unless the companies provide proof of such pressure in their defense, a direct connection between company business decisions and govt policy is going to be hard to prove in court.

To make it as easy as possible for the companies to mount such a defense, and to provide evidentiary support for its own position, CCR has obtained a copy of the internal Pentagon report outlining the new rules on torture.

CCR President Michael Ratner stated, “This memo and others show there was planning far up the chain of command to torture detainess; the atrocities at Abu Ghraib and elsewhere cannot be swept under the rug by going after low-level soldiers. Apparently highly placed U.S. officials were willing to approve interrogation methods that violate every convention on torture the United States has ever signed. But they needed to find cover for their actions and a defense to possible criminal prosecution. Government lawyers writing this report wildly distorted the law in an effort to exempt officials from potential criminal prosecution.”

A pdf. facsimile of the full Pentagon report is available here.

This suit is bound to run head-on at some point into the question of whether or not Bush had the authority to declare American companies legally untouchable for any illegal activities in which they may have taken part while carrying out their contracts. In this connection, the Bush directive looks like little more than the equivalent of a DA on the Mafia payroll telling his attorneys that no matter what the Mafia did, it was not to be prosecuted. Such an order would have the appearance of making Mafia activities exempt from prosecution but the order itself would be illegal. Imagine that that DA had requested that illegal activity, making the directive a device to cover his own ass, and the metaphor is complete.

I don’t know how far these guys are going to get with this suit, but one certainly hopes they get as far as calling into serious question the power of the US president to place himself above the law just by issuing an order that says he is.

(Tip courtesy of MoJo)

Mark Fiore: President Reagan-esque

Mark Fiore: President Reagan-esque