Friday, January 28

And a voice finally speaks out from the wilderness


Excerpt from Amazon.com

"The people of this county deserve better from their politics and their politicians than they've been getting in recent years," writes Christine Todd Whitman in It's My Party Too. While hardly high praise for George W. Bush from a former member of his Cabinet (she served as director of the Environmental Protection Agency from January 2001 to May 2003), the real targets of her ire are some of her fellow Republicans who have forced the GOP to make a hard-right turn in recent years. Whitman argues that this shift poses a serious threat to the long-term health and competitiveness of the Republicans, a party in which moderates like Whitman, Colin Powell, Rudolph Giuliani, John McCain, Arnold Schwarzenegger, and George Pataki are paraded in public when necessary, but openly opposed behind the scenes. Whitman refers to those on the far right as "social fundamentalists" whose "mission is to advance their narrow ideological agenda" by using the government to impose their views on everyone else. Though she admits that evangelicals may have helped to win the 2004 election, they have claimed much more credit than they deserve for Bush's success, and she warns that catering to this narrow group will have consequences.


To achieve long-term success, she writes, the Republicans must move their focus back to the core issues that unite the true base of the party: less government, stronger national security, lower taxes combined with spending restraints, and job creation in the private sector--issues that have largely been pushed aside by efforts to ban abortion and embryonic stem cell research and a push to amend the Constitution to prohibit gay marriage. She also offers ideas for attracting more African Americans and women to the GOP, and highlights Republican environmental successes that have been ignored. It's My Party Too is a compelling analysis of the future of the Republican Party. --Shawn Carkonen



Today, Secretary and former Governer Christine Todd Whitman began making the rounds on the bi-polar point of the political talk show circuit, starting with the Al Franken Show on Air America Radio and finishing with Hannity and Colmes on Fox News Network. Her comments were even toned and concilliatory, but this belies the incindiary tone of her book - which points out how the facist wing of Republicans Party have taken control of the party by the throat.

None of this is news to most of America I think, but it's still shocking to see an actual Republican who seems willing to speak this truth. Whitman, according to her comments on H&c was so empowered by her decision to retire from political life. She has no plans to run for office, nothing to campaign for.

Several months ago when I began this blog I wrote in (Give me one reason) how I felt that the Republican Party was no longer something I could relate too, or respect. Prior to the Presidency of George W. Bush there were a great many Republican ideals that I agree with. I'm a fiscal conservative. I agree with cutting taxes, as long as you can either reduce spending or boost the economy to the point that you create exploding deficits which simply mean that you pay later with interest, rather than pay now. I'm a strong supporter of the 2nd Amendment and the right to bare arms - but only within it's original intention regarding the need to maintain a "well regulated militia" as the last bulwalk of freedom. I believe in the preservation of liberty, and that the goverments powers should be limited and well balanced with the powers and ability of individuals and private institutions.

Bush and as Secretary Whitman put's it, the "social fundamentalists", have turned the party - and with control of all three branches the nation - into something I can not support.

So I welcome Christine Todd Whitman back to the land of the sane. She refused to drink the coolaid, and instead stepped down from her seat as Secratary of the EPA rather than support actions and policies she knew to be damaging as they would undercut her own prior efforts as Governor of New Jersey at Environmental Protection.

I always knew that there were Republicans who hated to be told that they're only out to make a few more cheap bucks at the expense of the environment, at the expense of "the little man", and at the expense of civil and human rights.

It's good to see one these people finally jump out of lock-step, and stand up for what they truly believe - and more importantly, what is good for the American people - rather than continually spew the party line of the day, to the point of even perjuring themselves as our new Secretary of State as future Attorney General seem so willing to do.

There may be hope for all the rest of the those Republican's yet... assumming of course the Christine Todd Whitman can survive the excoriation and charges of "traitor" that she is sure to recieve from the oh-so-highly-tolerant leaders of the party such as Rove, Lott, Frist and Delay.

At least the fireworks display should be interesting.

Vyan

Wednesday, January 26

Phony Tale of Torture

washingtonpost.com
A Powerful Tale Unravels

By Michael Getler

Sunday, January 23, 2005; Page B06


On July 21, 2003, The Post published a wrenching front-page story about a 41-year-old Iraqi woman, Jumana Michael Hanna, who said that during the mid-1990s she had endured torture and rape inside the prison cells of Saddam Hussein's "police academy." The headline over the 2,800-word story by correspondent Peter Finn read, "A Lone Woman Testifies to Iraq's Order of Terror."

The story was very detailed, with lots of quotes from Hanna, her mother and others. Human rights officials said hundreds and possibly thousands of women had been tortured or sexually assaulted by Hussein's agents. But survivors left much unsaid. Hanna spoke out and became the face of this horror. After the Post story appeared, Hanna was taken into protective custody and honored by the Coalition Provisional Authority, then taken to the United States with her family. Deputy Defense Secretary Paul D. Wolfowitz told a Senate committee about her courage in providing "what is very likely credible information."

The problem, however, as The Post and Peter Finn reported Thursday in a follow-up article, is that her claims were false. But the only reason we now know this is because of an even lengthier article in the January edition of Esquire magazine by Sara Solovitch, who had contracted to do a book about Hanna and who, in the course of interviewing her, uncovered what first seemed like exaggerations, then crippling doubts and then untruths in her story.

The Esquire piece focused heavily on the impact of the Post piece, and readers who saw the magazine late in December wrote to ask whether The Post was going to retract or correct its reporting. The initial internal reaction here, and from Finn, was to point out that many of the claims Hanna made to Solovitch that proved false had not been made to The Post. Hanna never told Finn, for example, that she went to Oxford University. She never spoke of the killing of fellow female prisoners, or said that one of them was the sister of a well-known cleric, or that the word "traitor" had been branded on her breast, or that she knew Hussein's first wife and counseled her on how to romance him.

Nevertheless, Finn said, the Esquire report that Hanna's husband was still alive and had not been shot and killed in an Iraqi prison, as Hanna had told The Post, was clearly serious and required new investigation.

The investigation took a while. Finn, a diligent and experienced reporter, had been based in Germany and was in Iraq to help cover the post-invasion period when he wrote the initial article. He has since become the Moscow correspondent. Readers, properly, continued to demand answers about whether the paper was ducking the implications of the Esquire piece. "The Post's piece turned Jumana Hanna into an icon, one used by the Bush administration to justify the war," one reader charged.

Ultimately, The Post did the right thing in re-reporting this story and laying out all the flaws. Headlined "Threads Unravel in Iraqi's Tale," it appeared Thursday on Page A18, and there was a small reference to it on the front page. That it was well inside the paper on Inauguration Day annoyed those who were initially critical. They have a point. This was a big and powerful front-page story, with pictures, 18 months ago, and correcting the record deserved more prominence.

Could The Post have been set up to meet Hanna by the coalition or administration? Finn said he doesn't believe that happened and described how they met. As for lessons learned, Finn says, "I obviously should have done more reporting, particularly within the wider Christian community in Baghdad [Hanna is an Assyrian Christian]. That would have raised the kind of questions that would have signaled she was trouble." Then again, Thursday's story ends with an e-mail Solovitch sent Finn saying, "Now, I believe that she is at best a pathological liar, at worst a highly intelligent con artist. Jumana took advantage of all of us."

The initial Post story struck me, at the time, as well-reported. But in two previous columns -- one on Feb. 17, 2002, dealing with stories about victims of the war in Afghanistan, and another on Dec. 12, 2004, dealing with Iraqi victims -- I made the point, based partly on challenges by some readers, that reporting stories of people caught up in war is important and valuable but also tricky. I also said that it helps to tell readers when some of what is being said can't be verified and is being told through interpreters, if that is the case.

Two other Iraq-related stories, both on the front page last Wednesday, also drew critical comment. This came from only a handful of readers but struck a familiar chord.

One was a feature profiling two Californians who had come here, one to protest and the other to celebrate, the inauguration. The story said both are accomplished middle-aged Americans. But the person profiled as a protester has a Swedish name and was described as "a vegetarian pacifist and laid-off software engineer who has lived in a commune." "Your readers deserve much better from The Post than this cartoonish parody of the millions of opponents of the Iraq war," wrote one reader.

Similarly, some readers also felt that the paper had not captured the drama and language of the challenges directed at secretary of state-designate Condoleezza Rice during Senate confirmation hearings. They also noted that The Post published only excerpts of Rice's testimony while some leading papers published lengthy excerpts from a sharp challenge by California's Barbara Boxer and several other senators who had raised critical questions. The Post, in the view of one reader, "is still failing" in what it considers newsworthy about the war.

Michael Getler can be reached by phone at 202-334-7582 or by e-mail at ombudsman@washpost.com.

Conservatives Distort Oil For Food Abuses

Conservatives use oil-for-food to hammer U.N., ignore facts

Conservative media figures are engaged in an aggressive campaign to use the scandal surrounding the United Nations oil-for-food program to discredit the United Nations as a whole. The attacks focus on Saddam Hussein's manipulation of oil-for-food to obtain illegal revenue, which he used to prop up his ailing regime.

But these attacks on the United Nations frequently deny or ignore three important facts: (1) as members of the U.N. committee charged with monitoring the sanctions regime, the United States and other U.N. Security Council members played at least as large a role in monitoring oil-for-food as the oft-derided "U.N. bureaucracy" but apparently did little to address corruption in the program; (2) Saddam obtained a much larger portion of the illicit revenue used to prop up his regime through oil smuggling outside U.N. auspices than he did through the elaborate kickback schemes he devised under oil-for-food; and (3) oil-for-food achieved considerable success in alleviating the acute suffering of the Iraqi people that resulted from U.N. sanctions following the 1991 Gulf War.

Oil-for-food has been targeted by conservatives who have long been critical of the United Nations. For example, FOX News managing editor and chief Washington correspondent Brit Hume's dismissal of the United States' own oversight role in oil-for-food (discussed below) on the December 5 broadcast of FOX Broadcasting Company's FOX News Sunday was only one of several attacks he made on the United Nations during the program. "The deeper problem here, of course, is the U.N. itself," Hume said, when asked about Senator Norm Coleman's (R-MN) call for U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan to resign. "This scandal is really, really a sign of what the U.N. has become. It is an enormously corrupt bureaucracy up there. It's a world unto itself. Self-dealing, I think, is rampant."

Security Council, U.S. oversight of oil-for-food

On the December 5 edition of FOX News Sunday, Hume dismissed any suggestion that the United States bears some responsibility for lax oversight of the scandal-ridden oil-for-food program. Hume replied to Washington Post staff writer Ceci Connelly's suggestion that "you have to look a little bit carefully in terms of how much scrutiny and oversight we were giving all of those years as well" by insisting that "oversight of the oil-for-food program was the U.N.'s own job." In fact, as a member of the so-called "661 committee" -- the committee established by U.N. Security Council Resolution 661 to monitor Iraq's compliance with the newly established sanctions regime -- the United States had the power to veto all sales of Iraqi oil and all Iraqi purchases of goods financed with oil-for-food revenues.

Security Council Resolution 986, which established the oil-for-food program, stipulated that the 661 committee approve all Iraqi oil sales under the program:

The Security Council ... Authorizes States ... to permit the import of petroleum and petroleum products originating in Iraq ... subject to the following conditions:

(a) Approval by the Committee established by resolution 661 (1990), in order to ensure the transparency of each transaction and its conformity with the other provisions of this resolution, after submission of an application by the State concerned, endorsed by the Government of Iraq, for each proposed purchase of Iraqi petroleum and petroleum products.

The 661 committee also had the power to scrutinize and approve all Iraqi imports of foodstuffs and other goods. The 1996 Memorandum of Understanding between the U.N. Secretariat and Iraq, which established guidelines for implementing the oil-for-food program, stipulated:

The purchase of medicine, health supplies, foodstuffs, and materials and supplies for essential civilian needs of the Iraqi population throughout the country ... will follow normal commercial practice and be on the basis of the relevant resolutions of the Security Council and procedures of the 661 Committee.

The memorandum also required that Iraq submit a detailed "Distribution Plan," including a "categorized list of the supplies and goods" that Iraq intended to buy with oil-for-food revenues, how such purchases addressed specific humanitarian needs of the Iraqi people, and how the Iraqi government would distribute them, for review by, among others, the Secretariat and the 661 Committee.

It further required that "exporting States," i.e., countries intending to sell goods to Iraq, "submit all relevant documentation, including contracts, for all goods to be exported under the Resolution [986] to the 661 Committee for appropriate action according to its procedures." These applications included detailed technical information about all goods. Because the committee operated by consensus, each Security Council member had the power to or veto individual contracts or delay them pending further scrutiny. (This flow chart summarizes the complex procedures for contract approval.)

Finally, the memorandum gave the 661 Committee access to review the periodic audits of the U.N.-managed escrow account where Iraq's oil revenues were held.

The United States was probably aware of illicit dealings under oil-for-food but chose to look the other way for strategic reasons. One of the chief mechanisms that Saddam used to profit illegally from oil-for-food -- and to bribe others -- was kickbacks. Saddam would purchase oil for below-market price and then demand kickbacks from the purchasers, or he would purchase goods at inflated prices and divert kickbacks to individuals or companies he wanted to bribe.

The Government Accountability Office's examination of oil-for-food corruption, released in April, made it clear that U.S. officials were aware of kickbacks but took only minimal steps to confront the problem:

In March 2001, the United States informed the Security Council about allegations that Iraqi government officials were receiving illegal surcharges on oil contracts and illicit commissions on commodity contracts. According to OIP [Office of the Iraq Program] officials, the Security Council took action on the allegations of surcharges in 2001 by implementing retroactive pricing for oil contracts. However, it is unclear what actions the sanctions committee took to respond to illicit commissions on commodity contracts.

The Washington Post reported on November 13 that Edward Mortimer, communications director for the U.N. Secretary-General's office, claimed that the 661 Committee chose to approve 70 separate contracts beginning in late 2001 that were "potentially overpriced":

Over the next 18 months [after "the Greek captain of the oil tanker Essex admitted conspiring with Iraq to smuggle $10 million worth of crude oil" in October 2001], U.N. officials presented the sanctions committee with 70 contracts that were potentially overpriced, Mortimer said. But "nobody placed a single contract on hold," he said -- including the United States and Britain, Baghdad's toughest critics on the Security Council.

John G. Ruggie, assistant secretary-general and senior adviser for strategic planning under Annan from 1997 to 2001 and current director of the Center for Business and Government at Harvard University's Kennedy School of Government, agreed in testimony before the House International Relations Committee that U.S. policymakers were aware of corruption in oil-for-food but suggested a rationale for the United States' relative passivity: the desire to maintain the sanctions regime to contain Saddam, even at the cost of tolerating a degree of corruption in oil-for-food:

Every member [of the 661 Committee] had the right to hold up contracts if they detected irregularities, and the US and Britain were by far the most vigilant among them. Yet, as best as I can determine, of those 36,000 contracts not one - not a single solitary one - was ever held up by any member on the grounds of pricing.

Several thousand were held up because of dual-use technology concerns. What does this suggest about US and British motives, as permanent members of that committee? Stupidity? Complicity? Or competing priorities? I strongly suspect it was the last. Support for the sanctions was eroding fast. Saddam's allocation of contracts significantly favored companies in some of the countries that were also represented on the committee. So it seems reasonable to infer that the US and Britain held their noses and overlooked pricing irregularities in order to keep the sanctions regime in place and to put all their efforts into preventing dangerous technologies from getting into Saddam's hands.

A December 7 editorial in the Financial Times (subscription required) cited the same figure on contracts and also noted that concerns about dual-use technology were the only grounds that the United States and Britain cited to hold up contracts. The editorial added: "The oil-for-food policy was devised and run by the member states of the UN Security Council, not by the UN Secretariat."

Saddam gained more from illicit oil smuggling than from oil-for-food

FOX News host Bill O'Reilly expressed outrage on the December 6 edition of The O'Reilly Factor that "the U.N. oil-for-food program degenerated into a criminal enterprise, feeding Saddam more than $20 billion in illegal revenue." On the December 3 edition of the nationally syndicated Rush Limbaugh Show, radio host Limbaugh put the figure at "$22.3 billion at last count." In fact, the amount is, at most, one-fourth of what O'Reilly and Limbaugh claimed. And Saddam obtained a much larger portion of the illicit revenue he used to prop up his regime through oil smuggling outside U.N. auspices.

The GAO report estimated that of the $10.1 billion in illegal oil revenues, only $4.4 billion came from "surcharges against oil sales and illicit commissions from commodity suppliers," i.e., kickbacks, compared to $5.7 billion from oil smuggling that was outside of U.N. control.

The Central Intelligence Agency's Duelfer report similarly estimated that of the nearly $11 billion in illicit income that Saddam obtained from August 1990 until March 2003, only $1.5 billion, or 16 percent, came through oil-for-food [Volume 1, PDF p. 158]. According to the U.N. Office of the Iraq Program (OIP), sales of oil under oil-for-food generated $65 billion in revenue.

The U.S. played an equally substantial role in tacitly allowing Iraqi oil smuggling outside the auspices of oil-for-food. Again, the motivation was apparently to hold the sanctions regime in place in order to prevent Saddam from re-emerging as a threat to the world. The Duelfer report found that "Iraq's bilateral trade Protocols with neighboring states [Syria, Turkey, Jordan, and Egypt] provided Saddam with his largest source of illicit income during UN sanctions." In particular, "Jordan was the key to Iraq's financial survival from the imposition of UN sanctions in August 1990 until the implementation of the UN's OFF program." The Duelfer report estimated that Iraq gained $4.4 billion in illicit revenue through trade with Jordan; $2.8 billion from Syria; and $710 million from Turkey. The Duelfer Report depicted efforts to combat this smuggling as ineffectual: "The UN Sanctions Committee 'took note' in May 1991 of Jordan's oil imports from Iraq. Essentially, the Committee neither approved nor condemned Jordan because of its dependence on Iraqi oil at the time."

Former assistant secretary of state for near eastern affairs Robert Pelletreau spoke more bluntly about the U.S. position on Iraqi oil smuggling to Turkey in an the December 2004 Harper's Magazine article by Joy Gordon. Gordon wrote: "Turkey, like Jordan, complained that that the sanctions were harming its economy. And Turkey, like Jordan, was a crucial ally the United States needed to appease. The result was a decision by the United States 'to close our eyes to leakage via Turkey,' according to ... Pelletreau."

The U.S. was also by far the largest contributor to the Multinational Interception Force, the naval fleet authorized under U.N. Security Council Resolution 665 to intercept oil tankers carrying illicit Iraqi oil.

At the very least, Iraqi oil smuggling was far from a secret before the U.S.-led invasion. For example, an August 5, 2001, Associated Press article bore the headline "Iraq's Oil Money Undermines Sanctions."

Oil-for-food's humanitarian achievements

The Office of the Iraq Program (OIP) reports that the oil-for-food program supervised the distribution of $31 billion of humanitarian goods, with another $8.2 billion "currently in the humanitarian pipeline." Billions more in oil-for-food revenues were allocated to Gulf War reparations.

Despite corruption, oil-for-food did achieve significant success in its goal of alleviating widespread suffering and malnutrition that prevailed in Iraq 1991 to 1996 due to sanctions. The OIP reports that "The nutritional value of the food basket" -- which all 27 million Iraqis were entitled to receive monthly and on which an estimated 60 percent depended entirely -- "almost doubled between 1996 and 2002 from 1200 to 2200 kcal/person/day."

Posted to the web on Tuesday December 7, 2004 at 6:52 PM EST

O'Reilly and the "Nuts"

Listen to this audio clip

O'Reilly denied calling Sen. Boxer a "nut"; he was lying

FOX News host Bill O'Reilly denied calling Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA) a "nut" and promised to play a clip on the air to verify his denial. In fact, he did indeed call Boxer a "nut" on his January 19 radio program, as Media Matters for America documented (audio here). He also denied his frequent practice of applying labels like "nut," "loon," and other disparaging names to political opponents, though Media Matters has documented O'Reilly's long history of this rhetorical practice.

On the January 25 edition of FOX News' The O'Reilly Factor, O'Reilly denied the claim by St. Louis Post-Dispatch columnist Sylvester Brown Jr. that he called Boxer a "nut." Brown cited this remark by O'Reilly to explain why he likened the influence of O'Reilly and other conservatives on cable TV news to talk show host Jerry Springer's influence on reality TV:

BROWN: Well, let me -- let me explain the Springer comparison. You can talk about [Tom] Brokaw, you can talk about [Tim] Russert, you can talk about [Walter] Cronkite, everybody else who works for the "liberal media," but you don't see these guys calling people "idiots" on the air. You don't see them calling them "nuts" on the air. You don't see them calling names on the air. You don't see them --

O'REILLY: And the last time I called somebody an "idiot" was?

BROWN: But you did it, Bill --

O'REILLY: When?

BROWN: -- and you know you did it.

O'REILLY: When?

BROWN: You did it last week. You did it last week on -- with Barbara Boxer. You called her a "nut." You called the voters who voted for her "loony." Is that not true?

O'REILLY: That's not true. I mean, what I do is I say, "there are loony left-wing people" or "this is nuts," but I never say "She's a nut" or "This person is a loon."

BROWN: Bill, I suggest you --

O'REILLY: Come on.

BROWN: I suggest you play your tape. You did call Barbara Boxer a "nut" last week.

O'REILLY: I -- her position is nutty on certain issues. I do not call her a "nut." And, you know, we'll pull it [the clip], and we'll show that you're wrong.

But here's the deal. You write for a liberal newspaper --

BROWN: It's your radio program.

O'Reilly labeled Boxer "a nut" on the January 19 broadcast of Westwood One's The Radio Factor with Bill O'Reilly, as Media Matters documented at the time:

O'REILLY: And, she sponsored a bill to have jet airlines be equipped with missile defense systems. [laugh] It didn't pass because -- so look. I mean, this is a nut. All right? This is a nut we got in the Senate.

O'Reilly's claim that "I never say ... 'This person is a loon'" was particularly dishonest since "loon" is one of O'Reilly's more frequently used epithets. Here are some examples:

  • So all you guys -- all you people with the Madonna CDs? Just cross out Madonna and write in Esther. This woman's not a loon, is she? [Radio Factor, 6/17/04]
  • And when I saw these attacks on him [actor and director Mel Gibson], and you know, using his father, who is undeniably a loon, but using his father to bash him, and -- oh! I -- I mean, it -- it just made me sick because he has a right to put that movie [The Passion of the Christ] out. [Radio Factor, 6/18/04]
  • The New York City judge, who's a loon, by the way, in my opinion. We did this on The Factor last night, says you can't search the protesters out on the street. [Radio Factor, 7/21/04]
  • Is Sharon Stone a loon, or what? [Radio Factor, 8/4/04]
  • Look at the people -- write all the people that you know pretty well down on a sheet of paper. I guarantee you 30 percent of those people are loons. I guarantee it. Everybody who's a human being knows 30 percent of the people they know are insane. [Radio Factor, 8/11/04]
  • I believe that Kerry is a smart guy who has an understanding of policy and our position in the world. Unlike Howard Dean, who is a raving loon. Did I make that clear enough? [Radio Factor, 9/27/04]
  • The nutty people over at MoveOn.org have attacked Gallup. ... I mean, these people are just loons -- the Kool-Aid people. [Radio Factor, 9/28/04]
  • Now, outta the 20 percent base of people who say they're liberal, I would say about 10 percent of those, half, are crazed -- loons. Just nuts -- who run around and do a lotta damage. [Radio Factor, 10/28/04]
  • And then this Randy Moss, this loon who plays for the Minnesota Vikings. Grosses out a national audience. And, the NFL doesn't look like they're gonna do anything about it, and they should. [Radio Factor, 1/10/05]

Posted to the web on Wednesday January 26, 2005 at 1:02 PM EST

Writer Backing Bush Plan Had Gotten Federal Contract

January 26th, 2005 2:01 pm
Writer Backing Bush Plan Had Gotten Federal Contract

By Howard Kurtz / Washington Post

In 2002, syndicated columnist Maggie Gallagher repeatedly defended President Bush's push for a $300 million initiative encouraging marriage as a way of strengthening families.

"The Bush marriage initiative would emphasize the importance of marriage to poor couples" and "educate teens on the value of delaying childbearing until marriage," she wrote in National Review Online, for example, adding that this could "carry big payoffs down the road for taxpayers and children."

But Gallagher failed to mention that she had a $21,500 contract with the Department of Health and Human Services to help promote the president's proposal. Her work under the contract, which ran from January through October 2002, included drafting a magazine article for the HHS official overseeing the initiative, writing brochures for the program and conducting a briefing for department officials.

"Did I violate journalistic ethics by not disclosing it?" Gallagher said yesterday. "I don't know. You tell me." She said she would have "been happy to tell anyone who called me" about the contract but that "frankly, it never occurred to me" to disclose it.

Later in the day, Gallagher filed a column in which she said that "I should have disclosed a government contract when I later wrote about the Bush marriage initiative. I would have, if I had remembered it. My apologies to my readers."

In the interview, Gallagher said her situation was "not really anything near" the recent controversy involving conservative commentator Armstrong Williams. Earlier this month Williams apologized for not disclosing a $241,000 contract with the Education Department, awarded through the Ketchum public relations firm, to promote Bush's No Child Left Behind law through advertising on his cable TV and syndicated radio shows and other efforts.

Gallagher received an additional $20,000 from the Bush administration in 2002 and 2003 for writing a report, titled "Can Government Strengthen Marriage?", for a private organization called the National Fatherhood Initiative. That report, published last year, was funded by a Justice Department grant, said NFI spokesman Vincent DiCaro. Gallagher said she was "aware vaguely" that her work was federally funded.

In columns, television appearances and interviews with such newspapers as The Washington Post, Gallagher last year defended Bush's proposal for a constitutional amendment barring same-sex marriage.

Wade Horn, HHS assistant secretary for children and families, said his division hired Gallagher as "a well-known national expert," along with other specialists in the field, to help devise the president's healthy marriage initiative. "It's not unusual in the federal government to do that," he said.

The essay Gallagher drafted appeared under Horn's byline -- with the headline "Closing the Marriage Gap" -- and ran in Crisis magazine, which promotes humanism rooted in Catholic Church teachings. Horn said most of the brochures written by Gallagher -- such as "The Top Ten Reasons Marriage Matters" -- were not used as the program evolved.

"I don't see any comparison between what has been alleged with Armstrong Williams and what we did with Maggie Gallagher," said Horn, who founded the National Fatherhood Initiative before entering government. "We didn't pay her to write columns. We didn't pay her to promote the president's healthy marriage initiative at all. What we wanted to do was use her expertise." The Education Department is now investigating the Williams contract.

The author of three books on marriage, Gallagher is president of the Washington-based Institute for Marriage and Public Policy, a frequent television guest and has written on the subject for such publications as the New York Times, Wall Street Journal and Weekly Standard.

While she was being paid by HHS in 2002, Gallagher in her syndicated column dismissed the arguments against "President Bush's modest marriage initiative" as "nonsense," writing: "Bush plans to use a tiny fraction of surplus welfare dollars to fund marriage education services for at-risk couples."

In a column later that year that appeared in the Myrtle Beach (S.C.) Sun News, Gallagher said Bush's welfare-revision bill would, among other things, encourage "stable marriages," and that it was a "scandal" for Democrats to reject the president's plan and fail to offer an alternative.

National Review Editor Rich Lowry said of the HHS contract: "We would have preferred that she told us, and we would have disclosed it in her bio."

Tribune Media Services dropped Williams's column after his administration contract was disclosed. Universal Press Syndicate, which distributes Gallagher's column, plans no such action.

"We did not know about the contract," spokeswoman Kathie Kerr said. "We would have probably liked to have known." But, Kerr said, "this is what we hired Maggie to write about. It probably wouldn't have changed our mind to distribute it."

Gonzales The Pejuror?

Gonzales: Did He Help Bush Keep His DUI Quiet?
Bush and Gonzales
Mannie Garcia / Reuters
Did Gonzales (right) get Bush off a DUI jury duty?

Newsweek

Jan. 31 issue - Senate Democrats put off a vote on White House counsel Alberto Gonzales's nomination to be attorney general, complaining he had provided evasive answers to questions about torture and the mistreatment of prisoners. But Gonzales's most surprising answer may have come on a different subject: his role in helping President Bush escape jury duty in a drunken-driving case involving a dancer at an Austin strip club in 1996. The judge and other lawyers in the case last week disputed a written account of the matter provided by Gonzales to the Senate Judiciary Committee. "It's a complete misrepresentation," said David Wahlberg, lawyer for the dancer, about Gonzales's account.

Bush's summons to serve as a juror in the drunken-driving case was, in retrospect, a fateful moment in his political career: by getting excused from jury duty he was able to avoid questions that would have required him to disclose his own 1976 arrest and conviction for driving under the influence of alcohol (DUI) in Kennebunkport, Maine—an incident that didn't become public until the closing days of the 2000 campaign. (Bush, who had publicly declared his willingness to serve, had left blank on his jury questionnaire whether he had ever been "accused" in a criminal case.) Asked by Sen. Patrick Leahy to describe "in detail" the only court appearance he ever made on behalf of Bush, Gonzales—who was then chief counsel to the Texas governor—wrote that he had accompanied Bush the day he went to court "prepared to serve on a jury." While there, Gonzales wrote, he "observed" the defense lawyer make a motion to strike Bush from the jury panel "to which the prosecutor did not object." Asked by the judge whether he had "any views on this," Gonzales recalled, he said he did not.

While Gonzales's account tracks with the official court transcript, it leaves out a key part of what appened that day, according to Travis County Judge David Crain. In separate interviews, Crain—along with Wahlberg and prosecutor John Lastovica—told NEWSWEEK that, before the case began, Gonzales asked to have an off-the-record conference in the judge's chambers. Gonzales then asked Crain to "consider" striking Bush from the jury, making the novel "conflict of interest" argument that the Texas governor might one day be asked to pardon the defendant (who worked at an Austin nightclub called Sugar's), the judge said. "He [Gonzales] raised the issue," Crain said. Crain said he found Gonzales's argument surprising, since it was "extremely unlikely" that a drunken-driving conviction would ever lead to a pardon petition to Bush. But "out of deference" to the governor, Crain said, the other lawyers went along. Wahlberg said he agreed to make the motion striking Bush because he didn't want the hard-line governor on his jury anyway. But there was little doubt among the participants as to what was going on. "In public, they were making a big show of how he was prepared to serve," said Crain. "In the back room, they were trying to get him off."

Gonzales last week refused to waver. "Judge Gonzales has no recollection of requesting a meeting in chambers," a senior White House official said, adding that while Gonzales did recall that Bush's potential conflict was "discussed," he never "requested" that Bush be excused. "His answer to the Senate's question is accurate," the official said.

Bush's Assault on the Environment

BUSH'S ASSAULT ON THE ENVIRONMENT

According to a new report from the Natural Resources Defense Council, the Bush administration, in just the past year, has “took nearly 150 actions to undermine environmental protections over the past year, consistent with its historic assault on the nation’s environmental safeguards.”

So what’s on Bush’s impressive environmental resume?:

Environmental Enforcement Is Down
EPA data documents a 75 percent decline in the number of federal lawsuits filed against companies violating national environmental laws in the first three years of the Bush administration as compared to the last three years of the Clinton administration. Civil citations for polluters are down 57 percent since 2001, and criminal prosecutions have fallen 17 percent.

Letting Industry Draft a Mercury Proposal
In January 2004, the EPA unveiled proposals to regulate mercury emissions from power plants that were criticized as far weaker than enforcing current Clean Air Act law. In September 2004, internal agency documents were made public confirming that the EPA’s proposal copied passages from a memo written by lawyers representing the utility industry.

Trying to Legalize Sewage Dumping in Our Waterways
According to EPA data, sewage releases onto our lands and into our waters occur thousands of time annually in the United States, and typically contain bacteria, viruses, fecal matter, and a host of other dangerous wastes. In December 2004, the EPA was poised to finalize a policy that would allow the routine release of inadequately treated sewage into waterways as long as it is diluted with treated sewage, a process the agency has euphemistically labeled “blending."

Among other things.

Data Show Environmental Deterioration

There is ample data affirming that the Bush administration's destructive policies have had a significant negative effect on our nation's environment. The facts are clear. The figures above and below, largely drawn from the administration's own data, show that environmental protection declining precipitously.


Toxic Releases Are Up

After years of consistent decline, the most recent annual inventory of industrial toxic releases shows an increase of 5 percent in the release of toxic substances into our air, water, and land. Data released in June 2004 document toxic releases from industrial facilities of nearly 4.8 billion pounds.


Environmental Enforcement Is Down

EPA data documents a 75 percent decline in the number of federal lawsuits filed against companies violating national environmental laws in the first three years of the Bush administration as compared to the last three years of the Clinton administration. Civil citations for polluters are down 57 percent since 2001, and criminal prosecutions have fallen 17 percent.


Pollution-Related Beach Closings Are Up

The EPA reports a 36 percent increase in annual beach closings due to unsafe water quality since 2001. Sewage contamination is an important and growing part of the problem.


Mercury Contamination Warnings Are Up

A total of 2,348 fish consumption advisories for mercury contamination were issued in 45 states in 2003. Seventy-six percent of fish samples from U.S. lakes were found to contain mercury levels unsafe for children 3 years old and younger to eat twice a week, according to the EPA. Every year more than 600,000 newborns may have been exposed to levels of mercury exceeding EPA health standards while still in the womb.


Hazardous Waste Cleanups Are Down

The pace of completed cleanups of Superfund hazardous waste sites, which increased dramatically in the later years of the Clinton era, has declined 52 percent since 2001, according to the EPA's own estimates. The Bush administration has refused to seek renewal of the Superfund clean-up tax on polluting industries, allowing the fund effectively to go bankrupt. The EPA reported 34 unfunded Superfund cleanups in 19 states in 2004.


Perchlorate Contamination Is Widespread

Perchlorate, a toxic rocket fuel additive, is leaching out from military dumps and contaminating the drinking water of more than 20 million Americans. More than 90 percent of lettuce and milk sampled nationwide showed levels of perchlorate that may be unsafe for children. Despite recommendations from scientific experts at the EPA to severely reduce perchlorate contamination, the Bush administration has refused to take action.


Dirtier Air, Longer

In September 2004, EPA's inspector general concluded that the agency was not making sufficient progress in reducing the pollutants that cause ozone smog in the nation's population centers. According to EPA data, 159 million Americans (55 percent of our population) now live in areas with hazardous smog levels and 100 million people live in areas that violate the EPA's new pollution standards for harmful soot.


Less Oversight of Refineries

There has been a 52 percent decrease in EPA clean air inspections at refinerie since 2001, and a 68 percent reduction in the number of notices of violations issued to refineries over the same period.

Until recently, our environmental laws and the infrastructure for their enforcement were a model for the world and a tremendous success in improving our quality of life and protecting our health. But today, with its foundations under assault from within, our system for environmental protection is becoming less effective and less credible with each passing day. As evidenced by the statistics above, our environment, our quality of life, and our health are suffering as a result.


Some of 2004's Worst Environmental Actions

It is a considerable understatement to observe that 2004 was not a good year for the environment. Below is a quick review of some of the year's most troubling Bush administration actions.


Letting Industry Draft a Mercury Proposal

In January 2004, the EPA unveiled proposals to regulate mercury emissions from power plants that were criticized as far weaker than enforcing current Clean Air Act law. In September 2004, internal agency documents were made public confirming that the EPA's proposal copied passages from a memo written by lawyers representing the utility industry.


Trying to Legalize Sewage Dumping in Our Waterways

According to EPA data, sewage releases onto our lands and into our waters occur thousands of time annually in the United States, and typically contain bacteria, viruses, fecal matter, and a host of other dangerous wastes. In December 2004, the EPA was poised to finalize a policy that would allow the routine release of inadequately treated sewage into waterways as long as it is diluted with treated sewage, a process the agency has euphemistically labeled "blending."


Managing National Forests for Forestry Companies

In December 2004, after President Bush proclaimed that his environmental policies have "improved habitat on public and private lands," the U.S. Forest Service formally nullified basic wildlife protections dating back to the Reagan administration. Under the new rule, the Forest Service will be able to eradicate many fish and wildlife populations that inhabit national forests.


Drinking Water Contamination to Remain Unregulated

In April 2004, the EPA formally decided to ignore the recommendations of the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) regarding the regulation of additional substances not currently listed under the law. The EPA postponed consideration of the NAS recommendations until the issuance of a new list of contaminants not scheduled to be released until 2007 or later. Among the pervasive drinking water contaminants that the EPA has declined to regulate is the rocket fuel component perchlorate, which contaminates over 20 million Americans' drinking water. Over the past four years, the agency also has missed a series of Congressional deadlines for controlling new drinking water contaminants and strengthening current standards, and failed to conduct a pivotal review of the extent of waterborne diseases mandated by Congress in the 1996 Safe Drinking Water Act amendments.


Ceding Public Lands to Energy Companies

The natural treasures threatened with oil and gas drilling and related activities as a result of decisions by the Bureau of Land Management over the past year include: Otero Mesa, a unique grassland in southern New Mexico; Nine Mile Canyon, in eastern Utah's West Tavaputs Plateau; the Western Arctic Reserve in northern Alaska; the Jack Morrow Hills in southwest Wyoming; and Valle Vidal, an alpine sanctuary for Rocky Mountain wildlife located near the Philmont Boy Scout Ranch in northern New Mexico.


The Coming Battles

The effort of Bush environmental agencies to undermine environmental enforcement and weaken key programs seems certain to continue through the coming year. But indications are this will be only a part of the battle. As the Bush administration evaluates where it stands at the midpoint, there is every indication that in its second term it will seek a more lasting legacy of change in the way our environment is treated.

In his first term, President Bush was largely unsuccessful in Congress with his ambitious proposals for overhauling the nation's environmental laws. With the notable exception of damaging forest legislation, which was enacted under the guise of fighting fires, other major legislative proposals fell by the wayside, including those concerning energy, air policy, and endangered species. As a result, the president increasingly turned to administrative actions. Some of these actions were withdrawn after public outcries; others were overturned in the courts as illegal under environmental laws.

Now with expanded majorities to work with in the House and Senate, it appears that the Bush administration and its industry allies will more aggressively pursue permanent weakening changes by rewriting the statutes in Congress and packing the courts with extremists unreceptive to our environmental laws.

The most contentious early Congressional battles on the environment will likely include:


Energy Legislation

There is good reason to expect a reprise of the energy fights of the past two Congresses. The White House and its allies will push to further relax the environmental safeguards applying to energy development on public lands, and to grant huge subsidies to the oil, gas, coal, and nuclear industries. Environmental forces will promote provisions to enhance energy efficiency, expand the use renewable energy, and reduce America's reliance on oil. The stakes are especially high because a bad energy bill might underwrite dramatic increases in fossil fuel use for years to come, making it far more difficult to enhance our reliance on cleaner energy and address the global warming problem.


Arctic National Wildlife Refuge

Advocates of drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge are fully aware that they do not have the votes to make drilling legal through, for example, authorizing Arctic drilling in energy legislation. Instead drilling proponents are expected to turn to budget legislation where special rules apply, allowing them to shortcut the legislative process by bypassing filibusters. This means there will likely be a two-stage battle, with an initial engagement around the Congressional budget resolution in the spring or summer of 2005, and a possible second battle in the context of the so-called budget reconciliation legislation, which may move forward in the summer or fall of 2005. The Arctic refuge is critically important to protect both for its own irreplaceable natural value, and because opening the refuge to drilling would pave the way for an assault on other public wildlands in refuges, forests, and parks throughout America.


Clean Air

The most contentious and high-profile environmental battle of the coming Congress may well surround the Bush administration's effort to fundamentally rewrite and weaken the Clean Air Act. The leading edge of this initiative will be the administration's proposal to weaken the law's new source review program and relax requirements for control of mercury pollution from power plants, currently promoted under the label "Clear Skies." Once the Clean Air Act is in play, industry forces will almost certainly advocate a range of additional weakening changes to reduce their obligations under the law. Environmentalists will of course promote strengthening amendments to remedy some of the most glaring regulatory excesses of the Bush administration's EPA, and to better address important new problems like global warming.

Unlike past Bush administration environmental battles, which often occurred below the public radar, the effort to weaken the Clean Air Act will involve public hearings, open debates, and public voting, and is likely to prompt substantial media scrutiny.


Endangered Species

One of the earliest environmental battles in the coming Congress may involve efforts to weaken the nation's premier wildlife protection law, the Endangered Species Act (ESA). Opponents of the law are promoting a broad range of unfortunate changes, including proposals that would make it harder to add new species to the list of endangered and threatened wildlife, eliminate protection for critical habitat, and weaken the legal tools environmental advocates have relied on to ensure protection for imperiled wildlife. Legislation seems likely to move first in the House of Representatives, since last year two anti-ESA bills were voted out of the House Resources Committee, which is chaired by California Republican Richard Pombo.


Environmental Exemptions for the Defense Department

Having recently secured exemptions from the Marine Mammal Protection Act and key provisions of the ESA, the Department of Defense (DOD) is now prepared to up the ante by seeking blanket exemptions from key health protection laws, including the Clean Air Act, the Safe Drinking Water Act, the Resources Conservation and Recovery Act, and the Superfund statute. Each of these laws already has a special provision allowing the DOD to escape any requirement that might hinder national security, although the DOD has never made an effort to utilize these provisions. This is an important battle because military facilities around the country routinely handle a variety of dangerous substances, including munitions and radioactive materials, which have the potential to cause a host of serious environmental problems and threaten the health of both civilian and military personnel. This battle appears likely to occur in the context of legislation authorizing funding for the military.

Beyond these policy battles, a new arena for major environmental engagement may emerge in the Senate's consideration of judicial nominees. With the administration stretching credulity in its efforts to redefine environmental laws to require less and less protection, the courts have proven a vital last refuge for preserving the integrity of our landmark statutes. In key recent cases, federal courts have, for example, sustained environmental objections to Bush policies concerning clean air, energy efficiency, clean water; snowmobile access to Yellowstone National Park, the disposal of high-level nuclear waste; policies surrounding energy development in public wildlands; and the Navy's deployment of a new form of sonar that threatens marine mammals.

Given this pattern of disregard for environmental laws by government agencies, the continued independence and integrity of the judiciary is crucially important. If nominees to influential courts, including the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, and the Supreme Court, have records suggesting a hostility to environmental statutes, environmental forces are likely to invest heavily to make environmental and public health issues a key part of the Senate confirmation battles.

With permanent changes to our environmental protections hanging in the balance, the stakes will be higher than ever in the coming year. Only through an alert media and an informed and mobilized citizenry, can environmental forces hope to hold the line in these important engagements.


Eric Hananoki

A Degrading Policy

A Degrading Policy

Wednesday, January 26, 2005; Page A20

ALBERTO R. GONZALES was vague, unresponsive and misleading in his testimony to the Senate Judiciary Committee about the Bush administration's detention of foreign prisoners. In his written answers to questions from the committee, prepared in anticipation of today's vote on his nomination as attorney general, Mr. Gonzales was clearer -- disturbingly so, as it turns out. According to President Bush's closest legal adviser, this administration continues to assert its right to indefinitely hold foreigners in secret locations without any legal process; to deny them access to the International Red Cross; to transport them to countries where torture is practiced; and to subject them to treatment that is "cruel, inhumane or degrading," even though such abuse is banned by an international treaty that the United States has ratified. In effect, Mr. Gonzales has confirmed that the Bush administration is violating human rights as a matter of policy.

Mr. Gonzales stated at his hearing that he and Mr. Bush oppose "torture and abuse." But his written testimony to the committee makes clear that "abuse" is, in fact, permissible -- provided that it is practiced by the Central Intelligence Agency on foreigners held outside the United States. The Convention Against Torture, which the United States ratified in 1994, prohibits not only torture but "cruel, inhumane or degrading treatment." The Senate defined such treatment as abuse that would violate the Fifth, Eighth or 14th amendments to the Constitution -- a standard that the Bush administration formally accepted in 2003.

But Mr. Gonzales revealed that during his tenure as White House counsel, the administration twisted this straightforward standard to make it possible for the CIA to subject detainees to such practices as sensory deprivation, mock execution and simulated drowning. The constitutional amendments, he told the committee, technically do not apply to foreigners held abroad; therefore, in the administration's view the torture treaty does not bind intelligence interrogators operating on foreign soil. "The Department of Justice has concluded," he wrote, that "there is no legal prohibition under the Convention Against Torture on cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment with respect to aliens overseas."

According to most legal experts, this is a gross distortion of the law. The Senate cited the constitutional amendments in ratifying the treaty precisely to set a clear standard that could be applied to foreigners. Nevertheless, Mr. Gonzales uses this false loophole to justify practices that contravene fundamental American standards. He was asked if there were any legal prohibition against U.S. personnel using simulated drowning and mock executions as well as sleep deprivation, dogs to inspire fear, hooding, forced nudity, the forced injection of mood-altering drugs and the threat of sending a detainee to another country for torture, among other abuses. He answered: "Some might . . . be permissible in certain circumstances."

This is not a theoretical matter. The CIA today is holding an undetermined number of prisoners, believed to be in the dozens, in secret facilities in foreign countries. It has provided no account of them or their treatment to any outside body, and it has allowed no visits by the Red Cross. According to numerous media reports, it has subjected the prisoners to many of the abuses Mr. Gonzales said "might be permissible." It has practiced such mistreatment in Iraq, even though detainees there are covered by the Geneva Conventions; according to official investigations by the Pentagon, CIA treatment of prisoners there and in Afghanistan contributed to the adoption of illegal methods by military interrogators.

In an attempt to close the loophole, Sen. Richard J. Durbin (D-Ill.), Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman (D-Conn.) sought to attach an amendment to the intelligence reform legislation last fall specifying that "no prisoner shall be subject to torture or cruel, inhumane or degrading treatment or punishment that is prohibited by the Constitution, laws or treaties of the United States." The Senate adopted the provision unanimously. Later, however, it was stripped from the bill at the request of the White House. In his written testimony, Mr. Gonzales affirmed that the provision would have "provided legal protections to foreign prisoners to which they are not now entitled." Senators who supported the amendment consequently face a critical question: If they vote to confirm Mr. Gonzales as the government's chief legal authority, will they not be endorsing the systematic use of "cruel, inhumane and degrading" practices by the United States?

Faith Based Fraud

The Faith-Based Fraud

Mon Jan 24,10:55 AM ET
Ari Berman


After its highly touted unveiling, President Bush (news - web sites)'s faith-based initiative has proceeded largely under the radar. But a lack of attention hasn't shielded the program's constitutional questionability, or its brutal effectiveness.


In 2003--according to White House data reported by the Los Angeles Times--Bush doled out $1 billion to hundreds of faith-based groups through a little-noted executive order. More importantly, the Bush Administration used the grants to sway influential African-Americans in key battleground states and reward longtime political supporters at taxpayer expense.

For example, after the Rev. Herb Lusk II delivered the invocation at the 2000 Republican convention, his Philadelphia church received $1 million in federal funds. Bishop Harold Ray, who offered the invocation at a rally for Dick Cheney (news - web sites) in Palm Beach, Florida, got $1.7 million for his South Florida ministry. In 2002 Bush personally visited Milwaukee's Bishop Sedgwick Daniels--who voted for Clinton and Gore--and later awarded him a $1.5 million grant. This fall, Daniels's face appeared on Republican Party fliers in Wisconsin, endorsing Bush as a man who "shares our views."

The faith-based initiatives likely played a crucial role in increasing Bush's take of the black vote, especially in targeted swing states. Funnily enough, the campaign held grant-writing workshops in St. Louis in September (when Missouri was still in play) and Miami in October.

Moreover, it's unclear exactly how much money is going where. The recent White House data contains a caveat that it represents all grants. Even the Rev. Sun Myung Moon's cultish Unification Church has received funding. And House Republicans allegedly blocked Democrat Chet Edwards from investigating the money flow.

When the initiative's first director, John Dilulio, resigned after six months on the job, he called White House policy-makers "Mayberry Machiavellis" who "consistently talked and acted as if the height of political sophistication consisted in reducing every issue to its simplest, black-and-white terms for public consumption, then steering legislative initiatives or policy proposals as far right as possible."

Bush plans to highlight the initiative in his State of the Union address and reintroduce the expanded legislation before the new Republican Congress. The number-one "Mayberry Machiavelli" keeps confusing holy work with partisan gain.


Copyright © 2005 The Nation
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Rumsfeld's Spys

Some months ago Journalist and investigative Reporter Sy Hersh described in his book "Chain of Command: The Road from 9/11 to Abu Grhaib" the creation of a "Special Access" unit by Donald Rumsfeld, whose operative purpose was to peform "Snatch and Grab" operations overseas on high profile terrorist intellegence targets, as a method to short-cut and bypass international laws and treaties which would have required extensive notification and co-ordination with foreign officials and law enforcement.

Now it appears that the Pentagon has finally begun to admit to exactly this type of "secret unit", whether this group is the same special access team described by Hersh and his confidential sources, or simply an additional group designed to allow Rumsfeld a free hand at clandestine operations without reliance on the CIA - and consequently outside the perview of the recently enacted Intelligence Reform Bill - remains to be seen:


washingtonpost.com

Secret Unit Expands Rumsfeld's Domain
New Espionage Branch Delving Into CIA Territory

By Barton Gellman
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, January 23, 2005; Page A01


The Pentagon, expanding into the CIA's historic bailiwick, has created a new espionage arm and is reinterpreting U.S. law to give Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld broad authority over clandestine operations abroad, according to interviews with participants and documents obtained by The Washington Post.

The previously undisclosed organization, called the Strategic Support Branch, arose from Rumsfeld's written order to end his "near total dependence on CIA" for what is known as human intelligence. Designed to operate without detection and under the defense secretary's direct control, the Strategic Support Branch deploys small teams of case officers, linguists, interrogators and technical specialists alongside newly empowered special operations forces.

Military and civilian participants said in interviews that the new unit has been operating in secret for two years -- in Iraq, Afghanistan and other places they declined to name. According to an early planning memorandum to Rumsfeld from Gen. Richard B. Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the focus of the intelligence initiative is on "emerging target countries such as Somalia, Yemen, Indonesia, Philippines and Georgia." Myers and his staff declined to be interviewed.

The Strategic Support Branch was created to provide Rumsfeld with independent tools for the "full spectrum of humint operations," according to an internal account of its origin and mission. Human intelligence operations, a term used in counterpoint to technical means such as satellite photography, range from interrogation of prisoners and scouting of targets in wartime to the peacetime recruitment of foreign spies. A recent Pentagon memo states that recruited agents may include "notorious figures" whose links to the U.S. government would be embarrassing if disclosed.

Perhaps the most significant shift is the Defense Department's bid to conduct surreptitious missions, in friendly and unfriendly states, when conventional war is a distant or unlikely prospect -- activities that have traditionally been the province of the CIA's Directorate of Operations. Senior Rumsfeld advisers said those missions are central to what they called the department's predominant role in combating terrorist threats.

The Pentagon has a vast bureaucracy devoted to gathering and analyzing intelligence, often in concert with the CIA, and news reports over more than a year have described Rumsfeld's drive for more and better human intelligence. But the creation of the espionage branch, the scope of its clandestine operations and the breadth of Rumsfeld's asserted legal authority have not been detailed publicly before. Two longtime members of the House Intelligence Committee, a Democrat and a Republican, said they knew no details before being interviewed for this article.

Pentagon officials said they established the Strategic Support Branch using "reprogrammed" funds, without explicit congressional authority or appropriation. Defense intelligence missions, they said, are subject to less stringent congressional oversight than comparable operations by the CIA. Rumsfeld's dissatisfaction with the CIA's operations directorate, and his determination to build what amounts in some respects to a rival service, follows struggles with then-CIA Director George J. Tenet over intelligence collection priorities in Afghanistan and Iraq. Pentagon officials said the CIA naturally has interests that differ from those of military commanders, but they also criticized its operations directorate as understaffed, slow-moving and risk-averse. A recurring phrase in internal Pentagon documents is the requirement for a human intelligence branch "directly responsive to tasking from SecDef," or Rumsfeld.

The new unit's performance in the field -- and its latest commander, reserve Army Col. George Waldroup -- are controversial among those involved in the closely held program. Pentagon officials acknowledged that Waldroup and many of those brought quickly into his service lack the experience and training typical of intelligence officers and special operators. In his civilian career as a federal manager, according to a Justice Department inspector general's report, Waldroup was at the center of a 1996 probe into alleged deception of Congress concerning staffing problems at Miami International Airport. Navy Vice Adm. Lowell E. Jacoby, director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, expressed "utmost confidence in Colonel Waldroup's capabilities" and said in an interview that Waldroup's unit has scored "a whole series of successes" that he could not reveal in public. He acknowledged the risks, however, of trying to expand human intelligence too fast: "It's not something you quickly constitute as a capability. It's going to take years to do."

Rumsfeld's ambitious plans rely principally on the Tampa-based U.S. Special Operations Command, or SOCOM, and on its clandestine component, the Joint Special Operations Command. Rumsfeld has designated SOCOM's leader, Army Gen. Bryan D. Brown, as the military commander in chief in the war on terrorism. He has also given Brown's subordinates new authority to pay foreign agents. The Strategic Support Branch is intended to add missing capabilities -- such as the skill to establish local spy networks and the technology for direct access to national intelligence databases -- to the military's much larger special operations squadrons. Some Pentagon officials refer to the combined units as the "secret army of Northern Virginia."

Known as "special mission units," Brown's elite forces are not acknowledged publicly. They include two squadrons of an Army unit popularly known as Delta Force, another Army squadron -- formerly code-named Gray Fox -- that specializes in close-in electronic surveillance, an Air Force human intelligence unit and the Navy unit popularly known as SEAL Team Six.

The Defense Department is planning for further growth. Among the proposals circulating are the establishment of a Pentagon-controlled espionage school, largely duplicating the CIA's Field Tradecraft Course at Camp Perry, Va., and of intelligence operations commands for every region overseas.

Rumsfeld's efforts, launched in October 2001, address two widely shared goals. One is to give combat forces, such as those fighting the insurgency in Iraq, more and better information about their immediate enemy. The other is to find new tools to penetrate and destroy the shadowy organizations, such as al Qaeda, that pose global threats to U.S. interests in conflicts with little resemblance to conventional war.

In pursuit of those aims, Rumsfeld is laying claim to greater independence of action as Congress seeks to subordinate the 15 U.S. intelligence departments and agencies -- most under Rumsfeld's control -- to the newly created and still unfilled position of national intelligence director. For months, Rumsfeld opposed the intelligence reorganization bill that created the position. He withdrew his objections late last year after House Republican leaders inserted language that he interprets as preserving much of the department's autonomy.

Lt. Gen. William G. Boykin, deputy undersecretary for intelligence, acknowledged that Rumsfeld intends to direct some missions previously undertaken by the CIA. He added that it is wrong to make "an assumption that what the secretary is trying to say is, 'Get the CIA out of this business, and we'll take it.' I don't interpret it that way at all."

"The secretary actually has more responsibility to collect intelligence for the national foreign intelligence program . . . than does the CIA director," Boykin said. "That's why you hear all this information being published about the secretary having 80 percent of the [intelligence] budget. Well, yeah, but he has 80 percent of the responsibility for collection, as well."

CIA spokeswoman Anya Guilsher said the agency would grant no interviews for this article.

Pentagon officials emphasized their intention to remain accountable to Congress, but they also asserted that defense intelligence missions are subject to fewer legal constraints than Rumsfeld's predecessors believed. That assertion involves new interpretations of Title 10 of the U.S. Code, which governs the armed services, and Title 50, which governs, among other things, foreign intelligence.

Under Title 10, for example, the Defense Department must report to Congress all "deployment orders," or formal instructions from the Joint Chiefs of Staff to position U.S. forces for combat. But guidelines issued this month by Undersecretary for Intelligence Stephen A. Cambone state that special operations forces may "conduct clandestine HUMINT operations . . . before publication" of a deployment order, rendering notification unnecessary. Pentagon lawyers also define the "war on terror" as ongoing, indefinite and global in scope. That analysis effectively discards the limitation of the defense secretary's war powers to times and places of imminent combat.

Under Title 50, all departments of the executive branch are obliged to keep Congress "fully and currently informed of all intelligence activities." The law exempts "traditional . . . military activities" and their "routine support." Advisers said Rumsfeld, after requesting a fresh legal review by the Pentagon's general counsel, interprets "traditional" and "routine" more expansively than his predecessors.

"Operations the CIA runs have one set of restrictions and oversight, and the military has another," said a Republican member of Congress with a substantial role in national security oversight, declining to speak publicly against political allies. "It sounds like there's an angle here of, 'Let's get around having any oversight by having the military do something that normally the [CIA] does, and not tell anybody.' That immediately raises all kinds of red flags for me. Why aren't they telling us?"

The enumeration by Myers of "emerging target countries" for clandestine intelligence work illustrates the breadth of the Pentagon's new concept. All those named, save Somalia, have allied themselves with the United States -- if unevenly -- against al Qaeda and its jihadist allies.

A high-ranking official with direct responsibility for the initiative, declining to speak on the record about espionage in friendly nations, said the Defense Department sometimes has to work undetected inside "a country that we're not at war with, if you will, a country that maybe has ungoverned spaces, or a country that is tacitly allowing some kind of threatening activity to go on."

Assistant Secretary of Defense Thomas O'Connell, who oversees special operations policy, said Rumsfeld has discarded the "hide-bound way of thinking" and "risk-averse mentalities" of previous Pentagon officials under every president since Gerald R. Ford.

"Many of the restrictions imposed on the Defense Department were imposed by tradition, by legislation, and by interpretations of various leaders and legal advisors," O'Connell said in a written reply to follow-up questions. "The interpretations take on the force of law and may preclude activities that are legal. In my view, many of the authorities inherent to [the Defense Department] . . . were winnowed away over the years."

After reversing the restrictions, Boykin said, Rumsfeld's next question "was, 'Okay, do I have the capability?' And the answer was, 'No you don't have the capability. . . . And then it became a matter of, 'I want to build a capability to be able to do this.' "

Known by several names since its inception as Project Icon on April 25, 2002, the Strategic Support Branch is an arm of the DIA's nine-year-old Defense Human Intelligence Service, which until now has concentrated on managing military attach├ęs assigned openly to U.S. embassies around the world.

Rumsfeld's initiatives are not connected to previously reported negotiations between the Defense Department and the CIA over control of paramilitary operations, such as the capture of individuals or the destruction of facilities.

According to written guidelines made available to The Post, the Defense Department has decided that it will coordinate its human intelligence missions with the CIA but will not, as in the past, await consent. It also reserves the right to bypass the agency's Langley headquarters, consulting CIA officers in the field instead. The Pentagon will deem a mission "coordinated" after giving 72 hours' notice to the CIA.

Four people with firsthand knowledge said defense personnel have already begun operating under "non-official cover" overseas, using false names and nationalities. Those missions, and others contemplated in the Pentagon, skirt the line between clandestine and covert operations. Under U.S. law, "clandestine" refers to actions that are meant to be undetected, and "covert" refers to those for which the U.S. government denies its responsibility. Covert action is subject to stricter legal requirements, including a written "finding" of necessity by the president and prompt notification of senior leaders of both parties in the House and Senate.

O'Connell, asked whether the Pentagon foresees greater involvement in covert action, said "that remains to be determined." He added: "A better answer yet might be, depends upon the situation. But no one I know of is raising their hand and saying at DOD, 'We want control of covert operations.' "

One scenario in which Pentagon operatives might play a role, O'Connell said, is this: "A hostile country close to our borders suddenly changes leadership. . . . We would want to make sure the successor is not hostile."

Researcher Rob Thomason contributed to this report.


© 2005 The Washington Post Company

http://www.washingtonpost.com/ac2/wp-dyn/A...anguage=printe.

Tuesday, January 25

More Allegations of Abuse from the Pentagon

Pentagon Files Reveal More Allegations of Abuse in Iraq

  • Documents contain descriptions of severe detainee mistreatment beyond Abu Ghraib.

  • By John Hendren, Times Staff Writer

    WASHINGTON — Pentagon documents released Monday disclosed that Iraqi prisoners had lodged dozens of abuse complaints against U.S. and Iraqi personnel who guarded them at a little-known palace in Baghdad converted to a U.S. prison. Among the allegations was that guards had sodomized a disabled man and killed his brother, whose dying body was tossed into a cell, atop his sister.

    The documents, obtained in a lawsuit against the federal government by the American Civil Liberties Union, suggest for the first time that numerous detainees were abused at Adhamiya Palace, one of Saddam Hussein's villas in eastern Baghdad that was used by his son Uday. Previous cases of abuse of Iraqi prisoners have focused mainly on Abu Ghraib prison.

    A government contractor who was interviewed by U.S. investigators said that as many as 90 incidents of possible abuse took place at the palace, but only a few were detailed in the hundreds of pages of documents released Monday.

    The documents also touch on alleged abuses in other U.S.-run lockups in Iraq. The papers include investigative reports linking some abuses to ultrasecret Pentagon counter-terrorism units.

    The latest allegations add to a pattern that human rights activists said suggested systematic abuse of prisoners at U.S. military detention facilities across the globe. ACLU officials, who have obtained and released thousands of documents in recent months, on Monday accused the Pentagon of a "woefully inadequate" response to hundreds of incidents of alleged abuse.

    "Some of the investigations have basically whitewashed the torture and abuse," said the group's director, Anthony D. Romero. "The documents that the ACLU has obtained tell a damning story of widespread torture reaching well beyond the walls of Abu Ghraib."

    Responding to the latest allegations, U.S. military officials maintained that a few low-level troops had committed the abuses, independent of senior commanders. They noted that more than 300 criminal investigations had examined allegations of prisoner mistreatment and subjected 100 soldiers to court-martial proceedings and administrative punishments.

    "The Army and Department of Defense have aggressively investigated all credible allegations of detainee abuse and held individuals accountable," said Lt. Col. Gerard Healy, an Army spokesman.

    Few of the alleged abuses at the Adhamiya palace have previously received attention from Pentagon investigators or human rights groups. The palace is a prison overseen by the U.S. Army's 1st Cavalry Division, with interrogations conducted at least in part by members of the 5th Special Forces Group of Ft. Campbell, Ky.

    The alleged abuse at the palace included forced sodomy, electric shocks, cigarette burns and severe beatings. Some allegations by prisoners were corroborated by U.S. civilian military contractors hired to help interrogate detainees, according to the Pentagon documents.

    One prisoner held at the palace during 2004 said an Iraqi security officer had burned him with cigarettes and struck him repeatedly, the documents state. Another said Iraqi interrogators had pinched his nose and poured water in his mouth, raped him with a wooden stick and shocked his testicles.

    In one of the more detailed cases, Iraqi security troops arrested several members of a family accused of supplying arms and money to members of the fedayeen, paramilitaries who had been allied with Hussein's regime.

    A woman whose name was blacked out from the documents claimed in interviews with U.S. Army investigators that the bloody, bruised body of her brother had been tossed into her cell on top of her sister. Her brother died shortly afterward, according to her account.

    Another brother, who is disabled, said guards pulled him around by his penis. The guards forced a water bottle up his rectum, he told investigators.

    Military investigators noted in reports released Monday that the man's legs and arms are uneven in length from a bone deficiency.

    A woman who recounted a similar incident to the French newspaper Le Monde was identified recently as Houda Azzawi. Her brother who died was identified in the newspaper's article as Ayad.

    The family's complaints were supported by a sworn statement of a military contractor from CACI International Inc., who was interviewed at the Abu Ghraib prison, where the disabled brother was later sent.

    The contractor, whose name was redacted from the documents given to the ACLU, recalled "a detainee who was handicapped and was beaten up very bad."

    A second CACI contractor corroborated the story, saying that he did not witness abuse by Americans or Iraqis working with them, but noted in an interview with Army investigators "one incident of rape with a bottle and a death of a brother" in January at the palace.

    "I heard that the Iraqis recently killed him and hung him. I heard this through interpreters but not official channels yet," the contractor said. "One of the individuals who had been abused said he remembers one of the Americans had a flag on his arm."

    An Army Criminal Investigation Command document dated Oct. 14, 2004, concluded that there was insufficient evidence to prove the allegation that one of the detainees was abused by U.S. troops.

    "However, it appears he may have been abused by the Iraqi Civil Defense Corps," the document stated. After an ICDC captain turned over the detainee to U.S. troops, he "was received from the ICDC with visible injuries."

    The Army report, whose author's name also was blacked out, concluded that the investigation was "terminated" because continuing would be "of little or no value."

    Many detainees from Adhamiya who were transferred to Abu Ghraib complained of abuse to civilian interrogators, according to the documents. The interrogators said another detainee complained he was unable to sit after bottles were inserted into his rectum.

    "There were many detainees who came in abused. While we were screening the detainees, they would ask us, 'Are they going to beat us here too?' " the first interrogator said in a statement to investigators. "Some would have broken shoulders, others came in on crutches."

    The documents detailed dozens of other alleged abuses in other locations. ACLU officials said the documents suggested that Army criminal investigators failed to pursue leads in abuse cases.

    The documents released Monday raised questions about some activities of elite Special Forces teams. One investigation was based on Red Cross reports revealing that an Iraqi detainee turned over to a special U.S. commando unit known as Task Force 6-26 in April 2004 at a base in Fallouja had been abused.

    The Red Cross said the detainee had been suspended by his thighs and was beaten while hooded and restrained. The same reports indicated that the Iraqi had been shot in the arm and beaten in the shins with a rubber hose.

    However, the case was dropped after investigators concluded he was abused while in the custody of Kurds, before he was turned over to the commando unit, a conclusion ACLU officials continue to question.

    In another case involving a group known as Task Force 20, a collection of Special Forces soldiers and CIA officers, a 73-year-old woman complained she was arrested, flown to an undisclosed location and questioned for several days. She said one male captor "rode" her and called her names. She added that two of her fingers were broken and that she was sexually abused with a stick. That case was dropped because "the investigation did not develop sufficient evidence" to prove wrongdoing, investigators wrote.

    One investigation was begun in response to a May 11, 2004, Los Angeles Times article detailing the abuses suffered by Iraqi women in U.S. custody as described by their Iraqi attorneys. The matter was quickly dropped when investigators were unable to learn the names and locations of any victims.

    In another incident last July, according to the Army documents, a photo emerged showing an Army private pointing a gun at the head of a hooded and bound detainee.

    During questioning, the soldier in the photo, whose name was redacted, told investigators that his duties as a guard at an unnamed safe house operated by Special Forces and CIA personnel included requiring detainees to "maintain stressful positions" and preventing them from sleeping by playing loud music, dousing them with water or poking, prodding or slapping them, according to the documents.

    Although Army criminal investigators concluded there was probable cause to believe the soldier had committed aggravated assault by pointing his pistol at the detainee, there was no record of punishment or further investigation of the treatment of detainees at the safe house.

    An investigation into an alleged beating of an Iraqi detainee in February 2004 found "probable cause" that an unnamed lieutenant colonel had made a death threat and fired a pistol next to the detainee's head at a base in Taji.

    Four enlisted soldiers from the 2-20th Field Artillery Battalion of the Army's 4th Infantry Division and a civilian interpreter allegedly punched and kicked the detainee "numerous times while they were interrogating him."

    According to the Army documents, the soldiers received light administrative punishment and the interpreter does not appear to have been sanctioned at all.

    In a Nov. 14, 2003, statement, a U.S. soldier said he "saw what I think were war crimes" while assigned to a Baghdad facility known as Camp Red. In the statement, the soldier reported seeing U.S. troops assault detainees at the camp and the use of prolonged hooding, exposure to heat and cold and excessive restraints.

    "In my mind," the soldier said, "my chain of command did nothing to stop these war crimes, and allowed them to happen."

    Despite the soldier's testimony, the investigation was closed due to "insufficient evidence."

    Times staff writer Esther Schrader contributed to this report.