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NBC's Andrea Mitchell is reporting that Dennis Ross "will be coming back to the State Department as a "strategic advisor" on the near east and gulf region":
He will not be described as an envoy negotiating agreements and will not be involved in Middle East talks. That job will be up to former Sen. George Mitchell, who returns tonight from his first "listening tour" of the region.
But before the papers are signed for Ross' new employment with the US government, he should be asked a few questions about his relationship with the "Jewish People Policy Planning Institute," that group's relationship to the Government of Israel, and whether he has had any relationships which he should have disclosed under the Foreign Agents Registration Act.
WASHINGTON(AP) - New Hampshire Republican Sen. Judd Gregg says he would only agree to become President Barack Obama’s commerce secretary if his home state governor appoints a Republican to serve out the rest of his term.
In a statement Monday, Gregg says Senate leaders of both parties understand his condition. New Hampshire Gov. John Lynch confirmed that understanding in his own statement Monday.
An emerging deal would allow Republicans to keep the seat for two years and deny Democrats a filibuster-proof majority of 60 senators. Democrats, meanwhile, appear to stand a better chance of flipping the seat into their ranks in 2010 than if Gregg stayed and ran for a fourth term.
Gregg is Obama’s second choice for the Cabinet position. New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson withdrew from consideration because of a grand jury probe into state contracts.
By Benjamin G. Davis, Associate Professor of Law, University of Toledo College of Law
(commentary adapted from a presentation on January 19, 2009 at the Martin Luther King, Jr. Celebration at DePaul University Law School)
As I believe all Americans of whatever political persuasion, I exulted in our remarkable moment as a country when Barack Obama took the oath of office as the 44th President of the United States of America. This remarkable American moment has also had resonances on the international plane as I have understood from commentators that a comparison has been made to the election of Nelson Mandela in South Africa a few years ago, that Obama is both a President and immediately an iconic transformative figure. I have also heard and read the commentators who speak to us of the dream of Martin Luther King, Jr. having been achieved in this moment.
We now have a president who uses arguably unconstitutional powers that have been universally accepted to do GOOD things. Is this good or bad?
Those of us who prefer justice to arbitrary and unaccountable detention without charge or trial were delighted when, last week, Barack Obama fulfilled a long-stated promise and issued a presidential order stating that Guantánamo will be closed “as soon as practicable, and no later than one year from the date of this order,” and establishing an immediate review of the cases of the remaining 242 prisoners to work out whether they can be released.
Senator Feingold (WI): Congress Has An Independent Responsibility to Investigate Wrongdoing
7:51 mins. - Sen. Feingold's statement starts at 3:51 mins.
ACLU Calls On Justice Department To Release Bush Administration Torture And Surveillance Memos | Press Release
Releasing Secret Legal Opinions Will Help Turn Page On Lawless Era, Group Says
In a letter sent to the Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel (OLC) today, the American Civil Liberties Union requested the release of secret memos that provided the legal basis for many of the Bush administration's controversial national security policies. The Justice Department continues to withhold many legal opinions, including memos purporting to allow torture and warrantless surveillance. The ACLU has previously sought the memos through the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA).
I was shocked. For six years, I had been meeting secretly with the GOP mole I
called "Shallow Throat"** -- a high-ranking official in the Bush
Administration -- and each time, ST made sure to wear different wigs and scarves and dark
glasses. Now, here was Shallow Throat in front of me, at a Smithsonian cafe,
with no disguise. Except this time wearing a smile a mile wide.
"You've outed yourself," I said. "And you're grinning like a banshee. Has
Obama's election liberated you?"
By Dave Lindorff
President Barack Obama and his economic team are being careful to couch all their talk about economic stimulus programs and bank bailout programs in warnings that the economic downturn is serious and that it will take considerable time to bounce back.
I’m reminded of an experience I had with Chinese medicine when I was living in Shanghai back in 1992. I had come down with a nasty case of the flu while teaching journalism at Fudan University on a Fulbright Scholar program.
Special Comment: Why Obama Must Prosecute Bush's Torture
10:09 mins. - Note the "Arrest Bush" sign sporadically behind Olbermann.
BY Marisa Taylor, McClatchy Newspapers
WASHINGTON — Dozens of secret documents justifying the Bush administration's spying and interrogation programs could see the light of day because of a new presidential directive.
The American Civil Liberties Union asked the Obama administration on Wednesday to release Justice Department memos that provided the legal underpinning for harsh interrogations, eavesdropping and secret prisons.
For years, the Bush administration refused to release them, citing national security, attorney-client privilege and the need to protect the government's deliberative process.
U.S. lawmakers considering the closure of the controversial Guantanamo Bay detention center will likely be looking at a rehabilitation program in Saudi Arabia that focuses on religious re-education for captured jihadists.
President Barack Obama last week issued executive orders relating to Guantanamo, including one requiring that the facility at a U.S. Naval base in Cuba be closed within a year.
Now some analysts are asking not only if intelligence agencies will be able to get the information they need to keep America safe -- but also where the prisoners will eventually end up.
The answer to the second part of this question may lie partly in the Saudi rehab program that analysts in that country say has helped deal a big blow to al Qaeda.
As promised, President Obama has halted the Guantánamo Bay military commissions. He is on track to shutter the prison camp and will likely transfer many of the detainees to military prisons at home.
Guantánamo marks a dismal episode in American history, signifying seven years of tension with American tradition, the Constitution, international standards of humane treatment, habeas corpus, and the rule of law. It brings to mind the entirety of Bush’s detention policy—citizens imprisoned without trial, immigrants jailed for months without due process, hundreds indiscriminately rounded up in Iraq and Afghanistan, and “black sites” and foreign dictatorships where captives endure brutal interrogation under the auspices of “extraordinary rendition.”
In the latest issue of the Nation magazine, Jonathan Schell has written a piece, "Obama and the Return of the Real", that should stand as a manifesto for sanity in our times. In it, he considers just how self-inflicted our present catastrophic situation, from economic meltdown to foreign policy disaster, actually is. Of Iraq, for instance, he comments, "The invasion... was the American empire's self-inflicted wound -- a disaster of choice, so to speak. All we had to do to escape it was not to do it. Here and elsewhere, the work of our own hands rises up to strike us." He also considers the unnerving way in which we have "been cannibalizing the future to provision the present. Though we are not killing our children directly, we are spending their money, eating their food, cutting down their cherry orchards."
CNN Exclusive: "Clear Evidence Rumsfeld Ordered Torture"
6:23 mins. This video is from CNNs Newsroom, broadcast Jan. 26, 2009.
UN Official: Clear evidence Rumsfeld ordered torture
By David Edwards
United Nations Special Rapporteur on Torture Manfred Nowak told CNNs Rick Sanchez that the U.S. had an obligation to investigate whether Bush administration officials ordered torture. Nowak believes that there is already enough evidence to prosecute Donald Rumsfeld.
We have clear evidence. In our report that we sent to the United Nations, we made it clear that former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld clearly authorized torture methods and he was told at that time by Alberto Mora, the legal council of the Navy, Mr. Secretary, what you are actual ordering here amounts to torture. So, there we have the clear evidence that Mr. Rumsfeld knew what he was doing but, nevertheless, he ordered torture.
President Obama gives interview to Al-Arabiya
US Vice President Joe Biden emphasizes that Pentagon would not hesitate to launch strikes inside Pakistani territories near the Afghan border.
"I can say that the President of the United States said during his campaign and in the debates that if there is an actionable target, of a high-level al-Qaeda personnel, that he would not hesitate to use action to deal with that," Pakistani media quoted him on Monday.
The remarks come after 22 people were killed in two separate US missile strikes in the Waziristan region, on Friday.
US commanders said they had consulted President Barack Obama before launching recent drone attacks on Pakistan's tribal belt bordering Afghanistan.
"Four days after assuming the presidency, he (Obama) was consulted by US commanders before they launched the two attacks," Guardian said Sunday.
To Senators McCain and Cornyn: President Barack Obama was correct in saying, "I won!"
By Mary MacElveen
Now that the inaugural ceremonies are over with where 1.8 million braved the cold to be a part of history to see President Barack Obama sworn in as this country’s 44th President of the United States, what is left is the cold and some ‘rivals’ showing their true colors. The rivals I speak of are the obstructionists in Senator John McCain and Senator John Cornyn.
By Dave Lindorff
American foreign policy is moving from the absurd to the ludicrous.
Back in 2002, President George Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney managed to snooker the people of the United States, or at least a large number of us, into believing that Iraq, a pathetic Third World country ruled by a corrupt tin-pot dictator, was a grave danger to America, akin to Hitler and Nazi Germany in 1940. We learned how absurd that claim was when two hundred thousand American troops backed by the mightiest air force the world has ever seen, slammed into the country in March, 2003, and the Iraqi military simply folded up, and the Saddam regime along with it.
If you want to be discouraged about the prospects for Israel/Palestine peace during the Obama Administration, you don't have any shortage of evidence you can cite; you never do. But if you want to look for openings, the situation already looks much better than it did just over a week ago. Is there a "window" for peace? If so, are Americans ready to push the Obama Administration for the changes needed in U.S. policy to bring peace about?
Israel had to end its bombardment of Gaza by the January 20 "hope and change deadline," as Jon Stewart had predicted.
President Obama appointed former Senator Mitchell as his envoy for Israel/Palestine diplomacy. It is widely perceived that Mitchell will be fair - you might think that this would be an obvious requirement, but in the recent history of U.S. policy, it would be an innovation.
by Linda Milazzo
President Barack Obama of the Capitol of Washington, it is my most sincere honor to introduce you to Citizen Bob Alexander of the State of Washington, who by the standards you have set to 'give our all' has valiantly answered your call. In fact, Citizen Bob answered that call long before you were President. He seized his responsibilities gladly, not grudgingly, just as you asked at your inauguration. And now President Obama, Citizen Bob and millions more, would like you to hear THEIR call.
Before I tell you more about Citizen Bob, allow me to remind you of a few of the inspirational words you delivered at your inauguration. Here they are in a 31 second clip:
In one of his first actions as president, Barack Obama announced today that Guantánamo will be closed, the secret CIA prisons will be shut down, and torture and other “enhanced interrogation techniques” will be prohibited. Much work remains to be done to see through the vision set forth today, but President Obama has begun his administration by sending a clear signal to friend and foe alike that America is back and ready once again to lead the community of nations toward a future that is both more secure and more free.
On November 4, the American people by a popular majority of more than eight million votes selected as their new President a Democratic contender who had been attacked by his Republican foe as a radical who "began his campaign in the liberal left lane of politics and has never left it."
If only. In truth, Barack Obama was never the Che Guevara in pinstripes that the rightwing attack machine conjured up. His record on Capitol Hill was never "more liberal than a Senator who calls himself a socialist [Vermont's Bernie Sanders]," as John McCain wheezed at the last stops of a dying campaign. And he has never even been in competition for the title bestowed upon him by former Senator Fred Thompson during last summer's Republican National Convention: "the most liberal . . . nominee to ever run for President."
President Obama's plans to expeditiously determine the fates of about 245 terrorism suspects held at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and quickly close the military prison there were set back last week when incoming legal and national security officials - barred until the inauguration from examining classified material on the detainees - discovered that there were no comprehensive case files on many of them.
Before President Obama can do, he must undo. Repairing the damage that George W. Bush did to the nation’s values, honor and pride will be complicated and, at times, politically inconvenient. But nothing is more urgent, and nothing will ultimately reap more benefits at home and abroad.
The executive orders that Barack Obama signed Thursday concerning the detention of terrorism suspects are a beginning. Much more remains to be undone.
So let me suggest a truly audacious hope for your administration: How about a five-year time-out on war -- unless, of course, there is a genuine threat to the nation? During that interval, we could work with the U.N. World Food Program, plus the overseas arms of the churches, synagogues, mosques and other volunteer agencies to provide a nutritious lunch every day for every school-age child in Afghanistan and other poor countries.
As you settle into the Oval Office, Mr. President, may I offer a suggestion? Please do not try to put Afghanistan aright with the U.S. military. To send our troops out of Iraq and into Afghanistan would be a near-perfect example of going from the frying pan into the fire. There is reason to believe some of our top military commanders privately share this view. And so does a broad and growing swath of your party and your supporters.
National Religious Campaign Against Torture Lauds President Obama for Issuing Executive Order Ending Torture
Statement from National Religious Campaign Against Torture President, Linda Gustitus:
President Obama asked this country during his campaign to join him in changing the world. By requiring the CIA to abide by the restrictions in the Army Field Manual in conducting interrogations of detainees, by closing the CIA’s secret prisons, and by providing the International Committee of the Red Cross access to all US-held detainees, he has already changed the world with respect to America’s use of torture. He has rejected the use of torture as an interrogation technique and allowed the United States to again find its moral bearing.
On his first day in office, President Obama put former president Bush on notice. His administration just released an executive order that will make it difficult for Bush to shield his White House records--and those of former Vice President Dick Cheney--from public scrutiny by invoking the doctrine of executive privilege. Shortly after taking office, Bush handed down his own executive order, amending the Presidential Records Act to give current and past presidents, along with their heirs, veto power over the release of presidential records, which are considered the property of the American people.
President Barack Obama is staffing his Justice Department with some of his predecessor’s fiercest critics, among them lawyers who were fired by President Bush or who quit jobs working for his administration.
Now, the opposition is in charge, and lawyers who spent years defining the limits of executive power will be helping wield it.
The change may be most dramatic at the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel — which defended some of Bush’s most controversial policies — where a small cadre of lawyers who had an outsized influence on legal criticism of Bush are taking the top three jobs.