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Eventually the Obama administration needs to evaluate the serious crimes of the Bush administration and to initiate prosecutions wherever warranted or else turn the matter over to a special prosecutor. If it fails to do that, it will be condoning torture.
Individuals who are associated with the policy of torture are likely to find themselves facing the very same tap on the shoulder that Augusto Pinochet got so unexpectedly on October 16, 1998.
Last week, more than 30 Members of Congress joined Rep. Raul Grijalva in asking President Obama to affirm U.S. neutrality in El Salvador's Presidential election on Sunday March 15, to stop the recycling in El Salvador of US threats when Salvadorans voted in 2004. But there has been no high-level response from the Obama Administration, Rep. Grijalva told Democracy Now! yesterday.
But right-wing Republicans in Congress have not been quiet. Upside Down News reports:
President Obama has recently threatened to rescind the "blank check" the Bush administration offered to big defense contractors. So now is the time when all that planning by Lockheed Martin and the other major arms manufacturers comes into play. One of that company's major weapons systems, the F-22 Raptor, is potentially on the chopping block. How convenient then that, in the midst of an economic meltdown, Lockheed just happens to have more than 1,000 parts suppliers for that jet carefully scattered across 44 states, all of which, as far as I know, have representatives in Congress. This is pretty typical.
If you're interested in a "way forward" in Afghanistan that's not built around killing a bunch of innocent people for no reason, then I strongly encourage you to read and absorb every word of Carlotta Gall's report in Wednesday's New York Times, "As U.S. Weighs Taliban Negotiations, Afghans Are Already Talking."
Some key points, based on conversations with Afghan officials and Western diplomats in Kabul:
- Far from being "pie in the sky," discussions with the Taliban leadership are already underway and could be developed into more formal talks with the support of the US. The ongoing talks were actually initiated by an overture from the Taliban: the Taliban leadership council first approached the government about peace talks last year.
Retired Amb. Chas Freeman, who said today that he no longer accepts an offer to chair the National Intelligence Council, has just sent this message:
You will by now have seen the statement by Director of National Intelligence Dennis Blair reporting that I have withdrawn my previous acceptance of his invitation to chair the National Intelligence Council.
Report: Slain US Nazi hated Obama, had parts for 'dirty bomb'
Claim: Depleted uranium purchased over the Internet from an American company
By Stephen C. Webster | Raw Story
Trust fund millionaire James G. Cummings, an American Nazi sympathizer from Maine who was slain by his wife Amber in December, allegedly had the radioactive components necessary to construct a "dirty bomb," a newly released threat analysis report states.
The man, allegedly furious over the election of President Obama, purchased depleted uranium over the Internet from an American company.
"According to an FBI field intelligence report from the Washington Regional Threat and Analysis Center posted online by WikiLeaks, an organization that posts leaked documents, an investigation into the case revealed that radioactive materials were removed from Cummings’ home after his shooting death on Dec. 9," reported the Bangor Daily News.
"Amber (Cummings) indicated James was very upset with Barack Obama being elected President," reported the Washington Regional Threat and Analysis Center (PDF link). "She indicated James had been in contact with 'white supremacist group(s).' Amber also indicated James mixed chemicals in the kitchen sink at their residence and had mentioned 'dirty bombs.'"
Secretary of Transportation Ray Lahood hit back hard on Monday to charges from White House critics that President Barack Obama's economic policies -- focused on leveraging government spending to stimulate demand -- had exacerbated the recession and constituted a form of socialism.
In an interview with the Huffington Post, LaHood, one of the few Republican members of the Obama administration, scoffed at the recent talking points emanating from the congressional leaders of his own party. His voice rising at times with emotion, the transportation czar tackled first the notion that the president was a socialist in disguise.
President Barack Obama firmly resists ideological labels, but at the end of a private meeting with a group of moderate Democrats Tuesday afternoon he offered a statement of solidarity.
“I am a New Democrat,” he told the New Democrat Coalition, according to two sources at the White House session.
The group is comprised of centrist Democratic members of the House, who support free trade and a muscular foreign policy but are more moderate than the conservative Blue Dog coalition.
Obama made his comment in discussing his budget priorities and broader goals, also calling himself a “pro-growth Democrat” during the course of conversation.
By William Fisher, The Public Record
Barack Obama, Eric Holder and Leon Panetta are all lawyers, And Holder and Panetta both work for Obama. Wouldn’t that suggest that they would agree on really important issues – at least in public?
Well, apparently they don’t. And Obama’s recent interview with the New York Times editorial board provides lots of examples.
During that session, President Obama stated categorically:
“We ultimately provide anybody that we’re detaining an opportunity through habeas corpus to answer to charges.”
Then how do we explain the conflicting position taken by the President’s Attorney General, Eric Holder, and the Department of Justice he runs?
THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
For Immediate Release March 9, 2009
MEMORANDUM FOR THE HEADS OF EXECUTIVE DEPARTMENTS AND AGENCIES
SUBJECT: Presidential Signing Statements
For nearly two centuries, Presidents have issued statements
addressing constitutional or other legal questions upon signing
bills into law (signing statements). Particularly since omnibus
bills have become prevalent, signing statements have often been
used to ensure that concerns about the constitutionality of
discrete statutory provisions do not require a veto of the
In recent years, there has been considerable public discussion
and criticism of the use of signing statements to raise
constitutional objections to statutory provisions. There is
no doubt that the practice of issuing such statements can be
abused. Constitutional signing statements should not be used to
Russian advice: More troops won't help in Afghanistan
By Tom Lasseter | McClatchy Newspapers
The old diplomat sighed as he recalled his years in Afghanistan, and then leaned forward and said in a booming voice that no escalation of troops would bring lasting peace.
As the Soviet ambassador to Afghanistan from 1979 to 1986, Fikryat Tabeyev saw the numbers rise to more than 100,000 troops without any possibility of victory against a growing insurgency.
Don’t Rely on Bush’s Signing Statements, Obama Orders
By Charlie Savage | NYTimes
Calling into question the legitimacy of all the signing statements that former President George W. Bush used to challenge new laws, President Obama on Monday ordered executive officials to consult with Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. before relying on any of them to bypass a statute.
But Mr. Obama also signaled that he intends to use signing statements himself if Congress sends him legislation that has provisions he decides are unconstitutional. He pledged to use a modest approach when doing so, but said there was a role for the practice if used appropriately.
Guantanamo Under Obama
by Stephen Lendman
As The New York Times reported on January 22, Barack Obama signed Executive Orders (EOs) banning torture and "directing the CIA to shut what remains of its network of secret prisons and ordering the closing of the Guantanamo detention camp within a year, government official said."
The closure EO is titled: "Executive Order -- Review and Disposition of Individuals Detained at the Guantanamo Bay Naval Base and Closure of Detention Facilities."
A progressive Presidency is a terrible thing to waste. It only comes around once every so often. Wouldn't it be a shame if Americans' hopes for the Obama Administration were squandered in Afghanistan?
Members of Congress who want the Obama Administration to succeed won't do it any favors by keeping silent about the proposed military escalation in Afghanistan. The actions of the Obama Administration so far clearly indicate that they can move in response to pressure: both good pressure and bad pressure. If there is only bad pressure, it's more than likely that policy will move in a bad direction. In announcing an increase in U.S. troops before his Afghanistan review was complete, Obama partially acceded to pressure from the military. If we don't want the military to have carte blanche, there needs to be counterpressure.
President Obama spoke in a 35-minute interview aboard Air Force One on Friday afternoon as he traveled from Columbus, Ohio to Andrews Air Force Base. This is an edited transcript, as recorded by The New York Times.
Q: You said it’s going to take a long time to get out of this economic crisis. Can you assure the American people that the economy will be growing by the summer, the fall or the end of the year?
Yes, We Did Plan for Mumbai-Style Attacks in the U.S.
Why the latest assault on Bush antiterror strategy could make us less safe.
By John Yoo | WSJ
In releasing these memos, the Obama administration may be attempting to appease its antiwar base -- which won't bother to read the memos in full -- or trying to look good for the chattering classes.
Suppose al Qaeda branched out from crashing airliners into American cities. Using small arms, explosives, or biological, chemical or nuclear weapons they could seize control of apartment buildings, stadiums, ships, trains or buses. As in the November 2008 Mumbai attacks, texting and mobile email would make it easy to coordinate simultaneous assaults in a single city.
After 9/11, we had a responsibility to consider all possible threats.
By Cindy Sheehan
I am not opposed to all wars. I’m opposed to dumb wars.
Barack Obama: October 2002
For the record, I did not support Barack Obama for President of this country. Of course the above quote was from his famous “anti-war” speech, that was not an anti-war speech, but an anti-Iraq war speech and this is just a sound bite from a mostly nationalistic and pro-war speech.
I opposed Obama, though, because I actually listened to what he said about foreign policy when he was Candidate Obama. He never, ever said that he was going to withdraw all troops from Iraq and he always said that he was going to increase troop levels, not only in Afghanistan, but also in the military over-all. His budget increases military spending at a time when education, health care, wages and jobs are declining. Obama is a militarist-corporatist and haven’t we had enough of this kind of “leadership” in the past three decades?
Today is a good moment to give some thought to one of the worst remaining legacies of the Bush era, the prison where that administration's grotesque offshore detention policies -- the beatings, the torture, the works -- were first put into play, the prison that has yet to go away. And as Karen Greenberg, the Executive Director of the Center on Law and Security at the New York University School of Law and the author of a striking new book, The Least Worst Place, Guantanamo's First 100 Days, points out, it's not, as you might expect, Guantanamo, but our grim prison at Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan.
CIA Director Leon Panetta says agency employees who took part in harsh interrogations of terrorism suspects are not in danger of being punished.
Panetta delivered that message to CIA employees in an e-mail Thursday, reiterating what he told Congress last month. He said then that he would oppose prosecutions of any CIA employee who adhered to their legal guidance on interrogations.
He sent the message after the Senate Intelligence Committee announced its review of the CIA's interrogation and detention program under President George W. Bush.
The committee will look at how the CIA decided whom to interrogate, whether it told Congress the truth about the program and whether it was legal. It will also try to determine whether the harsher methods the CIA used elicited valuable intelligence.
The Obama administration on Thursday marked a clear break with George W. Bush’s policy of isolating Iran by declaring its intention to invite the Islamic republic to an international conference on stabilising Afghanistan.
Hillary Clinton, secretary of state, announced in Brussels that Tehran was likely to be invited to a meeting that would bring together all “interested parties” on Afghanistan. Administration officials later confirmed Iran would be on the guest list.
Iran has already signalled its willingness to attend. A firm date for the conference has not been fixed. Italy, as holder of the G8 presidency this year, has proposed hosting such a conference in Trieste in June.
Former Alabama Gov. Don Siegelman said he hopes the U.S. House Judiciary Committee will aggressively question former White House aide Karl Rove, who has agreed to testify about possibly influencing his prosecution.
But Siegelman, a Democrat who was convicted in a government corruption probe, also wants the panel to seek sworn testimony from another Republican political operative, Bill Canary, the husband of the U.S. attorney whose office prosecuted him.
In an e-mail to supporters and news reporters, Siegelman commended the committee for securing Rove's agreement to testify under oath. He said he hopes its investigation doesn't end with Rove.
On Wednesday, the Obama administration released guidelines on its plan to stem the collapse of the housing market with its "Making Home Affordable" initiative, or Homeowner Affordability and Stability Plan (HASP). The plan claims to offer "assistance to as many as 7 to 9 million homeowners."
Part of the program, costing $75 billion, pertains to private lenders, providing funds to them if they agree to renegotiate home loans. A separate $200 billion component will make funds available to Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the two federally-backed mortgage lending giants, so that they can modify a share of the home loans they control.
Fresh off a U.S. victory over Swiss bank UBS AG, which admitted in a recent plea deal with the Justice Department that it aided tax evasion by wealthy American clients, Congress and the White House are trying to press a wider crackdown on the lucrative tax haven business.
UBS last month agreed to pay $780 million in fines as part of a deferred prosecution agreement with federal prosecutors. The bank is outing clients attached to about 250 accounts that the Justice Department alleges were set up as shell entities in tax avoidance schemes. The bank admitted to violating regulations set under a treaty that requires banks to submit information about their U.S. clients' tax obligations.
Lawmakers Debate Establishing “Truth Commission” on Bush Admin Torture, Rendition and Domestic Spying
On Capitol Hill, debate has begun over forming a truth commission to shed light on the Bush administration’s secret polices on detention, interrogation and domestic spying. A hearing on the issue was held Wednesday, two days after the Obama administration released a series of once-secret Bush administration Justice Department memos that authorized President Bush to deploy the military to carry out raids inside the United States. We speak to human rights attorney Michael Ratner of the Center for Constitutional Rights. [includes rush transcript, below]
President Obama wants, quite reasonably, to "reset" relations with Russia. He also said, quite reasonably, he would "go through the federal budget line by line, programs that don't work, we cut."
Our relations with Colombia also need to be reset. "Plan Colombia," which was supposedly going to cut the flow of Colombian cocaine into the U.S., doesn't work, neither to reduce the flow of illegal drugs, nor to promote human rights, democracy and the rule of law in Colombia. Since Plan Colombia doesn't work, it should be cut.
An October report from the Government Accountability Office found that coca-leaf production in Colombia had increased by 15% and cocaine production had increased by 4% between 2000 and 2006, and recommended cutting funding. Plan Colombia has cost U.S. taxpayers over $6 billion.
Exclusive: White House Counsel Greg Craig Asked to ‘Step Down’
Jill Simpson Alleges Conflict of Interest by Obama’s Attorney
by Glynn Wilson | Locust Fork News Journal
North Alabama attorney and GOP whistle-blower Jill Simpson is asking that White House Counsel Greg Craig recuse himself from consulting with President Obama on his legal position over executive privilege in the case of Karl Rove, the former political adviser to President Bush who is still defiance of a Congressional subpoena to testify about his role in the political prosecution of former Alabama Governor Don Siegelman and other crimes.
Obama DOJ Defies Federal Judge
Despite Ninth Circuit Decision, Lawyers Refuse to Release Document in Wiretapping Case
By Daphne Eviatar | Washington Independent | Submitted by Michael Munk | www.MichaelMunk.com
A heated confrontation is brewing between the Obama administration and the federal judiciary.
Late on Friday, the Justice Department’s lawyers filed a brief with a federal district court in California challenging the court’s power to carry out its own order. The government lawyers insisted that the court has no right to make available to the opposing lawyers in the case a classified document regarding the Bush administration’s warrantless wiretapping program, even though the document is critical to the lawsuit, the lawyers can obtain the necessary top-secret security clearances, and the document would not be released publicly.
US Justice Department memos: the specter of military dictatorship
By Bill Van Auken | WSWS
A set of nine secret memos released by the US Justice Department Monday reveal that in the weeks and months after the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks the US government began erecting the legal scaffolding for a full-blown military dictatorship.
Attorney General Eric Holder declared that the release of the documents, which were posted on the Justice Department's web site, signaled a new era of "transparency and openness." The actions of the Obama administration in recent weeks, however, including the invocation of national security and state secrets to quell lawsuits challenging the worst abuses of the Bush era, make it clear that the threat revealed in these memos is far from over.
A front page article in the New York Times starts out with the sentence: “The budget that President Obama proposed on Thursday is nothing less than an attempt to end a three-decade era of economic policy dominated by the ideas of Ronald Reagan and his supporters.” Not so much.
DOJ Memos Reveal Legal Thinking Behind Controversial Bush Terrorism Policy
Legal Guidance Gave U.S. Military Broad Domestic Authority
By Ariane De Vogue, Pierre Thomas and Jason Ryan | ABCNews
The Justice Department today released nine national security legal opinions written by the Bush administration, and revealed that in the weeks before President George W. Bush left office, an administration attorney had disavowed all of them.
The newly released memos deal with warrantless wire tapping, executive power and the seizure of terrorism suspects, all of which were issues on which the Bush administration received criticism from civil liberties advocates.