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Army: Suicide rate among soldiers continues on record pace
By Mike Mount | CNN
The suicide rate among U.S. Army soldiers jumped in May -- continuing a four-month upward trend and on a record pace for a second straight year, according to Army statistics released Thursday.
Last month the deaths of 17 soldiers were either confirmed or suspected to be suicides, up from 13 in April and 13 in March, the new numbers revealed.
The Army said the total number of potential or confirmed suicides since January stands at 82. Last year the Army recorded 133 suicides, the most ever.
Earlier this year, Army officials saw the suicide numbers moving up, and by February said the service was on track for a record year for suicides.
Only one of the 17 in May has been confirmed as a suicide, while the others remain under investigation and are listed as "potential suicides," according to the latest statistics.
For April, the Army reported eight potential and five confirmed suicides. Read more.
ACLU Files Lawsuit Seeking Disclosure Of Still-Secret Torture Documents | Press Release
Case Marks Launch Of Group's "Accountability For Torture" Initiative
The American Civil Liberties Union today filed a lawsuit seeking the disclosure of still-secret records relating to the torture of prisoners held by the U.S. overseas. The requested documents include legal memos authored by John Yoo and Steven Bradbury, who were lawyers in the Bush administration Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel (OLC), as well as documents sent by the Bush White House to the CIA. The government has failed to turn over the documents in response to a December 2008 Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request.
"The information already in the public domain makes clear that the torture policies were devised and developed at the highest levels of the Bush administration, but there are still unanswered questions about precisely what the policies permitted, how they were implemented and who specifically signed off on them," said Jameel Jaffer, Director of the ACLU National Security Project. "This lawsuit is an effort to fill some of the gaps in the narrative."
Today's lawsuit marks the launch of the ACLU's new "Accountability for Torture" initiative, which has four goals: comprehensive disclosure of information relating to the Bush administration's torture policies; the creation of an accurate and comprehensive historical record; the appointment of an independent prosecutor to investigate issues of criminal responsibility; and recognition and compensation for torture victims.
We are finally beginning to learn the full scope of the Bush administration's torture program. Government documents show that hundreds of prisoners were tortured in the custody of the CIA and Department of Defense, some of them killed in the course of interrogations. Justice Department memos show that the torture policies were devised and developed at the highest levels of the Bush administration.
The ACLU is committed to restoring the rule of law. We will fight for the disclosure of the torture files that are still secret. We will advocate for the victims of the Bush administration's unlawful policies. We will press Congress to appoint a select committee that can investigate the roots of the torture program and recommend legislative changes to ensure that the abuses of the last eight years are not repeated. And we will advocate for the appointment of an independent prosecutor to examine issues of criminal responsibility.
We can't sweep the abuses of the last eight years under the rug. Accountability for torture is a legal, political, and moral imperative. Much more to read.
KBR Inc. wasted billions of dollars through inefficiencies, lax oversight and poor management of its contract to support U.S. troops in Iraq and Afghanistan, according to an independent, bipartisan panel.
The contract -- to provide housing, food, laundry, mail delivery and fuel for U.S. troops -- was ultimately worth $31.7 billion, with most of the work being done in Iraq and Kuwait.
“The services could have been delivered for billions of dollars less,” the commission stated in a report released today at a hearing of the House Oversight and Government Reform’s national security panel. “Substantial evidence supports the view” that KBR’s services “cost too much.”
The Wartime Contracting Commission, in its first report since Congress established it last year, gives the most critical assessment to date of the contract that Houston-based KBR, then a unit of Halliburton Co., won in December 2001, shortly after the U.S. invaded Afghanistan. Read more.
The Obama administration is moving to appeal a ruling that some detainees at a military air base in Afghanistan can use U.S. civilian courts to challenge their detention. Read more.
I'm at the Center for a New American Security's day-long conference today to learn a few things about Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan. I won't be live-blogging the whole thing, but one interesting note came just after General David Petraeus's keynote speech. Yesterday, Fox News passed along a report from Republican Congressman Mike Rogers that detainees in Afghanistan and particularly at Bagram Airforce base are, on the orders of the Obama administration, being read their Miranda Rights -- the "right to remain silent," etc., afforded to domestic criminal suspects -- which could somehow compromise their intelligence value. (This is, presumably, because 'mirandizing' suspects would make them legally ineligble for "enhanced interrogation," which is already prohibited by executive order.)
A Fox News correspondent at the CNAS conference lucked out after Petreaus' speech and managed to be called on for one of three allowed questions; he asked the general, who supervises Afghanistan as the head of U.S. Central Command, about the Miranda reports. "This is the FBI doing what the FBI does," Petraeus replied. "These are cases where they are looking at potential criminal charges. We're comfortable with this." He denied that his soldiers and other relevant American agents are reading Miranda rights to detainees, some of whom are detained as enemy combatants, while others are high-value anti-terrorism targets. (A U.S. federal court recently ruled that some Bagram detainees have the same habeas rights as prisoners in Guantanamo Bay.) Read more.
UPDATE: Three of Five US Contractors Arrested in Iraq Are Ordered Freed
By Jeremy Scahill | Rebel Reports
According to Iraqi officials, three of the five US contractors arrested last weekend in connection with the stabbing death of another US contractor have been ordered released. A government spokesperson, Ali al-Dabbagh said, “They are five. Three have been released due to a lack of evidence, two are still being detained on drug issues.”...
This case has attracted significant attention because if the contractors are ultimately charged and prosecuted in Iraq, it would be the first time Baghdad would be permitted by Washington to try US personnel in Iraqi courts. Read more.
It takes at least tacit faith in massive violence to believe that after three decades of horrendous violence in Afghanistan, upping the violence there will improve the situation.
Despite the pronouncements from high Washington places that the problems of Afghanistan can’t be solved by military means, 90 percent of the spending for Afghanistan in the Obama administration’s current supplemental bill is military.
Often it seems that lofty words about war hopes are boilerplate efforts to make us feel better about an endless warfare state. Oratory and punditry laud the Pentagon’s fallen as noble victims of war, while enveloping its other victims in a haze of ambiguity or virtual nonexistence.
When last Sunday’s edition of the Washington Post printed the routine headline “Iraq War Deaths,” the newspaper meant American deaths -- to Washington’s ultra-savvy, the deaths that really count. The only numbers and names under the headline were American.
Ask for whom the bell tolls. That’s the implicit message -- from top journalists and politicians alike. Read more.
By David Swanson
On Tuesday President Obama proposed that any increases in federal spending on anything useful, such as healthcare or retirement security, must be balanced by cuts and savings to something else useful, such as healthcare or retirement security.
"The pay-as-you-go rule is very simple," Obama said. "Congress can only spend a dollar if it saves a dollar elsewhere." Except that it's not so simple. Obama would make an exception to allow Bush's tax cuts for millionaires to be extended past their 2010 expiration date, as well as to prevent the alternative-minimum tax from impacting the overclass. Still, the White House insists that everything is very simple:
"PAYGO would hold us to a simple but important principle: we should pay for new tax or entitlement legislation. Creating a new non-emergency tax cut or entitlement expansion would require offsetting revenue increases or spending reductions."
The tiny Pacific island nation of Palau has agreed to a US request to temporarily resettle 17 Chinese Muslim ethnic Uighurs held at the Guantanamo Bay detention centre for more than seven years.
In a statement on Wednesday Johnson Toribiong, the country's president, said he had agreed to resettle the Uighur detainees "subject to periodic review".
The 17 were cleared for release from Guantanamo four years ago after US officials ruled there was no evidence to hold them as "enemy combatants".
Last year a US federal judge ordered the men released into the US, but an appeals court halted the order, and they have been in legal limbo ever since.
The US state department has said the Uighurs cannot be returned to China, despite requests from Beijing that they be handed over, because of fears they will face persecution and possible execution.
Instead US officials have been trying to find a third country willing to take them in, but in the meantime they have been kept in Guantanamo, spending up to 22 hours a day locked in their cells. Read more.
On Monday, June 8, 2009, exactly 42 years after the USS Liberty (GTR-5) was attacked, in international waters off the coast of Sinai by Israel, members of the USS Liberty Veterans Association were at the U.S. Navy Memorial, in downtown Washington, D.C. Their purpose was to present a model of the vessel to the institution for it to be maintained on permanent display. Accepting the USS Liberty model on behalf of the U.S. Navy Memorial was its CEO, Rear Admiral Edward K.
A deadly Israeli attack on a US ship -- an incident largely kept in the dark by Washington -- receives new attention with survivors reliving the painful memory.
USS Liberty survivors gathered in Washington on Monday to commemorate the 42nd anniversary of the incident and expound on how they were sprayed with bullets by America's "closest ally and beneficiary".
On June 8, 1967, the unarmed spy ship USS Liberty was on duty in international waters off the Sinai Peninsula when it was bombarded by Israeli fighter jets and torpedo boats.
The two-hour-long attacks killed at least 34 sailors, wounded 173 others and nearly sunk the ship.
The attack on the Liberty came at a time when Israel had engaged in a brief but intense war with Egypt and its Arab allies, which coincided with the US war on Vietnam.
Although the ship was clearly marked as an American vessel, Israelis declared the attack on Liberty as a simple case of "friendly fire" and "mistaken identity". Read more.
Tomgram: Frida Berrigan, Downloading Disaster
It helps to have spent a childhood reading sci-fi. It means nothing bizarre really surprises you. In June 2008, TomDispatch regular William Astore wrote a post about how the Air Force had jumped big time into cyberspace. That service had even bigger dreams for a "$30 billion cyberspace boondoggle" that would theoretically have provided it "with the ability to fry any computer on Earth." Based on the information Astore mustered, this site offered a prediction: "Expect cyberwar in the Pentagon before this is all over."
Make it so! One year later, all three military services (and, it seems, half the other agencies in Washington) are fully uploaded and stalking each other in a funding cyberwar. As a result, the virtual sun is shining for military-industrial corporations, as Frida Berrigan tells us in her latest post: actual money is starting to flow, and a bright-eyed, bushy-tailed new cybermilitary-industrial complex is in formation. Not surprisingly, it has all the trappings of the older version of the same, right down to the corporate names on the logos and the military-industrial fun in the sun that goes with it.
Take the Air Force's "Collaboration in Cyberspace" symposium due to open a week from now in Shreveport, Louisiana. Northrop Grumman has sponsored one of its coffee breaks; SAIC has taken care of the "attendee registration bags"; Lockheed Martin has ponied up for "the invitations that are in each attendee's conference bag inviting them to a special AFCS [Air Force Cyberspace] event"; and you (if you happen to be a reasonably humongous military-industrial style corporation) can still get your tagline and logo plastered on the symposium's "ever popular" Cyber Café (for a measly $5,000 fee!) -- and for nothing extra, your logo will be a screensaver on every computer in that café. You'd better do it while you can. After all, you've already just about missed your chance for a corporate sponsorship slot at the Armed Forces Communications and Electronics Association 4th Cyber Cup Invitational golf tournament that same week. Most of those have already been taken. But don't get teed off: there'll be plenty more! Tom
Cyberscares About Cyberwars Equal Cybermoney
Watching the Cybermilitary-Industrial Complex Form
By Frida Berrigan
As though we don't have enough to be afraid of already, what with armed lunatics mowing down military recruiters and doctors, the H1N1 flu virus, the collapse of bee populations, rising sea levels, failed and flailing states, North Korea being North Korea, al-Qaeda wannabes in New York State with terrorist aspirations, and who knows what else -- now cyberjihadis are evidently poised to steal our online identities, hack into our banks, take over our Flickr and Facebook acccounts, and create havoc on the World Wide Web.
Late last year, in a 96-page report, Securing Cyberspace for the 44th Presidency, the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) warned that "America's failure to protect cyberspace is one of the most urgent national security problems facing the new administration." In a similar fashion, Dr. Dorothy Denning, a cybersecurity expert at the Naval Postgraduate School, has just described the Internet as a "powerful tool in the hands of criminals and terrorists." And they're hardly alone.
To this fear chorus, our thoughtful, slow-to-histrionics President added his voice in a May 29th East Room address:
"In today's world, acts of terror could come not only from a few extremists in suicide vests but from a few key strokes on a computer -- a weapon of mass disruption...This cyberthreat is one of the most serious economic and national security challenges we face as a nation."
Wartime Contracting Report: We Have Big, Costly Problems
By Robert O'Harrow, Jr. | Government, Inc. Blog
As promised, here's the new report by the Commission on Wartime Contracting in Iraq and Afghanistan, the organization formed by Congress to examine where all the money went.
It's a sad reminder about just how bad the contracting system has been in recent years, and all the billions that have been wasted because of poor oversight, poor planning and plain old corruption.
"The environment in Iraq and Afghanistan has been and continues to be susceptible to waste, fraud, and abuse," the report said.
The report, called "At What Cost? Contingency Contracting in Iraq and Afghanistan," contains the interim findings of the commission, which will issue a final report next year. It underscores the gloomy finding about the troubled federal procurement system from a host of other analysis in recent years.
It'll be the subject of a hearing today by the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee's national security and foreign affairs subcommittee. Read more.
Roadside Bombs: An Iraqi Tactic on the Upsurge in Afghanistan
By Jason Motlagh / Ghazni | Yahoo! News
The highway that runs between Kabul and the southeastern city of Kandahar is the most brutal evidence of the Taliban's IED offensive. The road is a showcase U.S.-funded project, meant to connect two of the country's most vital commercial centers. But today it is an automotive graveyard, littered with burned-out carcasses of vehicles and disrupted by crumbled bridges. One infamous stretch is lined with the wreckage of 40 transport trucks, the remains of a 90-minute enemy ambush dubbed the "jingle-truck massacre." (Afghans hang chains and coins from their truck bumpers, which create a jingling sound.) Every few miles, craters of varying size pock the pavement, interspersed with suspicious patches of dirt that compel patrol convoys to make off-road detours or dismount to investigate before proceeding.
Outmatched in frontal combat, the militants have taken a cue from Iraqi counterparts in making IEDs, or improvised explosive devices, their weapon of choice. While their use has declined in Iraq, IEDs are now taking a deadlier toll on coalition forces in Afghanistan. The latest NATO figures show that the use of roadside bombs is up 80% so far this year, making them the primary killer of U.S. and international troops. In 2008, 172 troops died from a record 3,276 IEDs, a 45% jump from the year before, according to the Joint IED Defeat Organization, a Pentagon agency. This trend is expected to worsen in the months ahead, as thousands of incoming U.S. reinforcements push into areas where the Taliban has operated unchallenged. (See pictures of Afghanistan's deadly Korengal valley.) Read more.
The American Civil Liberties Union today called for a full and transparent investigation into the death of a Yemeni national held at Guantánamo Bay. Military officials have described the death as an "apparent suicide."
The following can be attributed to Ben Wizner, staff attorney with the ACLU National Security Project:
"Tragic deaths like this one have become all too common in a system that locks up detainees indefinitely without charge or trial. There must be an immediate, independent and transparent investigation into the circumstances surrounding this apparent suicide and the conditions of confinement at Guantánamo.
"There is no room for a system of indefinite detention without charge or trial under our Constitution. Detainees against whom there is legitimate evidence should be tried in our federal courts – not in the reconstituted military commissions now being proposed. Those against whom there is no legitimate evidence must not be given a de-facto life sentence by being locked up forever."
In January, the ACLU and other leading human rights groups sent a letter to President Obama asking him to grant them full access to the Guantánamo detention center so that they can review the conditions of confinement and make recommendations for revising U.S. detention policies.
The letter to President Obama is available online.
- US accounts for more than half total increase to $1.4tn
- China now second biggest spender in world league table
Worldwide spending on weapons has reached record levels amounting to well over $1tn last year, a leading research organisation reported today.
Global military expenditure has risen by 45% over the past decade to $1.46tn, according to the latest annual Yearbook on Armaments, Disarmament, and International Security published by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (Sipri).
Though the US accounts for more than half the total increase, China and Russia nearly tripled their military expenditure over the decade, with China now second only to the US in the military expenditure league table. Read more.
From the FEMA Website:
National Level Exercise 2009 (NLE 09) is scheduled for July 27 through July 31, 2009. NLE 09 will be the first major exercise conducted by the United States government that will focus exclusively on terrorism prevention and protection, as opposed to incident response and recovery.
NLE 09 is designated as a Tier I National Level Exercise. Tier I exercises (formerly known as the Top Officials exercise series or TOPOFF) are conducted annually in accordance with the National Exercise Program (NEP), which serves as the nation's overarching exercise program for planning, organizing, conducting and evaluating national level exercises. The NEP was established to provide the U.S. government, at all levels, exercise opportunities to prepare for catastrophic crises ranging from terrorism to natural disasters.
NLE 09 is a White House directed, Congressionally- mandated exercise that includes the participation of all appropriate federal department and agency senior officials, their deputies, staff and key operational elements. In addition, broad regional participation of state, tribal, local, and private sector is anticipated. This year the United States welcomes the participation of Australia, Canada, Mexico and the United Kingdom in NLE 09. Read more.
By Chris Dorsey
I cannot vote for any of the candidates for my party’s nomination for governor because they are prostitutes for the entities that destroy the planet, enslave its inhabitants through debt and terrorize through military aggression. I asked the three about Northrop Grumman’s control of the IT infrastructure of Virginia’s state agencies and received disturbing answers.
I first broached the subject to Deeds at a Richmond Democratic Committee meeting. I asked Deeds if he thought it was good that the Commonwealth’s IT infrastructure was controlled by Northrop Grumman which is a military contractor. He first said he didn’t understand the question. I repeated myself and he said he was unaware of the contract. I replied that he should know about the biggest contract awarded in Virginia’s history: $2 Billion to Northrop Grumman.
Brave New Films Captures Hard Evidence Against Cheney Torture Policies
Reported by Ellen | News Hounds
Brave New Films (with whom we are proud to be affiliated) did an interview with someone who, unlike Dick Cheney, actually served in the military and conducted interrogations. His verdict? Torture has not saved American lives but has cost lots of them, perhaps thousands. Video after the jump.
Brave New Films writes:
Matthew Alexander was the senior military interrogator for the task force that tracked down Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the leader of Al Qaeda in Iraq and, at the time, a higher priority target than Osama bin Laden. Mr. Alexander has personally conducted hundreds of interrogations and supervised over a thousand of them.
"Torture does not save lives. Torture costs us lives," Mr. Alexander said in an exclusive interview at Brave New Studios. "And the reason why is that our enemies use it, number one, as a recruiting tool...These same foreign fighters who came to Iraq to fight because of torture and abuse....literally cost us hundreds if not thousands of American lives."
Massachusetts State Democratic Party Resolution on Accountability and the Rule of Law; Calls for Special Prosecutor
The Massachusetts State Democratic Party convention was held June 5th and 6th in Springfield, MA. The assembled passed this resolution calling for the appointment of a Special Prosecutor to investigate and prosecute war crimes and violations of our Constitution, Federal and international laws, and treaties.
MASSACHUSETTS STATE DEMOCRATIC PARTY RESOLUTION on ACCOUNTABILITY and the RULE OF LAW
Whereas the Massachusetts Democratic Party supports the Rule of Law in the federal government and elsewhere; and
Whereas the Massachusetts Democratic Party reveres the Constitution of the United States and finds abhorrent acts contrary to its intent, such as excessive executive privilege leading to "preemptive" war and torture
Therefore be it resolved that the Massachusetts Democratic Party instructs our Congressional delegation to support and work for the appointment of a Special Prosecutor to investigate, and, where appropriate, to hold accountable, any person, including persons at any level of government, who is found to be responsible for willfully violating the laws and the Constitution of the United States, and/or willfully violating the rights of citizens and the rights guaranteed to all persons under international treaties, and/or employing or advocating torture, and/or waging illegal wars with wanton disregard for truth and for the lives and safety of civilians, and/or presenting false testimony, and/or ignoring, bypassing and sabotaging the law, or resolutions and subpoenas issued by the Congress of the United States.
Slave soldiers honored, called 'national treasures'
By Wayne Drash | CNN
Hobbled with age, weathered with time, the World War II veterans stood at attention. One by one, a two-star general delivered flags flown over the Pentagon in their honor. He looked them in their eyes and snapped his right hand in salute.
"National treasures," Maj. Gen. Vincent Boles said Saturday evening.
It marked the first time in history the U.S. Army recognized 350 soldiers held as slaves inside Nazi Germany. The men were beaten, starved and forced to work in tunnels at Berga an der Elster where the Nazi government had a hidden V-2 rocket factory. Berga was a subcamp of the notorious concentration camp Buchenwald.
"These men were abused and put under some of the most horrific conditions," the general told a private gathering of Berga survivors. "It wasn't a prison camp. It was a slave labor camp."
No ranking Army official had ever uttered the words "slave labor camp" in reference to the men's captivity at Berga. Boles knew the gravity of his statement -- that he was setting the historical record straight after 64 years.
"That's why I'm here. That's why the Army sent me here: To look them in the eye and tell them that." Read more.
The window blinds were closed at the East County home of Navy Lt. Florence Bacong Choe, where grief-stricken family members gathered yesterday to mourn her death while she was serving in Afghanistan.
Lt. Choe, 35, was killed Friday afternoon in northern Afghanistan when an insurgent posing as an Afghan National Army soldier opened fire on troops assigned to Combined Security Transition Command-Afghanistan at Camp Shaheen, Mazar-e-Sharif.
Lt. j.g. Francis L. Toner IV, 26, a civil engineer from Narragansett, R.I., also was killed. A third service member was wounded, the military reported.
Military officials said the insurgent killed himself after the shooting.
Lt. Choe was serving as a medical administration and logistics mentor to the Afghan National Army. Her home duty station was the Naval Medical Center San Diego, where she was born. She had volunteered to serve in Afghanistan, according to a biography released yesterday by a spokeswoman for the naval hospital.
She is survived by her husband, Lt. Cmdr. Chong “Jay” Choe, a urology resident at the medical center; her daughter, Kristin, 3; mother, Francisca Bacong; father, Rufino Bacong Sr., retired Navy; and brothers Rufino Bacong Jr. and Ron Bacong. Read more.
Saturday marked the 65th anniversary of D-Day. Obama was on hand at the Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial in Colleville-sur-Mer in northern France, as was France’s President Nicolas Sarkozy, Britain’s Prince Charles, British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, and Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper.
“No man who shed blood or lost a brother would say that war is good,” said Obama, reading from his trusty teleprompters. “But all know that this war was essential. For what we faced in Nazi totalitarianism was not just a battle of competing interests. It was a competing vision of humanity.”
It was an essential war because it was designed that way. Corporations associated with the Morgan-Rockefeller international investment bankers subsidized and facilitated the rise of Nazi totalitarianism and industry. “General Motors, Ford, General Electric, DuPont and the handful of U.S. companies intimately involved with the development of Nazi Germany were — except for the Ford Motor Company — controlled by the Wall Street elite — the J.P. Morgan firm, the Rockefeller Chase Bank and to a lesser extent the Warburg Manhattan bank,” writes economist, historian, and author Antony C. Sutton in his book, Wall Street and the Rise of Hitler. Read more.
Obama's Outreach to Muslims: Empty Rhetoric, Same Old Policies
By Stephen Lendman
As well as anyone, Edward Said understood the West's long-standing antipathy to Islam - reflected in Samuel Huntington's "The Clash of Civilizations" article in the summer 1993 issue of Foreign Affairs and later a 1996 book.
He wrote that future conflicts won't be "primarily ideological or primarily economic. The great divisions among humankind and the dominating source of conflict will be cultural....the principal conflicts of global politics will occur between nations and groups of different civilizations. The clash of civilizations will dominate global politics. The fault lines between civilizations will be the battle lines of the future" - demagogically suggesting a benevolent, superior West confronting a belligerent, hostile, inferior Muslim world. In other words, good v. evil.
EXCLUSIVE: Recently Released Gitmo Detainee Talks to ABC News | Watch video interview
Held Seven Years, Former Aid Worker Tells ABC News He Was Tortured
By Jake Tapper, Karen Travers, and Stephanie Z. Smith | ABCNews.com
For 7½ years, Lakhdar Boumediene was known simply by a number: "10005."
These were the digits assigned to him when he arrived at the detention center at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, swept up in a post-Sept. 11 dragnet and accused of plotting to blow up the U.S. and British Embassies in Sarajevo.
In an exclusive interview with ABC News, Boumediene said the interrogators at Gitmo never once asked him about this alleged plot, which he denied playing any part it.
"I'm a normal man," said Boumediene, who at the time of his arrest worked for the Red Crescent, providing help to orphans and others in need. "I'm not a terrorist." Read more, watch video interview .
By Jorn Madslien
Business reporter, BBC News
The value of military hardware manufacturers has soared.
Global military spending rose 4% in 2008 to a record $1,464bn (£914bn) - up 45% since 1999, according to the Stockholm-based peace institute Sipri.
In contrast with civilian aerospace and airlines, the defence industry remains healthy.
"The global financial crisis has yet to have an impact on major arms companies' revenues, profits and order backlogs," Sipri said.
Peace-keeping operations - which also benefit defence firms - rose 11%.
Missions were launched in trouble spots such as Darfur and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
"Another record was set, with the total of international peace operation personnel reaching 187,586," said Sipri, or Stockholm International Peace Research Institute.
As the world's aerospace and defence industry prepares for next week's Paris air show centenary, it seems much of the focus is set to shift away from troubled civilian aircraft makers, which are struggling with reduced orders from recession-hit airlines, towards the companies that make fighter jets and other military hardware.
In her book, The Dark Side, author and New Yorker reporter Jane Mayer wrote that the White House was so pleased with Bradbury’s work that “the day after he completed his opinion legalizing the cruelest treatment of U.S.-held in history, President Bush sent his name forewarned to the FBI to begin work on a background check, so that Bradbury could be formally nominated to run the OLC.”
In 2005, after pushing out the Justice Department lawyer who had overturned President George W. Bush’s claimed authority to abuse “war on terror” prisoners, his administration reinstated key elements of the memos granting Bush virtually unlimited powers over the detainees.
Steven Bradbury, who headed the Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel during Bush’s second term, signed the May 2005 memos to reverse efforts led by former Assistant Attorney General Jack Goldsmith in 2003 and 2004 to scrap earlier OLC memos asserting Bush’s powers.
Senior Bush administration officials were furious at the attempts by Goldsmith, who with the support of then-Deputy Attorney General James Comey, knocked down memos by previous OLC lawyers John Yoo and Jay Bybee....
Before leaving the vice presidency, Cheney acknowledged that he personally “signed off” on the waterboarding of al-Qaeda suspect Abu Zubaydah and two other alleged terrorist detainees and personally approved brutal interrogations of 33 others.
“I was aware of the program, certainly, and involved in helping get the process cleared, as the [Central Intelligence] Agency, in effect, came in and wanted to know what they could and couldn't do,” Cheney said in an interview last December with ABC News. “And they talked to me, as well as others, to explain what they wanted to do. And I supported it." Read more.
Pakistan diverted U.S. aid meant for fighting Taliban terrorists to bolster its conventional warfare capabilities against India, documents indicate.
U.S. Defense Department documents accessed by the Press Trust of India reveal Islamabad secretly diverted a substantial portion of nearly $7 billion in foreign military financing and arms sales from the administration of former U.S. President George W. Bush to beef up its armed forces along the Indian border instead of fighting terrorists. Read more.
What the new Jim Comey torture emails actually reveal
By Glenn Greenwald | Salon.com
The New York Times was provided 3 extremely important internal Justice Department emails from April, 2005 (.pdf) -- all written by then-Deputy Attorney General Jim Comey -- which highlight how the Bush administration's torture techniques became legally authorized by Bush lawyers. As Marcy Wheeler documents, the leak to the NYT was clearly from someone eager to defend Bush officials by suggesting that Comey's emails prove that all DOJ lawyers --- even those opposed to torture on policy grounds -- agreed these techniques were legal, and the NYT reporters, Scott Shane and David Johnston, dutifully do the leakers' bidding by misleadingly depicting the Comey emails as vindication for Bush/Cheney (Headline: "U.S. Lawyers Agreed on the Legality of Brutal Tactic"; First Paragraph: "When Justice Department lawyers engaged in a sharp internal debate in 2005 over brutal interrogation techniques, even some who believed that using tough tactics was a serious mistake agreed on a basic point: the methods themselves were legal").
I defy anyone to read Comey's 3 emails and walk away with that conclusion. Marcy has detailed many of the reasons the NYT article is so misleading, so I want to focus on what the Comey emails actually demonstrate about what these DOJ torture memos really are. The primary argument against prosecutions for Bush officials who ordered torture is that DOJ lawyers told the White House that these tactics were legal, and White House officials therefore had the right to rely on those legal opinions. The premise is that White House officials inquired in good faith with the DOJ about what they could and could not do under the law, and only ordered those tactics which the DOJ lawyers told them were legal. As these Comey emails prove, that simply is not what happened.
The DOJ torture-authorizing memos are perfectly analogous to the CIA's pre-war intelligence reports about Iraq's WMDs. Bush officials justify their pre-war statements about WMDs by pointing to the CIA's reports -- as though those reports just magically appeared on their desks from the CIA -- when, as is well documented, Dick Cheney and friends were continuously pressuring and cajoling the CIA to give them those threat reports in order to supply bureaucratic justification for the attack on Iraq. That is exactly how the DOJ torture-authorizing memos came to be: Dick Cheney, David Addington and George Bush himself continuously exerted extreme pressure on DOJ lawyers to produce memos authorizing them to do what they wanted to do -- not because they were interested in knowing in good faith what the law did and did not allow, but because they wanted DOJ memos as cover -- legal immunity -- for the torture they had already ordered and were continuing to order. Though one won't find this in the NYT article, that is, far and away, the most important revelation from the Comey emails.
* * * * *
Just read the Comey emails for yourself -- they're not long -- and you'll see exactly how these DOJ torture memos were actually produced. The key excerpts tell the story as clearly as can be. Comey was vehemently opposed to a draft memo written by Acting OLC Chief Steven Bradbury -- ultimately dated May 10, 2005 (.pdf) -- that legally authorized the simultaneous, combined use of numerous "enhanced interrogation techniques" on detainees. This "combined techniques" memo was crucial because these were the tactics that had already been used on detainees, and -- after the prior OLC memos authorizing those tactics were withdrawn -- the White House was desperate for legal approval for what they had already done and what they wanted to do in the future.
Comey begins by noting that OLC lawyer Patrick Philbin had expressed numerous objections to the Bradbury memo -- all of which were being ignored in the rush to give the White House what it wanted: Read more.