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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.
Tom wrote: When the Abu Ghraib photos were released in 2004, it seemed that most Americans were shocked by such novel and horrific images, but at least one was not. I'm talking about Alfred McCoy, who had been following the Central Intelligence Agency since the early 1970s, when it unsuccessfully tried to stop the publication of his book, The Politics of Heroin: CIA Complicity in the Global Drug Trade.
As soon as McCoy saw the now grimly iconic images of hooded figures, naked men on leashes, and the like, his reaction -- even grimmer than that of the rest of us -- was recognition. He had long been studying the CIA's pioneering research into methods of psychological torture. (The Agency had embarked on this project in the early 1950s, initially studying old Soviet and Chinese methods of interrogating and breaking prisoners.) As a result, he knew that what was unique at Abu Ghraib was not the methods of abuse, but those images. Thanks to cell phones and computers, these could be taken in quantity and passed around by anyone in the vicinity. Those photos, he also knew, were no record of aberrations: they represented policy and were recognizably out of the CIA's several-decade-old torture playbook.
That this was so still remains little understood today, even though in 2006 McCoy published an important book, A Question of Torture, on the subject (and even earlier wrote a post at TomDispatch laying out some of this grim history). His work has since been incorporated into, for instance, Jane Mayer's The Dark Side, a striking account of the war on terror as a torture fest. Yet the history offered in his book remains largely ignored or missing-in-action in our world -- and without it much of the so-called torture debate of this moment makes less sense than it should.
Recently, McCoy read a front-page New York Times piece headlined "U.S. Relies More on Aid of Allies in Terror Cases," which began this way: "The United States is now relying heavily on foreign intelligence services to capture, interrogate and detain all but the highest-level terrorist suspects seized outside the battlefields of Iraq and Afghanistan, according to current and former American government officials."
Again, McCoy quickly recognized ancient history returning to haunt us. After all, until the Bush era, American administrations regularly outsourced torture (and torture techniques) to foreign allies. So read his latest piece of missing history below and then, if you want to grasp the depths of this old story, which shows no sign of ending, get your hands on a copy of his book. (To catch a superb TomDispatch audio interview with McCoy in which he discusses the CIA's "Manhattan Project of the mind," click here.) Tom
Confronting the CIA's Mind Maze
America's Political Paralysis Over Torture
By Alfred W. McCoy
If, like me, you've been following America's torture policies not just for the last few years, but for decades, you can't help but experience that eerie feeling of déjà vu these days. With the departure of George W. Bush and Dick Cheney from Washington and the arrival of Barack Obama, it may just be back to the future when it comes to torture policy, a turn away from a dark, do-it-yourself ethos and a return to the outsourcing of torture that went on, with the support of both Democrats and Republicans, in the Cold War years.
Like Chile after the regime of General Augusto Pinochet or the Philippines after the dictatorship of Ferdinand Marcos, Washington after Bush is now trapped in the painful politics of impunity. Unlike anything our allies have experienced, however, for Washington, and so for the rest of us, this may prove a political crisis without end or exit.
AMID THE media frenzy and speculation over the disappearance of Air France's ill-fated Flight 447, the loss of two of the world's most prominent figures in the war on the illegal arms trade and international drug trafficking has been virtually overlooked.
Pablo Dreyfus, a 39-year-old Argentine who was travelling with his wife Ana Carolina Rodrigues aboard the doomed flight from Rio de Janeiro to Paris, had worked tirelessly with the Brazilian authorities to stem the flow of arms and ammunition that for years has fuelled the bloody turf wars waged by drug gangs in Rio's sprawling favelas.
Also travelling with Dreyfus on the doomed flight was his friend and colleague Ronald Dreyer, a Swiss diplomat and co-ordinator of the Geneva Declaration on Armed Violence who had worked with UN missions in El Salvador, Mozambique, Azerbaijan, Kosovo and Angola. Both men were consultants at the Small Arms Survey, an independent think tank based at Geneva's Graduate Institute of International Studies. The Survey said on its website that Dryer had helped mobilise the support of more than 100 countries to the cause of disarmament and development....
Dreyfus and Dreyer were on their way to Geneva to present the latest edition of the Small Arms Survey handbook, of which Dreyfus was a joint editor. It was to have been their latest step in their relentless fight against evil. Read more.
Love Is a Battlefield: For some soldiers, there's no place like combat
By Daniel Stone, Eve Conant and John Barry | Newsweek
Staff Sgt. Shaun McBride would rather be in a war zone than at home. He likes the adrenaline, he says, even the "fear someone can shoot you." He hates the petty responsibilities of home life, the bills and family issues.
He's clocked 43 months in Afghanistan and Iraq. His first wife of three years sent him divorce papers while he was fighting Taliban militants—she wanted to marry a friend of his. (She couldn't be reached for comment.) "Whatever," says McBride, 32, with a shrug. Now he's remarried—to Evangeline (Star) McBride, a 27-year-old divorced mother of one—and getting ready for his fifth deployment with the Third Brigade combat team of the 101st Airborne Division.
When asked in front of Star what he misses most when he's overseas, he doesn't hesitate: his souped-up Mustang. He likes to drive it fast, and "show what's what" when another flashy car pulls up next to him at a stoplight. But even the driving is better in Iraq. There, you "do whatever you want on the road. You own the road … You can go into people's houses without being invited in. It's like you own their house." Read more.
Once the suspects are charged and referred to trial, the case would be sent to Iraq's Central Criminal Court, the Iraqi official said. If that happens, it would be the first time U.S. citizens were tried in Iraq since the United States returned the country's government to the Iraqis.
Five American security contractors were detained in connection with the killing of another American contractor last month inside Baghdad's Green Zone, sources with knowledge of the investigation told CNN Saturday.
Iraqi and U.S. personnel took the five into custody in an operation inside the Green Zone before dawn on Friday, according to an Iraqi official involved in the investigation into the killing of James Kitterman. The five, who have not yet been charged, were being held by Iraqi security forces Saturday at a jail inside the heavily protected zone, he said. Read more.
Obama may toss ‘full trials’ for alleged 9/11 plotters
By Agence France-Presse | Raw Story
One advantage of permitting guilty pleas by defendants in the Sept. 11 case would be that the government would not have to expose harsh interrogation techniques during full trials that would otherwise have to be carried out, the Times said. It said the proposal to permit guilty pleas — which are not allowed in the legal framework the U.S. military uses in trials for its own personnel — would in effect permit the Sept. 11 defendants to achieve a self-proclaimed desire for martyrdom.
A plan under consideration by the Obama administration would permit Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, detainees facing the death penalty to plead guilty without a full trial, it has been reported.
This option would principally be aimed at a group of detainees accused of planning the Sept. 11, 2001 terror attacks, five people who have already indicated they prefer this resolution of the case, The New York Times said in a story posted late Friday on its Web site.
The terrorism-era U.S. military commission format has come under withering criticism from legal and human rights quarters, and American military prosecutions employing this structure and legal rules have for the most part been put on hold since January while the new administration considered other options. Read more.
Afghanistan's Wolesi Jirga, the lower house of parliament, has accused foreign troops based in the country of war crimes, urging a trial for the criminals.
Wolesi Jirga secretary Abdul Sattar Khawaasi told reporters that 73 members of parliament are collecting documents regarding foreign troops' crimes and offences in Afghanistan.
"The foreign troops came to the country claiming to bring security, but the crimes perpetrated by the them are not pardonable," he said.
Khawaasi added that foreign troops based in Afghanistan have violated the Constitution as well as international agreements in more than 20 instances.
In May, the Afghan parliament slammed the brutal bombardment of civilian areas by US-led forces, demanding legal restrictions on the activities of foreign forces.
Nearly 150 civilians were killed when US warplanes dropped bombs last month on two villages in Bala Baluk district in western Farah Province. Read more.
Cartwright: U.S. Force-Sizing, Basing Strategy Need Overhaul
By John T. Bennett | Defense News
Over the next few years, the U.S. military is likely to become engaged in a number of hot and cold conflicts, each spanning five to 10 years, meaning the Pentagon must "adjust" its decades-old force sizing and basing constructs, says Gen. James Cartwright, vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs.
Since the Cold War, the Pentagon has used a so-called "force-sizing construct" that focused on a need to fight two conventional wars at once, while also placing emphasis on "the most deadly" threats to American national security, Cartwright said June 4 in Washington.
But the world has changed in major ways, meaning the two conventional war-based approach is no longer a good fit, according to defense officials. Those changes are the reason senior Pentagon officials are examining whether the 2010 Quadrennial Defense Review (QDR) should include a new force-planning construct, as well as a new plan for how American bases, troops and combat equipment are located around the globe.
"It is clear we are going to have conflicts whose character will not be the same" as the ones on which the Pentagon has for decades based its force planning and global basing postures, Cartwright said. "It's clear [U.S. forces] will be engaged in operations that [each] last five or 10 years - and that is fundamentally different that in the past."
Military-Backed Public Schools on the Rise in U.S.
By The Associated Press | Google News
The U.S. Marine Corps is wooing public school districts across the country, expanding a network of military academies that has grown steadily despite criticism that it's a recruiting ploy.
The Marines are talking with at least six districts — including in suburban Atlanta, New Orleans and Las Vegas — about opening schools where every student wears a uniform, participates in Junior ROTC and takes military classes, said Bill McHenry, who runs the Junior ROTC program for the Marines.
Those schools would be on top of more than a dozen public military academies that have already opened nationwide, a trend that's picking up speed as the U.S. Department of Defense looks for ways to increase the number of units in Junior ROTC, which stands for Reserve Officers Training Corps.
"Many kids in our country don't get a fair shake. Many kids live in war zones. Many kids who are bright and have so much potential and so much to offer, all they need to be given is a chance," McHenry said. "If you look at stats, what we're doing now isn't working."
Last year, Congress passed a defense policy bill that included a call for increasing the number of Junior ROTC units across the country from 3,400 to 3,700 in the next 11 years, an effort that will cost about $170 million, Defense Department spokeswoman Eileen M. Lainez said. The process will go faster by opening military academies, which count as four or more units, McHenry said.
Other military branches also are aiming to increase their presence in school hallways, but the Marines are leading the charge. Read more.
During the past four months, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) backlog of unfinished disability claims grew by more than 100,000, adding to an already mountainous backlog that is now close to topping one million.
The VA's claims backlog, which includes all benefits claims and all appeals at the Veterans Benefits Administration (VBA) and the Board of Veterans Appeals at VA, was 803,000 on January 5, 2009. The backlog hit 915,000 on May 4, 2009, a staggering 14 percent increase in four months.
The issue has become so dire that veterans now wait an average of six months to receive disability benefits and as long as four years for their appeals to be heard in cases where their benefits were denied.
A plan under consideration by the Obama administration would permit Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, detainees facing the death penalty to plead guilty without a full trial, it has been reported.
This option would principally be aimed at a group of detainees accused of planning the Sept. 11, 2001 terror attacks, five people who have already indicated they prefer this resolution of the case, The New York Times said in a story posted late Friday on its Web site.
The terrorism-era U.S. military commission format has come under withering criticism from legal and human rights quarters, and American military prosecutions employing this structure and legal rules have for the most part been put on hold since January while the new administration considered other options.
President Barack Obama recently approved the continued use of these commissions. And the Times reported in its story that the possibility of permitting guilty pleas under some circumstances is among a series of options circulated within the administration by a special task force. The newspaper cited individuals who had been briefed on the proposal or had studied it.
Obama already has said that he wants to close Guantanamo by January 2010, declaring it has caused the United States more harm than good and has served as a recruitment tool for the al-Qaida terrorist network. Read more.
President Barack Obama's pick for intelligence chief at the Homeland Security Department withdrew from consideration Friday amid questions about his role in the CIA's interrogations of suspected terrorists.
Philip Mudd was scheduled to appear next week before senators considering his nomination as undersecretary of intelligence and analysis. He notified the White House on Friday that he was withdrawing his name because he did not want to be a distraction.
At issue was the extent of Mudd's involvement in the interrogation program while he was a senior CIA official in the Bush administration. The interrogation methods have been criticized by Democratic lawmakers and Obama. Read more.
Saturday, June 6th, 5-7 pm Central, Truth Jihad Radio, presents:
Brad Friedman of BradBlog.com and Andy Worthington, author, The Guantanamo Files
Saturday, June 6th, 5-7 pm Central (6-8 p.m. Eastern), on American Freedom Radio:
First hour: Brad Friedman, The Brad Blog, discussing efforts to expose and rectify the Bush Administration's bogus prosecutions of its political enemies, including Alabama Governor Don Siegelman; disbar the torture lawyers; and restore justice at Justice. See: Velvet Revolution US, Restore Justice at Justice.
Second hour: Andy Worthington, author, The Guantanamo Files: http://www.andyworthington.co.uk/
Stop Recruiting Kids! | Press Release | June 4, 2009
UPDATE ON DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE EFFORTS TO INVALIDATE THE ARCATA AND EUREKA YOUTH PROTECTION ACTS
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA vs. CITIES OF EUREKA AND ARCATA, CA
On Tuesday, June 9 at 1pm, in Courtroom 3 at the Oakland Federal Courthouse, Federal Court Judge Saundra Armstrong is scheduled to hear oral arguments regarding the Arcata and Eureka Youth Protection Acts. These ordinances prohibit military recruiters from initiating contact with minors for the purpose of recruiting them into any branch of the military. They were approved as ballot initiative Measures F and J, on November 4, 2008 by margins of 73% in Arcata and 57% in Eureka.
President Barack Obama's much-anticipated Cairo speech reflected a significant shift away from the ideological framework of militarism and unilateralism that shaped the Bush administration's war-based policy towards the Arab and Muslim worlds. His "not Bush" focus was perhaps most sharply evident in his public denunciation of the Iraq War as a "war of choice." Obama's call for a "new beginning" based on "the truth that America and Islam are not exclusive and need not be in competition" was followed by a move to shift the official U.S. discourse towards something closer to internationalism - particularly by pointing to parallels between historical (and some contemporary) grievances and treating them as equivalent. This included his reference to the U.S. "role in the overthrow of a democratically elected Iranian government" along with Iran's "role in acts of hostage-taking and violence against U.S. troops and civilians."
Certainly, the equivalences were limited. Equating Palestinians and Israelis as "two peoples with legitimate aspirations, each with a painful history..." doesn't reflect the reality that Israel is an occupying power with specific obligations under the Geneva Convention, while Palestinians living under occupation are a protected population under international law. But in the context of decades of U.S. privileging of Israelis as the only ones who have suffered, equating the two was a major step forward.
As expected, Obama focused first on the historic contributions of Arabs and Muslims to global civilization and to U.S. culture and history. His articulation of U.S. policy - and particularly U.S. active obligations - on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan were addressed only in broad strokes, although there was more detail regarding Iran.
The shift in discourse, away from justifying reckless imperial hubris, unilateralism and militarism and towards a more cooperative and potentially even internationalist approach was potent. The actual policy shifts were much smaller. It remains the work of mobilized people across the U.S. - starting with the millions who mobilized to build a movement capable of electing Barack Hussein Obama as President - to turn that new language into new policies - reversing the escalation and moving towards ending Obama's war in Afghanistan and Pakistan, ending the occupation of Iraq immediately rather than years from now, ending U.S. military aid to Israel and creating a policy based on an end to occupation and equality for all, launching new negotiations with Iran not based on military threats, implementing U.S. nuclear disarmament obligations, and more.
That's the next step.
Time to Look Past Obama’s Words and Face-up to His Actions
U.S. Foreign Policy Continues Rapidly in the Wrong Direction
The Peace Movement Needs to Escalate Anti-War Actions
By Kevin Zeese | Voters for Peace, Prosperity Agenda.US
There is long-time saying about politicians: you cannot trust their words, but must judge them by their actions.
President Obama is very good with words, perhaps the best communicator we have seen in the White House in a generation. But now he has been in office long enough that he should be judged on his actions.
The direction of U.S. foreign policy is moving rapidly in the wrong direction on many fronts. It is time for the peace movement to step up its activities throughout the country and demand a change in course.
As one of the teeming teens who wrote letters to NBC in the late sixties urging execs to keep Star Trek on the air, I've often felt vindicated by the success of the franchise. And so I felt an odd disquiet after my mother and my wife opted on seeing Star Trek and dinner out to celebrate Mother's Day. I'm sure they did it to sweeten the deal for two grown sons and me, but it was an oddly appropriate choice. The film opens with a heroic child delivery, along with a nascent notion that something's not right about this film, maybe this culture.
By opening his film in a Star Trek universe pre-altered by a vicious tattooed time traveler, director J.J. Abrams dodges several space mines. First he shields the film from sentimentality. Because the movie's pre-history is all wrong, the appearance of so many familiar characters in the bloom of youth serves for more than misting the eyes of aging Trekkies. It obliterates the original series, in which Captain Kirk's father lives on, Spock's mother lives on, the planet Vulcan is very much with us, Uhuru kisses Kirk, not Spock, and so on.
Altering history through time travel has become a hackneyed plot device, sure, but using it on such a cultural touchstone is a stroke of dark genius.
Newsweek recently featured a cover story suggesting Obama must be a Vulcan.
Let's hope not, for this film is a betrayal of Spock, indeed the Star Trek canon. Not because of the changed prehistory, per se, but for the dark uses Abrams puts it to. Read more.
Don Williams is a prize-winning columnist, short story writer and the founding editor and publisher of New Millennium Writings, an annual anthology of literary stories, essays and poems. His awards include a National Endowment for the Humanities Michigan Journalism Fellowship, a Golden Presscard Award and the Malcolm Law Journalism Prize. He is finishing a novel, "Oracle of the Orchid Lounge," set in his native Tennessee and Iraq. His book of selected journalism, "Heroes, Sheroes and Zeroes, the Best Writings About People" by Don Williams, is due a second printing. For more information, email him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Or visit NMW website.
American troops made substantial errors and did not strictly follow rules for avoiding casualties during an air assault on Taliban fighters last month, a U.S. defense official said, underscoring a central quandary for President Barack Obama's new Afghan counterinsurgency campaign.
The defense official said Wednesday that a military investigation faulted some of the actions of American troops in air strikes May 4 that killed dozens of Afghan civilians in Farah province.
"Errors were made" in the attack, the official acknowledged on condition of anonymity, discussing one of the preliminary findings on an incident that has strained relations between Washington and Kabul and bred deep resentment among the Afghan people. Civilian deaths in Afghanistan have also enraged Muslims worldwide.
Though the probe looked into the events in early May, commanders for well over a year have focused considerable attention on the problem. It looms as large as ever as the Obama administration streams 21,000 troops into Afghanistan to try to regain momentum in the faltering war.
The new U.S. commander in eastern Afghanistan was asked about the issue at a news conference on his first day Wednesday, when he only took two questions. Maj. Gen. Curtis Scaparrotti, commander of the 82nd Airborne Division, responded that he planned to use close air support for troops only when needed to protect them and to complete the mission. And he said air strikes would be used carefully.
The nominee for top commander in Afghanistan was asked about it at his confirmation hearing Tuesday on Capitol Hill. Lt. Gen. Stanley McChrystal told senators: "This is a critical point. It may be the critical point. This is a struggle for the support of the Afghan people." Read more.
General Motors Corp. took a key step toward its downsizing on Tuesday, striking a tentative deal to sell its Hummer brand to a Chinese manufacturer, while also revealing that it has potential buyers for its Saturn and Saab brands.
China's Sichuan Tengzhong Heavy Industrial Machinery Co. said Tuesday afternoon that it reached an agreement to acquire the brand from GM for an undisclosed ammount. The Detroit automaker had announced Tuesday morning that it had a memorandum of understanding to sell the brand of rugged SUVs, but it didn't identify the buyer.
Sichuan Tengzhong deals in road construction, plastics, resins and other industrial products, but Hummer would be its first step into the automotive business.
GM said the sale will likely save more than 3,000 U.S. jobs in manufacturing, engineering and at various Hummer dealerships. Tengzhong said it will assume GM's existing agreements with Hummer dealers.
"We will be investing in the Hummer brand and its research and development capabilities, which will allow Hummer to better meet demand for new products such as more fuel-efficient vehicles in the U.S," Chief Executive Yang Yi said in a statement.
As part of the proposed transaction, Hummer will continue to contract vehicle manufacturing and business services from GM during a transitional period. For example, GM's Shreveport, La., assembly plant would continue to contract to assemble the H3 and H3T through at least 2010, GM said. AM General LLC in Mishawaka, Ind., makes the larger H2 under contract for GM. Read more.
Note: 21:25 - I found the headline had been re-written to: "Dick Cheney's Role in CIA Interrogations Comes into Focus"
Update: 22:34 - This article, formerly the lead article on ABCNews' home page, is no longer there, and is not in their politics section, either. The link, however, is still working.
Dick Cheney as vice president conducted secret briefings for lawmakers in 2005 aimed at defending harsh interrogations as their methods were coming under congressional scrutiny, according to current and former government officials.
The secret briefings followed the Abu Ghraib prison abuse scandal and public revelations about the CIA's rendition and interrogation program, current and former officials with ties to Congress and government intelligence told The Associated Press.
One official with direct knowledge of a March 8, 2005, meeting on the CIA's interrogation program said the briefing was run by Cheney in the situation room at the White House, a secure meeting room. The official said CIA officers were on hand to provide details.
The official said it was not unusual for Cheney to lead such briefings, as he was an aggressive champion of Bush administration national security policies and periodically conducted or sat in on meetings with members of Congress at the White House. The official asked not to be identified because the meeting was secret.
Another Cheney briefing occurred in October 2005 for Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., around the time he had won overwhelming Senate support for banning cruel, inhumane and degrading treatment for all U.S. prisoners, The Washington Post reported in its Wednesday editions. Two other briefings took place in October and November 2005, according to the Post.
The briefings add to questions about the role Cheney played in the creation, approval and conduct of the CIA's interrogation program, either directly or through his powerful chief of staff, David Addington.
The Cheney briefings were among 40 conducted for members of Congress by Bush administration officials between 2002 and 2009. Read more.
From May 28 Protests Demanding Release of the photos & Prosecution of the War Criminals Responsible:
Director Paul Haggis speaking West Hollywood City
War Criminals Watch, World Can't Wait, and other groups that worked on May protests (Code Pink, Progressive Democrats, the National Lawyers Guild and West Hollywood City Hall) and the many newly active people who came forward helped shape and develop outrage about the US torture state. The protests received local TV coverage in most cities, national coverage on Democracy Now and CNN, and we hear that photos ran over and over on Russian TV.
Press report, New York, May 29: Thursday, as World Can't Wait protested in 16 cities to demand that the Obama administration release the torture photographs, and prosecute the war crimes of the Bush regime, charges re-surfaced that the suppressed photos contradict President Obama's statement on May 12 that they are "not particularly sensational."
General Antonio Taguba, who investigated the 2004 Abu Ghraib torture scandal for the Bush administration, told The Daily Telegraph: "These pictures show torture, abuse, rape and every indecency." US Defense Secretary Robert Gates and the White House responded with denials, prompting further confirmations and details from those who have seen the photos that they include extreme sexual humiliation of detainees.
In New York, protesters gathered on 42nd Street, with dozens donning orange jumpsuits, representing detainees in US detention facilities. They walked silently into the hall of Grand Central Station, and up both sides of the west staircase, where they unfurled a banner saying "Release the Torture Photographs" and held photos believed to be part of the 2,000 involved in the controversy. Spontaneous applause went through the crowds of commuters, as thousands of cell phones snapped images.
The recent fire/counterfire between President Obama and former vice president Dick Cheney over Guantánamo, the prisoners held there, and techniques used in their interrogation revealed a distressing ignorance in the White House. Specifically, it revealed that Obama and his advisers are ignorant of military theory.
Cheney won the debate by drawing the usual Republican distinction, that between doing what is necessary for national security and being nice. If Republicans are allowed to frame the issue that way, they will always win. But in fact, theirs is a false position. We do not have to choose between doing what works in the "war on terrorism" and doing what is morally right. The two are the same.
The military theory that allows us to see this is the work of Col. John Boyd, USAF. Boyd argued that war is fought on three levels: the moral, the mental, and the physical. Of the three, the moral level is the most powerful, the physical level is the least powerful, and the mental level lies between the other two.
Cheney argued that we should sacrifice the moral level to the physical. We should engage in torture because it may gain us information that could prevent another attack like 9/11. That could be the case.
But Boyd’s theory would respond that the defeat we suffer on the moral level by adopting a policy of torture will outweigh any benefits torture might bring us on the physical level of war. How so? By pumping up the terrorists’ will, cohesion, and ability to cooperate while diminishing our own.
In effect, both our enemies and our allies will come to see us as evil. That enables enemies to recruit, raise money, and generate new operations while we must focus internally on papering over cracks in our coalitions. They gain greater harmony while we face increased friction, Boyd’s dread "many non-cooperative centers of gravity." They pull together, we are pulled apart. Read more.
But he also acknowledged the decision could be influenced by a political reaction prompted by the company's ties to the previous U.S. administration of George W. Bush and his vice president, Dick Cheney -- a former Halliburton chairman and CEO. "In some respects, we find ourselves at a crossroads of anti-big business, anti-war, anti-Bush-Cheney that people associate with KBR," Utt said. "While we can't change who was the former chairman of our former parent who was a former VP of the United States, we can at least bring back the debate to facts."
KBR Inc expects profit margins on the next round of U.S. military logistics contracts to rise as they are split between different companies, the engineering and services company's chief executive said on Tuesday.
KBR is competing with Fluor Corp and DynCorp International for the next Logistics Civil Augmentation Program, or LOGCAP IV, and expects to find out whether it has won one of two contracts for Afghanistan in July.
But Chief Executive William Utt said the previous LOGCAP contract, which includes food, mail, laundry and trucking among other services, was the lowest-margin business KBR had.
"If you start taking the scale away, generally people's margins are going to go up, particularly as we approach more traditional government contracting margins," Utt told the Reuters Global Energy Summit in Houston. Read more.
Al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden purportedly issued another statement Wednesday, saying U.S. policy in Pakistan has generated "new seeds of hatred and revenge against America."
Zeroing in on the conflict in Pakistan's Swat Valley, where Pakistan's troops are taking on Taliban militants, the message asserts that President Obama is proving that he is "walking the same road of his predecessors to build enmity against Muslims and increasing the number of fighters, and establishing more lasting wars."
Al-Jazeera, the Arabic-language TV network that aired the message, said the statement was "a voice recording by bin Laden," and a CNN analysis said the voice does indeed sound like the leader of the terrorist network that attacked the United States on September 11, 2001.
The remarks -- which would be bin Laden's first assessment of Obama's policy -- were believed to have been recorded several weeks ago at the start of a mass civilian exodus because of fighting in northwestern Pakistan.
The speaker cites strikes, destruction and Obama's "order" to Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari "to prevent the people of Swat from implementing sharia law."
"All this led to the displacement of about a million Muslim elders, women and children from their villages and homes. They became refugees in tents after they were honored in their own homes," the message says. Read more.
Washington Didn't Want You to See this Guantanamo Photo
Star journalist captures landmark protest hours before a suicide puts heat on Obama
by Michelle Shephard | Common Dreams
A Guantanamo Bay detainee committed suicide late Monday just hours after two Chinese Muslim captives staged the detention centre's first public protest, increasing the pressure on U.S. President Barack Obama to outline his plan of how he will close the offshore prison.
Yemeni Muhammad Ahmad Abdallah Salih, 31, is the first prisoner to die since the White House changed hands four months ago. His suicide follows weeks of criticism from both ends of the political spectrum over the fate of the remaining 240 Guantanamo detainees.
News of the suicide was emailed to the media just as a flight bringing journalists from Guantanamo landed in Maryland. The press had been at the U.S. naval detention centre for the war crimes court hearing of Canadian Omar Khadr.
Khadr, 22, is accused of war crimes, including the murder of a U.S. soldier during a firefight in Afghanistan in July 2002.
Hours after Khadr's brief hearing Monday, fewer than a dozen journalists on the trip, including a Toronto Star reporter, witnessed a rare unscripted moment on the base when two Uighur (pronounced Wee-gur) detainees managed to hold an impromptu protest.
The group was at an Oceanside prison known as "Camp Iguana," where 16 Uighur and one Algerian detainee are imprisoned. Read more.
U.S. Releases Secret List of Nuclear Sites Accidentally
By William J. Broad | NYTimes
The federal government mistakenly made public a 266-page report, its pages marked “highly confidential,” that gives detailed information about hundreds of the nation’s civilian nuclear sites and programs, including maps showing the precise locations of stockpiles of fuel for nuclear weapons.
The publication of the document was revealed Monday in an online newsletter devoted to issues of federal secrecy. That set off a debate among nuclear experts about what dangers, if any, the disclosures posed. It also prompted a flurry of investigations in Washington into why the document had been made public.
On Tuesday evening, after inquiries from The New York Times, the document was withdrawn from a Government Printing Office Web site.
Several nuclear experts argued that any dangers from the disclosure were minimal, given that the general outlines of the most sensitive information were already known publicly.
“These screw-ups happen,” said John M. Deutch, a former director of central intelligence and deputy secretary of defense who is now a professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. “It’s going further than I would have gone but doesn’t look like a serious breach.”
But David Albright, president of the Institute for Science and International Security, a private group in Washington that tracks nuclear proliferation, said information that shows where nuclear fuels are stored “can provide thieves or terrorists inside information that can help them seize the material, which is why that kind of data is not given out.” Read more.