Wednesday, February 16, 2005

Douglas Jehl's CIA article should be on the front page of this morning's New York Times

Continuing to recover from the low that was Monday's paper, the New York Times has some strong stories today.

On the front page, David D. Kirkpatrick's "For Democrats, Rethinking Abortion Runs Risks" is one that's already resulted in e-mail to the site. (Address is

The article details a continued effort by some in the Democratic party to move away from support for reproductive rights. Today we learn that Charles Schumer is attempting to recruit an anti-choice candidate to run in Penn. for the Senate. From the article:

"He was very welcoming and very candid about the party's need to speak for a broad section of Americans," Mr. Casey said in an interview.
But Mr. Schumer's overture has roiled party loyalists who remain unyielding in their support for abortion rights, exposing a deepening rift in the party. Abortion rights groups that are major financial donors to Democratic campaigns say they may fight Mr. [Robert P.] Casey [Jr.] in a primary with a candidate who shares their beliefs.

A broad section of Americans? Last time I checked, polling showed that a large section of Americans supported reproductive rights.

Back to the article:

Emily's List and other groups have also sounded alarms about the direction the party leadership is taking over all. During the search for a national Democratic chairman, Ms. White posted a rallying cry on the group's Web site: "We fought like mad to beat back the Republicans. Little did we know that we would have just as much to fear from some within the Democratic Party who seem to be using choice as a scapegoat for our top-of-the-ticket losses."
Emily's List is circulating a study it commissioned by the pollster Mark Mellman stating that abortion "was not a factor in voters' decision-making" in the November elections.

As we noted in the "red" states series, "values" was nonsense, was spin. The issue wasn't "values." But it certainly allowed people to avoid dealing with the breakdown of party infrastructure that's gone across the country for some time now. And, as noted then, this "values" nonsense would be utilized by some to push the party to the right. We're seeing that on GLBT issues and we're seeing it on choice. Were those "F" the south jokes really that funny?
They hurt people's feelings, as we noted, but they also popularized a stereotype, one the press was happy to run with and too many people who should have known better were happy to repeat.

Back to the article and the 'wisdom' of Schumer:

. . . abortion rights groups should worry about Republicans, not Democrats, if they want to preserve Roe v. Wade, the 1973 Supreme Court decision establishing a constitutional right to abortion. "What we find is that even the most pro-choice Republican senators just vote down the line for judges that are chomping at the bit to overturn Roe," he said.

Really? Well here's a newsflash for Schumer. What I find is that even the most anti-choice Democratic senator can vote down the line in favor of judges that are chomping at the bit to overturn Roe. I believe that's called 'the converse is also true' rule.

Here's another news flash for Schumer, Pennsylvania has a pro-choice senator. His name is Arlen Specter. He fought a tough primary race and won. Specter's a Republican. Maybe problems in Penn. have more to do with an issue other than choice?

Scrape, scurry and curry to the right. I don't think they get the message the grass roots is sending. We're asking them to stand tall and they're attempting to bend the party to the point of breaking it.

I have several friends who are not planning to donate to the party for the 2006 election cycle because they feel betrayed on the issue of reproductive rights. They're planning to donate to Emily's List. That's something the Democratic party should be concerned about but the only one making a similar point in the paper's article is a pro-choice Republican.

In the "red" state series, I believe we alluded to the party leaders need to punish women in 1988, as though Geraldine Ferraro lost the election. It appears we're back to that. Study the attacks on Molly Yard from that period because apparently, we'll be revisiting them unless the party gets the message.

Ironic that we'll appeal to any opinion, no matter how few people support it, if it may pull over a few Republicans. But we seem unwilling or unable to do what needs to be done -- speak to the base. And speak to the people who've disengaged from voting because they see little reason to. We could, for instance, inspire many to vote by addressing the the issue of where the money's going (not to people working their rears off.) The Nation had a good piece on this topic: Gar Alperovitz's "Taking the Offensive on Wealth."

It's not available online (unless you subscribe to the magazine) but here's an excerpt:

Democrats have been frightened to open a full-blown challenge to what is going on, in part because many of them have depended significantly on financial support from the wealthy and from corporate funders and their lobbies. What the Dean campaign, and ultimately the Kerry campaign demonstrated is that sources of funding are now available that could open the way for a new populism by freeing serious progressive candidates from this restraint. Democrats have also been cautious because they fear being tagged with charges of waging "class war." The truth is that Bush's policies are class warfare. It is simply time to call his bluff. Boldness, as the Dean campaign also demonstrated, creates its own energy. It is high time progressives called a spade a spade.
. . .
In all of this, one other thing is required: Progressives need to grasp fully, and then communicate, the morally outrageous nature of what is happening in the wealthiest nation in the history of the world. The typical American full-time worker earned just $35,906 in 2003. The total income of the typical family (including spouse, etc.) came to just under $53,000. Try raising a family or think about sending your kids to college on that--and remember that roughly half of all families are below this figure. Meanwhile, to take just three examples: Richard Fuld Jr., chief executive of Lehman Brothers Holdings, made $67.7 million in 2003; George David of United Technologies made $70.5 million; and Reuben Mark of Colgate-Palmolive made $148 million. Something is powerfully amiss in this disparity and it is getting worse--something progressives have not yet found a way to fully dramatize.
Pollster Stan Greenberg and others have suggested that John Kerry's failure to put forward a compelling economic vision was one of the most important reasons he lost the presidency, especially in states like Ohio. There are increasing signs that Republican politicians are by no means as united as the November election results seemed to suggest. Many, facing their own constituents in a nonpresidential year, are unlikely to go along with, or continue to defend, the ever-growing Bush deficits. The time is ripe for an all-out effort to demand change--and to force the other side to attempt to defend what is in fact indefensible.

But we can't deal with that apparently. Instead we're going to demonize choice and expect that choice advocates will silently go along. Sound strategy? Pissing off the base? Doesn't sound like a winning strategy to me. And as one person who e-mailed the site this morning wrote regarding the "tilt to the right, tilt to the right strategy": "The truth is, if choice survives the next four years, the Democratic party's going to be surprised by how many walk. They've played this we're-the-only-game-in-town bit for too long. And if choice survives, their bluff has been called. Instead of attempting to agonize choice advoactes, they should be listening to us."

Also on the front page is Steven R. Weisman and Hassan M. Fattah's "U.S. Recalls Its Envoy in Syria, Linking Nation to Beirut Blast." From that article:

The Bush administration recalled its ambassador to Syria on Tuesday to protest what it sees as Syria's link to the murder of the former prime minister of Lebanon, as violent anti-Syrian protests erupted in Beirut and several other Lebanese cities.
At the United Nations, the administration also demanded that Syria withdraw its troops from Lebanon, and the Security Council called for an urgent investigation into the killing of the former prime minister, Rafik Hariri, who died Monday with 13 others when a huge car bomb blew up his motorcade in downtown Beirut.

Wow. Must have some firm evidence there. Right?

From yesterday's paper, "U.S. Seems Sure of the Hand of Syria, Hinting at Penalties" by Steven R. Weisman:

Mr. [Scott] McClellan and other administration spokesmen said they had no concrete evidence of Syria's involvement in the killing of Mr. Hariri, a prominent opposition leader and critic of Syria's role in Lebanon, who died along with at least 11 others when a car bomb blew up next to his motorcade in Beirut.
And in fact the Syrian foreign minister, Farouk al-Sharaa, speaking at a news conference in Damascus, also condemned the attack.
. . .
"We're going to turn up the heat on Syria, that's for sure," said a senior State Department official. "It's been a pretty steady progression of pressure up to now, but I think it's going to spike in the wake of this event. Even though there's no evidence to link it to Syria, Syria has, by negligence or design, allowed Lebanon to become destabilized."

Also from yesterday, "Beirut Car Bomb Kills Ex-Premier; Stability at Risk" by Hassan M. Fattah:

The Bush administration said that the attack was "a terrible reminder" of the need for Lebanon to break free from Syria, which maintains 15,000 troops in the country, and that it was studying whether to increase sanctions on Syria, which it accuses of supporting terrorism.
Syria rejected the charge and condemned the bombing as criminal.

And let's remember what Clare Short told Amy Goodman on yesterday's Democracy Now!:

AMY GOODMAN: What were your thoughts when you heard Scott McClellan, the White House Press Secretary, in talking about what's going on in Lebanon now, and Syria, condemning foreign occupation of any country?

CLARE SHORT: Well, I think it's called hypocrisy, and it is incredible that these masters of spin don't even hear, with a smile that will go across the world as people think, “How dare you say that when you're in the middle of an occupation in another country?” I think with Lebanon, it’s very difficult to see who did this. I mean, everyone's blaming Syria, and it’s like we're all being softened up for action against Syria. I cannot see how Syria benefits from this. I think we need to pause and find out what really happened and who really did it.

Also from Democracy Now! yesterday:

AMY GOODMAN: A little known group calling itself “Victory in Jihad in Greater Syria” has claimed responsibility. What are the thoughts of people on the ground? What's the general sense in Beirut?

MICHAEL GLACKIN: Well, I mean, when something like this happens, particularly in this part of the world, the list of culprits is – is as long as your arm. Most people are, to be frank, quite dismissive about the claimed responsibility, not to say that it’s -- perhaps it isn't credible, but it's unconfirmed yet; and the investigation, such as it is, that the government are doing that they seem to focus on one suspect. I believe they have somebody in custody overnight. Whether it’s the person they were looking for initially yesterday, I’m not certain; but most people don't believe that -- most people haven't heard of this group and don't believe that, frankly, it is responsible. And certainly the country's political opposition have pointed the finger very firmly and directly at Syria. Washington itself, as you would know, have been hinting more or less the same thing, although they have stopped short of saying it in statements coming from the White House. But, to be frank, I mean, this could be any one of a myriad of Islamic fundamentalist groups or other kinds of group, and it's really too early to say who is responsible for this.

AMY GOODMAN: Patrick Seale is also on the line with us, British journalist who wrote the biography of Asad. It has been reported that Mr. Hariri, today in theWall Street Journal, saying was planning a comeback to high office, and parliamentary elections this spring, where relations with Syria have emerged as the major campaign issue. Can you talk about this, Patrick Seale?

PATRICK SEALE: Yes. The Syrians actually were negotiating with Hariri for his return to power. Indeed, there was an interview, big interview, with Hariri in the major Lebanese newspaper yesterday, al-Safir, in which he seemed to be reaching out a sort of olive branch to the Syrians, in which he said that even if the Syrians were to withdraw their troops from Lebanon this would not cause the Lebanese to seek a separate peace with Israel; the two tracks, Syrian and Lebanese tracks would remain together. So, this would slightly point away from Syria's responsibility. The truth is that, in the absence of proof, one should be fairly careful, I think, before blaming one party or the other. It's interesting, what you just heard from Beirut that this was a suicide bomb, cause this would seem to credit the theory that this was some sort of Islamist group. However, on the other hand, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, who is the leader, as you know, of an Islamist group in Iraq linked to al Qaeda, made a statement today in which he said that no jihadi group was involved, that this was the work either of Syrian, Lebanese, or Israeli intelligence services.
So, it's a little bit early. I think there's going to be an international commission of inquiry; the French have called for one. I think we should wait and see what -- what proof there is.
However, in the mean time, this is, of course, a very serious blow to both Syria and Lebanon. Hariri was sort of a guarantor of Lebanese stability. I think the economic, financial, and social impact will be very great. There's likely to be a flight of funds from Lebanon. Very few people will want to invest in that country. The currency is likely to suffer. As for Syria, of course, many people have pointed the finger at Syria. If it were proved that Syria was responsible, this would be really a political suicide. The United States and France and other powers are very much anti-Syrian at the moment (and of course, Israel), and Syria is under great pressure.
Now, I think it's worth pointing out that the United States is very anxious to seal off the Iraqi battleground from Iraq's neighbors, either Iran or Syria; and the Israelis, with American support, are also very anxious that Syria should act against Hezbollah, the Lebanese guerrilla group which has recently turned into a political party. Now, the Israelis are very keen that Hezbollah should be labeled a terrorist organization and should be dismantled. So, both these powers, the United States and Israel, both have an interest now in weakening Syria for their own interests.

Translation, the Times could offer some perspective on this story today but doesn't which is strange after yesterday's two stories in the paper.

Not on the front page but should have been is Douglas Jehl's "C.I.A. Is Seen as Seeking New Role on Detainees" ("article was reported by Douglas Jehl, David Johnston and Neil A. Lewis and written by Mr. Jehl"):

The Central Intelligence Agency is seeking to scale back its role as interrogator and custodian of terrorist leaders who are being held without charges in secret sites around the world, current and former intelligence officials said.
The internal discussions, they said, reflect the agency's growing discomfort with what is increasingly seen as an untenable position. The C.I.A.'s current leadership is concerned, the officials said, that the legal authority for interrogations and detentions is eroding, and that there is no clear plan for how the agency can extricate itself from what could be a lengthy task of holding and caring for a small population of aging terrorists whose intelligence value is steadily evaporating and who are unlikely ever to be released or brought to trial.

Read that again -- "who are unlikely ever to be released or brought to trial."

Important article and one worth reading closely while considering such principles as "due process," "fair and speedy trial," etc.

From the article:

As it rethinks its role, the C.I.A. is facing renewed scrutiny in Congress and in the courts over practices like detentions without trial, harsh interrogations and the handing over of captives to third countries where they might be abused.
The C.I.A. never expected to play a long-term role in the detention and interrogation of terror suspects, the officials said. At the same time, they added, the Bush administration's repudiation of an August 2002 legal opinion regarding the use of torture, sought by the C.I.A. to protect its employees from liability, is seen within the agency as undercutting its authority to use coercive methods in interrogations.
C.I.A. lawyers, who have said nothing in public about the decision in June 2004 to invalidate the opinion, were furious about the decision, former Justice Department officials said. From the start, senior C.I.A. officials had agreed to play a part in detention and interrogation as part of an immediate sense after the Sept. 11 attacks that all agencies must adopt a new approach to counterterrorism. But current and former intelligence officials say there was concern that the C.I.A. might be left to bear sole responsibility and the brunt of criticism for the use of harsh techniques.

This is an important story and one that you should read.

Also note that in World Briefing (page A9), we learn in one paragraph that "The head of Australia's security agency, Dennis Richardson, conceded that Mahmoud Habib, the terror suspect recently freed after 40 months in American custody, was detained in Egypt for part of the that time. Washington and Cairo have consistently denied that."