Excess billing for postwar fuel imports to Iraq by the Halliburton Company totaled more than $108 million, according to a report by Pentagon auditors that was completed last fall but has never been officially released to the public or to Congress.
In one case, according to the report, the company claimed that it had paid more than $27 million to transport liquefied petroleum gas it had purchased in Kuwait for just $82,000 - a fee the auditors tartly dismissed as "illogical."
The fuels report, by the Defense Contract Audit Agency, was one of nine audits involving a subsidiary of Halliburton, Kellogg, Brown & Root, that were completed in October 2004, in the month before the American presidential elections. But the administration has kept all of them confidential despite repeated requests from both Republican and Democratic members of Congress.
Excerpts were released yesterday by the office of Representative Henry A. Waxman of California, minority leader of the House Committee on Government Reform, which said it had obtained the audit through "unofficial channels."
Vice President Dick Cheney formerly headed Halliburton, a conglomerate based in Texas. Allegations of profiteering by the company - hotly disputed by Halliburton and administration officials - were raised in the presidential campaign.
Pat e-mails noting Dean E' Murphy's "California Judge Voids Ban on Gay Marriage:"
In a victory for city officials here, a state judge ruled on Monday that California's ban on same-sex marriage was unconstitutional, overturning a statewide proposition passed in 2000 that defined marriage as between a man and woman.
In a tentative ruling, the judge, Richard A. Kramer of San Francisco County Superior Court, said "the denial of marriage to same-sex couples appears impermissibly arbitrary," thus violating the equal protection clause of the state's Constitution. The ruling will not be made final until the judge meets with the various parties to the litigation on March 30.
While welcoming the decision, which came in a lawsuit filed by the city against the state, Mayor Gavin Newsom of San Francisco said it was "only the beginning" of a long legal battle that would probably be decided by the California Supreme Court. Mr. Newsom said marriage licenses would not be offered to same-sex couples in San Francisco while the litigation was pending.
Erika e-mails advising that Sara Rimer's "Harvard Faculty Voting Tuesday on Confidence in President" is worth noting and wondering exactly "what, if anything, will happen today."
From the article:
After weeks of simmering discontent over the leadership style of the president of Harvard, Dr. Lawrence H. Summers, the Faculty of Arts and Sciences will consider a resolution of a lack of confidence in him at its regular monthly meeting on Tuesday.
It will also consider a statement expressing the faculty's regret over Dr. Summers's remarks about women in science at a January conference, as well as "aspects of the president's managerial approach," which many faculty members call autocratic and stifling of open discussion.
The statement says that the faculty "appreciates the president's stated intent to address these issues" and that it intends to be collegial as well as assert its role in governance.
[. . .]
The vote of no confidence, and the statement of regret, a kind of academic censure of the comments about women, as well the president's management style, are unprecedented in recent Harvard history, said Everett Mendelsohn, a professor of the history of science, who has been critical of Dr. Summers.
Whatever the outcome of the votes, to be taken by secret ballot, the Harvard Corporation, the governing body that alone has the power to remove Dr. Summers, has affirmed its strong support for him.
Eric Lichtblau covers a trial "certainly more worthy than all the ink wasted on the Michael Jackson trial" notes Brad. From the article "Judge Delays Trial of Student Accused of Plot to Kill Bush:"
Federal prosecutors won a delay on Monday in the trial of an American student accused of plotting to assassinate President Bush, contending that the use of Saudi witnesses and the defense's charges of torture would make the case unusually complicated and time-consuming.
But a lawyer for the student, Ahmed Omar Abu Ali, 23, described the Justice Department's request for a delay as a sign that the evidence against Mr. Abu Ali was weak. Prosecutors "want time to concoct a case," the lawyer, Ashraf W. Nubani, said.
[. . .]
On Monday, the defense contended again that Mr. Abu Ali was tortured by the Saudis while in their custody and that his detention had come "at the behest and under the control of the United States."
The Saudis and the Justice Department have denied Mr. Abu Ali's claims of torture [. . .]
The case is seen as an important test of the Justice Department's ability to use foreign intelligence in criminal courts in the United States.
Legal analysts and some federal prosecutors say they believe the Justice Department faces significant hurdles to a conviction, particularly in refuting charges that Mr. Abu Ali's reported confession about his involvement with Al Qaeda was the result of coercion and torture.
Tori e-mails that "what do you know, the paper finally gets at what we've been discussing for some time. Tell Eli to check out 'Sinn Fein Leader Plays Down Snubs From Bush and Kennedy' by Warren Hoge and to note this:"
Conceding that Sinn Fein had been thrown "on the back foot," Mr. Adams said he hoped the I.R.A. would disband but warned that forcing it to do so in humiliating fashion ran the risk of creating a more radical replacement. "No one wants the I.R.A. to go back to war, and in my view people want to see the I.R.A. leaving the stage in a dignified way," he said.
Tori (con't): "Yellow journalism was the perfect term for yesterday's story. I read that story and couldn't belive it. Tell Eli thank you for calling it exactly what it was."Kara notes Greg Myre's "Israel to Turn Over Control of 2 West Bank Towns to Palestinians"
and provides the following cutting of the article:
Israel agreed Monday to hand over security control of two West Bank towns to the Palestinians, a transfer the Palestinians have sought in fitful negotiations since a truce declared by the two sides five weeks ago.
[. . .]
The move is a limited step that could easily be reversed. Still, it reflects the reduced level of violence and Israel's willingness to begin lowering its security presence in the West Bank.
[. . .]
Palestinians have complained that they have seen only a limited easing of Israeli security restrictions despite the truce announced Feb. 8.
Lastly, Ed notes that Gretchen Morgenson (a voice that's been cited by some members) has an article on the front page entitled "Chief Is Leaving Insurance Giant; Inquiries Mount." From the article:
Maruice R. Greenberg, the executive who built American International Group into a global insurance powerhouse and shaped an entire industry during nearly 40 years at the company's helm, stepped down as chief executive yesterday after a series of run-ins with regulators raised questions about its complex and often obscure operations.
[. . .]
Mr. Greenberg had been scheduled to appear for a deposition in Mr. Spitzer's office on Thursday to answer questions about a transaction that regulators say may have artificially bolstered the company's financial position, according to a person briefed on the matter. Worries about his testimony drove the board to act, this person said.
[Thank you to Dallas for gathering links this morning. I couldn't access the Times' web site and we wouldn't have links if Dallas hadn't hunted them down.]