Monday, December 26, 2005

News roundup including did Bully Boy break the law?

Did Bully Boy break the law by authorizing spying on American citizens and circumventing the FISA courts? If so, how many years can someone be sentenced to for that crime? We'll highlight a radio discussion on that issue, but first, news on Iraq, Morocco, Afghanistan, the Phillipines, Russia, Chile, Israel, activism and more.

As reported on The Daily Iraq Wire, December 25th wasn't a day of peace in Iraq. Two bombs went off in Iraq injuring seven Iraqis. In addition, a reported al Qaeda group in Iraq announced Sunday that they had kidnapped and killed four Arabs who had been "working with the US authorities and the Iraqi government in the fortified Green Zone in central Baghdad."

Today violence and unrest continued. Deepa Babington, reporting for the Irish Examiner, notes that Baghdad saw five explosions today killing eight and wounding thirty-eight. Outside of Baghdad, there were attacks in Falluja where a suicide bomber killed himself and two police recruits. In Dhabab, five Iraqi soldiers were killed.

Reporting for IPS, Gareth Porter reports today a "looming confrontation" between Shi'ites in Iraq and the American officials who are urging the disbanding of Shi'ite paramilitary groups. American officials fear groups may have close ties to Iran. The "looming confrontation" emerged when American officials decided to make an issue of the "torture houses" run by Shi'ites. "Decided?" Major R. John Stukey and others first reported the existance of "torture houses" in June of 2005. From June to November, US officials remained silent.

As of today, US military fatalities in Iraq stand at 2169, official count with 56 of those fatalities for the month of December. Iraq Body Count, which gathers totals by following media reports, estimates that as few as 27,592 and as many as 31,115 Iraqis have died thus far since the invasion.

In other war news, Agence France-Presse reports the American military is claiming that "very soon" the number of troops serving in Iraq will drop from 19,000 to 2, 5000.

In activism news, NOW is calling for action on Samuel Alito, Jr.'s Supreme Court nomination:

There is work to be done, both in Washington, DC and throughout the country. As a part of Freedom Winter 2006, NOW and Feminist Majority Foundation are working together to bring grassroots activists to DC between January 3 and January 20. We're also encouraging activists to organize in their communities.

More information can be found online at NOW as well as online at the Feminist Majority Foundation. In related news, Ms. Magazine has compiled "the top ten news stories for women in 2005." Topping the list, Sandra Day O'Connor's announcement that she will step down from the Supreme Court bench. Planned Parenthood has also compiled a look back at the year 2005.
Their look back begins with a listing of the five best and five worst places to get birth control prescriptions filled:

Brooks/Eckerd Corporation
Rite Aid

In international news, Al Jazeera reports that Augusto Pinochet will finally stand trial for the deaths and disappearances carried out under his dictator regime as the head of Chile. Chile's Supreme Court, in a three to two vote, ruled that Pinochet is fit to stand trial. The BBC reports that charges will be filed Tuesday against four US marines for rape. The four are currently at the US embassy in Manila and "it is unclear whether it will hand over the marines." Abdul Rahman Khuzairan reports, for Islam.Online. net, that on Sunday a sit in was staged in Casablanca by Morocco's Equity and Reconciliation Forum "to protest the mass grave found recently with the remains of 82 people." Canada's Star Phoenix reports that Monday in St. Petersburg, shoppers in one store were exposed to a mysterious gas: "Boxes containing timers wired to glass vials were discovered at the scene of the attack and three other stores in the same chain in Russia's second-largest city." And in Tut-tut Tuttle news, the Finanical Times reports that car dealer and contributor of $70,000 worth of donations to the GOP in 2004, Robert Tuttle continues to stumble in his post as US ambassador to England. For the second time, Tuttle has been forced to issue a correction to the BBC following an interview. Embassy work, not as easy as moving cars off a lot.

"Have we made poverty history?" asks The Independent of London? The debt relief in 2008 will go not to Africa but to Iraq and Nigeria. In addition the United States is backing off from it's earlier committments. Also reporting for The Independent, Maxine Frith notes that charities and aid workers believe that Live 8, and those involved in the concerts, "hijacked" the effort and gave the world a false sense of resolution when the problems of world poverty contine. Meera Selva reports from Africa that the people supposed to benefit from the concerts in London's Hyde Park have seen little difference in their lives. One woman tells Selva, "We have problems in Africa, big problems. What can plastic bracelets and pop concerts do to solve them?"

Reuters reports Israeli helicopters firing three missiles into Gaza. This comes as Al Jazeera reports that the Israeli government has announced intentions to build an additional 200 homes
on the West Bank. The BBC reports, in other news from the region, that Ariel Sharon has been urged to "curb his appetite" by doctors as he awaits sugery "to close a small hole which doctors found in his heart after he had a minor stroke."

For The KPFA Evening News Anthony Fest spoke Monday evening to Christopher Pyle, "a consultant to Congress in the drafting of the surveillance act, today he teaches political science at Mount Holyoke College in Massachusettes." (What follows is a rough transcript, use the link to listen to the archived broadcast.)

Pyle: The Church Committee was set up because during the Watergate era we had discovered extensive domestic surveillance operations by a number of agencies including the FBI, military intelligence, the CIA and, the largest intelligence agency of all, the National Security Agency. It does electronic intercepts worldwide. It has stations around the world. It picks up communications off of statellites. It picks them off of landlines and it searches them with a dictionary of watch words. And during the 1970s, we discovered that the National Security Agency had maintained files on about 75,000 Americans and they particularly targeted political activists like Dr. Martin Luther King, the folk singer Joan Baez, and the anti-war protestor Dr. Benjamin Spock. We sought to end that massive surveillance, which had no judicial authority what so ever, by passing the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978. That law said that if the government, when the government wanted to monitor electronic communications it had to go to a special court to gain a national security authorization, a speciall warrant. And for a number of years, it appears that the government did go to the special court and was able to conduct its monitoring with special warrants. But three years ago, the Bush administration decided that this was inconveinent for some reason that's not fully understood. And they just ignored the court and began collecting, uh, information rather broadly. The law itself says that it's the exclusive method by which monitoring may take place and that anybody who violates the law is guilty of a felony punishable by up to five years in prison.

Fast: So there's no leeway for interpretation here, it's uh, it's black and white that if you don't go through the FISA court, you are in violation of the law?

Pyle: Exactly. So what we have here is the rather extraordinary situation of a president who has admitted to committing a felony. Now he says that Congress excused him by passing the resolution against al Qaeda but that says nothing about electronic surveillance. And then he says that the Constitution excuses him because the Constitution places him above the law. There's actually a secret memo produced by the Justice Department to justify torture that says that a war time president can ignore the criminal law of the United States. There's no basis for this in law, there's no basis for this in the history of Constitutional law and Constitutional interpretation and that's of course why the memo was kept secret because if it had ever seen the light of day it would have been laughed out of court. Well now it's seen the light of day and assertions based on that theory have seen the light of day and we're not laughing because we realize the government is really out of control.

Fast: Doubtless the techonology of surveillance is incrompably more powerful today than it was in the 1960s. Is there any indication yet exactly how wide, how wide a net the NSA was casting or how many people had been surveilled?

Pyle: No. The initial reports by the New York Times were that up to 500 people at a time had been targeted but perhaps thousands had been intercepted. And if they were, let's say, monitoring all e-mails and searching all e-mails in the United States for certain code words or phrases then it would be probably hundreds of thousands or millions of people who would have been monitored, not simply 500 people targeted at any given time. But we really don't know. But what we know is that the judges on the FISA court are extremely upset. One of them has already resigned because of this. The others want to know particularly whether this warrant-less spying was being used to then produce probable cause for specific warranted spying. In other words, infecting the very process with illegaly obtained information.

Fast: Since the administration was apparently conducting surveillance that was more in the nature of data mining then watching individuals is there any legal grounds under which they could conduct that kind of operation?

Pyle: No, that is what was known in the common law as a general search. The Fourth Amendment to the Constitution forbids general searches. The second clause of the Fourth Amendment says that the warrants must be obtained that specify the place to be searched and and the things to be seized. The FISA warrants specify the persons who are the targets of the intercepts. There has to be specifity. There can't be a great dragnet collecting everything and then sorting it by computer and putting everybody under suspicion.

Did Bully Boy break the law? Better question, after trotting out Vicky Toe-Jam in print and on TV to put forward false claims about the Congessional act passed in the 80s to prevent the outing of CIA agents, why has the mainstream media been so reluctant to pursue people who helped with the drafting of the FISA act?

The above is news you may have missed and was compiled by Wally, Rebecca, Mike, Kat, Jim, Jess, Ty, Cedric, Elaine, Betty, and C.I.

If you missed it, Democracy Now! devoted the hour today to:

Readings From Howard Zinn's "Voices of a People's History of the United States"
Today we spend the hour with readings from a Voices of a People's History of the United States edited by historian Howard Zinn and Anthony Arnove. It is the companion volume to Zinn’s legendary People’s History of the United States – which has sold over a million copies.
We will hear dramatic readings of speeches, letters, poems, songs, petitions, and manifestos. These are the voices of people throughout U.S. history who struggled against slavery, racism, and war, against oppression and exploitation, and who articulated a vision for a better world.
Speakers include Josh Brolin, Viggo Mortensen, Sandra Oh, Marisa Tomei and Danny Glover.

Callie wondered why that wasn't noted here? For one thing, I was tired, for another it was noted here on Friday or Saturday, Mike noted it at his site, Mikey Likes It!, on Saturday and it was noted in the roundtable for The Third Estate Sunday Review on Sunday. If you did miss the broadcast, you can use the link. My apologies to Callie and anyone else who missed the previous heads up to today's broadcast.

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