Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Democracy Now: Chile, Liberia, Haiti, NSA; BuzzFlash, Danny Schechter, Center for Constitutional Rights, Katrina vanden Heuvel

Al Gore: Bush "Repeatedly and Persistently" Broke Law
On Monday, former Vice President Al Gore gave a major speech in Washington accusing Bush of "repeatedly and persistently" breaking the law by authorizing the NSA wiretaps. Gore called for Attorney General Alberto Gonzalez to appoint a special prosecutor to investigate the abuses. Gore said Bush's illegal spying program threatened "the very structure of our government."

Thousands Protest in Pakistan Over U.S. Missile Strike
In Pakistan, thousands have rallied across the country to protest a U.S. missile strike that killed at least 17 people including women and children in a village near the Afghan border. In Karachi some 10,000 protested while chanting "Death to America" and "Stop bombing against innocent people." The U.S. has said little about the bombing but it is believed to have been carried out by a CIA Predator drone. Intelligence officials said the target of the pre-dawn attack was Al Qaida's number two man - Ayman al-Zawahri. Pakistani officials say Zawahri was not killed but U.S. officials claim they remain unsure. Pakistan publicly claims it does not allow the U.S. to carry out attacks inside its borders but this is the third suspected U.S. missile strike in less than two months. This is Pakistani Information Minister Skeikh Rashid Ahmed: "We deeply regret that civilian lives have been lost in Bajaur Agency. While this act is highly condemnable we have been for a long time striving to rid all our tribal areas of foreign intruders who have been responsible for all the misery and violence in the region. This situation has to be brought to an end."

Walter Cronkite on Iraq: "We Should Get Out Now"
In news on Iraq, famed TV newscaster Walter Cronkite has become the latest advocate for U.S. withdrawal from Iraq. Cronkite made headlines during the Vietnam War when he declared on air the war was unwinnable. At the time President Lyndon Johnson said "If I've lost Walter Cronkite, I've lost Middle America." When a reporter asked Cronkite over the weekend whether, given the chance, he would offer similar advice on Iraq. Cronkite said, "Yes. It's my belief that we should get out now."

Arundhati Roy Refuses Writing Prize to Protest Indian Policies
In India, writer Arundhati Roy has refused to accept a prestigious Indian writing award in protest. Roy accused the Indian government of toeing the U.S. line by "violently and ruthlessly pursuing policies of brutalization of industrial workers, increasing militarization and economic neo-liberalization."

The above four items are from today's Democracy Now! Headlines and were selected by Brady, Joan, KeShawn and Zach. Democracy Now! ("always informing you," as Marcia says):

Headlines for January 17, 2006

- Ex-Political Prisoner Michelle Bachelet Wins Chilean Election
- Bush Administration Sued Over NSA Wiretaps
- NYT: NSA Handed Thousands of Tips to FBI
- Al Gore: Bush "Repeatedly and Persistently" Broke Law
- Thousands Protest in Pakistan Over U.S. Missile Strike
- California Executes Clarence Ray Allen, 76
- Walter Cronkite on Iraq: "We Should Get Out Now"
- Abramoff-Linked Legislator Steps Down From Committee Chairman
- UK Scientist: World Past Point of No Return for Global Warming
- Arundhati Roy Refuses Writing Prize to Protest Indian Policies

Fmr. Political Prisoner and Torture Survivor Michelle Bachelet Elected as Chile's First Female President

In Chile, former political prisoner Michelle Bachelet has become the country first-ever female president. Running on the Socialist ticket, Bachelet beat her billionaire rival in Sunday's election. Bachelet is the daughter of an air force general who was tortured and died in prison after Augusto Pinochet seized power in 1973. She too was imprisoned by Pinochet's regime before fleeing into exile. We speak with Chilean-American writer Ariel Dorfman, Chilean torture survivor Emilio Banda as well as Joyce Horman, the widow of a U.S. journalist who was killed by Pinochet forces.

Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf Sworn in as Liberia's New President, First Elected Female Leader of Africa

Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf has been sworn in as Liberia's new president, making her Africa's first elected female leader. In an hour-long speech after the ceremony, she vowed to tackle a national debt of $3.5 billion, fight rampant corruption and improve gender equality. We speak with Emira Woods of the Institute for Policy Studies. She is originally from Liberia.

Gore Calls For Special Counsel on Eavesdropping, Civil Rights Groups File Lawsuits Challenging Bush on NSA Wiretaps

Former Vice President Al Gore gave a major speech in Washington Monday accusing President Bush of "repeatedly and persistently" breaking the law by authorizing the NSA wiretaps. We play an excerpt of the address and the Center for Constitutional Rights and the American Civil Liberties Union are filing separate lawsuits challenging President Bush's order for the NSA to conduct domestic spy operations without legally-required court warrants. We speak with a staff attorney for the Center for Constitutional Rights.

Independent Journalist Reports on Ongoing Violence in Haiti, Upcoming Elections

We speak with independent journalist Reed Lindsay about the latest in Haiti, where nearly two years ago the elected President Jean Bertrand Aristide was overthrown. Haitians have yet to vote for a new government. In the wake of the recent death of the commander of the UN force in Haiti, Lindsay speaks about how UN raids on poor neighborhoods killed and wounded civilians and the upcoming elections.

We'll start off by noting the topic of Al Gore and, on that, we start with BuzzFlash's "What Would Happen if an American Politican Told the Truth and No Mainstream Media and Establishment Democrats Listened" sent in by End Zone:

True transformations in politics are as rare as palm trees in the Arctic Circle.
But Al Gore is that palm tree.
On Martin Luther King Day, Al Gore took us to the mountaintop and allowed us to view the desecrated landscape of Constitutional rubble that the Bush Administration has spread across America. Gore has, for the last three years, been a prophet of saving our democracy and restoring out Constitution.
As expected, the mainstream press, ever afraid to offend Bush, has largely ignored or marginalized Al Gore's spectacular speeches holding up a mirror to the reality of the Bush Administration. Indeed, in the front page of the morning January 17th Internet editions of the Washington Post and The New York Times, not a single story could be found on the Gore speech (except for a story in the rolling AP list on the NYT about the current Bush consigliere -- and U.S. Attorney General -- Alberto Gonzales "refuting" Gore!).
The fact that the two major Eastern "establishment" papers can, in terms of top stories, basically shut out the man who was elected president in 2000 -- despite his deliverance of a speech that provided an abundance of evidence that Bush broke the law and has precipitated a Constitutional crisis -- well that about says it all for the fall of the mainstream media into Royal Court propaganda publications.
And the mainstream D.C. Democrats, particularly in the Senate, appear more concerned about protecting their status quo "day jobs" than protecting the Constitution. They haven't rallied to Gore's side either -- or to the side of heroes like John Murtha, a man speaking on behalf of members of the Pentagon elite echelon who believe Bush and Rumsfeld are destroying our military capabilities with the ill-fated, misbegotten Iraq War.
No, lackluster Senators like Dianne Feinstein do the administration's work by signaling there won't be a Democratic filibuster of Alito. Di-Fi says that Alito did just fine in the hearings. Yeah, she says she won't vote for him, but that is meaningless without a filibuster.
End Zone notes Dianne Feinsteain (or "Miss Diane, Girl Senator" as we call her) and wondered if Elaine would be interested in this editorial? Consider it forwarded. We'll note that section tomorrow but I agree with End Zone, it's Elaine's today. (And note that Al Gore's speech can be found at Common Dreams by clicking here.)
Markus notes Danny Schechter's "Al Gores Bush In Call for Investigation" (News Dissector, MediaChannel.org) which is responding to Bully Boy's sudden desire to support renewal of the Voter's Right Act:
Oy vey, has Bush suddenly become a civil rights leader? (His cynical posture reminded me of the day that Lyndon Johnson co-opted the phrase "We Shall Overcome," a gesture which most of us in the civil rights movement at that time were insulted by given the hypocrisy of his choice of words while the US bombed Vietnam. You can bet that Bush did not reference King's Nobel Prize acceptance where he spoke of the evils of racism, poverty, and war.
Could W's rhetorical shift to the left yesterday have anything to do with the fact that Al Gore, man who won the most votes in the 2000 election, had chosen to use the occasion to deliver a major speech in the company of the former right wing Congressman Bob Barr, a born-again civil libertarian, calling on the people of this country to save the constitution. He called the president of the United States a law-breaker, the strongest charge yet leveled against the President by a top Democrat.
Gore called for a Special Counsel, Exec Branch Whistleblower Protection, and Comprehensive Congressional Hearings to Immediately Investigate Constitutional Crimes by the Executive Branch. Already, Attorney General Gonzalez has rejected the call for a Special Counsel. No surprise there
The speech touched a nerve among activists who have been despairing at the absence of . . . [spine] within the Democratic Party which has been tepid in its response to wiretapping revelations probably because many Democrats were complicit with the decision. I got letters attacking me for NOT covering the speech before I even read it.

Now moving from Al Gore but staying on the topic of Bully Boy's program of governmental spying/snooping, "CCR Files Suit over NSA Domestic Spying Program" (Center for Constitutional Rights):

In New York, on January 17, 2005, the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) filed a lawsuit against President George W. Bush, the head of the National Security Agency (NSA), and the heads of the other major security agencies, challenging the NSA’s surveillance of persons within the United States without judicial approval or statutory authorization. The suit seeks an injunction that would prohibit the government from conducting warrantless surveillance of communications in the U.S. CCR filed the suit in the Federal District Court for the Southern District of New York on its own behalf and on behalf of CCR attorneys and legal staff representing clients who fit the criteria described by the Attorney General for targeting under the NSA Surveillance Program.
As has been widely reported, for over four years the NSA, with the approval of the president, has engaged in a program of widespread warrantless electronic surveillance of telephone calls and emails in violation of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA). The suit argues that the NSA Surveillance Program violates a clear criminal law, exceeds the president's authority under Article II of the Constitution, and violates the First and Fourth Amendments. The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act explicitly authorizes foreign intelligence electronic surveillance only upon orders issued by federal judges on a special court. It expressly authorizes warrantless wiretapping only for the first fifteen days of a war, and makes it a crime to engage in wiretapping without specific statutory authority. Rather than seeking to amend this statute, the president simply violated it by authorizing warrantless wiretapping of Americans without statutory authority or court approval. As a result, the President violated his oath of office to take care that the laws of this nation are faithfully executed, and instead secretly violated a criminal prohibition duly enacted by Congress.
CCR has been one of the most active opponents of the illegal detention, torture and intelligence gathering practices this administration instituted in the wake of the terrorist attacks of 9/11. As part of its mission to fight violations of the Bill of Rights and the Constitution, the Center for Constitutional Rights represents hundreds of men detained indefinitely without charge as "enemy combatants" at Guantanamo Bay; Maher Arar, a Canadian citizen accused of al Qaeda ties and rendered from the United States to Syria for the purpose of being tortured; and Muslim immigrants unreasonably and wrongfully detained in the U.S. for months without probable cause or criminal charges in the wake of 9/11.
In the course of representing these clients, the Center's lawyers have engaged in innumerable telephone calls and e-mails with people outside the United States, including their clients, their clients' families and outside lawyers, potential witnesses, and others. Given that the government has accused many of CCR's overseas clients of being associated with Al Qaeda or of interest to the 9/11 investigation, there is little question that these attorneys have been subject to the NSA Surveillance Program. The Center filed today's lawsuit in order to protect CCR attorneys' right to represent their clients free of unlawful and unchecked surveillance.
CCR Legal Director Bill Goodman said, "On this, the day following Martin Luther King Day, we are saddened that the illegal electronic surveillance that once targeted that great American has again become characteristic of our present government. As was the case with Dr. King, this illegal activity is cloaked in the guise of national security. In reality, it reflects an attempt by the Bush Administration to exercise unchecked power without the inconvenient interference of the other co-equal branches of government."
According to CCR attorney Shayana Kadidal, "The mere existence of the program harms CCR and our attorneys because it serves to inhibit their ability to institute and effectively litigate these suits."
The Center for Constitutional Rights is represented in the suit by CCR attorneys Bill Goodman, Shayana Kadidal, and Michael Ratner, and CCR cooperating attorney David Cole. Also appearing as an attorney for CCR, is Professor Michael Avery, president of the National Lawyers Guild (NLG), on behalf of the NLG.

That's the press release in full but note that if you use the link (click here) you can read the filings in PDF form. Rachel highlighted it and wondered if it could be printed in full? I believe it's a press release so we're posting it here in full.

On the topic of last week's Senate disaster (unless you're someone who celeberates the death of Constitutional rights & liberties), Kayla noted Katrina vanden Heuvel's "Sammy, We Hardly Knew Ya" (Editor's Cut, The Nation)

Despite the Democrats' strip-searching of Alito's written record, we Americans don't know much more about Alito than we did before. Will he vote to overturn Roe or respect it as settled law? We don't know. Does he believe there are limits to executive power or not? We don't know. Is he the most boring man in the universe or simply willing to play him on TV? We don't know.
What we do know is that something as momentous as the future course of the Supreme Court may rest more on the tears of the nominee's spouse than the (sometimes pontificating) questioning of the Senate Judiciary committee.

Kayla said, "You will laugh at the end of the first paragraph!" I did. (And note, that's an excerpt, selected by Kayla.)

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