Democracy Now: Remembering Eugene McCarthy (Tom Hayden & Albert Eisele ) and Hugh Thompson (Lawrence Colburn); James Boyce, John Nichols, NY Review of Books, National Lawyers Guild
(The original title of this entry is in bold print above. It's disappeared. Thanks to Pru for noticing that and thanks to her for having a copy of it and forwarding it.)
US Refuses to Apologize For CIA Bombing in Pakistan
In other news, the US government has refused to express regret over last week's CIA bombing in Pakistan. The attack killed a reported 17 people, including women and children. The U.S. has said little about the bombing but it is believed to have been carried out by a CIA Predator drone. On Tuesday, State Department spokesperson Sean McCormack told reporters only: "The United States clearly values innocent human life. And that is why we're fighting the war on terror." Meanwhile, Pakistani officials said Tuesday the strike had killed up to 5 suspected militants.
Swiss Senator Says Evidence Confirms CIA Renditions in Europe
In Europe, a Swiss Senator has said there is no longer any question that the CIA undertook in illegal activities in Europe by secretly transporting and jailing suspected terrorists. The official -- Dick Marty -- is heading up a European investigation into allegations that the CIA operated secret prisons in Poland and Romania. He also said blame has to be placed on all European nations who have helped the U.S. carry out its covert operations.
Swiss Senator Dick Marty : "I'd like it to be clear that the problem does not only concern Rumania and Poland. It would be too simple to criminalize these two countries. I think it's to whole of Europe that accepted to keep quiet, because if it's true that something happened in Rumania and Poland, something also happened in many other countries, and many of them were certainly aware of what was going on. And to me, in such a situation, knowing and keeping quiet is as bad as tolerating that such activities be led on its territory." Last week a Swiss newspaper published the text of an intercepted Egyptian memo about U.S. interrogation centers in Eastern Europe and the Balkans. The memo had been faxed from the Egyptian foreign ministry to the Egyptian embassy in London. But it had been intercepted by the Swiss secret service and then leaked to the press.
White House Refuses To Reveal Details of Abramoff Meetings
In Washington, the Bush administration is refusing to reveal details of its meetings with scandal-plagued lobbyist Jack Abramoff. On Tuesday, White House spokesperson Scott McClellan acknowledged Abramoff had "a few staff-level meetings" with White House officials. But he would not say with whom Abramoff met, which interests he was representing or how he got access to the White House, telling reporters: "We are not going to engage in a fishing expedition." Abramoff pleaded guilty earlier this month to conspiracy, mail fraud and tax evasion as part of a corruption scandal that has implicated several Republican lawmakers and their aides.
The above three items are from today's Democracy Now! Headlines and were selected by Charlie, Julia and Brendan. Democracy Now! ("always informing you," as Marcia says):
Headlines for January 18, 2006
- Captors of US Journalist Give 72 Hour Deadline in Iraq
- 22 Dead in 3rd Afghanistan Suicide Bombing in 2 Days
- US Refuses to Apologize For CIA Bombing in Pakistan
- 10,000 Demonstrate Against US in Lebanon
- Fighting Kills 2 Jordanian Troops with UN in Haiti
- Supreme Court Rules in Favor of Oregon Suicide Law
- Bush Intelligence Assessment Called Niger Claim "Unlikely"
- White House Refuses To Reveal Details of Abramoff Meetings
- Former Marine Jailed For Avoiding Vietnam Service
Los Titulares de Hoy: Democracy Now!'s daily news summary translated into Spanish
Eugene McCarthy (1916 - 2005): The Legacy of the Former Senator and Anti-War Presidential Candidate
We look at the life of former anti-war presidential candidate, Eugene McCarthy. Hundreds gathered for his memorial service this weekend. We speak with a reporter who covered him for decades and SDS founder Tom Hayden. [includes rush transcript - partial]
Hugh Thompson's Gunner Describes Pointing His Weapon at Fellow U.S. Soldiers to Stop My Lai Massacre
We look at the life of Hugh Thompson - the former Army helicopter pilot who helped stop the My Lai Massacre in 1968 when U.S. troops slaughtered hundreds of innocent Vietnamese villagers. He died earlier this month at the age of 62. We play an excerpt of a documentary about his life and we speak with former Army Specialist Lawrence Colburn who helped Thompson end the massacre.
Selling the Amazon For a Handful of Beads: A Look at Secret Contracts Between Big Oil and the Ecuadorian Military
In a broadcast exclusive, we speak with an independent journalist who wrote an article examining formerly classified contracts between the Ecuadorian military and big oil companies. The article describes negotiations to extract oil from the Ecuadorian Amazon rainforest as "oil-guided militarization" of the region. We hear about the contracts and how Indigenous peoples are impacted and taking action. [includes rush transcript]
First, as has been pointed out in phone calls this morning, Donnie Fowler is still Donnie Fowler. "Don Fowler" isn't Donnie (in this morning's Times). "Don" is Donald Fowler. No one can figure out when he became "Don" to the Times.
On the topic of the timid Senate Dems, Marci notes James Boyce's "Filibust" (The Huffington Post):
Today, the Democratic Caucus meets on the issue of what to do about Judge Alito. His views are clear and consistent. His agenda is real. The support of the extreme right wing of what used to be the Republican Party is authentic and resolute. So what will happen?
The Democratic Senators will shuffle out of the room.
Harry Reid will approach the mikes. I predict there will be "misgivings" and "concerns." I see some "we have taken a close look at his record and nothing conclusively shows that he has a political agenda." comments popping up.
Some Democratic Senators will "believe him when he says his views have changed." There might be vague references to "last minute change of heart" and "we just don't have the votes" but essentially, the news can be summed up in two words. No filibuster.
This my friends is why for all that has gone wrong in this country, more has gone wrong in this party. Why is it when you remove yourself from Washington, when your eyes reopen to the world around you, only then can you see what is so clear to the rest of us?
On the topic of Al Gore's speech, Lynda notes John Nichols' "Gore's Challenge to Congress and the Media" (The Online Beat, The Nation):
"I call upon Democratic and Republican members of Congress today to uphold your oath of office and defend the Constitution. Stop going along to get along. Start acting like the independent and co-equal branch of government you're supposed to be," Gore told a cheering crowd at the historic Constitution Hall of the Daughters of the American Revolution.
The former vice president left little doubt regarding the proper response to Bush administration assaults on civil liberties and the rule of law. "We have a duty as Americans to defend our citizens' right not only to life but also to liberty and the pursuit of happiness," Gore explained in his remarks to an event organized by the the bipartisan Liberty Coalition and the American Constitution Society for Law and Policy. "It is therefore vital in our current circumstances that immediate steps be taken to safeguard our Constitution against the present danger posed by the intrusive overreaching on the part of the Executive Branch and the President's apparent belief that he need not live under the rule of law."
Gore's remarks have already created a firestorm on the right, with the Republican National Committee decrying the speech as a diatribe "laden with inaccuracies and anger."
But don't settle for the RNC spin, nor for that of its media acolytes.
Gore's speech, while surely controversial, contained a dramatic and significant critique not merely of the Bush administration's wrongdoing but of the failure of Congress and major media to expose and challenge abuses of power.
Staying with this topic, Mia notes "ON NSA SPYING: A LETTER TO CONGRESS" (The New York Review of Books) which is an open letter to Congress from Beth Nolan, Curtis Bradley, David Cole, Geoffrey Stone, Harold Hongju Koh, Kathleen M. Sullivan, Laurence H. Tribe, Martin Lederman, Philip B. Heymann, Richard Epstein, Ronald Dworkin, Walter Dellinger, William S. Sessions and William Van Alstyne:
Dear Members of Congress:
We are scholars of constitutional law and former government officials. We write in our individual capacities as citizens concerned by the Bush administration's National Security Agency domestic spying program, as reported in The New York Times, and in particular to respond to the Justice Department's December 22, 2005, letter to the majority and minority leaders of the House and Senate Intelligence Committees setting forth the administration's defense of the program. Although the program's secrecy prevents us from being privy to all of its details, the Justice Department's defense of what it concedes was secret and warrantless electronic surveillance of persons within the United States fails to identify any plausible legal authority for such surveillance. Accordingly the program appears on its face to violate existing law.
The basic legal question here is not new. In 1978, after an extensive investigation of the privacy violations associated with foreign intelligence surveillance programs, Congress and the President enacted the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA). Pub. L. 95-511, 92 Stat. 1783. FISA comprehensively regulates electronic surveillance within the United States, striking a careful balance between protecting civil liberties and preserving the "vitally important government purpose" of obtaining valuable intelligence in order to safeguard national security. S. Rep. No. 95-604, pt. 1, at 9 (1977).
With minor exceptions, FISA authorizes electronic surveillance only upon certain specified showings, and only if approved by a court. The statute specifically allows for warrantless wartime domestic electronic surveillance --but only for the first fifteen days of a war. 50 U.S.C. § 1811. It makes criminal any electronic surveillance not authorized by statute, id. § 1809; and it expressly establishes FISA and specified provisions of the federal criminal code (which govern wiretaps for criminal investigation) as the "exclusive means by which electronic surveillance...may be conducted," 18 U.S.C. § 2511(2)(f) (emphasis added).
The Department of Justice concedes that the NSA program was not authorized by any of the above provisions. It maintains, however, that the program did not violate existing law because Congress implicitly authorized the NSA program when it enacted the Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF) against al-Qaeda, Pub. L. No. 107-40, 115 Stat. 224 (2001). But the AUMF cannot reasonably be construed to implicitly authorize warrantless electronic surveillance in the United States during wartime, where Congress has expressly and specifically addressed that precise question in FISA and limited any such warrantless surveillance to the first fifteen days of war.
The DOJ also invokes the President's inherent constitutional authority as Commander in Chief to collect "signals intelligence" targeted at the enemy, and maintains that construing FISA to prohibit the President's actions would raise constitutional questions. But even conceding that the President in his role as Commander in Chief may generally collect "signals intelligence" on the enemy abroad, Congress indisputably has authority to regulate electronic surveillance within the United States, as it has done in FISA. Where Congress has so regulated, the President can act in contravention of statute only if his authority is exclusive, that is, not subject to the check of statutory regulation. The DOJ letter pointedly does not make that extraordinary claim.
Moreover, to construe the AUMF as the DOJ suggests would itself raise serious constitutional questions under the Fourth Amendment. The Supreme Court has never upheld warrantless wiretapping within the United States. Accordingly, the principle that statutes should be construed to avoid serious constitutional questions provides an additional reason for concluding that the AUMF does not authorize the President's actions here.
Same topic, Norah notes the National Lawyer's Guild's "National Lawyers Guild Supports Suit Against President Bush to Halt Illegal Electronic Surveillance:"
The National Lawyers Guild (NLG) will be providing legal counsel to the Center for Constitutional Rights and its attorneys in a suit to enjoin President Bush from engaging in illegal electronic surveillance without court orders. Michael Avery, President of the NLG, will be handling the case on behalf of the Guild and working with lawyers from the Center itself. Avery is a constitutional law professor at Suffolk Law School in Boston.
NLG President Michael Avery stated, "The president has no power under the Constitution to conduct electronic surveillance without a warrant. His claim that his role as commander in chief of the military gives him this power is an attempt to create an imperial presidency, in which the president is not subject to checks and balances by either the judiciary or by Congress. President Bush's actions are a threat to the continued existence of American constitutional democracy."
The Lawyers Guild noted that the suit is based on the fact that the Fourth Amendment forbids searches and electronic surveillance without a court order, and that Congress has explicitly provided that the only legal way to conduct electronic surveillance in national security cases is with a court order from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court or through ordinary criminal channels with a warrant from a United States District Court. The only exceptions to this requirement do not apply to the surveillance the president has authorized. Congress has made the surveillance that the president is conducting a criminal offense, a felony punishable by a five-year prison term. The Executive Director of the Guild, Heidi Boghosian, noted, "The Center for Constitutional Rights has played an essential role in providing legal assistance for victims of the president's abuses of power, such as the prisoners at Guantanamo and others. The Guild is proud to provide our lawyers to the Center to help them halt the illegal electronic surveillance that is making it difficult for them to carry on their important work."
Founded in 1937 as the first racially integrated national bar association, the National Lawyers Guild is the oldest and largest public interest/human rights bar organization in the United States, with more than 200 chapters. The Guild has a long history of representing individuals whose rights the government has violated by abusing its powers in the name of national security. Guild members defended FBI-targeted individuals and helped expose illegal FBI and CIA surveillance, infiltration and disruption tactics (COINTELPRO) that the U.S. Senate "Church Commission" hearings detailed in 1975-76 and which led to enactment of the Freedom of Information Act and other specific limitations on federal investigative power.
Norah wants a plug for her favorite show Law & Disorder of which Heidi Boghosian is one of the four hosts -- Boghosian is also the executive director of the National Lawyers Guild.
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