Monday, February 27, 2006

NYT: "German Intelligence Gave U.S. Iraqi Defense Plane, Report Say" (Michael R. Gordon)

Two German intelligence agents in Baghdad obtained a copy of Saddam Hussein's plan to defend the Iraqi capital, which a German official passed on to American commanders a month before the invasion, according to a classified study by the United States military.
In providing the Iraqi document, German intelligence officials offered more significant assistance to the United States than their government has publicly acknowledged. The plan gave the American military an extraordinary window into Iraq's top-level deliberations, including where and how Mr. Hussein planned to deploy his most loyal troops.
The German role is not the only instance in which nations that publicly cautioned against the war privately facilitated it. Egypt and Saudi Arabia, for example, provided more help than they have disclosed. Egypt gave access for refueling planes, while Saudi Arabia allowed American special operations forces to initiate attacks from its territory, United States military officials say.

The above is from Michael R. Gordon's "German Intelligence Gave U.S. Iraqi Defense Plan, Report Say" in this morning's New York Times. (If it looks familiar, Skip steered us to a highlight from Australia in last night's "And the war drags on . . ." entry.) What do Germans members of the community think about this? Those who've e-mailed this morning think it's curious the way this suddenly emerges as does the news that German officials may have aided extraordinary renditions. They think it's curious the news emerges when Merkel has publicly advocted for answers about the rendention and when Germany is among those calling for the closing of Guantanamo.

Also in this morning's paper, Erika notes James Glanz' "Army to Pay Halliburton Unit Most Costs Disputed by Audit:"

The Army has decided to reimburse a Halliburton subsidiary for nearly all of its disputed costs on a $2.41 billion no-bid contract to deliver fuel and repair oil equipment in Iraq, even though the Pentagon's own auditors had identified more than $250 million in charges as potentially excessive or unjustified.
[. . .]
The Pentagon's Defense Contract Audit Agency had questioned $263 million in costs for fuel deliveries, pipeline repairs and other tasks that auditors said were potentially inflated or unsupported by documentation. But the Army decided to pay all but $10.1 million of those contested costs, which were mostly for trucking fuel from Kuwait and Turkey.
That means the Army is withholding payment on just 3.8 percent of the charges questioned by the Pentagon audit agency, which is far below the rate at which the agency's recommendation is usually followed or sustained by the military — the so-called "sustention rate."
Figures provided by the Pentagon audit agency on thousands of military contracts over the past three years show how far the Halliburton decision lies outside the norm.
In 2003, the agency's figures show, the military withheld an average of 66.4 percent of what the auditors had recommended, while in 2004 the figure was 75.2 percent and in 2005 it was 56.4 percent.

Does a profit from the war mean never having to say you're sorry? It plays like that these days.

Cindy notes Thomas Wilner's "Guantanamo: American Gulag" (LA Times via Common Dreams):

We interviewed our clients in Camp Echo, one of several camps where prisoners are interrogated. We entered a room about 13 feet square and divided in half by a wall of thick steel mesh. On one side was a table where the prisoner would sit for our interviews, his feet shackled to a steel eyelet cemented to the floor. On the other side were a shower and a cell just like the ones in which prisoners are ordinarily confined. In their cells, prisoners sleep on a metal shelf against the wall, which is flanked by a toilet and sink. They are allowed a thin foam mattress and a gray cotton blanket.
The Pentagon's files on the six Kuwaiti prisoners we represent reveal that none was captured on a battlefield or accused of engaging in hostilities against the U.S. The prisoners claim that they were taken into custody by Pakistani and Afghan warlords and turned over to the U.S. for bounties ranging from $5,000 to $25,000 — a claim confirmed by American news reports. We have obtained copies of bounty leaflets distributed in Afghanistan and Pakistan by U.S. forces promising rewards -- "enough to feed your family for life" -- for any "Arab terrorist" handed over.
The files include only the flimsiest accusations or hearsay that would never stand up in court. The file on one prisoner indicated that he had been seen talking to two suspected Al Qaeda members on the same day -- at places thousands of miles apart. The primary "evidence" against another was that he was captured wearing a particular Casio watch, "which many terrorists wear." Oddly, the same watch was being worn by the U.S. military chaplain, a Muslim, at Guantanamo.
When I first met my clients, they had not seen or spoken with their families for more than three years, and they had been questioned hundreds of times. Several were suspicious of us; they told me that they had been interrogated by people who claimed to be their lawyers but who turned out not to be. So we had DVDs made, on which members of their families told them who we were and that we could be trusted. Several cried on seeing their families for the first time in years. One had become a father since he was detained and had never before seen his child. One noticed his father was not on the DVD, and we had to tell him that his father had died.
Most prisoners are kept apart, although some can communicate through the steel mesh or concrete walls that separate their cells. They exercise alone, some only at night. They had not seen sunlight for months -- an especially cruel tactic in a tropical climate. One prisoner told me, "I have spent almost every moment of the last three years, and eaten every meal, here in this small cell which is my bathroom." Other than the Koran, prisoners had nothing to read. As a result of our protests, some have been given books.
Every prisoner I've interviewed claims to have been badly beaten and subjected to treatment that only could be called torture, by Americans, from the first day of U.S. captivity in Pakistan and Afghanistan. They said they were hung by their wrists and beaten, hung by their ankles and beaten, stripped naked and paraded before female guards, and given electric shocks. At least three claimed to have been beaten again upon arrival in Guantanamo. One of my clients, Fayiz Al Kandari, now 27, said his ribs were broken during an interrogation in Pakistan. I felt the indentation in his ribs. "Beat me all you want, just give me a hearing," he said he told his interrogators.
Another prisoner, Fawzi Al Odah, 25, is a teacher who left Kuwait City in 2001 to work in Afghan, then Pakistani, schools. After 9/11, he and four other Kuwaitis were invited to dinner by a Pakistani tribal leader and then sold by him into captivity, according to their accounts, later confirmed by Newsweek and ABC News.
On Aug. 8, 2005, Fawzi, in desperation, went on a hunger strike to assert his innocence and to protest being imprisoned for four years without charges. He said he wanted to defend himself against any accusations, or die. He told me that he had heard U.S. congressmen had returned from tours of Guantanamo saying that it was a Caribbean resort with great food. "If I eat, I condone these lies," Fawzi said.
At the end of August, after Fawzi fainted in his cell, guards began to force-feed him through tubes pushed up his nose into his stomach. At first, the tubes were inserted for each feeding and then removed afterward. Fawzi told me that this was very painful. When he tried to pull out the tubes, he was strapped onto a stretcher with his head held by many guards, which was even more painful.

Erika believes Wilner was the Guantanomo prisoners attorney who was recently on Law & Disorder (which airs most Mondays on WBAI).

Brad notes Charles Babington's "Specter Proposes NSA Surveillance Rules" (Washington Post):

The federal government would have to obtain permission from a secret court to continue a controversial form of surveillance, which the National Security Agency now conducts without warrants, under a bill being proposed by Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Arlen Specter (R-Pa.).
Specter's proposal would bring the four-year-old NSA program under the authority of the court created by the 1978 Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. The act created a mechanism for obtaining warrants to wiretap domestic suspects. But President Bush, shortly after the 2001 terrorist attacks, authorized the NSA to eavesdrop on communications without such warrants. The program was revealed in news reports two months ago.

Tuesday Pacifica will air the NSA hearings, gavel to gavel, live.

Remember to check out Ruth's Public Radio Report from Saturday. Her focus was Democracy Now! which is celebrating its tenth anniversary. And remember to listen, watch or read Democracy Now! today.

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