Friday, February 17, 2006

Other Items

Even as the Bush administration presses an aggressive campaign against leaks, some Congressional Republicans are joining Democrats in supporting government employees who say they have been punished for disclosing sensitive information on reported abuses.
Representative Christopher Shays, Republican of Connecticut, is leading the defense of whistle-blowers who have spoken out about abuse of Iraqi prisoners at Abu Ghraib, illicit federal wiretapping and other matters. "It's absolutely essential that we have a system that allows people to speak out about abuses, especially in the national security realm," Mr. Shays said in an interview.
He said his conviction that current protections were inadequate was strengthened by testimony on Tuesday at a hearing of his House subcommittee on national security by five self-described whistle-blowers who described retaliation for their disclosures. Mr. Shays's concerns are shared by numerous Democrats and some other Republicans, including Representative Curt Weldon of Pennsylvania, who has denounced what he calls the mistreatment of a military intelligence officer, Lt. Col. Anthony Shaffer, who disclosed the Pentagon's Able Danger data-mining program. Mr. Weldon says he believes that the program identified Mohammed Atta before he became the lead hijacker in the 2001 terrorist attacks, though a Pentagon review found no evidence to support that conclusion.

The above is from Scott Shane's "Bipartisan Support Emerges for Federal Whistle-Blowers" in this morning's New York Times. Bipartisan support? Congress stepping up? At least for today. Don't hold your breath on this. (See previous entry.)

And what else? Well the glacier melt is big news in the Washington Post and in the Los Angeles Times but it's a tiny item (nine paragraphs, check my math) on page A10 of the Times. Also not on the front page is the news that Christopher Joseph Cahill has pled guilty to "inflating" the invoices for flying cargo by 1.14 million dollars, flying cargo into Iraq, of course. And yes, where there are "cost overruns" in Iraq, there is Halliburton, this time via Kellogg, Brown & Root. That news (by James Glanz) lands on A6 because, certainly, nothing is bigger news than the fact that the Olympics aren't performing well in the Nielsen ratings. In the eyes of the Times, that is front page news. Not global warming, not war profittering (with a guilty plea) but TV ratings.
Other than that, David D. Kirkpatrick demonstrates that he can write clearly on a potential Congress scandal involving lobbying with "Specter Denies Funneling Money for Lobbyist" in this morning's New York Times.

Moving on to more worthy topics and journalism sources, Robin notes "Less Butter, More Guns" (The Nation):

The budget is an annual statement of national priorities and in even-numbered years also serves as a campaign platform for the party in power. This President's new spending priorities are grotesque--a cruel distortion of what matters to Americans--and riddled with deceptions. For the campaign, however, Bush's slogan is surprisingly frank: "Cut the butter, give us more guns." Terror is his theme, as usual. But instead of pretending, as he has in the past, that the war will be painless on the home front, Bush now asks people to choose between their fears and their hopes. That's a far riskier gamble, and one he just might lose.
Bush's budget is littered with phony claims and fanciful projections, but it does clearly frame a potentially decisive debate: Do Americans acquiesce to the "long war" envisioned by Pentagon planners? Or will Congress at last choke on the folly and open-ended costs of this new cold war? Bush is determined to convert America into a permanent war economy. If we reject his priorities we can perhaps turn back a national disaster before it's too late.

Martha notes an appearance by Danny Schechter this week:

I am in Boston this weekend speaking to the National Association of College Bookers.

If we get more details, we'll note them here.

Must read article for today? Joni says Athan G. Theoharis' "The FISA File" (The Nation):

With a debate now raging over George W. Bush's secret authorization of warrantless wiretaps by the National Security Agency in defiance of the 1978 Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, we must take another look at why Congress passed the act in the first place. The legislative history clearly shows that the intention was to deny the President the unchecked right to determine whether a proposed target met a legitimate "foreign intelligence" need. Instead, Congress ordained that all proposals to intercept such communications with foreigners must first be reviewed and approved by a special FISA court.
Prodding Congress into action in 1978 were recent revelations of abuses by the NSA. One was Operation Shamrock, instituted in 1947 to intercept telegraph messages; another was Operation Minaret, created in 1967 to intercept the electronic communications of militant civil rights and anti-Vietnam War activists. NSA officials knew these programs were illegal and accordingly devised procedures to preclude discovery of their actions. Also important were revelations that President Nixon had co-opted the NSA and the FBI to advance his own political and policy agendas.
Nixon's abuses started after Congress passed the 1968 Omnibus Crime Control and Safe Streets Act. This law included a section allowing wiretapping that had been banned by the 1934 Communications Act and authorizing its use if a warrant had been obtained. But it also stated that the warrant requirement would not "limit the constitutional power of the President to take such measures as he deems necessary to protect the Nation against actual or potential attack or other hostile acts of a foreign power, to obtain foreign intelligence information deemed essential to the security of the United States, or to protect national security information against foreign intelligence activities." During the debate on this proposal, Senator Philip Hart asked Senators John McClellan and Spessard Holland, the floor leaders on the bill, whether this provision gave "the President a blank check to tap or bug without judicial supervision, when he finds, on his own motion, that an activity poses a 'clear and present danger to the Government of the United States.'" McClellan and Holland denied that it would. They contended that the language was neutral and did not "affirmatively" grant any such powers to the President but merely stated that the President's (undefined) constitutional powers were not restricted.

Rod gives us heads up to some scheduled topics for today's Democracy Now!:

* We will play an excerpt of the Australian news report that first broadcast the new Abu Ghraib torture photos and video.
* We will also talk to journalist Mark Benjamin who obtained the new Abu Ghraib torture photos for
* Alfred McCoy will discuss his new book, "A Question of Torture: CIA Interrogation, from the Cold War to the War on Terror."

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