Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Democracy Now: Brian Ross discusses the spying on journalists

AMY GOODMAN: What kind of guarantees do they [sources] ask for now from you? What kind of guarantees can you give them?
BRIAN ROSS: The only guarantee I can give is that I will not reveal their name or their position. I certainly would not. I think everyone has to know, and there’s nothing I can do about it -- if my phone records have been taken by the government, obtained somehow, I don't know about it. But I do know that I’ve been told that they are looking at our records, so I assume they have.
AMY GOODMAN: Brian Ross, is this changing the way you work?
BRIAN ROSS: Absolutely. I mean, this makes it very, very difficult. And, you know, you sort of have to start thinking, I guess, like some sort of Mafia capo. You make your phone calls with bags of quarters at pay phones, if you can find them anymore. It's chilling, to say the least, and I guess I’ve concluded that this requires, you know, on my part, your part, all of us who are reporters and care about the truth, really reporting on this subject, and I don't think it's self-centered. I think it's important that everyone know this is what's happening and, you know, let Americans decide if that's how they want the government to operate.
A friend asked that I open with that and I think that's a good idea.  This is big and it has a huge impact.  The excerpt is from "Freedom of the Press Under Attack: Government Begins Tracking Phone Calls of Journalists." So, if you haven't heard, watched or read the segment yet today, please make time for it.  Now, let's do our usual opening.
Sunni Group Accuses U.S. of Killing 25 Civilians in Iraq
In Iraq, a leading Sunni religious group has accused U.S. forces of killing 25 civilians in a series of recent raids near Baghdad. The Muslim Clerics Association accused U.S. and Iraqi forces of carrying out air strikes against civilians in Latifiya. In addition the group said U.S. forces shot and killed people who ran from their houses during the bombing. In a statement the Muslim Clerics Association said "We hold the Iraqi government and the occupiers responsible for this brutal atrocity." The U.S. military admits it killed 41 people in the recent attacks but the military described all of the victims as either associates of al Qaeda or terrorists.
Report: Government Tracks Phone Calls of Journalists
In other news, a senior federal law enforcement official has admitted to ABC News that the government is now tracking phone calls made by journalists in an attempt to find out who is leaking information to the media. According to the report the government has focused on journalists from the New York Times, the Washington Post and ABC News. The disclosure comes just days after USA Today reported that Verizon, BellSouth and AT&T have handed over the phone records of millions of customers to the National Security Agency. On Monday one of the companies -- BellSouth -- denied giving the NSA customer calling records.
FCC Commissioner Calls for Inquiry into NSA Spying Scandal
Meanwhile FCC Commissioner Michael Copps said the Federal Communications Commission should investigate whether the phone companies violated the Communications Act by handing over the customer calling records to the National Security Agency. Copps said the "privacy of our citizens must still matter."
Prosecutor Focuses on Cheney in Valerie Plame Probe
More questions are being raised about Vice President Dick Cheney's role in the outing of CIA operative Valerie Plame, the wife of Ambassador Joseph Wilson. Last week prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald filed paperwork that he says shows Cheney became acutely focused on Wilson after the publication of Wilson's article in the New York Times that questioned the Bush administration's claims about Iraq weapons of mass destruction program. Included in Fitzgerald's filing are Cheney's handwritten notes on a copy of the Wilson article about how he determined Niger was not supplying Iraq with yellowcake uranum. In the notes Cheney personally asked whether Wilson had been sent to Niger by his wife on a "junket" to Africa. Days after Wilson's article appeared in the New York Times, his wife was outted as a CIA operative. Newsweek reports that the newly released notes appear to make Cheney an even more central witness than had been previously thought in the criminal probe.
Activists Call for Clear Channel to Lose License Over Hate Radio
A coalition of media activists have launched a campaign to call on the FCC to investigate whether Clear Channel should lose their radio licenses in eight markets for airing the program Star & Buc Wild. Last week the former co-host of the show, Star, was arrested on charges of endangering the welfare of a child. Star threatened on-air to sexually abuse the four-year-old daughter of a rival radio personality. He also offered listeners $500 for information on where the four-year-old went to school. In addition he made anti-Asian slurs about the girl’s mother. Excerpts of Star's on-air threats have been posted on the website nohateradio.com.
The above five items are from today's Democracy Now! Headlines and were selected by Jennifer, DK, Olive, Charlie and Elaine & Mike (billed that way because they both requested the last item).  Democracy Now! ("always worth watching," as Marcia says):
 Headlines for May 16, 2006

- Bush: 6,000 National Guard Troops to Be Deployed to Border
- Report: Government Tracks Phone Calls of Journalists
- FCC Commissioner Calls for Inquiry into NSA Spying Scandal
- Sunni Group Accuses U.S. of Killing 25 Civilians in Iraq
- U.S. Bars Arms Sales to Venezuela
- Haiti & Venezuela Sign Oil Deal
- Ecuador Expels Oil Giant Occidental Petroleum
- Prosecutor Focuses on Cheney in Valerie Plame Probe
- Activists Call for Clear Channel to Lose License Over Hate Radio
Freedom of the Press Under Attack: Government Begins Tracking Phone Calls of Journalists

ABC News reported on Monday that a senior federal law enforcement had revealed that the government is now tracking phone calls made by journalists from the New York Times, Washington Post and ABC News. We speak with Brian Ross, chief investigative reporter at ABC News. [includes rush transcript]
Militarizing the Border: Bush Calls For 6,000 National Guard Troops to Deploy to U.S.-Mexican Border

President Bush spoke on national tv night and called for 6,000 National Guard troops to be deployed to the U.S.-Mexican border. We looking at the growing militarization of the border and the role private contractors, like Halliburton, are playing.
 Hundreds Gather in Duncan Oklahoma to Protest Outside Halliburton Shareholder Meeting

We go to Oklahoma to speak with Corpwatch's Pratap Chatterjee about his new report "Hurricane Halliburton: Conflict, Climate Change and Catastrophe." We also speak with Nigerian attorney Michael Keania Karikpo who represents Environmental Rights Action in Nigeria.
Chaos and violence continue as Reuters notes "Andrew Krepinevich, a retired army officer and professor at Washington's George Mason University, estimates that defeating the insurgency in Iraq would take at least a decade, hundreds of billions of dollars and longer casualty rolls."
And right now? 
As Sandra Lupien noted on KPFA's The Morning Show, "At least 18 are dead after an attack on a garge . . . dozes are wounded."  This happened in Baghdad and, as the Associated Press notes, before the attack on the garage/parking lot, the assailants "first shot five guards."  The deaths and the injuries resulted from exploding "a parked oil tanker."  Reuters notes that the fatality count has now risen to 19.  The BBC notes that this takes place as Nouri Maliki attempts to meet the Monday deadline regarding forming his cabinet (constitutional deadline). Sources tell KUNA that the cabinet will be "announced  in 24 hours and that the Foreign Ministry portfolio would go to Hushyar Zibari and Ahmad Al-Jalabi would assume the Interior Ministry."
Also in Baghdad, AFP reports that four corpses have turned up "including the body of a police officer reported kidnapped on Monday."  CNN notes three (of the four) "shot in the head . . . tortured." CNN also notes an attack that killed 6 people "in the southern Hor Rijab Shi'ite district" of Baghdad. Reuters notes that the police's account and the account from the Interior Ministry differ on the attack.  Reuters reports the death of four US military base workers who were killed when assailants "opened fire on their minibus."  China's People's Daily Online reports the death of US soldier as a result of a roadside bomb.
Mark Oliver takes a look at the issue of the mental health of the British and American troops and notes a King's College London study which has found that Post Traumatic Stress Disorder effects many (4% of British and 20% American troops) and a finding "that 26% of reservists have mental health problems such as depression, compared to 19% of regular troops."
In Kirkuk, assailants attacked a police patrol killing two police officers. KUNA notes that police Captain Shuhab Ahmad Mohammad and his brother Envoy Qasin Ahmad Mohammad were assasinated when gunmen "opened fire" on his car. KUNA also notes that Dr. Adnan Abbas Hashimi was killed "in front of his clinic in Mosul." In Kerbala, Reuters notes a corpse was discovered "blindfolded and handcuffed," while an Egyptian who worked in a bakery was killed by unidentified assailants.
The Times of London reports that Christian Peace Teammakers have made the decision to discontinue their work on the ground in Iraq, "evacuated its volunteers and warned they might not return" and Kim Sengupta (in London's Independent) provides a look at Joseva Lewaicei and Adam Morris, two British soldiers who died in Iraq.
All of this as Ian Bruce reports ("US Spells out plan to bomb Iran," Scotland's Herald):
THE US is updating contingency plans for a non-nuclear strike to cripple Iran's atomic weapon programme if international diplomacy fails, Pentagon sources have confirmed.
[. . .]
The main plan calls for a rolling, five-day bombing campaign against 400 key targets in Iran, including 24 nuclear-related sites, 14 military airfields and radar installations, and Revolutionary Guard headquarters.
At least 75 targets in underground complexes would be attacked with waves of bunker-buster bombs.
And for those needing a good laugh today, everyone still absorbing the previous item?, Gareth suggests you click here and read this while asking "How White can Condi
Rice be?"  Outside of including the Beach Boys on her list, it would be difficult to picture her coming off any Whiter.  Is Bully Boy her own personal "Rocket Man"?
Molly wonders why The Third Estate Sunday Review "new content hasn't been noted?"  Sunday a.m. is when I usually do that but it was still ongoing when I did the Sunday morning entry.  By Sunday evening, it was obvious that there were typos and a number of us were drafted to fix that.  Ava, Jess and I tackled the book discussion last night.  Rebecca and Jim have done one as well, I have no idea who else.  (Ty has caught or will catch typos in Ava and my TV review -- Ty created that role for himself long ago so thanks to him for that.)
I'm not sure what's been "finaled" and what hasn't, but here's the new content that went up Sunday (and is still being proofed for spelling and missing words):
  • A Note to Our Readers
  • Editorial: Could it be true? Rove indicted?
  • TV Review: When it's time to go -- That 70s Show
  • Who exactly are the outlaws?
  • 2 Books, many minutes
  • About that 'fan mail'
  • Professional Slime Mike McCurry stabs Milano in the back
  • Laura Flanders spoke with Cindy Sheehan on Saturday's Radio Nation With Laura Flanders
  • Mark Danner discusses impeachment with Larry Bensky today on KPFA's Sunday Salon
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