Friday, May 19, 2006

Democracy Now: Eduardo Galeano

Murtha: Haditha Probe Shows Marines Killed Iraqis "In Cold Blood"
The Pentagon has concluded its investigation into the shooting deaths of civilians in the Iraqi city of Haditha at the hands of US Marines. On Wednesday, Democratic Congressmember John Murtha of Pennsylvania said the probe will show that Marines: "killed innocent civilians in cold blood." Iraqis say 15 villagers were killed after US troops herded them into one room of a house near the city of Balad. The dead included five children and four women and ranged in age from 6 months to 75 years old. The Pentagon initially claimed the civilians had died in a roadside bombing. But Murtha said: "There was no firefight. There was no improvised explosive device that killed those innocent people. Our troops overreacted because of the pressure on them. And they killed innocent civilians in cold blood. That is what the report is going to tell."

Judge Dismisses Case of Wrongfully-Held CIA Detainee
And a federal judge has dismissed a lawsuit by a German citizen who says U.S. agents mistakenly kidnapped him and sent him to a secret prison in Afghanistan. The man, Khaled El-Masri, alleges he was first detained while on vacation in Macedonia. Once in CIA custody he says he was repeatedly beaten, roughly interrogated by masked men, detained in squalid conditions and denied access to an attorney or his family. He was only released after the CIA realized they had detained the wrong man, and left him alone on an abandoned road in Albania. On Thursday, the judge ruled proceeding with El-Masri's case would harm national security. Ben Wizner, an attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union who is representing al-Masri, said he will file an appeal. Wizner said: "[The ruling] confers a blank check on the CIA to shield even the most outrageous conduct from judicial review."

Nepal Strips King Guyanendra of Sweeping Powers
In Nepal, lawmakers approved a series of measures Thursday that remove some of the most sweeping powers of King Gyanendra. The King will no longer control the army, and lose his title as supreme commander-in-chief. The government will no longer be called "His Majesty's Government" but just Nepal government. The resolution was met with victory rallies across the country.

Ex-Intelligence Official Links US Coal Company to Union Killings
Meanwhile, Garcia has reportedly given new testimony that links a US coal company to the assassination of two Colombian labor leaders. In a sworn statement as part of a civil suit against Alabama-based Drummond, Garcia said he saw Colombian representatives of the company hand over a suitcase full of money to pay for the assassinations of two labor leaders in 2001.

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

Headlines for May 19, 2006
- Hayden Defends Domestic Spy Program At Confirmation Hearing
- New Italian PM Pledges Iraq Troop Withdrawal
- Murtha: Haditha Probe Shows Marines Killed Iraqis "In Cold Blood"
- Colombian Judges Say Paramilitaries Forced Pro-Uribe Vote Fraud
- Ex-Intelligence Official Links US Coal Company to Union Killings
- UN: US Should Close Guantanamo Bay Prison
- Judge Dismisses Case of Wrongfully
-Held CIA Detainee

Hayden Defends Domestic Spy Program At Confirmation Hearing
General Michael Hayden appeared before Senate Thursday for his confirmation hearings to become the new head of the CIA. The former director of the National Security Agency repeatedly defended the legality of the NSA's secret warrant-less domestic eavesdropping program that he helped design. [includes rush transcript]
JUAN GONZALEZ: We turn now to the Senate Intelligence Committee's confirmation hearing of General Michael Hayden to become the new head of the CIA. On Thursday, the former director of the National Security Agency repeatedly defended the legality of the NSA's secret warrantless domestic eavesdropping program that he helped design. This is Republican Senator Kit Bond from Missouri questioning Hayden.
SEN. KIT BOND: Did you ever personally believe the program was illegal?
SEN. KIT BOND: Did you believe that your primary responsibility as Director of NSA was to execute a program that your NSA lawyers, the Justice Department lawyers and White House officials all told you was legal and that you were ordered to carry it out by the President of the United States?
GEN. MICHAEL HAYDEN: Sir, when I had to make this personal decision in early October 2001, and it was a personal decision, the math was pretty straightforward. I could not not do this.
AMY GOODMAN: Wisconsin Democratic Senator Russ Feingold later challenged Hayden to explain how he came to the conclusion that the program was legal, even though the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act explicitly prohibits warrantless domestic surveillance.

"Voices of Time": Legendary Uruguayan Writer Eduardo Galeano on Immigration, Latin America, Iraq, Writing -- and Soccer
We spend the rest of the hour with one of Latin America's most acclaimed writers -- Eduardo Galeano. His works -- from the trilogy "Memory of Fire" to the classic "Open Veins of Latin America" are a unique blend of history, fiction, journalism and political analysis. His books have been translated into more than 20 languages. [includes rush transcript - partial]

Iraq snapshot.

Let's start with tomorrow. On Saturday, as the Associated Press and CBS note, the plan is "to swear in Iraq's new prime minister and Cabinet." The AP also notes rumors that Nouri al-Maliki, prime minister to be, "might appoint himself to head the two ministries until all parties can agree." Dropping back to yesterday, Italy's new prime minister, Romano Prodi, has declared the illegal Iraq war a "grave error" notes China's People's Daily Online. Also yesterday, details of the Pentagon's plan to blind drivers at checkpoints was covered by Reuters (and others). Reuters reports that Hussain al-Shahristani will be Iraq's new oil minister -- surprising only to those who didn't follow the "work" of the Iraq Foundation going back to before the illegal invasion. (Translation, war planners are dropping the war dance long enough for a dance of joy.)

UNICEF's David Singh estimates "850,000 Iraqi children aged between six and 59 months" suffer "from chronic malnutrition" while the figure for those suffering from "actue malnutrition" is estimated to be 300,000. You didn't discover that in this morning's New York Times, but viewers of Austalia's ABC could see David Singh interviewed on The World Today.

On another Iraqi story that the mainstream media in the United States hasn't shown interest in, Jake Kovco's family (Lorriane and David Small, parents of Jake's wife Shelley Kovco) and the family of Juso Sinanovic (Jasmina Sinanovic -- daughter of Juso) spoke via "community station Radio RPH" reports the AAP which also notes that Mick Martin has "established an appeal for . . . [Jake Kovco's] widow Shelley to supplement what he says is her meagre Australian Defence Force pension."

Today has been a confusing one for the family of Naji al Noaimi -- diplomat with the United Arab Emirates who was kidnapped Tuesday in Baghdad. But he has been released.

In Baghdad today, as CBS and the AP note, a gun fight between resistance and police officers led to the deaths of at least five and the wounded of at least eight. Roadside bombs continued exploding. One resulted in the wounding of three Iraqis, Reuters noted. AP reported on a roadside bomb apparently intended for a police officer who was not at his home -- but his wife and two children were and both were wounded in the explosion. Another roadside bomb resulted in at least one US soldier being wounded when it went off near a convoy.

The Associated Press notes the discovery of four corpses in Baghdad ("bullet-ridden"; "kidnapped and tortured") offering a potential identification of one as the elementary school teacher who was kidnapped.

Six miles out of Kirkuk, police discovered a coprse ("gunshot wounds"; "bearing signs of torture) while in Kirkuk "Mohammed al-Iqabi, an employee of the northern state-oil company, was gunned down" Reuters reports. CNN reports that "U.S. military commanders have decided to send more U.S. troops to the Iraqi city of Ramadi" where the 'pacification' has not taken. The Associated Press notes that "more than 30 shops in a market in Diwaniyah" have been targeted and burned by arsonists.

KUNA notes that Bully Boy was on US television this morning (NBC's Today) and continues to blame his low approval ratings on the Iraq war but he thinks he'll rebound noting, "I have got two and a half years left to be president of the United States and I intend to get a lot done" -- barring, of course, impeachment or prolonged vacations.

Finally, in England, Helene Mullholland reports that an investigation will start again in to the death of David Kelly. Kelly was the scientist who was at least one source for a 2003 report by the BBC that the Tony Blair government "sexed up" the intelligence to sell the case for war. Angry denials from the ruling party led to what some would call a witch hunt. During the witch hunt, Kelly was identified as a source. Shortly afterward, he died (July 18, 2003) and, though his death had been officially ruled a suicide, questions have remained.

Highlights quickly. Two on Guantanamo, one on the paper of record. First up, Guantanamo.
Cindy notes Carol J. Williams' "4 Guantanamo Prisoners Attempt Suicide in One Day" (Los Angeles Times via Common Dreams):

Four terrorism suspects at the sprawling prison network here attempted suicide Thursday, and detainees at a camp for the most compliant prisoners attacked guards with improvised weapons when the guards tried to rescue a man attempting to hang himself, a spokesman for the U.S. military-run prison said.
The disturbance at Camp 4, a communal facility housing 175 prisoners, followed three overdose attempts earlier in the day at Camp 1, where about 180 detainees live in metal mesh cages.
Those involved in the disturbance were moved to maximum-security confinement, said Navy Cmdr. Robert Durand, public affairs director for the prison and interrogation network.
Neither the identities nor the nationalities of the prisoners were disclosed.
"When the guard force entered the [Camp 4] compound to intervene and save the life of the detainee, some detainees attempted to prevent them from rescuing the detainee by using fans, light fixtures and other items as improvised weapons," Durand said.

As that horrible news comes out, Eddie notes Sam Cage's "UN: US Should Close Gitmo Facility" (Associated Press via Truth Out):

Geneva - The United States should close its prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and avoid using secret detention facilities in its war on terror, a U.N. panel report released Friday said.
In an 11-page report on its review of US adherence to the Treaty Against Torture, the committee said detainees should not be returned to any state where they could face a "real risk" of being tortured.
"The state party should cease to detain any person at Guantanamo Bay and close the detention facility," said the U.N. Committee Against Torture, a panel of 10 independent experts on adherence to the U.N. Convention Against Torture.
The United States should also ensure that no one is detained in secret detention facilities under its control and disclose the existence of any such places, the report said.
The committee said it was concerned that detainees were being held for protracted periods with insufficient legal safeguards and without judicial assessment of the justification for their detention.
The committee was also concerned about allegations that the United States has established secret prisons, where the international Red Cross does not have access to the detainees.

Now it's time to focus on the Times. Martha notes Rory O'Connor and William Scott Malone's "The (Other) Story Judith Miller Didn't Write" (Media is a Plural,

On October 12, 2000, the guided missile destroyer USS Cole pulled into harbor for refueling in Aden, Yemen. Less than two hours later, suicide bombers Ibrahim al-Thawr and Abdullah al-Misawa approached the ship’s port side in a small inflatable craft laden with explosives and blew a 40-by-40-foot gash in it, killing seventeen sailors and injuring thirty-nine others.
The attack on the Cole, organized and carried out by Osama bin Laden’s al-Qaeda terrorist group, was a seminal but still murky and largely misunderstood event in America's ongoing "Long War." Two weeks prior, military analysts associated with an experimental intelligence program known as ABLE DANGER had warned top officials of the existence of an active Al Qaeda cell in Aden, Yemen. And two days before the attack, they had conveyed "actionable intelligence" of possible terrorist activity in and around the port of Aden to General Pete Schoomaker, then Commander in Chief of the United States Special Operation Command (SOCOM). The same information was also conveyed to a top intelligence officer at the United States Central Command (CENTCOM), headed by the newly appointed General Tommy Franks. As CENTCOM commander, Franks oversaw all US Armed Forces operations in a twenty five-country region that included Yemen, as well as the Fifth Fleet to which the Cole was tasked.
It remains unclear what action, if any, top officials at SOCOM and CENTCOM took in response to the ABLE DANGER warnings about planned Al Qaeda activities in Aden harbor. None of the officials involved has ever spoken about the pre-attack warnings, and a post-attack forensic analysis of the episode remains highly classified and off-limits within the bowels of the Pentagon. Subsequent investigations exonerated the Cole’s commander, Kirk Lippold, but Lippold’s career has been ruined nonetheless. He remains in legal and professional limbo, with a recommended promotion and new command held up for the past four years by political concerns and maneuvering.
Meanwhile, no disciplinary action was ever taken against any SOCOM or CENTCOM officials. General Schoomaker was later promoted out of retirement to Chief of Staff, United States Army, and General Franks went on to lead the combat operations in Afghanistan and Iraq.
Enter Judith Miller, the Pulitzer Prize-winning ex-New York Times reporter at the center of the ongoing perjury and obstruction of justice case involving former top White House official I. Lewis (Scooter) Libby. Miller spent eighty-five days in jail before finally disclosing that Libby was the anonymous source who confirmed to her that Valerie Plame was a CIA official, although Miller never wrote a story about Plame. Now, in an exclusive interview, Miller tells the details of how the attack on the Cole spurred her reporting on Al Qaeda and led her, in July 2001, to a still-anonymous top-level White House source, who shared top-secret NSA signals intelligence (SIGINT) concerning an even bigger impending Al Qaeda attack, perhaps to be visited on the continental United States. Ultimately, however, Miller never wrote that story either. But two months later --on September 11 -- Miller and her editor at the Times, Stephen Engelberg, another Pulitzer Prize winner, both remembered and regretted the story they "didn't do."

Read more for what the Times didn't cover. Thanks to two friends who worked overtime on dictation and more to help get this entry pulled together. The e-mail address for this site is