Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Democracy Now: Frederick Schwarz discusses the Church Committee and implications for today

AMY GOODMAN: How concerned are you about what's happening today?
FREDERICK SCHWARZ: Well, you know, what I really think, what I'm really concerned about is the theory that Dick Cheney first voiced many years ago and he's continued to voice and Bush's lawyers have voiced, which is the theory that the President has the right to break the law. Now -- and indeed that the Constitution gives the President the right to break the law. That's never been suggested before. It's being suggested now, and if it's not put down and defeated, we are in a slippery slope moving toward a much more totalitarian government that's like the monarchy which we supposedly -- we tried to put behind us when we had the revolution 200 years ago.
AMY GOODMAN: Frederick Schwarz, I want to thank you very much for being with us.
AMY GOODMAN: Senior Counsel at the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law, served as the Chief Counsel to the Church Committee 30 years ago and is co-author of the forthcoming book, Unchecked and Unbalanced: Presidential Power in a Time of Terror. Thanks for joining us.

Rachel asked that we open with the above from Democracy Now!'s "Church Committee Counsel Frederick Schwarz on Corporate Involvement in Government Spying." It's a must listen, must watch or must read interview. Amy Goodman and Democracy Now! continue to cover the Church Committee and to explain why it matters today. Now, our normal opening.

UNICEF: 25% of Iraqi Children Suffer Malnutrition
Meanwhile, a survey carried out by the Iraqi government and UNICEF has concluded a quarter of all Iraqi children suffer from malnutrition.

Bush Admin To Brief Lawmakers on NSA
After months of resistance, the Bush administration has agreed to brief all members of the House and Senate intelligence committees on its domestic wiretapping program. Analysts said the decision was made to shore up support for CIA nominee Gen. Michael Hayden, who oversaw the National Security Agency when the program was introduced. Hayden's confirmation hearings begin Thursday. Republican strategists cited another benefit. Because of congressional rules over classified information, lawmakers would be forced to temper public discussion of the program once they were briefed on it. One senior Republican aide told the Los Angeles Times: "When they know about it, they are obligated to be quiet."

Mexico Mulls Legal Action Over National Guard Border Presence
Mexico has announced it may take legal action in response to President Bush’s plan to deploy thousands of troops to the border. On Tuesday, Mexican officials said they would file lawsuits in US courts if the National Guard took part in detaining and/or mistreating detainees. In Washington, President Bush defended his plan. "I made it clear to the country last night that we're not going to militarize our borde," Bush said. "Mexico is a friend. But what we are going to do is use assets necessary to make sure that we can assure the American people that the border is secure."

Venezuela Says Arms Embargo An Attempt At De-Stabilization
A new arms embargo on Venezuela is heightening tensions between the Bush and Chavez governments. On Monday, the US announced it is banning arms sales to Venezuela because it has not cooperated with the Bush administration’s so-called anti-terrorism efforts. Venezuelan officials said the ban is laying the political groundwork for a possible attack. On Tuesday, State Department spokesperson Sean McCormack responded to the allegation: "Look, it is just a attempt to obscure the issue, but what they should be focusing on instead is co-operating in the war against terrorism, the UN resolutions that should be a guide for every country's efforts in that regard. I think that instead of throwing up diversionary rhetoric, overheated rhetoric, they should focus instead on taking steps to fight terror." In response to the arms embargo, Venezuela says it would consider sending its fleet of US-made F-16 fighter jets to Iran.

Colombians Stage Massive Blockade Over US Trade Deal
In Colombia, thousands of indigenous Colombians blocked a major southern highway Tuesday to protest a pending trade agreement with the United States. Organizers said the blockade drew more than 30,000 people. At least 30 people were reported injured when police used tear gas on the crowds. Government officials accused the demonstration of being a front for the rebel group the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia -- FARC. Indigenous leader Jose Antonio Catome had this response: "Here they are attacking us with helicopters. They are attacking also with bullets, that is, they are attacking in different ways as if we were an illegal group, and it is totally false that this was encouraged by the FARC. We take responsibility for this."

The above five items are from today's Democracy Now! Headlines and were selected by Erika, Sam, Francisco, Zach and Susan. Democracy Now! ("always informing you," as Marcia says):

Headlines for May 17, 2006

- NYPD Investigated For Conduct At 2004 RNC
- Bush Admin To Brief Lawmakers on NSA
- Iran Rejects EU Incentives To Halt Nuclear Enrichment
- Venezuela Says Arms Embargo An Attempt At De-Stabilization
- Colombians Stage Massive Blockade Over US Trade Deal
- US Releases New Footage of 9/11 Pentagon Attack
- Georgia Court Annuls Gay-Marriage Ban
- Poll: Trust in GOP Governance At New Low

FBI Launches Probe of NYPD Over RNC Protests

Democracy Now has learned the Justice Department has launched a criminal investigation of the New York Police Department over the NYPD’s treatment of protesters during the Republican National Convention. During the week of the 2004 convention, police arrested some 1800 protesters -- more than at any previous political convention in the country’s history.

Ex-NSA Head Bobby Ray Inman on the National Security Agency’s Domestic Surveillance Program: “This Activity Was Not Authorized”

Admiral Bobby Ray Inman has become the highest-ranking former NSA official to speak out about the domestic spy program. "There clearly was a line in the FISA statutes which says you couldn't do this," said Inman last week in remarks that have received little attention. [includes rush transcript]

Church Committee Counsel Frederick Schwarz on Corporate Involvement in Government Spying

In the 1970s, the Church Committee, led by Senator Frank Church, conducted a major investigation of the country's intelligence agencies. During its investigation the Church Committee uncovered that several major corporations helped the NSA spy on Americans in a secretive program known as Project Shamrock. Frederick Schwarz, who served as chief counsel to the Church Committee, joins us to look at the similarities with the current NSA spy scandal. [includes rush transcript]
FREDERICK SCHWARZ: It’s interesting. I think the Church Committee did teach lessons to people, that if you -- you shouldn't violate the law. You shouldn't use secrecy to cover up things, merely because they're embarrassing. Another thing that I know he said at that conference was about General Hayden. I should say for a minute, the NSA is a very important agency for the United States. It has done and it does do very important things through their electronic intelligence work. But with respect to General Hayden, in the book, I've looked in the draft of the book, which is coming out next winter -- I've looked at General Hayden's comments, and I think in his confirmation hearings, the Senate Intelligence Committee really needs to look very carefully at whether he was candid or honest in the comments he made after 9/11. You know, to make a fair judgment on that, you have to know not only what he said, but exactly what was being done when. But I think there's a credibility issue.
AMY GOODMAN: Candid about?
FREDERICK SCHWARZ: About whether the government -- I think -- see, the comments by both President Bush and General Hayden reassured the public that they were always getting warrants, but we now know they weren't. So there's a credibility issue there.

Baghdad ER: Documentary On US Military Hospital in Iraq Gets Cold Reception From Army

A new documentary film on the emergency room of a US military hospital in Iraq is being met with resistance by the US Army. The film "Baghdad ER", which airs Sunday on HBO, chronicles life in the emergency room of the 86th Combat Support Hospital in Baghdad's Green Zone during a two-month period last year. The Army surgeon general has warned military-personnel it could cause post-traumatic stress disorder, while the Secretary of the Army asked HBO to delete some footage from the final cut. We play excerpts of the film, and speak to the film’s directors, as well as a military doctor depicted in the film, and a mother of a soldier whose death is chronicled on screen.

Iraq snapshot.

Yesterday, as reported by Richard A. Oppel Jr. and Omar al Neami, nine corpses were found in Iraq, there were drive bys, bombs -- chaos and violence. The hallmark of the illegal occupation.

The BBC notes the kidnapping, in Baghdad Tuesday, of an unnamded diplomat with the United Arab Emirates. CNN notes that this "attack was the second in two weeks involving employees of the UAE embassy in Iraq. On May 3, two Iraqis working for the embassy were killed during an attack on their car, according to the Emirates News Agency." The AFP identifies him as: Naji al-Nuami "Abu Rashid" (parenthesis are the AFP's). While one person with al-Noaimi was reported as wounded, Reuters reports that the man has now died from the gun shot wounds (he's identified only as a "Sudanese driver.")

CNN, the Associated Press and BBC note that Iraqi prime minister-designate Nuri al-Maliki will, apparently, announce his cabinet nominations this Saturday. As the rah-rah-rah-put-on-Etta-James'-"At Last!"-mood builds, it's left to AFP to note the obvious: the parliment meets Saturday because the constitutional deadline is Monday, the 22nd. al-Maliki has already missed his own imposed deadline. The Monday deadline is not optional. Hassan al-Sunaid informed the AFP that professional liar (my term) Ahmed Chalabi is in the running for head of the interior ministry (competing with Qassem Daoud).

While that goes on under the watchful eye of the United States administration, Des Browne, England's defense secretary, again put forth the line that England might be withdrawing from Iraq. "The line"? British members have grown tired of what they see as empty talk. If that seems harsh or negative to any Pollyanish on Iraq visitors, Browne also maintains that things are hunky dory in Basra. (They're not and we'll get to that in a moment.)

Reuters notes that four police officers have been wounded from two roadside bombs in Baghdad (one near the hospital al-Kindi, the other at a check point). The Associated Press notes that two corpses ("handcuffed and shot in the head") have been discovered in Baghdad.

And while Baghdad gets a great deal of press attention (due to the Green Zone being located there), it shouldn't be the only focus. Patrick Cockburn notes that "One person is being assassinated in Basra every hour, as order in Iraq's second city disintegrates, according to an Iraqi Defence Ministry." Along with details on Basra, Cockburn covers the malnutrition going on Iraq. (From Monday: "Meanwhile Australia's ABC notes the "UN-backed government survey" on malnutrition in Iraq which has found that "almost one child in every 10 aged between six months and five years, suffered acute malnourishment." This is a story that should be receiving more attention than it's getting.)

In addition to Cockburn's report (and the Democracy Now! item above), for more on the widespread malnutrition plaguing Iraq, you can read this UNICEF report. You should especially read it if you're one of the ones (I'm not talking about members here) who've kidded yourself and wasted everyone's time with "A school room was painted!" That ___ has been meaningless and was always meaningless. "A rapid post-war nutritional assessment carried out by UNICEF in Baghdad found that acute malnutrition or wasting, measured by a child's weight for height, has nearly doubled from four per cent a year ago, to almost eight per cent." But all the US administration has been concerned with has been cutting (and ending) the subsidies program in place before the occupation. We're in year four of the illegal occupation. Read the report and then keep kidding yourself that a paint job or ceiling fan anywhere was anything other than window dressing.

Violence has continued in other areas of Iraq as well. Here are two reported events outside Baghdad. In Diyali, KUNA notes that "an Iraqi officer was killed and two others were injured" in an explosion. In Bauba, Reuters notes that four people are dead and 11 wounded following an explosion and gunfire

For Knight Ridder, Edward Colimore takes a look at American women serving in Iraq and notes that "nearly 400 female service members" have been wounded, "11 have had amputation," over "50 others have been killed."

Two highlights, both on the NSA (which is what most of the e-mails are on this morning). First, Lori notes Ivan Eland's "Stopping Hayden & the NSA" (Consortium News):

In an effort to save the Hayden nomination, intelligence officers, through leaks to the press, are arguing that only Hayden's heroic efforts against Vice President Dick Cheney's juggernaut limited the warrantless NSA eavesdropping program to cases where a caller in the United States was calling abroad or receiving a call from there.
They say the vice president believed, under his expansive theory of executive power, that the president could eavesdrop on purely domestic calls as well in order to preserve national security. But Hayden should be held accountable for suggesting the expansion of NSA's activities into warrantless spying in the first place.
What part of the Fourth Amendment to the Constitution doesn’t the general understand? The amendment states:
"The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized."
The amendment clearly intends that a warrant is needed for all searches--which includes modern-day eavesdropping and wiretapping--and specifically states that warrants should not even be issued unless government officials can attest that there is "probable cause" that a crime has been committed.
The highest law of the land deems the right of U.S. citizens to be protected against the government's potent police power to be so important that it creates no exemption for "national security."
The artificial distinction the Bush administration has made between the international and domestic calls of people in the United States is ludicrous and has no basis in law. The distinction has been made because it is easier to sell illegal and improper spying to the public and some in the intelligence community, who correctly believe that domestic spying of any kind will destroy public confidence in the nation’s intelligence agencies.
But even spying on international calls of people in the United States is unconstitutional without a warrant. So Hayden was advocating subverting the Constitution to expand the activities of his agency.

Second, Billie notes the Center for Constitutional Rights' "72 Members of Congress Support CCR Challenge to Warrantless Spying Amidst New Disclosures on the Illegal Program's Massive Reach:"

On May 11, 2006 the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) welcomed support from 72 Members of Congress who filed amicus briefs in support of its challenge to warrantless spying, which asserts that the NSA Program is illegal and requests an injunction to bar further spying on Americans (CCR v. Bush). The filing comes amidst new disclosures that the NSA Program has collected tens of millions of phone call records, amassing information about “the calls of ordinary Americans” with the cooperation of several telephone companies, according to an article in today’s USA Today.
"We are seeing mounting support for our challenge to warrantless spying and mounting evidence that the program is not only illegal, but illegal on a far more massive scale than the Bush Administration originally revealed. For months we have been arguing in court that the NSA is spying on Americans without the warrants or judicial oversight required by our Constitution. As Americans learn exactly how this spying personally affects them, the opposition to Big Brother government will continue to grow. Despite all these developments, President Bush is attempting to promote the architect of illegal spying, when he should be fired," said CCR Legal Director Bill Goodman.
The U.S. Representatives' brief explains that Congress never authorized the warrantless spying program, recounting the legislative history of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978 and the Authorization for Use of Military Force in Afghanistan, and asks the court to halt the program immediately.

Remember that KPFA will provide live coverage of the hearing -- Larry Bensky and Mitch Jesserich will anchor. I'm guessing WBAI will as well but right now, I just know of the one Pacifica station.

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C.I. note: "The" report changed to "that" thanks to Elaine. It's not "the report." It's a report.