Friday, August 26, 2005

NYT discovers problems with Iraqi constitution, Scott Shane & James Risen on the CIA, Nancy Meersman on phone jamming, Matthew Rothschild ...

On the front page of this morning's New York Times, the talk of the Iraqi constitution being just around the corner (kind of like the United States economic recovery) has to finally face reality -- it's at a "breaking point."

Meanwhile Scott Shane and James Risen's "Internal Report Said to Fault C.I.A. for Pre-9/11 Actions" doesn't get the emphasis it deserves. Why? Probably due to the focus of the story, honestly. Here's an excerpt:

The report describes systemic problems at the agency before 2001, the officials said. In addition to criticizing Mr. Tenet; James L. Pavitt, the former deputy director of operations; and J. Cofer Black, the former director of the agency's Counterterrorist Center, it offers praise for some specific actions taken by them and other officials, they said.
The findings place Mr. Goss in a delicate position. As chairman of the House Intelligence Committee in the years before the attacks, he influenced intelligence policies and monitored intelligence agencies. As a leader of the joint Congressional inquiry into the attacks, he joined in requesting the inspector general's inquiry nearly three years ago.
Now, as director of the Central Intelligence Agency, he will have to decide whether to take disciplinary action against any of those criticized, risking a further blow to the morale of an agency still charged with protecting the country against future terrorist attacks.

(The Times is, historically, very comfortable with criticizing the FBI, less so the CIA. Which is too bad since the report attempts to determine some form of accountability.)

Krista e-mails to note this Associated Press article at the Times web site, "Cindy Sheehan Planning Anti - War Bus Tour:"

A fallen soldier's mother said Thursday that the anti-war vigil she started nearly three weeks ago near President Bush's ranch won't end when she and other protesters pack up their camp next week.
Cindy Sheehan said the day after she leaves Aug. 31, she will embark on a bus tour ending up in
Washington, D.C., on Sept. 24. Then the group will start a 24-hour vigil in the nation's capital.
''I am not alone,'' she said at a news conference Thursday. ''There's the people standing behind me here, but there's thousands of military families ... who want the same answers to the same questions.''
[. . .]

On Thursday, Sheehan placed her son's combat boots by a cross bearing his name at the protest site. The boots had been part of the ''Eyes Wide Open'' exhibit, created by the American Friends Service Committee, a branch of the pacifist Quaker church. The traveling exhibit of rows of black military boots is a reminder of the U.S. troops lost in Iraq.

The Times reduces the phone jamming case in New Hampshire (2002 election) to a single paragraph from AP, buried in "National Briefing" so we'll go with an excerpt from Nancy Meersman's "Prosecutor wants delay in phone-jam civil case; grand jury to reconvene" (New Hampshire Union Leader):

The New Hampshire Democratic Party is suing the GOP for bombarding phone banks with electronically generated telephone calls to jam lines Democrats had set up to give voters rides to the polls during the hotly contested 2002 U.S. Senate race which was narrowly won by Republican John Sununu.
Attorneys for the Democrats have been fighting to get their civil lawsuit on track, arguing that the statute of limitations is running out and that federal investigators have been "sitting on their hands" and delaying the criminal case unnecessarily.
Levchuk said the statute of limitations on civil lawsuits can be overcome "should there be another defendant down the road."
Levchuk is now the government's lead attorney in the criminal probe. Todd Hinnen, who was the federal prosecutor in charge of the phone-jamming case until about a month ago, is now working for the White House, as a cyber terrorism specialist for the National Security Council, lawyers in the civil case said yesterday.

Here's an excerpt from Matthew Rothschild's latest, "Bush's Pat Roberson Problem" (The Progressive):

Pat Robertson has apologized, sort of, for his outrageous comments encouraging the United States to assassinate Hugo Chávez, the democratically elected president of Venezuela. But those comments still pose a two-fold problem for Bush.
First, he's got to distance himself from this nut, even though Robertson and his bowl of nuts are about the only allies Bush has got left. His latest approval rating is down to 36 percent, the lowest of his presidency, according to the American Research Group.
And second, Robertson's remarks handcuff Bush, making the overthrow of Chávez more difficult to execute. Even before the reverend said, "Thou Shall Kill," Chávez was warning that Bush wanted to off him. So Robertson lent credence to Chávez's claim and burnished Chávez's reputation in Venezuela and beyond as a Latin American David confronting the Goliath up north.
I've believed for a long time that getting rid of Chávez is a priority for Bush and Cheney. After all, they supported the coup attempt against him back in 2002.
Here are some of the underlying issues: Venezuela is a big supplier of oil to the United States, and Chávez has threatened to cut off supplies. He's also seeking back taxes from foreign oil companies, threatening to boot them out if they don't pay up. He is an outspoken critic of Bush and an admirer of Castro. And he has expressed sympathy with guerrillas in Colombia and with the nonviolent movement in Bolivia against globalization.

Lynda e-mailed to note Karen Houppert's "Who's Next?" (The Nation):

The US Army Recruiting Command has a motto: "First to contact, first to contract." In the school recruiting handbook the Army gives to the 7,500 recruiters it has trawling the nation these days, the motto crops up so often it serves as a stuttering paean to aggressive new tactics--tactics that target increasingly younger students.
To make sure they are the first folks to contact students about their future plans, Army recruiters are ordered to approach tenth, eleventh and twelfth graders--repeatedly. Army officials spell out the rules of engagement: Recruiters are told to dig in deep at their assigned high schools, to offer their services as assistant football coaches--or basketball coaches or track coaches or wrestling coaches or baseball coaches (interestingly, not softball coaches or volleyball coaches)--to "offer to be a chaperon [sic] or escort for homecoming activities and coronations" (though not thespian ones), to "Deliver donuts and coffee for the faculty once a month," to participate visibly in Hispanic Heritage and Black History Month activities, to "get involved with local Boy Scout troops" (Girl Scouts aren't mentioned), to "offer to be a timekeeper at football games," to "serve as test proctors," to "eat lunch in the school cafeteria several times each month" and to "always remember secretary's week with a card or flowers." They should befriend student leaders and school staff: "Know your student influencers," they are told. "Identify these individuals and develop them as COIs" (centers of influence). After all, "some influential students such as the student president or the captain of the football team may not enlist; however, they can and will provide you with referrals who will enlist." Cast a wide net, recruiters are told. Go for the Jocks, but don't ignore the Brains. "Encourage college-capable individuals to defer their college until they have served in the Army."
Army brass urge recruiters to use a "trimester system of senior contacts," reaching out to high school seniors at three vulnerable points. In the spring, when students' futures loom largest, the handbook advises: "For some it is clear that college is not an option, at least for now. Let them know that the Army can fulfill their college aspirations later on."

(Note: That's from the opening of the article. I'll wait for the print edition to read further but Mike has made counter-recruiting one of his big issues at Mikey Likes It! so you'll probably see the article addressed there this evening.)

Rod e-mails to note the scheduled topics for today's Democracy Now!:

Democracy Now!'s continuing coverage of Camp Casey
Reports from Haiti of a massacre at a soccer stadium

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