Thursday, August 22, 2013

Iraq snapshot

Thursday, August 22, 2013.  Chaos and violence continue, the White House wants to further arm Nouri, medical professionals take to the streets of Iraq to protest, among today's targets for bombings is a wedding, an Iraqi woman attempts to seek justice via the US courts, Barack's illegal spying continues, and more.

Governments with enormous wealth for the officials and enormous poverty for the people tend to be government's with gross human rights abuses.  To maintain an enormous disparity, officials will often resort to violent attacks on the very people they claim to represent.  With that in mind, let's look at Iraq. 

Yesterday, Aswat al-Iraq reported:

Commander of Iraqi Air Force Anwar Hama Amin disclosed that Iraq needs 90 jet fighters to build its air force, pointing that the Turkish and Iranian violations will continue unless Iraq is supplied with these fighters in the coming stage.
In a press statement, today, he described the US F 16 fighters deal as "the deal of dreams", which shall be a complete project comprising of 36 planes by 2016.
It is expected that the first dispatch will arrive in September 2014.

  Friday, Iraq's Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari spoke at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in DC.  He was there for his Thursday visit with US Secretary of State John Kerry.  We covered the event in Friday's snapshot and in Monday's.  Today we're going to note another aspect.  The Center for Strategic and International Studies has posted video and audio of the DC event.  And they also now have a [PDF format warning] transcript of the event.

Josh Rogin: Thank you very much, I'm Josh Rogin with Newsweek and the Daily Beast.  Thank you for your time today. As you know, uh, as we discussed, increased security cooperation is one of the main request of the Iraqi government is for new U.S. arm sales to Iraq. Lawmakers here in Washington are concerned about those sales for two reasons. They believe that Iraq is still allowing Iran to use Iraqi airspace to promote the flow of arms to the Assad regime. Also they are concerned that the Iraqi government may use uh U.S. weapons uh towards political ends to marginalize the political opposition as we've seen in the past. What assurances can you give us on both of these fronts? What specific steps are you taking to stop the arms flow from Iran over Iraqi airspace to Assad? And what assurances can you give us that, as we approach new elections, that U.S. weapons won’t be used for domestic political purposes? Thank you. 

Minister Hosyar Zebari: Definitely my government will abide by all the rules and regulations that you here in the United States or Congress will impose on arm sales. Not only to Iraq  to many other countries in the world. So we will abide by that, definitely, for these weapons not to be used for domestic use or improperly. But to be used for the defense of the country. Now on the flight of -- the overflight of -- of Iranian using Iraqi airspace -- let me give you the reality and Sometimes we are speaking theoretically about the situation, as if Iraq has dozens of fighters or aircrafts. For your information, Iraq doesn't have a single fighter plane up to now. It has a couple of helicopters, some training let's say planes, small planes, but it doesn't have a single aircraft to protect its airspace. Iraq up until now doesn't have an integrated self-defense to protect its skies. We have requested and we are waiting for the delivery. So, that is the situation when we talk about Iraq's capabilities and deterrence capabilities to prevent others from using its airspace and so on. We have made demarches to the Iranians. We don't want and we don't support you or any other to use our airspace because it runs against our policy of taking an independent, neutral position here, not to militarize the conflict in any way. And we have done a number of inspections. These inspections could not be, I mean, endorsed by some circles here in the United States. That this could choose only those who carry legitimate equipment or material. But we have raised the possibility here, really, we will continue to live up to our commitments here. But there are Security Council resolutions banning these from leaving Iran. Under Chapter VII, whether its weapons, imports, export -- we don't have the capabilities of enforcing this. Though politically we have made these demarches. So who's going to reinforce that? Is it the Security Council or who? We've taken note actually of the U.S. administration’s serious concerns about this [. . .]

We'll stop there.  Before we go to the next exchange, two things.  One, when I am quoting someone speaking in English and it's not their native language, I do not include "uh" or "uhm."  These moments can be revealing -- in any language -- when someone does it in their native language.  In a second or third (or more) language, they may not be revealing of anything other than the person is not speaking in their native language so we do not include the uhs or uhms.  That's the policy here.  Second, Zebari's recent lies has been Iraq's no longer got to worry!  Chapter VII is over!!  Truthfully, it's been replaced with Chapter VI.  That was too much truth for Zebari.  But isn't it interesting that he's citing the no longer existent Chapter VII.  Same topic, of weapons, asked again at the event, we'll skip the first part of the question (we covered that in Monday's snapshot).  This is Wallace Hays.  Not "Wallace Hayes" as I wrongly typed Monday.  A friend passed that on.  You can find a profile of Wallace Hays here.  My apologies for getting the spelling of his last name wrong.

Wallace Hays:  Hi, Wallace Hays, Independent Consultant I wanted to give you an opportunity, a lot of people here feel like there's been a lack of political reconciliation in Iraq and that it has been U.S. policy to support the Erbil Agreement, which has not been implemented in Iraq. And, following up on Mr. Rogin's question, why should -- I'd like to  give you the opportunity to explain, why should the United States sell arms to Iraq, when in fact many people believe that the lack of political reconciliation is contributing to some of the violence today? Thanks. 

Minister Hoshyar Zebari: Thank you. Political reconciliation is the key issue really, for Iraq and the stability of Iraq and I think that all of the key leaders believe that this is the way forward. With the hydrocarbon law, with normalizing relations with Saudi Arabia, with Turkey, I mean all the questions have been pointed questions about the core issue in Iraq. So, the political reconciliation is moving, it's not stagnant. I mean, look at the representatives of the Sunni community, let's say or from al-Iraqi parliamentary blocs. They are now represented in Parliament, now they are represented in government. They may feel that they are underrepresented or marginalized, this is a fair call, I mean we could do more about that, definitely. But really the lessons that came out of this local election were very, very important. Many people believe they could do with the majoritarian democracy or political majority government, that the one sect or one group could win all over and rule by themselves, it proved they couldn't. They could win but they could not govern. And I think everyone realized and recognized that there has to be an inclusive democracy, a nonsectarian democracy, in Iraq for this country to have any future.

Zebari's remarks there are pure nonsense.  We called them out in Monday's snapshot, refer to that.  In terms of Hays picking up on Rogen's question, please note that Zebari doesn't really address that  (except via a false portrayal of current Iraqi politics). 

Last week, Josh Rogin and Eli Lake (Daily Beast) reported:

The U.S. government has notified Congress in recent weeks of its intention to sell Iraq $4.7 billion worth of military equipment, but none of those sales include the top item on Iraq’s shopping list, the Boeing AH-64 Apache helicopters. The House Foreign Affairs Committee and the Senate Foreign Relations Committee have refused to allow the sale of the helicopters to date.
“The committee continues to carefully review all proposed arms sales to Iraq in order to ensure that such transfers support U.S. national security interests in the region,” a House Foreign Affairs Committee spokesman told The Daily Beast. Two administration officials confirmed that until the committees sign off, the U.S. government won’t be able to complete the arms deal.
The State Department is negotiating with the leaders of those committees behind the scenes to alleviate concerns about the sale. Committee leaders are worried the Iraqi government will use the helicopters to go after their domestic enemies, not just suspected terrorists. Also lawmakers are convinced that Iraq still allows Iran to fly arms over Iraqi airspace to aid the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

These are serious concerns.   They are not new concerns.  At the end of 2011, for example, Anna Mulrine (Christian Science Monitor) pointed out:

The apparent effort of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki to consolidate power since the US [drawdown] is worrisome to some defense analysts in the US, who say it's conceivable that he could use weapons purchased from the US against his political enemies and the people of Iraq.

Outside of Congress, the US government has not taken the concerns seriously.  As we noted Friday, Zebari lied and downplayed the April assault:

Hoshyar Zebari: As I said before, really we have demonstrations, sit-ins, all over the country for the past eight months and the government never resorted to the kind of violence -- except in one or two incidences in Haiwja.  And I'm not here to justify this violations whatsoever.  But really the government has tolerated this so far to go on without any intimidations.

The April 23rd massacre of a sit-in in Hawija resulted from  Nouri's federal forces storming in.  Alsumaria noted Kirkuk's Department of Health (Hawija is in Kirkuk)  announced 50 activists have died and 110 were injured in the assault.   AFP reported the death toll rose to 53 dead.  UNICEF noted that the dead included 8 children (twelve more were injured).

Not only did the government murder Iraqis, it did so via equipment the US government sold them.  Without the helicopters the US sold Iraq, the massacre would not be possible because Nouri's forces were denied entry into Kirkuk by the governor.  To get inside Kirkuk, to Hawija, they had to fly over.  This was made very clear when  Shalaw Mohammed (Niqash) interviewed Governor Najm al-Din Karim back in May:

NIQASH: Let’s talk about the controversial Tigris Operations Command. It’s caused several crises around here. What’s your opinion on this Iraqi military base?

Al-Din Karim: Neither I, as governor, nor the provincial council have changed our opinions on this issue. We don’t want the Tigris Operations Command here and we don’t accept their presence. Although we have agreed to form a committee in Baghdad to try and resolve this impasse.

NIQASH: The incidents in Hawija, where protestors were killed by the Iraqi military, also seems to have seen more Iraqi army forces enter Kirkuk.

Al-Din Karim: Actually those forces did not come through Kirkuk - they entered Hawija by helicopter. They tried to come through Kirkuk but we prevented them from doing so. I know the Prime Minister disapproved of this – he told me so last time we met.

Without the helicopters the US sold to Iraq, that massacre wouldn't have happened.  That massacre is important because people were killed and wounded and it became clear that Nouri was ready to turn on groups of Iraqis.  That massacre is also seen as a major point in the continued escalation of violence in Iraq.  Last week, the International Crisis Group issued "Make or Break: Iraq’s Sunnis and the State" and this is their take on Hawija:

As events in Syria nurtured their hopes for a political comeback, Sunni Arabs launched an unprecedented, peaceful protest movement in late 2012 in response to the arrest of bodyguards of Rafea al-Issawi, a prominent Iraqiya member. It too failed to provide answers to accumulated grievances. Instead, the demonstrations and the repression to which they gave rise further exacerbated the sense of exclusion and persecution among Sunnis.
The government initially chose a lacklustre, technical response, forming committees to unilaterally address protesters’ demands, shunning direct negotiations and tightening security measures in Sunni-populated areas. Half-hearted, belated concessions exacerbated distrust and empowered more radical factions. After a four-month stalemate, the crisis escalated. On 23 April, government forces raided a protest camp in the city of Hawija, in Kirkuk province, killing over 50 and injuring 110. This sparked a wave of violence exceeding anything witnessed for five years. Attacks against security forces and, more ominously, civilians have revived fears of a return to all-out civil strife. The Islamic State of Iraq, al-Qaeda’s local expression, is resurgent. Shiite militias have responded against Sunnis. The government’s seeming intent to address a chiefly political issue – Sunni Arab representation in Baghdad – through tougher security measures has every chance of worsening the situation.
Belittled, demonised and increasingly subject to a central government crackdown, the popular movement is slowly mutating into an armed struggle. In this respect, the absence of a unified Sunni leadership – to which Baghdad’s policies contributed and which Maliki might have perceived as an asset – has turned out to be a serious liability. In a showdown that is acquiring increasing sectarian undertones, the movement’s proponents look westward to Syria as the arena in which the fight against the Iraqi government and its Shiite allies will play out and eastward toward Iran as the source of all their ills.
Under intensifying pressure from government forces and with dwindling faith in a political solution, many Sunni Arabs have concluded their only realistic option is a violent conflict increasingly framed in confessional terms. In turn, the government conveniently dismisses all opposition as a sectarian insurgency that warrants ever more stringent security measures. In the absence of a dramatic shift in approach, Iraq’s fragile polity risks breaking down, a victim of the combustible mix of its long­standing flaws and growing regional tensions.

And yet the White House wants to provide more weapons to Nouri? In 2010, Iraq held parliamentary elections and Ayad Allawi's Iraqiya beat Nouri's State of Law.  Nouri refused to honor the will of the Iraqi people, the democratic process or his country's Constitution.  He refused to step down and he refused to allow a new Parliament to be seated.  This was the political stalemate, it lasted for over eight months -- only because Nouri had the support of the White House.  It was ended by the US-brokered Erbil Agreement, a legal contract that gave cry baby Nouri a second term he did not earn.  The political leaders signed the contract because (a) the White House swore it was binding and would have the full backing of the US government, (b) the leaders wanted to end the stalemate and (c) in exchange for giving Nouri a second term, he agreed to give them certain things (like implementing Article 140 of the Iraqi Constitution).  Nouri broke the contract after being announced prime minister for a second term.

The above demonstrates that (a) Nouri's word is worthless, (b) Nouri will not honor the Iraqi Constitution, (c) Nouri does not feel bound by any laws and (d) he has no respect for the Iraqi people as evidenced by his ignoring their will at the voting box.

Yet this is someone the White House wants to trust with more weapons?

 April 10, 2008, we attended the Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing and reported on it here including this:

"Just understand my frustration," Biden explained.  "We want to normalize a government that really doesn't exist."  Senator Russ Feingold wanted to know if there were "any conditions that the Iraq government must meet?"  No, that thought never occurred to the White House.  "Given the fact that the Maliki government doesn't represent a true coalition," Feingold asked, "won't this agreement [make it appear] we are taking sides in the civil war especially when most Iraqi Parliamentarians have called for the withdrawal of troops?"

 What's changed since then?  Joe Biden is no longer a US senator, he's Vice President and Russ Feingold is, sadly, no longer in the US Senate either after losing a re-election bid. He's now the US Special Envoy for DRC and Great Lakes Region in Africa.   On the Iraqi side?

Not a thing's changed.  Nouri remains unpopular.  His government even more "doesn't represent a true coalition."  How could it?  Iraqiya got the most votes and should hold the most Cabinet posts -- forget the fact that Allawi should be prime minister -- yet they're not even represented having walked out of the Cabinet after they were not included in one decision making process after another.

And yet the White House continues to want to arm Iraq?

And yet there are no checks and balances.

The reality of the Hawija assault -- noted on Iraqi social media and in the Iraqi press but ignored everywhere else -- is that the US trained and supplied those fighters.  No, I'm not referring to before the 2011 US 'withdrawal.'  Barack sent a Special Ops unit into Iraq in the fall of 2012 and they trained the fighters. "SWAT" is not native to Iraq or to Arabic speakers.  "SWAT" is a US term which stands for Special Weapons And Tactics.  A comparable  phrase, in Arabic, would not spell "SWAT." It was a new phrase introduced in Iraq where it was pronounced and spelled "SWAT."  Because the Americans involved were too damn to hide their own tracks.  For a brief time when the word emerged in Iraq, there was confusion over not just its meaning but also over its pronunciation.

But set that aside, US sold helicopters were used in an attack on the Iraqi people by the Iraqi government.

What does that mean?

Legally, it means that the US government was supposed to immediately convene an investigation. They didn't, they haven't.  That is, however, the law with regards to the sales of weapons.  Don't believe me?  Let's go back to Anna Mulrane:

To that end, safeguards are in place, US military officials add. Any sale of more than $50 million requires congressional notification and post-sale monitoring by those 150 troops still in Iraq, as well. “We’re not just wholesalely throwing stuff out there to be used anywhere,” says Klein.

Oh, yes, Lt Col Jeffrey Klein, you are throwing stuff out there to be used anywhere and Hawija demonstrates that.  There is no monitoring, there is no investigation, there is no accountability.  And in light of Nouri's killing over 50 people, 8 of which were children, for the 'crime' of peaceful assembly, the White House doesn't bat an eye but continues to press for more weapon sales to Nouri and attempts to strong arm Congress into supporting that move.

 The unrest in Iraq has many causes.  Chief among them, a failed prime minister who has been allowed to serve seven years.  The Bully Boy Bush administration installed him in 2006 (Iraq's Parliament had wanted Ibrahim al-Jafaari) and, in 2007, he signed off on the so-called benchmarks.  Democratic leaders in Congress were pretending to do their job.  The US had spent how much money in Iraq?  (Go back and read the statements made, few Dem leaders noted the US dead in Iraq -- those who did made it a fleeting point.) If money was to be spent in Iraq in the future, there was a need to see progress.  The White House proposed a series of benchmarks by which progress could be measured and the Democrats agreed with them.

The benchmarks did not include 'reduction in deaths of US troops' because, again, the leadership was not concerned about US blood spilled.  Nouri signed off on the benchmarks as well.

Today, there is conflict over whether or not ExxonMobil has the right to drill for oil in the KRG.  The hideous Victoria Nuland attempted to interject herself into that discussion as State Dept spokesperson.  As a government official, she should have kept her mouth shut (that was conveyed to her by superiors) because the US government does not control business.  But more to the point, if Nouri doesn't want them in the KRG, he should have gotten off his lazy and ineffective ass long ago.  In 2007, he signed off on passing a hydro-carbons law.  That was a White House defined benchmark.

He never did it.  And the Congress never did a damn thing about it.  (After the initial headlines, pretty much everyone in Congress had agreed to ignore the benchmarks and just keep funding war and Nouri's government -- even 'brave' Barbara Lee.  By 2008, the only member of Congress regularly raising the benchmarks and their failure was US House Rep Lloyd Doggett.)

So that conflict is due to Nouri and his failures.  Conflict arises, of course, from his failure to honor The Erbil Agreement and implement the power-sharing arrangement for government.  Conflict arises over the mass arrests, over the arrests of family members when Nouri's forces can't find a suspect, over the detention and imprisonment of these people, over the abuses which take place in Iraqi prisons.

Conflict has also arisen over the lack of jobs, the huge unemployment, the lack of public services and the poverty.

Today, Kitabat notes that the Iraqi government has announced 6.4 million Iraqis are living below the poverty line.  While the number is probably a great deal higher, with a population estimated at 30 million, today's announcement recognizes 1/5 of the country's population is living below the poverty line.  Iraq's GDP in 2010 was $144.214 billion in US dollars, Global Finance notes.  That's enough for four billion per Iraqi in Iraq (leaving out the external refugee population).  And yet at least a fifth lives in extreme poverty.  (Below the poverty line is extreme poverty.)

Last December, Seerwan Jafar (Niqash) reported on the government's national budget and noted that, in 2003,  it was $6.1 billion and had risen to 118.4 billion by 2013 (those figures are in US dollars).  Jafar then examined how much the Iraqi government spent on the Iraqi citizens.  As Iraqis take to the street to demand a more responsive government, will Nouri again use the US-supplied weapons on the Iraqi people?

More and more are taking to the streets.  Today Haider Ahmed (Al Mada) reports on Wasit Province where "hundreds of medical professionals" protested outside Al Zahra Hospital demanding the government provide functional conditions and recognize the risks that the medical professionals face.  Similar protests took place in Basra, Najaf, Diwaniyah and Babil today.  This also takes place as Nouri's under fire in Iraqi social media for bringing in approximately one hundred nurses this month from other countries while Iraq's unemployment rate remains high.

Rates of violence remain high as well.  And the method to deliver bombs continues to remain inventive.  June saw the horror of the corpse of a dog being used.  Today?   National Iraqi News Agency reports that an attack on Sahwa's Secretary-General Sheikh Abbas Muhammadawi utilized a bomb hidden in a watermelon. The news outlet quotes from a statement Muhammadawi's office issued: "a terrorist group placed an explosive device, yesterday evening, in front of the house of Sheikh Muhammadawi in the west of Baghdad to detonate it when he leaves his house, but the device was discovered before it exploded and the army troops and federal police and local police dismantled it and control the situation. The bomb was placed inside / watermelon / and this is one of the innovative new criminal methods by gangs of death, so we call on citizens to take caution of it."  Sahwa, also known as Sons Of Iraq (or Daughters Of Iraq) and Awakenings, are people who were paid by the US military to stop attacking military property and troops -- they are largely Sunni but not just Sunni according to General David Petraeus' April 2008 Congressional testimony.

In other violence, NINA notes attorney Yasser Hadi al-Obeidi was taken at dawn by "gunmen dressed in police uniforms" and his corpse was discovered several hours later,  a Kirkuk bombing left two people injured2 Iraqi soldiers were shot dead in Mosul, and a Mosul roadside bombing left a police officer and a civilian injuredAl Jazeera reports, "A suicide bomber drove a vehicle packed with explosives to a military headquarters in western Iraq and blew himself up outside it, killing 14, police said."  Agencia EFE adds, "The explosion leveled a military barracks next to the checkpoint and destroyed two army vehicles, causing serious damage to several civilian cars."  That bombing was in Ramadi.  Prior to that bombing,  AFP reporteds, "In Thursday's deadliest attack, a roadside bomb struck a wedding party in Dujail, north of Baghdad, killing six people and wounding 22 others, officials said. The blast went off near the musicians who typically accompany wedding convoys in Iraq, but the bride and groom were unharmed."  Xinhua notes, "Moreover, unknown gunmen opened fire at a woman in front of her house in Zahra neighborhood, east of Mosul, and killed her on the spot, the police said, adding that eight people, including two soldiers, were wounded when a car bomb exploded in Tal Afar, 70 km west of Mosul."  Through yesterday, Iraq Body Count notes 543 violent deaths in Iraq so far this month.

The BRussels Tribunal notes Sundus Shaker Saleh's lawsuit:

Saleh is the lead plaintiff in a class action lawsuit targeting six key members of the Bush Administration: George W. Bush, Richard Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, Condoleezza Rice, Colin Powell, and Paul Wolfowitz. In Saleh v. Bush, she alleges that the Iraq War was not conducted in self-defense, did not have the appropriate authorization by the United Nations, and therefore constituted a "crime of aggression" under international law-a designation first set down in the Nuremberg Trials after World War II. The aim of the suit is simple: to achieve justice for Iraqis, and to show that no one, not even the president of the United States, is above the law. The case is being brought to trail by Inder Comar of Comar Law, a firm based in San Francisco.

Witness Iraq is a website set up by attorney Comar Law to help Iraqi refugees in the US receive some form of justice for the illegal war:

On March 13, 2013, Witness Iraq filed suit against the Bush Administration related to the conduct of key government officials leading up to the war.
The lead plaintiff, Ms. Sundus Saleh, with her children in Jordan:
Click here for a FAQ related to the lawsuits.
Click here to sign a Petition requesting the Federal Courts to conduct an inquiry into the Iraq War.
Witness Iraq seeks to hold political leaders accountable for the Iraq War, and to document the plight of those who witnessed and survived the Iraq War.

Barack's defending Bully Boy Bush.  US tax dollars are being used for that purpose.  Comar notes at War Is A Crime:

In court papers filed today (PDF), the United States Department of Justice requested that George W. Bush, Richard Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, Colin Powell, Condoleezza Rice and Paul Wolfowitz be granted procedural immunity in a case alleging that they planned and waged the Iraq War in violation of international law.
Plaintiff Sundus Shaker Saleh, an Iraqi single mother and refugee now living in Jordan, filed a complaint in March 2013 in San Francisco federal court alleging that the planning and waging of the war constituted a “crime of aggression” against Iraq, a legal theory that was used by the Nuremberg Tribunal to convict Nazi war criminals after World War II.
"The DOJ claims that in planning and waging the Iraq War, ex-President Bush and key members of his Administration were acting within the legitimate scope of their employment and are thus immune from suit,” chief counsel Inder Comar of Comar Law said.

If sequestration means the government has to tighten its belt, maybe the first step is to let War Criminals pay for their own legal battles?  The White House maintains:

Harmful automatic budget cuts -- known as the sequester -- threaten hundreds of thousands of jobs, and cut vital services for children, seniors, people with mental illness and our men and women in uniform.
These cuts will make it harder to grow our economy and create jobs by affecting our ability to invest in important priorities like education, research and innovation, public safety, and military readiness.

But there's money to waste defending Bully Boy Bush, Dick Cheney, Condi Rice and Donald Rumsfeld?  The White House claims 1.2 million kids will lose after school programs, 4 million meals for seniors ("SICK & HOMEBOUND") will be lost, 30 teachers and school staff will be lost and much more.  But there's money to defend Bully Boy Bush?

Joshua Schwitzerlett (Ring Of Fire Radio) reports:

To protect the former Bush administration officials, the Department of Justice invokes the “Westfall Act” which “provides that where an individual claims that federal employees damaged him or her through their negligent acts or omissions taken within the scope of the office or employment, a suit against the United States shall be the exclusive remedy for that individual’s claims.”
Effectively, what the Justice Department is saying is that because the officials named in the suit were acting in their capacity as members of the administration in waging a “war of aggression” in Iraq, Ms. Saleh cannot sue them and must sue the United States government.

The Westfall Act is The Federal Employees Liability Reform and Tort Compensation Act of 1988.  It was rushed through Congress following the Supreme Court's Westfall v. Erwin ruling of the same year which the Congress disagreed with.  Congress' act does not make defense an automatic.  It requires a finding by the Attorney General before any move to defend the employee or not defend the employee can be made.  It's no surprise Barack would rush to defend Bush.  As Joan Wilder notes in Romancing the Stone (written by Diane Thomas), "If there's one law of the west, it's bastards have brothers."

Today, Amy Goodman (Democracy Now!) noted, "The National Security Agency illegally collected tens of thousands of domestic emails before being stopped in 2011. The disclosure was made Wednesday in a newly declassified order from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, which oversees NSA spying. The FISC ordered the NSA to change its procedures after the agency admitted to wrongly collecting up to 56,000 emails a year over a three-year period. The NSA says the illegal email collection resulted from technical error, not deliberate snooping."  Of course, it was just an accident.  And absolutely is has stopped.  It's not like the US has a Director of National Intelligence who lied to Congress or like the FISA court can't monitor the NSA's actions.  Oh, wait.  James Clapper did lie to Congress (and has still not been punished) and Carol D. Leonnig (Washington Post) reported just last week on how FISA said it was unable to monitor the NSA to ensure that the agency is in legal compliance.  Who's not talking?  Sam Gustin (Time magazine) notes, "The nation’s largest telecommunications companies are maintaining their silence in the wake of a startling new report describing how they’ve worked with the National Security Agency to help build a surveillance system with the capacity to cover huge swaths of U.S. internet traffic. The new revelations, detailed in a Wall Street Journal report published Wednesday, are among the latest in a series of disclosures about the NSA’s secret surveillance programs that have prompted alarm from top lawmakers as well as civil libertarians and privacy advocates."  Meanwhile Duncan Campbell, Oliver Wright, James Cusick and Kim Sengupta (Independent) report:

Britain runs a secret internet-monitoring station in the Middle East to intercept and process vast quantities of emails, telephone calls and web traffic on behalf of Western intelligence agencies, The Independent has learnt.

The station is able to tap into and extract data from the underwater fibre-optic cables passing through the region.
The information is then processed for intelligence and passed to GCHQ in Cheltenham and shared with the National Security Agency (NSA) in the United States. The Government claims the station is a key element in the West’s “war on terror” and provides a vital “early warning” system for potential attacks around the world.

We'll close with this from the National Economic & Social Rights Initiative:

People’s Budget Film Released!
Dear Friends,
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We live in the world’s most prosperous country, yet people are struggling to meet their fundamental needs. We can no longer afford budget and revenue policies that ignore people’s voices, needs and rights.  NESRI’s film illustrates how we can use human rights to develop an entirely different way of making budgets. 
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Let’s put people’s needs and rights first! Join us in changing the conversation about budgets: share the film and connect with us about next steps you can take in your city or state.
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We look forward to connecting with you soon,
The NESRI Team