Thursday, August 09, 2007

Marjorie Cohn, CCR, Ken Silverstein, John Nichols

Thursday and I'm starting late. I'm going to dive right into impeachment talk.

Let's focus on the illegal spying that Bully Boy's doing. FISA is a rubber stamp court. They rarely ever turn down any warrant request. The only thing FISA does is make the government go through a review process where the FISA court reviews the paper work and stamps it. Now this is from Marjorie Cohn's "FISA Revised: A Blank Check for Domestic Spying:"

Responding to fear-mongering by the Bush administration, the Democrat-led Congress put its stamp of approval on the unconstitutional wiretapping of Americans.
George W. Bush has perfected the art of ramming ill-considered legislation through Congress by hyping emergencies that don't exist. He did it with the USA Patriot Act, the authorization for the Iraq war, the Military Commissions Act, and now the "Protect America Act of 2007" which amends the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA).

FISA was enacted in 1978 in reaction to excesses of Richard Nixon and the FBI, who covertly spied on critics of administration policies. FISA set up a conservative system with judges who meet in secret and issue nearly every wiretapping order the administration requests.
But that wasn't good enough for Bush. In 2001, he secretly established his "Terrorist Surveillance Program," with which the National Security Agency has illegally spied on Americans. Instead of holding hearings and holding the executive accountable for his law-breaking, Congress capitulated once again to the White House's strong-arm tactics. As Congress was about to adjourn for its summer recess, Bush officials threatened to label anyone who opposed their new legislation as soft on terror. True to form, Congress - including 16 Senate and 41 House Democrats - caved.

In 2005, the New York Times exposed Bully Boy's illegal spying program. They had the story since before the election but refused to run it. So they finally run it (after the 2004 election) and the Democrats weren't in control of Congress then. The November 2006 elections put the Dems in charge. In January 2007, they were sworn in. Where are the hearings? A federal judge found the spying program illegal. Where are the hearings?

Instead of hearing, we got Congress rubber stamping a law as they rushed off to vacation, a law that the White House apparently wrote and I thought Congress wrote legislation. The new law, Cohn explains, means that now the approval for spying comes from Alberto Gonzales (or who ever is the Attorney General) and the Director of National Intelligence.

Marjorie Cohn is the president of the National Lawyers Guild. Another strong organization is the Center for Constitutional Rights and this is from their "CCR IN COURT TODAY TO CHALLENGE NSA DOMESTIC SPYING PROGRAM AND NEW FISA LAW:"

On August 9, 2007, the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) appeared before Federal District Judge Vaughn R. Walker to argue that the NSA’s program of warrantless surveillance is unconstitutional and should be struck down. The argument in CCR v. Bush comes days after Congress and the Bush administration passed the Protect America Act of 2007 which broadly expands the government’s power to spy on Americans without getting court approval.
According to attorneys, there are substantial questions about whether the new law, which is temporary and due to expire in six months, is constitutional, and they will seek permission to file additional legal papers to that effect today. The law effectively removes oversight for spying from the FISA court and leaves it up to the Executive Branch to monitor itself, with Attorney General Gonzales having the primary responsibility for oversight. For that reason, CCR attorneys will argue in court today that the new law violates the Fourth Amendment's requirement that judges approve warrants for surveillance and do so only on evidence of probable cause.
The administration has continued to claim that the NSA program was always legal and that they have the inherent right to resume such surveillance at any time regardless of what the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) says. CCR attorneys therefore argue that their case has not been rendered moot by the new law, which in any event will expire in six months.
According to CCR attorney Shayana Kadidal, "Congress has ceded further power to an administration that has done nothing but abuse its power and betray the trust of the American people. Congress has given the President and Attorney General virtually unchecked power to spy on international calls of Americans without any oversight or accountability from the courts."

Now why does CCR have to do the fight Congress should be doing?

We've all heard the excuse, the whine from Democrats in Congress that "We don't control a house." Now they control two. Where are the hearings?

We can't get impeachment, but we can't even get public hearings on Bully Boy's illegal spying. That's crap. Democrats need to worry less about the 2008 election and concentrate a little more on doing their damn job. Chief among them is John Conyers who could put impeachment on the table any time he wants. But he won't do that. He doesn't do a lot of things. Like why did John Conyers agree to an interview with Ken Silverstein, request that it be by e-mail and then, four months later, still not reply? I think the answer is in the questions. Here are two of the six questions Silverstein was asking in "Six Questions (Without Answers) for Congressman John Conyers on Impeachment and Alberto Gonzalez:"

Is President Bush (and/or Vice President Cheney) guilty of high crimes and misdemeanors in regard to leading the country into the war in Iraq?
Polls show that impeachment of President Bush is supported by a notable section of the public. Why isn’t impeachment on the table? Have the Democrats decided for political reasons that impeachment should not be pursued? Was the congressman pressured by the party leadership to steer clear of the topic, as has been reported?

Conyers won't answer questions. And Congress won't do anything. This is from John Nicols'
"Bush More 'Disastrous' Than Nixon" and the link goes to David Swanson's site:

"The system worked in Watergate," Bernstein told the Denver Post.
Even after Nixon was reelected in a 49-state landslide in 1972, Bernstein said, the president was checked and balanced in the manner intended by the founders of the American experiment.
The news media investigated Nixon, and editorialized boldly when the president's lawless behaviors were exposed.
The Congress responded to those revelations with hearings and demands for White House tapes and documents. When the materials were not forthcoming, Congress went to court to force Nixon and his aides to meet those demands.
The courts responded by aggressively and consistently upholding the authority of Congress to call the president to account.
And when it became clear that Nixon was governing in contradiction to the Constitution, the U.S. House took appropriate action, with Democrats and Republicans on the Judiciary Committee voting for three articles of impeachment. Congressional Republicans, led by Arizona Senator Barry Goldwater, then went to the White House to inform their party’s president that he stood little chance of thwarting an impeachment vote by the full House or surviving a trial in the Senate.
Nixon resigned and so ended a constitutional crisis created by a president's disregard for the rule of law -- a crisis that was cured by an impeachment move by House members who respected their oaths of office.
Today, says Bernstein, the system that worked in the 1970s is failing as the country witnesses presidential and vice presidential misdeeds that former White House counsel John Dean has correctly characterized as "worse than Watergate."

The system isn't working. Congress refuses to do their job. We can put pressure on them and maybe if we put enough pressure on them they'll finally act. But it says a great deal about how little they respect the rule of law, the Constitution, and our system that they require so much pressure to do their job.

Here's C.I.'s "Iraq snapshot:"

Thursday, August 9, 2007. Chaos and violence continue in Iraq, Bully Boy says Iran is the cause of the destruction of Iraq, talk of installing a new dictator surfaces, impeachment remains 'off the table,' and more.
Starting with war resisters. Camilo Mejia is the first known Iraq War veteran to become a war resister. At the end of last month, Maria Hinojosa of
NOW with David Brancaccio interviewed Mejia (transcript, audio, excerpt) about his time in Iraq, his determining that the war was illegal and his book Road from Ar Ramaid: The Private Rebellion of Staff Sergeant Mejia (The New Press) which was published in May. "When you join the military," Mejia declared, "you think that you're going to do it to protect freedom to fight for democracy. And finding yourself in a war that's not legitimate by international law standards, where you're abusing prisoners in a war that's being fought in the streets, and you see that the bulk of the human loss, it's civilian, it's very difficult to conciliate your participation in that war and what you're doing in that war with the reasons that led you to -- to sign a military contract." And in Mejia's case (and many others), a contract that is worthless for the signee because the US military isn't bound by it. (Mejia, a non US citizen, had reached the end of the 8 year contract but was the victim of 'stop loss' despite the fact that, as a non citizen, this was not allowed under prior or existing policies.) Noting that Amnesty International declared him a prisoner of conscience (following his was court-martialed and sentencing), Hinojosa asks him where he see his "place now in the year 2007 in these United States?" Mejia responds, "I see myself as part of a movment. And the number of people -- deserting the military when I returned from Iraq was 22. And I believe the number is up to nine -- 9,000 or more soldiers who have deserted or gone AWOL since the beginning of the Iraq war. And I see a l-long way ahead of us. I see a long struggle. And I see myself as part of that struggle."
Amnesty International also supported Abdullah Webster who was court-martialed in June 2004 after he refused to serve in Iraq citing religious reasons (Webster is Muslim) for refusing to serve in the illegal war. Webster joined the US military in 1985 and was set to retire in 2005. The came the illegal war. Webster had served in the first Gulf War but had converted to Islam (1994). Webster first attempted (September 2003) to be granted CO status and then followed that with a request for assignment to non-combat services. Instead, the US military said he would deploy to Iraq (Feb. 2004). His wife Sue spoke of the June 3, 2004 court-martial and his being sentenced to 14 months noting, "An abiding memory I have is of him being led off back to his cell as I watched distraught, in tears, holding our 22-month-old daughter in my arms." In April of 2005, Webster was released from military prison.

There is a growing movement of resistance within the US military which includes Robert Weiss, Phil McDowell, Steve Yoczik, Ross Spears, Zamesha Dominique, Jared Hood, James Burmeister, Eli Israel, Joshua Key,
Ehren Watada, Terri Johnson, Carla Gomez, Luke Kamunen, Leif Kamunen, Leo Kamunen, Camilo Mejia, Kimberly Rivera, Dean Walcott, Linjamin Mull, Agustin Aguayo, Justin Colby, Marc Train, Abdullah Webster, Robert Zabala, Darrell Anderson, Kyle Snyder, Corey Glass, Jeremy Hinzman, Kevin Lee, Mark Wilkerson, Patrick Hart, Ricky Clousing, Ivan Brobeck, Aidan Delgado, Pablo Paredes, Carl Webb, Jeremy Hinzman, Stephen Funk, Clifton Hicks, David Sanders, Dan Felushko, Brandon Hughey, Clifford Cornell, Joshua Despain, Joshua Casteel, Katherine Jashinski, Dale Bartell, Chris Teske, Matt Lowell, Jimmy Massey, Chris Capps, Tim Richard, Hart Viges, Michael Blake, Christopher Mogwai, Christian Kjar, Kyle Huwer, Vincent La Volpa, DeShawn Reed and Kevin Benderman. In total, forty-one US war resisters in Canada have applied for asylum.
Information on war resistance within the military can be found at
The Objector, The G.I. Rights Hotline, Iraq Veterans Against the War and the War Resisters Support Campaign. Courage to Resist offers information on all public war resisters. Tom Joad maintains a list of known war resisters. IVAW and others will be joining Veterans For Peace's conference in St. Louis, Missouri August 15th to 19th.

To stay on PBS'
NOW with David Brancaccio for a moment before moving on, this week's show will feature David Cay Johnston (New York Times) and Beth Shuman discussing with Brancaccio "the state of our country's vast income divide and how it's hurting those just trying to make ends meet." The program begins airing Friday on most PBS stations, check your local listings.

Moving to the New York Times, has the new, smaller size resulted in less need for facts?
Damien Cave semi-reports on the US bombing a resedential section of Baghdad but forgets to list the number of civilians local authorities say died. This is the same Damien Cave who couldn't tear himself away from any detail in February 2005 (including the very serious crime -- we're sure -- of manure being flung in Ohio) to push the "ATTACKS ON US MILITARY WITHIN THE US" alarmist nonsense that (we're sure) he wishes everyone could forget. Ladies and gentlemen, the Divine Damien, Dung Will Be Flung Tonight. When it comes to vandalism (being passed off as terrorism), Cave doesn't miss a detail. When it comes to human lives, he apparently misses 17. That is the number of civilians Megan Greenwell (Washington Post) reports killed in the US air strike on Sadr Ctiy citing "military and Iraqi police". Amy Goodman (Democracy Now!) noted that "U.S. troops and warplanes have waged a major attack on the Shiite neighborhood of Sadr City in Baghdad. . . . The Washington Post described the raid as one of the largest in a series of U.S. attacks against Shiite militias. The raid on Sadr City came shortly after Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki left Baghdad for Tehran where he met with several Iranian leaders. Hundreds of Baghdad residents held protests last night against the U.S. for attacking Sadr City less than 24 hours before the start of a major Shiite holiday. Meanwhile Iraqi officials have imposed a strict curfew and banned all vehicular traffic in Baghdad until Saturday in an attempt to prevent car bombings during the holiday." Also in today's Washington Post, Ann Scott Tyson reported on the lastest switcheroo by the US which is now backing the Sunni leading to worries and concerns within the puppet government and, presumably, within the US military. Col. Steve Townsend seems rather blase as he tells the Post, "I assume they . . . have killed some of us [US troops]. We have killed a lot of them. If they are willing to move foward with us, I'm willing to keep an open mind." Of course, "Col" Townsend won't be the one doing any training, that will fall to lower leveled service members. While any meaningful peace plan would have to pull him the resistance (which the US has been in talks with for over a year now), there is a difference between that and what's being done here. It's equally true that the real point is to keep everyone off balance -- or at least Sunni and Shia (the US has operated the illegal war as if no one else was present in Iraq). You can apply the "learned helplessness" technique Jane Mayer discussed with Amy Goodman (Democracy Now!) yesterday. Keep 'em off balance, keep 'em guessing. Pit Sunni against Shia, Shia against Sunni, let chaos and violence run free and maybe the US won't be seen as the illegal invader it is but instead as the great savior.

On the topic of Iraqi deaths, Patrick McElwee appeared on
KPFK's Uprising today where he spoke with host Sonali Kolhatkar about the 'benchmark' the US administration probably won't flaunt. Next week, Iraqi fatalities since the start of the illegal war are expected to reach the one million mark. Where is the coverage? McElwee noted that Fox "News" recently had Britty Hume embed in Iraq where he was on US aircraft while it dropped around 25 bombs and though there was time for rah-rah, there was not one report about where the bombs landed and what happened to the people present. McElwee declared that's "what's needed now is some organized pressure on our leaders to end this war." McElwee is with Just Foreign Policy and you can learn more by visiting this page of their site.

As the deaths pile up, so do the insults.
Kim Gamel (AP) reports that Saad Eskander, director of the Iraqi National Library, has repeatedly attempted to get US and Iraqi troops to leave the facilities but has been ignored while windows have been broken and US forces have repeatedly "entered the building without permission".


Laith Hammoudi (McClatchy Newspapers) reports a Basra mortar attack that wounded a police officer "and other civilians." Reuters notes a Baghdad roadside bombing that claimed 3 lives and a Baghdad mortar attack that killed 1 person and left 2 more injured and that "two small bridges in Salahudding province" were blown up. AP reports a bombing "near the house of a Shiite family" which claimed the lives of a wife and husband and left their child injured.


Laith Hammoudi (McClatchy Newspapers) reports 3 Iraqi soldiers wounded by gunfire. Reuters notes a man shot dead in Najaf.


Laith Hammoudi (McClatchy Newspapers) reports 9 corpses discovered in Baghdad.

Yesterday, the UK Ministry of Defence announced the death of one British soldier in Basra. Today,
they identified him, 20-year-old Martin Beard. And they announced two more deaths: "It is with deep regret that the Ministry of Defence must confirm the deaths of two British soldiers from 1st Battalion The Irish Guards in Basra, southern Iraq in the early hours of this morning, Thursday 9 August 2007. The soldiers were killed, and another two seriously injured, when an Improvised Explosive Device detonated next to their patrol just after midnight local time." This announcement brought the total number of British soldiers killed in the illegal war to 168. David Byers (Times of London) notes, "Britain has now lost four soldiers in Basra in one week, as the Shia Mahdi Army increases its attacks in the southern city."

Today, the
US military announced: "A Marine assigned to Multi National Force-West died Aug. 7 in a non-combat related incident in Al Anbar Province." And they announced: "A Marine assigned to Multi National Force-West died Aug. 7 in a non-combat related incident in Al Anbar Province." And they announced: "A Multi-National Division - Baghdad soldier died from a non-combat related cause Aug. 8." ICCC's total for US service members killed in the illegal war thus far this month is 25 and is 3684 since the start of the illegal war.

In the Joke for the Day news,
Matt Spetalnick (Reuters) reports the Bully Boy of the United States has stated "Iran is a destabilizing force in Iraq". Not since Bully Boy joked about WMD in public has he made a bigger fool of himself. As The Toledo Blade editorialized yesterday, "the United States has essentially destroyed Iraq as a country".

Damien McElroy (Telgraph of London) reports that NYU's Michael Oppenheimer is arguing that the answer for Iraq is a dictator. Oppenheimer is an associate professor has been arguing that since at least mid-July when he declared following a workshop, "The best idea we were able to generate -- a National Unity Dictatorship -- is the only plausible route to stability in both Iraq and the region, and one we can make more likely if we choose to. This would, of course, represent the failure of democratization in Iraq, at least in the short term." McElroy notes that Oppenheimer believes the US could 'create' "a viable dictatorship in Iraq." So now the US is going to explore imposing a dictatorship?

In activism news, members of
Military Families Speak Out were among those arrested at the Garden Grove office of US House Rep. Loretta Sanchez yesterday, Jennifer Delson (Los Angeles Times) reports, after Sanchez refused to agree not to vote for the $145 billion funding bill for the Iraq war noting that "$2.1 billion for C-17 production" -- pork she steered her own way via her spot on the House Armed Services committee -- was too important to her, more important than any deaths in Iraq. "Funding the war is killing the troops!" cry Iraq Veterans Against the War and Tina Richards and Military Families Speak Out while Sanchez plays Gimmie! Gimmie! Gimmie! How proud she must be and how untroubled her sleep.

In news of other cowardice,
St. John Conyers, burned at the stake of his own words, is the Congress member who could start impeachment. He refuses to. He refuses a great deal. Ken Silverstein (Harper's magazine) reports that he was supposed to interview Conyers back in May and, as requested, he did it via e-mailed questions. Despite following up repeatedly, Conyers still hasn't replied. Possibly questions about whether "leading the country into the war in Iraq" constitutes high crimes and misdemeanors and why impeachment isn't "on the table" are questions St. Conyers prefers to avoid? The topic of impeachment wasn't avoided on PBS where Bill Moyers examined it seriously last month. That one hour look (including guests such as John Nichols) at impeachment on Bill Moyers Journal is repeating and can also be viewed, listened to or read online currently.