Friday, May 28, 2004

The Washington Post shows how the Pentagon probes are a cover-up.Some Seek Broad, External Inquiry on Prisoner Abuse (washingtonpost.com)

Thursday, May 27, 2004

The Iraqi war: an Iranian con-game?Guardian Unlimited | Special reports | US intelligence fears Iran duped hawks into Iraq war

Sunday, May 23, 2004

Did Sanchez see the abuse -- or is this a lawyer's spin?Prison Visits by General Reported in Hearing (washingtonpost.com)

Thursday, May 20, 2004

How long can the prison abuse cover-up hold? A military intelligence officer speaks out. And the Washington Post reports gruesome details of beatings, sexual humiliation and the alleged rape of a boy by a U.S. interrogator/translator. On Thursday night, NBC News reported that the Army's Delta Force had a secret prison near Baghdad's airport where soldiers routinely drug prisoners, hold them under water until they fear drowning or smother them almost to the point of suffocation. The abuses -- some worse than Abu Gharib -- are now being investigated by the Pentagon's inspector general. The NBC report claims that Rumsfeld ordered the approach used at the secret prison to be adopted in Abu Gharib:

"Several top U.S. military and intelligence sources say...that he, through other top Pentagon officials, directed the U.S. head of intelligence in Iraq, Gen. Barbara Fast, and others to bring some of the methods used at the BIF [battlefield interrogation prison] to prisons like Abu Ghraib, in hopes of getting better intelligence from Iraqi detainees."

Meanwhile, Maj. General Miller offers the latest self-serving spin:

Maj. Gen. Geoffrey Miller, the former commander of the Guantanamo Bay prison camp who is now in charge of U.S.-run prisons in Iraq (news - web sites), denied Thursday that the military condoned prisoner abuse. "I can tell you with absolute certainty that there was no official policy nor any sanction of any of the abuses of this type," he said on CBS television. "Your Army does not do things like this."

This is the same Miller who was brought in to "Gitmoize" the Iraqi prison system, using the rough methods he developed at the Guantanamo Bay prison. As Seymour Hersh reports about Miller in this week's New Yorker:

The success of the war was at risk; something had to be done to change the dynamic.

The solution, endorsed by Rumsfeld and carried out by Stephen Cambone, was to get tough with those Iraqis in the Army prison system who were suspected of being insurgents. A key player was Major General Geoffrey Miller, the commander of the detention and interrogation center at Guantánamo, who had been summoned to Baghdad in late August to review prison interrogation procedures. The internal Army report on the abuse charges, written by Major General Antonio Taguba in February, revealed that Miller urged that the commanders in Baghdad change policy and place military intelligence in charge of the prison. The report quoted Miller as recommending that “detention operations must act as an enabler for interrogation.”

Miller’s concept, as it emerged in recent Senate hearings, was to “Gitmoize” the prison system in Iraq—to make it more focussed on interrogation. He also briefed military commanders in Iraq on the interrogation methods used in Cuba—methods that could, with special approval, include sleep deprivation, exposure to extremes of cold and heat, and placing prisoners in “stress positions” for agonizing lengths of time. (The Bush Administration had unilaterally declared Al Qaeda and other captured members of international terrorist networks to be illegal combatants, and not eligible for the protection of the Geneva Conventions.)

So it's not surprising that Sgt. Samuel Provance told the AP that abuse was widespread at the prison:

Interrogators at Baghdad's Abu Ghraib prison viewed sleep deprivation, stripping inmates naked and threatening them with dogs as normal ways of dealing with "the enemy," a soldier attached to military intelligence at the prison said Thursday.

But while military police are now facing charges — and with one already convicted — it was clear that U.S. Army military intelligence ran the prison, Sgt. Samuel Provance told the Associated Press.
Yahoo! News - Soldier: Abu Ghraib Prison Abuse Normal

Essentially, the broad template for the abuses was approved by Secretary Rumsfeld for dealing with Al Qaeda terrorists, who didn't have Geneva Convention protection, then it spread for use with Iraqi prionsers and insurgents, who were supposed to be protected by the Geneva Convention -- but, in fact, were not.

Sy Hersh tells all in this week's New Yorker, while Newsweek paints the big legal picture that allowed torture to go on, armed with confidential memos from the President's counsel telling him directly that he could skate around the Geneva Conventions and avoid war crimes prosecution. Here's the article's main point:

A NEWSWEEK investigation shows that, as a means of pre-empting a repeat of 9/11, Bush, along with Defense Secretary Rumsfeld and Attorney General John Ashcroft, signed off on a secret system of detention and interrogation that opened the door to such methods. It was an approach that they adopted to sidestep the historical safeguards of the Geneva Conventions, which protect the rights of detainees and prisoners of war. In doing so, they overrode the objections of Secretary of State Colin Powell and America's top military lawyers—and they left underlings to sweat the details of what actually happened to prisoners in these lawless places. While no one deliberately authorized outright torture, these techniques entailed a systematic softening up of prisoners through isolation, privations, insults, threats and humiliation—methods that the Red Cross concluded were "tantamount to torture."

Bush okayed the new legal direction that laid the groundwork for torture and beatings in Iraq:

By Jan. 25, 2002, according to a memo obtained by NEWSWEEK, it was clear that Bush had already decided that the Geneva Conventions did not apply at all, either to the Taliban or Al Qaeda. In the memo, which was written to Bush by Gonzales, the White House legal counsel told the president that Powell had "requested that you reconsider that decision." Gonzales then laid out startlingly broad arguments that anticipated any objections to the conduct of U.S. soldiers or CIA interrogators in the future. "As you have said, the war against terrorism is a new kind of war," Gonzales wrote to Bush. "The nature of the new war places a high premium on other factors, such as the ability to quickly obtain information from captured terrorists and their sponsors in order to avoid further atrocities against American civilians." Gonzales concluded in stark terms: "In my judgment, this new paradigm renders obsolete Geneva's strict limitations on questioning of enemy prisoners and renders quaint some of its provisions."

Keep all this in mind while hearing and reading the evasions of military leaders and the White House as they try to dance away from the unfolding scandal.

Thursday, May 13, 2004

Keep tabs on conservative media, including the Fox network, Limbaugh and O'Reilly. David Brock has turned on his former right-wing allies with in-depth, daily monitoring and blistering reports. Media Matters for America

Monday, May 03, 2004

Your vote doesn't count: voting machines under fire.
The recent decision by the California Secretary of State to bar Diebold election machines from being used in four counties is a major sign of the mounting concerns over these new machines. He's also asked for a criminal investigation of Diebold, the leading manufacturer, and the one whose owner is openly committed to seeing Bush elected. In Florida and elsewhere, the machines (even those not made by Diebold) have led in some cases to massive undercounts where thousands of voters didn't have their vote counted. Here's how the Sun-Sentinel reported the situation in March:

Broward County's senior voters apparently had more trouble than most with relatively new electronic voting machines during this week's Democratic presidential primary, a development that has local party leaders worried about flawed ballots in November's presidential race.

At polling locations in which the only choice was who should get the Democratic presidential nomination, 169 people arrived at the polls and -- for whatever reason -- did not select a candidate, records show.

Almost half of those "undervotes" -- 80 ballots -- were cast in precincts where the average voter is 65 years or older, according to a South Florida Sun-Sentinel review of voting records.

Undervotes could account for up to 4,000 of the ballots cast in November's presidential race in Broward, if historical trends hold.

"That's a frightening statistic," Broward County Democratic Party Chairman Mitch Ceasar said. "We have a large number of folks who are elderly and not comfortable with these machines."

The 2000 presidential election was arguably decided by a controversial 537-vote margin in Florida. Broward has about 1 million registered voters and the highest number of Democrats in the state.

According to a representative sampling by the Sun-Sentinel, senior-only communities accounted for four of the top five polling locations with the heaviest undervoting. While the countywide average undervote was about 1 percent, the undervote rate in these precincts ranged from 2.9 to 5.7 percent.

The newspaper ranked precincts by how many undervotes were among the total ballots cast in each precinct, eliminating those in which fewer than 100 total ballots were cast, showing a cross-section of Broward County voters, younger and older. That sample included 57 of the 224 precincts targeted for review.

Precincts with municipal races were eliminated, for example, to account for voters who might have opted to make a choice in a local race and not the presidential contest.

Of the top five undervoting precincts in the sample, there was only one in which the average voter was younger than 65: precinct 104R in Fort Lauderdale's Melrose Park.

The top precinct was 13A in Deerfield Beach's Century Village East, where 10 undervotes accounted for 5.7 percent of the total votes cast. In precinct 20M in Sunrise Lakes Phase 3, six undervotes accounted for 3.5 percent of the votes. In precinct 18A, also in Century Village, five undervotes accounted for 3.3 percent of the votes. In the Melrose Park precinct, four undervotes accounted for 3.2 percent of the total votes. In Plantation's 16N precinct in Lauderdale West, four undervotes accounted for 2.9 percent of the votes.

'that's too many'

Amadeo "Trinchi" Trinchitella, an 87-year-old Deerfield Beach city commissioner who represents Century Village East, reacted to that news with the same alarm as Ceasar.

"That's too many [undervotes]," Trinchitella said. "Some of our people are elderly, sick, whatever. But it doesn't matter. We have a right to vote, and I think there should be every safeguard."

That's a small-scale forecast of what's to come as 50 million people try to use the machines during the presidential election. Unfortunately, we could be facing more chaos in November, because the clamor for computers with "paper trails" isn't likely going to be met this close to an election. Equally as troubling were demonstrations in Maryland in which hackers were shown easily penetrating machines, manipulating results and even fooling volunteer poll workers into letting them start up the machines for them.

And the electronic flaws are heightened by the knowledge that there's no independent electronic record of the votes, either, so your vote is totally depending on the hard drive and ballot components working properly. In too many cases, don't. With a close election expected in 17 states, including Florida, these flaws could spell the difference between victory and defeat for each candidate. Expect chaos ahead.

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