Sunday, May 11, 2008

The Prosecution of George W. Bush for Murder

The Prosecution of George W. Bush for Murder

By Vincent Bugliosi

There is direct evidence that President George W. Bush did not honorably lead this nation, but deliberately misled it into a war he wanted. Bush and his administration knowingly lied to Congress and to the American public — lies that have cost the lives of more than 4,000 young American soldiers and close to $1 trillion.

A Monumental Lie

In his first nationally televised address on the Iraqi crisis on October 7, 2002, six days after receiving the National Intelligence Estimate (NIE), a classified CIA report, President Bush told millions of Americans the exact opposite of what the CIA was telling him -a monumental lie to the nation and the world.

On the evening of October 7, 2002, the very latest CIA intelligence was that Hussein was not an imminent threat to the U.S. This same information was delivered to the Bush administration as early as October 1, 2002, in the NIE, including input from the CIA and 15 other U.S. intelligence agencies. In addition, CIA director George Tenet briefed Bush in the Oval Office on the morning of October 7th.

According to the October 1, 2002 NIE, “Baghdad for now appears to be drawing a line short of conducting terrorist attacks with conventional or CBW [chemical and biological warfare] against the United States, fearing that exposure of Iraqi involvement would provide Washington a stronger case for making war.” The report concluded that Hussein was not planning to use any weapons of mass destruction; further, Hussein would only use weapons of mass destruction he was believed to have if he were first attacked, that is, he would only use them in self-defense.

Preparing its declassified version of the NIE for Congress, which became known as the White Paper, the Bush administration edited the classified NIE document in ways that significantly changed its inference and meaning, making the threat seem imminent and ominous.

In the original NIE report, members of the U.S. intelligence community vigorously disagreed with the CIA’s bloated and inaccurate conclusions. All such opposing commentary was eliminated from the declassified White Paper prepared for Congress and the American people.

The Manning Memo

On January 31, 2003, Bush met in the Oval Office with British Prime Minister Tony Blair. In a memo summarizing the meeting discussion, Blair’s chief foreign policy advisor David Manning wrote that Bush and Blair expressed their doubts that any chemical, biological, or nuclear weapons would ever be found in Iraq, and that there was tension between Bush and Blair over finding some justification for the war that would be acceptable to other nations. Bush was so worried about the failure of the UN inspectors to find hard evidence against Hussein that he talked about three possible ways, Manning wrote, to “provoke a confrontation” with Hussein. One way, Bush said, was to fly “U2 reconnaissance aircraft with fighter cover over Iraq, [falsely] painted in UN colors. If Saddam fired on them, he would be in breach” of UN resolutions and that would justify war. Bush was calculating to create a war, not prevent one.

Denying Blix’s Findings

Hans Blix, the United Nation’s chief weapons inspector in Iraq, in his March 7, 2003, address to the UN Security Council, said that as of that date, less than 3 weeks before Bush invaded Iraq, that Iraq had capitulated to all demands for professional, no-notice weapons inspections all over Iraq and agreed to increased aerial surveillance by the U.S. over the “no-fly” zones. Iraq had directed the UN inspectors to sites where illicit weapons had been destroyed and had begun to demolish its Al Samoud 2 missiles, as requested by the UN. Blix added that “no evidence of proscribed activities have so far been found” by his inspectors and “no underground facilities for chemical or biological production or storage were found so far.” He said that for his inspectors to absolutely confirm that Iraq had no weapons of mass destruction (WMD) “will not take years, nor weeks, but months.”

Mohamed ElBaradei, the chief UN nuclear inspector in Iraq and director of the International Atomic Energy Agency, told the UN Security Council that, “we have to date found no evidence or plausible indication of the revival of a nuclear weapon program in Iraq.”

The UN inspectors were making substantial progress and Hussein was giving them unlimited access. Why was Bush in such an incredible rush to go to war?

Hussein Disarms, so Bush … Goes to War

When it became clear that the whole purpose of Bush’s prewar campaign — to get Hussein to disarm — was being (or already had been) met, Bush and his people came up with a demand they had never once made before — that Hussein resign and leave Iraq. On March 17, 2003, Bush said in a speech to the nation that, “Saddam Hussein and his sons must leave Iraq within 48 hours. Their refusal to do so will result in military conflict.” Military conflict — the lives of thousands of young Americans on the line — because Bush trumped up a new line in the sand?

The Niger Allegation

One of the most notorious instances of the Bush administration using thoroughly discredited information to frighten the American public was the 16 words in Bush’s January 28, 2003 State of the Union speech: “The British government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa.” The Niger allegation was false, and the Bush administration knew it was false.

Joseph C. Wilson IV, the former ambassador to Iraq, was sent to Niger by the CIA in February 2002 to investigate a supposed memo that documented the sale of uranium yellowcake (a form of lightly processed ore) to Iraq by Niger in the late 1990s. Wilson reported back to the CIA that it was “highly doubtful” such a transaction had ever taken place.

On March 7, 2003, Mohamed ElBaradei told the UN Security Council that “based on thorough analysis” his agency concluded that the “documents which formed the basis for the report of recent uranium transactions between Iraq and Niger are in fact not authentic.” Indeed, author Craig Unger uncovered at least 14 instances prior to the 2003 State of the Union address in which analysts at the CIA, the State Department, or other government agencies that had examined the Niger documents “raised serious doubts about their legitimacy — only to be rebuffed by Bush administration officials who wanted to use them.”

On October 5 and 6, 2002, the CIA sent memos to the National Security Council, National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice, and to the White House Situation Room stating that the Niger information was no good.

On January 24, 2003, four days before the president’s State of the Union address, the CIA’s National Intelligence Council, which oversees all federal agencies that deal with intelligence, sent a memo to the White House stating that “the Niger story is baseless and should be laid to rest.”

The 9/11 Lie

The Bush administration put undue pressure on U.S. intelligence agencies to provide it with conclusions that would help them in their quest for war. Bush’s former counterterrorism chief, Richard Clarke, said that on September 12, 2001, one day after 9/11, “The President in a very intimidating way left us — me and my staff — with the clear indication that he wanted us to come back with the word that there was an Iraqi hand behind 9/11.”

Bush said on October 7, 2002, “We know that Iraq and the Al Qaeda terrorist network share a common enemy — the United States of America. We know that Iraq and Al Qaeda have had high level contacts that go back a decade,” and that “Iraq has trained Al Qaeda members in bomb-making and poisons and deadly gasses.” Of Hussein, he said on November 1, 2002, “We know he’s got ties with Al Qaeda.”

Even after Bush admitted on September 17, 2003, that he had “no evidence” that Saddam Hussein was involved with 9/11, he audaciously continued, in the months and years that followed, to clearly suggest, without stating it outright, that Hussein was involved in 9/11.

On March 20, 2006, Bush said, “I was very careful never to say that Saddam Hussein ordered the attack on America.”

Vincent Bugliosi received his law degree in 1964. In his career at the L.A. County District Attorney’s office, he successfully prosecuted 105 out of 106 felony jury trials, including 21 murder convictions without a single loss. His most famous trial, the Charles Manson case, became the basis of his classic, Helter Skelter, the biggest selling true-crime book in publishing history. The Prosecution of George W. Bush For Murder is available May 27.

GM offers $200 million in bid to end American Axle strike

GM offers $200 million in bid to end American Axle strike

By Joe Kay
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In an effort to finalize a deal to cut wages and benefits for striking workers at American Axle, US auto giant General Motors announced Thursday that it was prepared to spend $200 million to finance buyouts and buy-downs of workers at the auto parts company.

GM conditioned the funds on a speedy agreement between the United Auto Workers union and American Axle. Renee Rogers, spokeswoman for American Axle, said the company was hopeful the funds “will facilitate an expedited resolution to the international UAW strike.” She added, “It’s been costly and disruptive. A quick return to work will be a win-win-win for everybody.”

The strike at American Axle has resulted in the total or partial closure of many GM facilities.

Adrian King, the outgoing president at UAW Local 253 in Detroit, Michigan, has said he estimates that half of the American Axle work force would take buyouts of up to $140,000 and leave the company. While the agreement being worked out will be a win for GM and American Axle, it will be a devastating loss for the workers at American Axle. No details of the contract negotiations have been officially released, but a framework for an agreement reportedly includes the slashing of wages from the current $28 an hour to between $14 and $17 for most workers.The agreement would also close two forging plants and possibly another manufacturing plant, eliminating several hundred jobs.

This is a stunning indictment of the UAW leadership, since it indicates that workers have no confidence the union will defend their jobs and wages. The workers, in the eleventh week of their strike, have been strung out on a meager $200 a week in strike pay, and many are facing increasing financial distress.

One of the strategies of the UAW has been to pressure GM to step into the dispute, a move that the company had resisted until this week. Apparently as part of this tactic, the union has called or threatened local strikes at several GM plants.

On Thursday, the UAW announced that it had reached tentative agreements with GM at two locals in Michigan that had threatened to strike. Two plants, one in Kansas and one in Lansing, Michigan, are still on strike. The UAW has said, however, that the actions are part of local contract disputes and are unrelated to the American Axle strike.

The union praised the move by GM to offer $200 million to American Axle. UAW Local 235 Shop Chairman Dana Edwards told the Detroit Free Press, “It is good news,” while saying that negotiations would continue over the details.

The main outcome of the GM offer will be to help the union and American Axle impose a contract with massive concessions, which will then be a model for similar concessions throughout the auto industry.

The World Socialist Web Site spoke to workers at the forging plant in Detroit, one of the facilities likely to be shut down. A posting on a blog run by American Axle workers reported that the UAW International told some workers on Thursday morning that the Detroit forge would close. However, the workers on the picket line on Friday said they had received no information outside of what was presented in the media.

Steve, a worker with 12 years at American Axle, said, “I think [American Axle CEO] Dick Dauch is going to take $200 million of GM’s money, and we still get stiffed.” He said that he hoped to be able to move to another job at American Axle if the forge is shut down.

He said a decision by the UAW to cancel a rally last month was a concession to the company. “Dauch did not want the media coverage that would have come with the rally,” he told the WSWS. He noted that the national media was only rarely reporting on the strike. “When it is in the media, the coverage is not in our favor,” he noted.

On the role of the Democrats, he said, “Supposedly, Hillary Clinton sent a letter to Dick Dauch, but there has really been nothing from the Democratic candidates. [Republican presidential candidate] John McCain was out here recently, but he said nothing about the auto industry.”

Bob, a forge worker with 10 years’ experience, remarked that the concessions being demanded from American Axle workers would ultimately be demanded of other workers in the auto industry. “GM, Chrysler will be next after us. If we accept cuts, they are next. They should all be out on strike in support,” he said.

Another worker, who had heard the reports that American Axle wanted to shut down the plant, said that such rumors had circulated during every contract negotiation for years. But he noted that American Axle had been acquiring new forges. “Dauch just bought a new forge in Oxford, Michigan,” he said, “and there is one in Mexico as well. He hired in all the workers at lower wages.”

Another striker said that the stabilizer division of the forge unit made $4.4 million in the last quarter of 2007. “Over all, in the forge plant they may have lost money, but I know they made money in the stabilizer division. In fact, there is a lot of room in this plant but they won’t use it. That doesn’t make sense to me.”

He said that workers had known the company was going to demand concessions. “But we can’t accept a 50 percent pay cut, especially when Dauch makes $10 million. The conditions for the American worker are steadily getting worse. It is becoming like other countries where wages are low and you have brutal regimes.”

After a discussion on the need for a political struggle by the working class, he added, “One of the things people have to realize is that the law is against us as well. The police are on their side. There are no police cars now, but they have had a constant presence throughout the strike.”

The WSWS spoke to workers at the Tonawanda Forge plant, in Buffalo, New York, which is also rumored to be on the chopping block. The workers expressed frustration at the union’s policy of pitting different plants within the same company against each other.

Herman, with 14 years at American Axle said, “Whatever happens to us is going to trickle down to everyone. What we lose, they lose. It¹s corporate greed. The corporations buy the government.”

Bob added, “I see a workers revolution coming. I question the UAW International strategy of opposing us against Detroit. When they shutdown the American Axle plant in Develan the union said, ‘don’t worry about them, worry about you.’ Now we are five plants, then three, then two and finally there will be none.”

The Lucrative Art of War

The Lucrative Art of War

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ongress is finally moving to shut one of the more egregious forms of Iraq war profiteering: defense contractors using offshore shell companies to avoid paying their fair share of payroll taxes. The practice is widespread and Congressional investigators have been dispatched to one of the prime tax refuges, the Cayman Islands, to seek a firsthand estimate of how much the Treasury is being shorted.

No one will be surprised to hear that one of the suspected prime offenders is KBR, the Texas-based defense contractor, formerly a part of the Halliburton conglomerate allied with Vice President Dick Cheney. According to a report in The Boston Globe, KBR, which has landed billions in Iraq contracts, has used two Cayman shell companies to avoid paying hundreds of millions in payroll, Medicare and unemployment taxes.

Unfortunately right now there is nothing illegal about this. The House has approved legislation to plug the dodge by treating foreign subsidiaries of defense contractors as what they are — American employers required to pay taxes. The Senate must quickly follow suit and not buy the contractors' line that listing American workers at offshore companies is a cost saving passed on patriotically to the war effort. No less insulting, the Cayman dodge has been blocking Americans from the protection of labor and anti-discrimination laws.

The House has taken on another shamefully common abuse: voting to deny future government contracts to any company that fails to pay its corporate taxes, including an estimated 25,000 defense contractors keeping billions due the Treasury. The Senate should approve that legislation as well.

Companies enriched by taxpayers in the war boom should not be able to compound their profits by not paying their fair share of taxes. Congress must do far more to bring them to a full accounting.

Carter says U.S. tortures prisoners

Carter says U.S. tortures prisoners

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The United States tortures prisoners in violation of international law, former President Carter said Wednesday.

"I don't think it. I know it," Carter told CNN's Wolf Blitzer.

"Our country for the first time in my life time has abandoned the basic principle of human rights," Carter said. "We've said that the Geneva Conventions do not apply to those people in Abu Ghraib prison and Guantanamo, and we've said we can torture prisoners and deprive them of an accusation of a crime to which they are accused."

Carter also said President Bush creates his own definition of human rights.

Carter's comments come on the heels of an October 4 article in The New York Times disclosing the existence of secret Justice Department memorandums supporting the use of "harsh interrogation techniques." These include "head-slapping, simulated drowning and frigid temperatures," according to the Times.

The White House last week confirmed the existence of the documents but would not make them public.

Responding to the newspaper report Friday, Bush defended the techniques used, saying, "This government does not torture people."

Asked about Bush's comments, Carter said, "That's not an accurate statement if you use the international norms of torture as has always been honored -- certainly in the last 60 years since the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was promulgated.

"But you can make your own definition of human rights and say we don't violate them, and you can make your own definition of torture and say we don't violate them." VideoWatch Blitzer's interview with the former president »

After reading a transcript of Carter's remarks, a senior White House official said, "Our position is clear. We don't torture."

The official said, "It's just sad to hear a former president speak like that."

Carter also criticized some of the 2008 Republican presidential candidates, calling former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani "foolish" for his contention the United States should be open to use force on Iran.

"I hope that he doesn't become president and try to impose his conviction that we need to go to war with Iran," Carter said.

The Giuliani campaign declined to comment on Carter's criticism.

The former president didn't spare the rest of the GOP field either.

"They all seem to be outdoing each other in who wants to go to war first with Iran, who wants to keep Guantanamo open longer and expand its capacity -- things of that kind," Carter said.

"They're competing with each other to appeal to the ultra-right-wing, war-mongering element in our country, which I think is the minority of our total population."

Carter declined to say which Republican candidate he feared the most.

"If I condemn one of them, it might escalate him to the top position in the Republican ranks," he said.

Democratic Sens. Hillary Clinton of New York and Barack Obama of Illinois also drew Carter's criticism for refusing recently to pledge to withdraw all troops from Iraq by the end of their first terms if they win the presidency in 2008.

"I disagree with their basic premise that we'll still be there; I think the American people want out," Carter said. "If there is an unforeseen development where Iraqi people request American presence over a period of time I think that would possibly be acceptable, but that's not my personal preference."

Judge: Woman's rape case against Halliburton can go to trial

Judge: Woman's rape case against Halliburton can go to trial

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A woman who said she was raped by co-workers while employed by a contractor in Iraq can take her claims to trial, a federal judge ruled Friday.

Jamie Leigh Jones filed a federal lawsuit last year, saying she was attacked while working for a Halliburton Co. subsidiary at Camp Hope, Baghdad, in 2005. Her lawsuit claims that after she endured harassment from some of the men where she lived in coed barracks, she was drugged and raped by Halliburton and KBR firefighters.

Jones, a former Conroe resident, said a KBR representative imprisoned her in a shipping container for a day so she wouldn't report the assault.

Attorneys for Halliburton, KBR and other subsidiaries that have been sued have disputed Jones' allegations. KBR split from Halliburton last year.

Washington-based attorney Stephanie Morris said her client is pleased that she will have the opportunity to bring attention to the case.

"We are extremely excited we can now go forward and present the case in the public arena and make the public aware of what been going on overseas in Iraq. Halliburton has ratified gross sexual conduct by their failure to act," Morris said.

The Associated Press usually does not identify people alleging sexual assault, but Jones' face and name have been broadcast in media reports and on her own Web site.

Halliburton's attorneys argued in March that the employment agreement Jones signed says any claims made by an employee against the company that in any way touch on his or her employment have to be settled through arbitration, in which a third party would resolve the case through a private hearing process.

The decision by U.S. District Judge Keith P. Ellison says the court will not compel the plaintiff to go to arbitration for her claims related to being assaulted. However, those claims cannot be pursued until other workplace-related claims are arbitrated.

"We entirely conceded those could go to arbitration," Morris said.

W. Carl Jordan, an attorney for Halliburton, did not return a phone call to his office and an e-mail on Friday night. A company spokeswoman said no one was immediately available to comment.

In December, Jones detailed her allegations to a congressional subcommittee. Several members of Congress have criticized the Justice, State and Defense departments for how the case was handled.

Congress has pressured the Bush administration to force U.S. contractors in Iraq to offer better protection for their employees from crimes.

U.S. lease of Waterloo fairgrounds raises questions

U.S. lease of Waterloo fairgrounds raises questions


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Federal officials have imposed a news blackout at the National Cattle Congress fairgrounds in Waterloo, where they have leased almost the entire property through May 25.

Tim Counts, a Midwest spokesman for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, known as ICE, declined to say Monday whether an immigration raid is pending that would use the fairgrounds as a detention center.

"ICE never talks about our investigative activity or possible future enforcement actions," Counts said. "Regarding the exercise in Waterloo, there is currently no publicly releasable information about that, so we aren't releasing any."

He declined to say whether the "exercise" involves training or an immigration enforcement operation.

"We expect that at some point there will be additional information available, but I can't speculate at what point that might be," Counts said.

In December 2006, ICE conducted an immigration raid at the Swift & Co. meatpacking plant in Marshalltown. Many workers were transported to Camp Dodge in Johnston, where military barracks were used as temporary detention facilities. A total of 1,282 Swift workers were arrested in Iowa and five other states in the biggest crackdown in history on immigration violations at one company.

The Waterloo Courier on Sunday reported that contractors have installed generators adjacent to many buildings at the fairgrounds.

In addition, windows on many buildings have been covered up, blocking views inside. A number of mobile-home-size trailers have been transported to the privately owned grounds.

Doug Miller, general manager of the Cattle Congress, declined Monday to release a copy of his group's rental contract with U.S. General Services Administration. He also indicated he was in the dark about what's happening inside the fairgrounds.

"I have no idea. They are conducting whatever exercise they are conducting without telling me all the details of it. I don't have any information to share with you, really," Miller said.

Representatives of Gov. Chet Culver and U.S. Sens. Tom Harkin and Charles Grassley said they had no information about what was happening at the Cattle Congress fairgrounds.

At Grassley's request, his staff called ICE officials on Monday.

"During the call, the ICE officials would neither confirm nor deny anything to Senator Grassley's staff," said Beth Pellett Levine, a Grassley aide.

Armando Villareal, administrator of the Iowa Division of Latino Affairs, said he hadn't heard any reports about impending immigration raids. But he added that many Latinos in Iowa are feeling tension and fear.

"Folks have resigned themselves that something terrible is going to happen between now and the election. It is more like a resignation that something is going to happen," Villareal said.

Judge Drops General From Trial of Detainee

Judge Drops General From Trial of Detainee

By William Glaberson

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In a new blow to the Bush administration's troubled military commission system, a military judge has disqualified a Pentagon general who has been centrally involved in overseeing Guantánamo war crimes tribunals from any role in the first case headed for trial.

The judge said the general was too closely aligned with the prosecution, raising questions about whether he could carry out his role with the required neutrality and objectivity.

Military defense lawyers said that although the ruling was limited to one case, they expected the issue to be raised in other cases, potentially delaying prosecutions, including the death-penalty prosecution of six detainees at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, for the Sept. 11 attacks.

Critics of the military commission system said Friday that the judge's decision would provide new grounds to attack the system that they say was set up to win convictions.

The judge, Capt. Keith J. Allred of the Navy, directed that Brig. Gen. Thomas W. Hartmann of the Air Force Reserve, a senior Pentagon official of the Office of Military Commissions, which runs the war crimes system, have no further role in the first prosecution, scheduled for trial this month.

General Hartmann, whose title is legal adviser, has been at the center of a bitter dispute involving the former chief Guantánamo military prosecutor, Col. Morris D. Davis of the Air Force.

Colonel Davis has said the general interfered in the work of the military prosecution office, pushed for closed-door proceedings and pressed to rely on evidence obtained through techniques that critics call torture.

"National attention focused on this dispute has seriously called into question the legal adviser's ability to continue to perform his duties in a neutral and objective manner," the judge wrote on Friday, in a copy of the decision not released publicly but obtained by The New York Times. Decisions by Guantánamo judges are not typically released publicly until days after being handed down.

Cmdr. Jeffrey D. Gordon of the Navy, a Pentagon spokesman, declined to comment on the ruling, saying senior Defense Department officials were reviewing it.

Reached at his office shortly after the decision was distributed inside the Pentagon, General Hartmann said he could not talk. His spokeswoman did not respond to requests for comment.

General Hartmann, who has been a controversial figure since his appointment last summer, is the legal adviser to the Pentagon official with broad powers over the war crimes system, Susan J. Crawford. She has the military title of Convening Authority of the Guantánamo war crimes cases.

Ms. Crawford has never made a public statement in her role.

General Hartmann has been the military official most publicly identified with prosecutions in recent months. It was he, for example, who announced the Sept. 11 charges and has publicly pressed prosecutors to move faster.

Ruling on a defense lawyers' request that said General Hartmann had exerted unlawful influence over the prosecution, Judge Allred said that public concern about the fairness of the cases was "deeply disturbing" and that he could not find that the general "retains the required independence from the prosecution."

Pentagon officials could ask the judge to reconsider, could appeal to a special military appeals court created to hear Guantánamo cases or could replace General Hartmann.

General Hartmann has denied Colonel Davis's assertions and said the commission system would "follow the rule of law." He has also said he has pressed prosecutors and others involved in the tribunals to move the cases more quickly.

As convening authority, Ms. Crawford has powers over the entire war crimes system, including the power to approve or reject charges, to reach plea deals and to provide financial resources to the prosecution and the defense.

Among officials in the war crimes system, General Hartmann was assumed to have been acting on her behalf. But the judge did not find there was evidence suggesting she should be removed even from the single case.

Judge Allred's ruling followed a hearing in Guantánamo on April 28 at which Colonel Davis said General Hartmann pressured him in deciding what cases to prosecute and what evidence to use. The judge called the hearing after lawyers for a detainee, Salim Hamdan, said his charges were unlawfully influenced.

Judge Orders CIA to Turn Over "Torture" Memo: ACLU

Judge Orders CIA to Turn Over "Torture" Memo: ACLU

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New York - A U.S. judge ordered the Central Intelligence Agency on Thursday to submit to the court a 2002 memo said to specify harsh interrogation methods used on suspected terrorists held abroad.

The American Civil Liberties Union said the memo was written by the Department of Justice's Office of Legal Counsel and sent to the CIA in August 2002. The ACLU described the memo as "one of the most important torture documents still being withheld by the Bush administration."

In a copy of the order posted on the ACLU's Web site, Judge Alvin Hellerstein told the government to produce the memo so he can determine whether it should be made public as part of a lawsuit the ACLU and other organizations filed in June 2004 requesting records concerning the treatment of prisoners in U.S. custody abroad.

Hellerstein has scheduled a review of the document for Monday.

"This memo authorized the CIA to use specific torture techniques -- including waterboarding," Jameel Jaffer, ACLU's national security project director, said in a statement.

"CIA agents waterboarded prisoners because this memo told them that they could," he said. "The memo is being withheld not for legitimate security reasons, but in order to protect government officials from accountability for their decisions."

Waterboarding is a simulated drowning technique.

The ACLU said more than 100,000 pages of government documents have been released in response to its lawsuit.

Among those was a declassified 2003 memo, released by the U.S. Justice Department on April 1, that justified the use of harsh interrogation methods for suspected terrorists held abroad.

A subsequent decision overruled the memo, which said President George W. Bush's authority as commander-in-chief superseded international law regarding wartime interrogations.

The U.S. military has banned the use of waterboarding and other harsh methods considered by some rights advocates to be torture. The U.S. intelligence community has not.

Bush authorized the CIA to use waterboarding after the September 11 attacks in 2001, but he has repeatedly insisted that the United States does not torture prisoners.

The CIA has said it used waterboarding during the interrogations of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, who faces murder charges in the U.S. military court at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

The Truth Behind Drug Ads

The Truth Behind Drug Ads

By Lisa Stark, Tom Shine, and Kate Barrett

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Lawmakers question whether drug ads tell the truth.

The advertisement showed a plate of pasta and a grandfather in a bow tie. Its message was that regardless of whether you suffer from high cholesterol due to your eating habits or due to your genes, Vytorin could help.

Merck/Schering-Plough's Vytorin ad was heavily marketed even as the company delayed releasing a study that called into question the drug's effectiveness. Now it's among several ads pulled from the airwaves amid concerns that prescription drug advertisements can sometimes mislead and are not completely truthful.

"I think the main problem with directed consumer ads is they don't give consumers the information they need to make an informed decision about the drug," said Steven Woloshin, associate professor of medicine and of community and family medicine at Dartmouth Medical School. "They don't give the most fundamental information, which is how well does the drug work?"

Today, lawmakers took aim at drug ads during a Capitol Hill hearing, questioning whether ads for pharmaceutical drugs are marketing or educational tools, or downright deceptions.

"American consumers should not have to rely on the oversight function of Congress to make sure drug companies tell the truth in their advertisements," said Rep. Bart Stupak, D-Mich., chairman of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce panel's Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee.

In 2006, drug companies spent nearly $5 billion on direct ads to consumers, an 80 percent increase over what they were spending in 2002, according to IMS Health. Those efforts pay off: Every dollar spent on direct-to-consumer advertising results in $6 in increased sales, according to the House committee's staff. The increase in money spent on ad campaigns surpasses the increase in money spent on research and development for new drugs in the past decade.

But ads tend to play up the benefits of a drug and play down its risks, according to Ruth S. Day, director of Duke University's Medical Cognition Laboratory.

Day found that 80 percent of people who saw drug ads remembered a drug's benefits, while only 20 percent could recall its side effects. She said ads often provide information about a drug's risks by using a faster speech rate or during visual and auditory distractions.

"There's currently, and has been for a long time, an unfair balance between the presentation of the risks and the benefits of these ads," Day said.

As a result, cardiologist Robert Marshall said it can take time to explain the full story to patients asking about a specific drug they have seen on television.

"We spend a lot of time explaining away why they shouldn't be on certain medications, or at least should be addressing other things that should be as important, like lifestyle, diet, exercise, that make as big or a bigger difference in the long term," Marshall said.

Woloshin said advertisements for the sleep aid Lunesta also painted a less than accurate picture.

"In the case of Lunesta, if I don't take the drug, it's going to take me about 45 minutes to fall asleep on average," Woloshin said. "If I take the drug, it'll take about 30 minutes to fall asleep."

An ad for Pfizer's cholesterol drug, Lipitor, featuring Robert Jarvik, also came under fire recently for giving "misimpressions." Ads for Lipitor and Vytorin were voluntarily taken off the air not long after the panel started investigating direct-to-consumer advertising in January.

On Thursday, James Sage, senior director and team leader for Lipitor at Pfizer Inc., maintained that direct-to-consumer ads "encourage an active partnership between patients and their doctors." Still, he said that "going forward we are committed to making sure there's greater clarity in advertising."

Nancy H. Nielsen, president-elect of the American Medical Association, told lawmakers that the AMA strongly discouraged doctors from appearing in ads because "they don't know the patients they're talking to," and she believes the Food and Drug Administration should be given more authority to preapprove these types of ads.

"It is frankly fairly clear that the majority of what's happening has a marketing effect and not an educational effect," Nielsen said.

According to Marcia G. Crosse, director of health care at the Government Accountability Office, the FDA is not completely effective in regulating the ads.

Though the FDA issues warning letters to those companies it finds to be in violation, Crosse said, "the amount of time it takes to draft and issue letters has continued to lengthen." She said it took the FDA more than six months in 2007 to issue letters.

Last year lawmakers set up a voluntary system that would allow drug companies to pay a fee to have the FDA review ads before they're made public.

The review, to be funded by the industry, would have allowed the FDA to hire enough people to review the ads prior to publication. One hundred drug companies signed up to participate. The voluntary review program would have raised more than $11 million from drug companies for prior review of the ads.

The program never launched because Congress then failed to give the FDA the authority to collect the fees from the drug companies.

Plame Seeks to Resurrect Lawsuit Against Bush Administration in CIA Leak Case

Plame Seeks to Resurrect Lawsuit Against Bush Administration in CIA Leak Case

By Matt Apuzzo

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Washington - Former CIA operative Valerie Plame is trying to resurrect a lawsuit against those in the Bush administration she says illegally disclosed her identity.

A federal judge dismissed Plame's lawsuit last year, saying there was no basis to bring a case. Plame's lawyers asked a federal appeals court Friday to send the case back before the judge and force him to consider its merits.

Plame and her husband, former Ambassador Joseph Wilson, sued Vice President Dick Cheney; his former chief of staff, I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby; former White House political adviser Karl Rove and former Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage.

Plame's CIA position was revealed in a syndicated newspaper column in 2003, during a time when her husband was criticizing the march to war in Iraq. Armitage and Rove were the original sources for that story, which Plame believes was retribution for Wilson's criticism.

The article touched off a lengthy criminal investigation. Special Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald never charged anyone with the leak but convicted Libby of obstruction and lying to investigators.

During the trial, it was revealed that Libby and former White House press secretary Ari Fleischer also discussed Plame with reporters.

Plame says those leaks violated her constitutional rights. But U.S. District Judge John D. Bates dismissed the case, saying the law requires Plame's complaints be raised under the Privacy Act. Plame's attorneys say that law is insufficient. They asked the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit to send the case back to Bates for reconsideration.

With the exception of Cheney, those named in Plame's lawsuit have left the administration.

Blackwater unlikely to face charges in Iraq shooting

Blackwater unlikely to face charges in Iraq shooting


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Blackwater Worldwide, the security contractor blamed by an angry Iraqi government for the shooting deaths of 17 civilians, is not expected to face criminal charges — all but ensuring the company will keep its multimillion-dollar contract to protect U.S. diplomats.

Instead, the seven-month-old Justice Department investigation is focused on as few as three or four Blackwater guards who could be indicted in the Sept. 16 shootings, according to interviews with a half-dozen people close to the investigation.

The final decision on any charges will not be made until late summer at the earliest, a law enforcement official said. All spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to publicly discuss the investigation.

The State Department publicly raised the question of Blackwater's corporate liability last month when it extended the company's contract by one year. The contract could still be canceled if criminal charges are brought, but the department said it was unlikely to penalize the corporation if only its employees were charged.

"I think that's really what the FBI investigation needs to look at: Is the company culpable or are the individuals culpable?" Greg Starr, the department's top security officer, said last month.

Justice Department spokesman Dean Boyd declined to comment.

Blackwater spokeswoman Anne Tyrrell said, "If it is determined that there are any individuals who need to be held accountable, we support that."

The shootings began when a Blackwater convoy, which was responding to a Baghdad car bombing, entered the Nisoor Square traffic circle. Blackwater says the convoy was ambushed by insurgents, touching off a firefight. Iraqi witnesses, however, described an unprovoked attack in which security guards fired indiscriminately, killing motorists, bystanders and children in the square.

The shooting enraged the Iraqi government, which originally sought to expel the company from the country, and strained diplomatic relations between Washington and Baghdad. The shooting also raised questions at home and abroad about the U.S. reliance on heavily armed private contractors in war zones. With nearly 1,000 personnel working in Iraq, Blackwater is the largest State Department security contractor; critics have compared its guards to mercenaries.

Since the shooting, Blackwater has also come to symbolize the legal gray area in which such security contractors operate. Iraqi officials wanted to charge Blackwater guards in Baghdad, but U.S. contractors are immune from prosecution in Iraqi courts. U.S. prosecutors believe they have jurisdiction to bring a case in Washington, but that's an untested legal theory.

This week, the Justice Department continued its secret grand jury interviews in the case with the testimony of a U.S. military official. An estimated 40 witnesses have so far been brought before the grand jury in Washington, including Blackwater security guards and company managers. Iraqi witnesses also are expected to testify in coming months, according to people close to the case.

Companies are sometimes charged for the wrongdoing of their employees, but the standard is high. Prosecutors must prove that the corporation — not just the employees — intended to break the law. One recent example is Chiquita Brands International, which was fined $25 million after admitting it paid Colombian terrorists to protect its most profitable banana-growing operation.

"The law tries to get at the idea of moral responsibility," said longtime Washington corporate lawyer Thomas F. Cullen. "To be morally responsible for someone else's criminal act, you need to be somehow involved in their criminal intent. Did you direct it?"

Blackwater could still face charges if, for example, prosecutors conclude the company lied to investigators, destroyed documents or obstructed the probe. Blackwater says it is fully cooperating with the Justice Department. The Department gives credit for such cooperation when deciding whether to bring charges.

Even if Blackwater avoids prosecution for the shooting, its legal problems will continue.

Families of the Nisoor Square victims are suing Blackwater under a wrongful death claim in civil court. The lawsuit does not specify how much money they are seeking from Blackwater, its 11 subsidiaries and founder, Erik Prince, all of whom are named as defendants. The standard of proof needed to win is lower in civil cases than in criminal cases, which require proof beyond reasonable doubt.

Separately, federal prosecutors in North Carolina are investigating whether Blackwater played a role in a weapons smuggling case linked to the Kurdish militant group PKK, a U.S.-designated terrorist organization. Blackwater denies involvement in the case.

Latin America: Food Summit Declares Regional Emergency

Latin America: Food Summit Declares Regional Emergency

By José Adán Silva

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Managua - The presidential summit on "Food for Life", held in Nicaragua, has ended with 16 Latin American countries agreeing to produce more food and sell it at low prices through strategic alliances, amid criticisms of free markets and capitalism.

The summit on regional food sovereignty and security was convened by Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega to debate the global crisis caused by food shortages and to seek regional solutions.

Presidents Manuel Zelaya of Honduras, Óscar Arias of Costa Rica, Rafael Correa of Ecuador, Evo Morales of Bolivia and René Préval of Haiti attended the summit meeting on Wednesday.

Delegations from El Salvador, Guatemala, Mexico, Venezuela, Belize, Panama, Dominica, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, the Dominican Republic and Cuba also took part.

Representatives of United Nations agencies, the Organisation of American States (OAS), the European Union, international financial institutions and the business world were present as observers.

Ortega, as host, chaired the discussions, and during breaks between speakers he wasted no opportunity to condemn the "empire", meaning the United States, and "neoliberal policies imposed by the international financial institutions."

The presidents of Haiti, Bolivia, Ecuador and even Costa Rica joined Ortega in blaming the world's most developed countries for the global food crisis.

According to statistics from the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organisations (FAO), over the last year the international price of maize increased by 31 percent, rice by 74 percent, vegetable oils 60 percent, dairy products 83 percent, soybeans 87 percent, and wheat 130 percent.

The Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) warned in late April that "the steep and persistent rise in international food prices is hitting particularly hard on the poorest in Latin America and the Caribbean."

To illustrate, Cuban Vice President Esteban Lazo said that in 2005, his government paid the equivalent of 250 dollars for a ton of imported rice in 2005, while "it now costs us 1,050 dollars - four times as much."

"The food crisis is exacerbated by the high price of oil, which is a result of the war being waged in Iraq, climate change, and neoliberal policies in the United States and Europe," Lazo added.

Ecuadorean President Correa said that "the enormous difference about world poverty in the 21st century is that it is not due to shortages, but to unequal distribution" of resources.

Like the rest of the participants, Correa stressed the urgent need to step up agricultural production in Latin America and abandon neoliberal food import policies which, he said, the international financial institutions recommended to developing countries in recent years with the backing of the United States.

Morales declared his opposition to the use of food crops for making biofuels, and berated the industrialised countries.

"Unlimited industrialisation is the drug of planet Earth, and capitalism is synonymous with death," he said.

Following the autonomy referendum held Sunday in the eastern Bolivian province of Santa Cruz, which the government regards as illegal, Zelaya called on the countries present to support Morales, who received an ovation.

At Ortega's request, Préval described the dire situation in Haiti, the poorest country in the Americas.

"What is happening in my country is a catastrophe," said Préval. Food shortages led to violent disturbances in April that left at least six people dead and several people injured, while shopkeepers incurred damages as a result of looting.

Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez was not at the meeting due to illness.

The surprise of the day came from Costa Rican President Arias, who harshly criticised the United States and European countries. According to Arias, the present state of affairs is the result of "the hypocrisy of the United States and Europe when dealing with the most important issues on the international agenda."

The United States has offered only one billion dollars in food aid to the world's poorest countries, "the same amount they spend in half a week on the war in Iraq," Arias said.

The World Trade Organisation (WTO)'s Doha Round of talks, aimed at freeing up trade in agriculture and other areas, "is an example of hypocrisy on the part of developed countries, that continue to subsidise farm goods," he said.

Another "great monument to hypocrisy" is the Kyoto Protocol on climate change, Arias said, "because rich countries, having polluted the planet in order to enrich themselves, are now asking us not to do so."

After a session of speeches lasting four hours, Ortega gave the floor over to Venezuelan Foreign Minister Nicolás Maduro, who made the only formal proposal received by the meeting, consisting of seven points.

Venezuela offered to set up an agricultural fund of 100 million dollars to finance concrete plans arising from the summit.

Maduro also proposed a special plan within Petrocaribe - an oil cooperation scheme between Venezuela and Caribbean nations - to finance agricultural production and make fuel available for food production at low prices.

In exchange, beneficiary countries would join the Bolivarian Alternative for the Americas (ALBA), a regional integration initiative led by Chávez.

Mexican Foreign Minister Patricia Espinoza said she was not in favour of including the Venezuelan initiative in the final summit declaration, as it was only a proposal, and recommended that it be discussed later on. A meeting of technical experts in Mexico in late May was proposed for that purpose.

However, the final document did include the Venezuelan agricultural fund proposal.

President Arias, who withheld his signature from the final document, said "there are some value judgements, concepts that I don't agree with."

The final statement, signed by all the countries at the summit except El Salvador and Costa Rica, declared a regional food "emergency" and urged the 63rd U.N. General Assembly to address the world food crisis when it meets in September.

It also called on Latin American and Caribbean governments to increase investment in agriculture, and suggested that private banks in the region invest up to 10 percent of their assets in agricultural development.

The document called for a draft plan of action within 30 days to boost local food production in the region and establish a system of "fair trade within and between the countries that results in fair prices for producers and consumers," and urged the international community to "significantly" boost cooperation to ease the crisis.

US Army's "Stop-Loss" Orders Up Dramatically Over Last Year

US Army's "Stop-Loss" Orders Up Dramatically Over Last Year

By Julian E. Barnes

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The jump coincides with the extension of combat tours from 12 to 15 months.

Washington - The number of soldiers forced to remain in the Army involuntarily under the military's controversial "stop-loss" program has risen sharply since the Pentagon extended combat tours last year, officials said Thursday.

Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates was briefed about the program by Army officials who said that thousands of new stop-loss orders were issued to keep soldiers from leaving the service after Gates ordered combat tours extended from 12 to 15 months last spring.

The Army has resorted to involuntary extensions of soldiers' enlistment terms to prevent them from leaving immediately before a combat tour or in the middle of a deployment.

Army officials have argued that the policy is necessary to ensure that they are not forced to send inadequately trained soldiers and unprepared units into war.

However, many soldiers subjected to the stop-loss policy consider it a backdoor draft. Critics argue that once soldiers have completed the enlistment period they agreed to, they should be allowed to return home. The involuntary retention program is so unpopular that it helped inspire a recent movie called "Stop-Loss."

The number of soldiers held in the Army under the stop-loss program reached a high in March 2005 of 15,758. That number steadily declined through May 2007, when it hit 8,540. But since then, the number of soldiers subjected to stop-loss orders began to increase again, reaching 12,235 in March 2008.

In April 2007, Gates ordered combat tours extended to support the U.S. troop buildup and to address concerns about uneven tour lengths. But because many soldiers were due to leave the service at the end of their combat tours, Army officials had to order them under stop-loss provisions to remain.

In a news conference Thursday, Gates said he believed the Army had good reasons for using the stop-loss policy.

"They don't like it any better than I do. But it has proven necessary in order to maintain the force," Gates said.

Still, he said, use of the policy "is an issue. It troubles me." Top Defense officials have pushed the Army to reduce the use of stop-loss orders.

"When somebody expects to leave at a given time, and you tell them they can't do that, it's got to have an impact on them. And that's the part that troubles me," Gates said.

Soldiers subjected to stop-loss orders are often those whose enlistment period ends during a combat tour or who are due to leave within 90 days of the scheduled start of a combat tour. Without the stop-loss policy, the Army would have to replace those soldiers with new ones who had not trained with the unit.

Between 2002 and 2007, 58,300 soldiers were given stop-loss orders, forcing them to remain in the service past the end of their enlistment periods.

The number of soldiers serving under the stop-loss program will begin to decline again in September, Gates said. By then, there will be fewer U.S. troops in Iraq and Army combat tours will return to 12 months.

Army officials could not predict when they would no longer need to resort to stop-loss orders. But as troop levels in Iraq and Afghanistan shrink, the policy will become less necessary, officials say.

The Army first used a stop-loss program in 1990 during the run-up to the Persian Gulf War. In 2002, the Army instituted stop-loss orders for certain specialties, a policy that ended in 2003. The current stop-loss program was put in place just before the invasion of Iraq.

Gates said that about half of the soldiers kept in the Army under the stop-loss policy are noncommissioned officers who hold important leadership positions, at the rank of sergeant and above, and cannot easily be replaced.

"And so if you pull them, if they left a unit, it would leave a pretty gaping hole while still deployed," Gates said.

U.S. declines to help present nuclear deal to Iran

U.S. declines to help present nuclear deal to Iran

Sue Pleming

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World powers will in the coming days offer a revised package of incentives to Iran but Washington has refused to send its own envoy to help present the deal, diplomats and a U.S. official said Thursday.

Diplomats said the package, aimed at getting Iran to halt its nuclear work, could be delivered Friday or over the weekend, most likely in Tehran, by the European Union's foreign policy chief Javier Solana.

In a change from normal protocol, political directors from France, Britain, Russia and China -- permanent members of the U.N. Security Council -- as well as Germany plan to accompany Solana, diplomats said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

But the United States, which is involved with major powers in the negotiations, has made clear it will not join the mission to present the offer, which is expected to be given to Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki.

"We are not going to be going to Tehran. But, again, we're still working out some of the details with our partners in the process," said State Department spokesman Sean McCormack, when asked whether the United States would also deliver the deal.

The other major powers have argued that sending political directors from nations that deal with the Iranian nuclear file would add weight to the offer. Usually, Solana acts as the official go-between with Tehran.

But McCormack said the United States had made it very clear it would only sit down in direct talks with the Iranians over their nuclear program if Tehran gave up uranium enrichment and not before.

In Brussels, Solana's spokeswoman said she had no comment on Iran. A European Union diplomat said a "number of issues remained to be resolved" over how best to make contact with Iran.


Diplomats, who are reluctant to release details of the package until it has been seen by the Iranians, said it was broadly based on a 2006 offer but it was more specific in terms of civilian nuclear cooperation with Tehran.

"Exploring the civilian capacity and going a little bit beyond that is the most significant thing," said one diplomat, who like all others asked not to be identified and refused to provide specifics.

The June 2006 offer included civil nuclear cooperation and wider trade in civil aircraft, energy, high technology and agriculture, if Tehran suspended enrichment and negotiated with the six powers, including the United States.

Another diplomat, who also refused to be named because the issue was so sensitive, said the revised offer also made clear that major powers would recognize Iran's role in the region and offered some kind of regional security cooperation.

However, he said the new offer once again made clear that Iran must verifiably suspend enrichment.

"We have our red lines. They have to suspend enrichment," said the diplomat.

Iran said Monday it would not consider any incentives that violated its right to nuclear technology, ruling out a precondition to halt atomic work the West believes is aimed at making bombs.

Iran, the world's fourth largest oil producer, says its nuclear program is for peaceful power purposes. The enrichment process, if desired, can also be used to make material for nuclear bombs.

"If there really was good faith on the Iranians' part, would they be rejecting out of hand something they haven't seen yet?" asked McCormack.

Diplomats said a key concern was that the new offer should be made known to as many Iranians as possible and discussions were under way among major powers on how to do that.

The U.N. Security Council has already imposed sanctions on Iran three times for failing to give up sensitive nuclear work and Washington has said it will continue to pile on pressure until Tehran cooperates.