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Behind the Bushes




PROGRESS REPORT - Lobbyist Jack Abramoff's "house of cards" has taken a big hit. Michael Scanlon, former spokesman for Rep. Tom DeLay (R-TX) and lobbying colleague of Abramoff, was right in the middle of Abramoff's deck. Yesterday, Scanlon pleaded guilty to one count of federal "conspiracy with others to commit bribery, mail and wire fraud, and honest services fraud" to cheat Abramoff's Indian tribal clients out of millions of dollars. He now faces "a maximum of five years in prison, a $250,000 fine and repayment of $19.7 million to clients." But this case isn't going to end with Scanlon. Part of the plea deal is that he agrees to fully cooperate with Justice Department prosecutors. "What you're building is a ladder. You have Abramoff at the intermediate step, elected officials above him, and Scanlon. . . underneath," explained Stan Brand, former counsel to Congress. "He knows where all the bodies are buried," said a congressional aide who worked with Scanlon. Expect what Sen. Byron Dorgan (D-ND) called "a disgusting story of greed unlike any [other]" to further unfold in Scanlon's testimony.

Abramoff has already been indicted in Florida on unrelated fraud and conspiracy charges and "his day in court...[may] only [be] a matter of time." He and Scanlon worked very closely -- Abramoff at one point gushed to his colleague, "How can I say this strongly enough: You iz da man" -- and collected about $82 million from his tribal clients from 2000-2004. In a scheme the duo termed "gimme-five," Abramoff "would direct tribes to hire Scanlon's public relations firm without telling them Scanlon had agreed to kick back half of the profits to Abramoff." At one point, the two men bilked the Coushatta tribe out of $1 million for a "public affairs" strategy, but then rerouted the money to a charity Abramoff had founded, "which was paying to build a school for his children and give 'sniper training' courses in Israel." Throughout their swindles, Abramoff and Scanlon showed a wild arrogance and contempt for their clients. In e-mail exchanges between the two men, it is the junior partner who often displays his thirst for wealth. 'I want all their money!!!' [and] 'Weeez gonna be rich!!!'" wrote Scanlon. At another point, he referred to the clients as "monkeys" and "troglodytes."

"I think this has the potential to be the biggest scandal in Congress in over a century," said Thomas E. Mann of the Brookings Institution. Already in hot water is Rep. Bob Ney (R-OH), who has received a subpoena from the grand jury investigating Abramoff and was named as "Representative #1" in Scanlon's indictment. Abramoff and Scanlon provided Ney and his staff with a "lavish" Scotland golf trip, tickets to sporting events, expensive dinners, and political contributions. In return, Ney "agreed to 'support and pass legislation'" benefiting their clients. Sen. Conrad Burns (R-MT) also helped the Saginaw Chippewa Tribe of Michigan, one of Abramoff's clients, "win a $3 million government award." DeLay, who has been charged on money laundering and conspiracy in an unrelated Texas case, may soon face more trouble. "It's likely that Abramoff has lots of dirt on Tom DeLay," said Craig McDonald, director of Texans for Public Justice. DeLay traveled to Scotland on a trip paid for by Abramoff, an arrangement illegal by congressional rules, as well as on a trip in 1997 to Russia, "underwritten by business interests lobbying in support of the Russian government" and arranged by Abramoff.

David Safavian, former head of the powerful White House Office of Management and Budget, has already gone down as a result of the Abramoff scandals, arrested in September on charges of "lying and obstructing a criminal investigation" into Abramoff. Last week, the Senate Indian Affairs Committee heard testimony from Italia Federici, president of the Council of Republicans for Environmental Advocacy, about her "unspoken deal" with Abramoff. The lobbyist funneled nearly $500,000 in client money to CREA, and in return, Federici offered him access "to at least two of her close friends, [Secretary of the Interior Gale] Norton and Deputy Secretary J. Steven Griles." Former Christian Coalition director, Ralph Reed, received $10,000 for his campaign to be chair of the Georgia Republican party, paid for Abramoff's tribal clients, unbeknownst to those clients. Additionally, Abramoff actively sought out Reed's guidance "in disguising Indian tribal money sent to anti-gambling campaigns whose leaders were wary of accepting casino cash."


RICHARD SILVERSTEIN - If only Jack Abramoff had known the kid he beat up in high school was going to win a Pulitzer Prize and "out" him on This American Life. . . The victim in this case was Jonathan Gold, who won the Prize for his amazing food writing for the L.A. Times and L.A. Weekly. . . Gold [recounts] his humiliation at Abramoff's hands and the latter's pleasure in physical intimidation of his victims. . . The child was father to the man:

Ira Glass: Jonathan remembers him [Abramoff] as a glad-hander, someone who has lots of friends.

Gold: A jock, he hung out in the weight room. He squatted something over 500 lbs. when he was in high school. . . He was the sort of person who would walk across the street to be unpleasant to somebody or in my most notable instance I was walking down the hall to history class and he hip-checked me-I was carrying my cello-and I went sailing down the stairs with my cello. You'd be surprised how many times a cello and its case can bounce. It was a lot of money in repairs.

He was laughing about it to his friends. I suspect he forgot about it five minutes later. I didn't. . .



CHANAKYA SETHI, PRINCETONIAN - Near the end of his "Personal Qualifications Statement" for a high-level job in Ronald Reagan's Justice Department, Alito wrote that he was "a member of the Concerned Alumni of Princeton University, a conservative alumni group." Interviews with several alumni who were students in the 1970s paint a picture of Concerned Alumni of Princeton (as a far-right organization funded by conservative alumni committed to turning back the clock on coeducation at the University.) The group, which published a magazine in which students wrote nostalgically about the days before coeducation, was frowned upon by Nassau. . .

Marsha Levy-Warren '73, who was a member of the University's first coeducational class and student government vice president, [recalls that] "They stated explicitly that they were not in favor of coeducation and that they weren't in favor of affirmative action," Levy-Warren said. "Implicitly, they were opposed to any form of diversity on campus."

"Prospect" [magazine] was founded in October 1972 by the then-newly-formed CAP, which was co-chaired by Asa Bushnell '21 and Shelby Cullom Davis '30. The latter, who was the University's largest donor at the time, was a strong traditionalist, firmly opposed to the many of the new directions Princeton was taking, including coeducation. He wrote in "Prospect": "May I recall, and with some nostalgia, my father's 50th reunion, a body of men, relatively homogenous in interests and backgrounds, who had known and liked each other over the years during which they had contributed much in spirit and substance to the greatness of Princeton," according to an account in "The Chosen," a book by Jerome Karabel on the history of admissions at Harvard, Yale and Princeton. "I cannot envisage a similar happening in the future," Davis added, "with an undergraduate student population of approximately 40% women and minorities, such as the Administration has proposed."

The first issues of "Prospect" ostensibly did not receive a warm reception, particularly from Nassau Hall, which viewed the magazine and its group sponsor as a barrier to the progressive agenda of President William Bowen GS '58 and the University trustees. Princeton officials were quoted criticizing the publication in the 'Prince,' Princeton Alumni Weekly and The New York Times.

PROGRESS REPORT - The White House portrays Supreme Court nominee Samuel Alito's views as in the "mainstream." That claim is not supported by his judicial opinions or his activities prior to being nominated. In his 1985 application for a high-level job the Reagan administration, Alito touted his membership with "the Concerned Alumni of Princeton University." Alito joined Concerned Alumni at its founding in 1972. The organization, co-chaired in the beginning by Asa Bushnell and Shelby Cullom Davis, put forth a magazine called the "Prospect," espousing right-wing views against the inclusion of women, minorities, and other groups into Princeton. The New York Times notes, "The magazine's content also grew increasingly provocative under the editorship of conservative rising stars, including Dinesh D'Souza and later Laura Ingraham." The magazine was so extreme that a 1975 alumni panel including Sen. Bill Frist (R-TN) refused to support it, concluding "that Concerned Alumni had 'presented a distorted, narrow and hostile view of the university that cannot help but have misinformed and even alarmed many alumni' and 'undoubtedly generated adverse national publicity.'"

In 1973, the Concerned Alumni executive committee published a statement advocating exclusion of women in higher education: "Concerned Alumni of Princeton opposes adoption of a sex-blind admission policy." Also that year, Davis said he longed for the days when the university was "a body of men, relatively homogeneous in interests and backgrounds." The magazine concluded that the makeup of Princeton, which began admitting women in 1969, "has changed drastically for the worse." Diane Weeks '75, a former colleague of Alito's when he was U.S. Attorney General for New Jersey said, "I once joked to him [Alito] that he must be very disappointed that women were admitted to Princeton and he just didn't have a response."

Women were not the only group of people not welcomed by the Concerned Alumni group. A 1983 Prospect essay, "In Defense of Elitism," wrote, "People nowadays just don't seem to know their place. . . Everywhere one turns blacks and hispanics are demanding jobs simply because they're black and hispanic, the physically handicapped are trying to gain equal representation in professional sports, and homosexuals are demanding that government vouchsafe them the right to bear children." Another 1984 news item in the magazine, reacting to a gay student group's protest to being denied permission to hold a dance at a campus club, concluded, "Here at Princeton homosexuals are on the rampage." But Concerned Alumni did advocate quota systems so that student athletes and children of wealthy alumni continued to attend the university and that right-wing faculty members would populate the humanities and social sciences departments.


WILLIAM BLUM, ANTI-EMPIRE REPORT - The Supreme Court recently announced it will review a Pennsylvania case concerning prisons denying dangerous prisoners access to most reading material, television and radio. These prisoners are permitted to read only religious and legal materials and paperback books from the prison library. A three-judge federal appeals court that struck the policy down did so over the dissent of Judge Samuel A. Alito Jr., President Bush's nominee for the Supreme Court. "'On their face,' Alito wrote, 'these regulations are reasonably related to the legitimate penological goal of curbing prison misconduct' -- because prisoners would be deterred from misbehaving by the prospect of being sent to a place where they have to do without TV and magazines." Never mind Alito's views on abortion, civil liberties, or gay rights, which have preoccupied those evaluating his fitness for the high court. Consider the deep-seated, plain, simple meanness of the man in wishing to deprive prisoners mental stimulation through their long nights and years behind bars. Why doesn't he advocate that these prisoners be deprived of food? Surely that would be an even greater deterrent against misbehavior.




[Washington officials are adept at handling their lies when testifying before Congress, so it is both rare and refreshing to come across a prevaricator like John Bolton caught out, as in this case by sadly retiring Senator Paul Sarbanes]

ROBERT IAFOLLA, DAILY TROJAN, USC, CA, April 8 - Perhaps most troubling was the revelation that besides being an ideologue and a power-tripping bully, Bolton is - for lack of a more diplomatic word - a liar.

He displayed dishonesty that goes beyond unsubstantiated claims, such as his 2002 assertion that Cuba had biological weapons and provided them to "other rogue states." Bolton lied openly and oafishly to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, like a schoolboy explaining that a dog ate his homework.

In a portion of testimony reported by Martin Schram of the Scripps Howard News Service, Sen. Paul Sarbanes (D-Md.) asked Bolton about the Law of the Sea Treaty, which the United States has not yet signed, despite support from Condoleezza Rice, Sen. Dick Lugar (R-Ind.) and the Chief of Naval Operations, Adm. Vern Clark.

Bolton responded by saying that the administration currently supports the treaty, and he supports what the administration supports. When asked for a personal opinion, Bolton said he had never read the treaty.

"Well, now, in an article in a book entitled 'Understanding Unilateralism in American Foreign Relations,'" Sarbanes said, "you called the Law of the Sea Treaty 'not only undesirable as a policy, but also illegitimate methods of forcing fundamental policy changes on the United States outside the customary political process.'"

To this, Bolton backtracked and said that he had concerns in the '80s, but the Clinton administration fixed them in the '90s.

The catch is, as Sarbanes pointed out, Bolton wrote the article in 2000.

Of course, it's hardly front-page news that a politician lied. But Bolton's brazen mendacity differs from the skillful, subtle untruths usually uttered by our elected officials and bureaucrats.


And some of the answers he doesn't want to hear

The United Nations Charter defines the organization's most fundamental purpose as saving "succeeding generations from the scourge of war." Do you share this priority?

How do you propose to resolve armed conflicts raging in Colombia, Sudan, Congo, and other places where weapons sold by US arms dealers are the primary instruments of killing?

Do you believe that the United States is exempt from international law?

As Ambassador to the United Nations, what approach would you take to working with other countries to solve international problems?

Have you ever made false claims about a country possessing weapons of mass destruction?

The International Criminal Court is recognized around the world as a crucial instrument for pursuing international justice for grave human rights abuses, such as genocide. Yet you have always been vocally opposed to the Court. Why?

It is widely acknowledged that the UN has done more than any single government or international agency to promote global development, fight poverty, and stem the spread of AIDS and other preventable diseases. As the world's richest country, what role do you think the US should play in these efforts?

Do you concur with the UN Charter that "promoting and encouraging respect for human rights" is a fundamental priority of our time?

Do you believe that citizens should be prevented from having a voice at the United Nations, even when the UN is formulating policy that has a direct impact on their lives?

You have been called confrontational, ruthless, dogmatic, and the "anti-diplomat." Why do you think people say these things about you?



RUSS BAKER, REAL NEWS - When George W. Bush came to Washington, he appointed his close aide and campaign manager Joe Allbaugh to run FEMA. Allbaugh brought in as his first hire a little-known fellow Oklahoman named Michael Brown. He promoted Brown quickly to be his top assistant, then left the agency, making Brown the director. . . When Allbaugh brought Brown to Washington, he presented him as a lifelong associate of high character and substantial credentials. . . The truth, Real News has learned, is that the relationship between the two rests on a decades-long hidden partnership designed to advance both men's business and personal interests. By all appearances, that relationship drove Allbaugh's decision to ask Bush to let him run FEMA, and his decision to turn the place over to Brown so he could profit from their ties:

- Once in Washington, Allbaugh and Brown characterized themselves as long-time friends, and were content to leave the impression that they knew each other from college and Republican circles. But lifelong associates of both men say that is untrue. Indeed, the association between the two appears to have been a largely covert one, based less on selfless brotherhood than on mutual self-interest, as represented by a series of murky business ventures. . .

- Brown, who was brought into FEMA initially by Allbaugh to run the legal operation, has a history as a failed low-level lawyer, replete with discontented clients, unhappy employers and damaging lawsuits.

- Brown was fired from his longest-held position, his principal job preceding his hiring at FEMA, for obtaining a personal loan from a prominent horse owner under false pretenses. When an official of the horse association confronted him, Brown tried to make a deal with the man to make the matter go away. . .

-The hard-luck Brown has received multiple assists from well-connected Republicans. His long-time lawyer, who has helped him through scrape after scrape, is a friend of Clarence Thomas and former regional director of the influential and secretive Federalist Society.

- Brown and Allbaugh had apparently agreed on Brown's role in the Bush administration well in advance. For six months prior to Bush's election in 2000, Brown was telling incredulous associates that he expected to land a high position in Washington. . .

- Allbaugh has had extremely close ties with Vice President Cheney - including vetting Cheney for the vice presidency, buying his house, serving on Cheney's secretive energy task force, and then becoming a consultant to Cheney's former company, Halliburton.

- Under Allbaugh and Brown, FEMA changed the way in which the agency handled contracts, awarding them to numerous firms with political connections but little in the way of corporate infrastructure to handle the work. Some of these recipients were merely Enron-style shell corporations that subcontracted all the work to others, keeping a sizable share of the profits.

- When Allbaugh left FEMA, he immediately began setting up a network of lobbying interests to benefit from his connections. His clients were selected by FEMA under Brown, and by other agencies, for major contracts.


PROGRESS REPORT - [Michael] Brown made a number of statements in his testimony yesterday that conflicted with previous statements he had given. For instance, Brown said that FEMA was stretched beyond its capabilities because, "over the past few years, [the agency] has lost a lot of manpower." But in September 2004, CNN's Wolf Blitzer asked Brown whether his agency was prepared to deal with hurricanes hitting Florida. Brown said, "We absolutely are. We have all the manpower and resources we need. President Bush has been a very great supporter of FEMA." Also, Brown defiantly stated, "FEMA doesn't evacuate communities." But in the midst of the hurricane aftermath, Brown said on CNN that FEMA was conducting "rescue missions" and would "continue to evacuate all of the hospitals." Furthermore, Brown said FEMA suffered "emaciation" because anti-terror operations had become a priority for the administration. But on CNN (8/16/04), Brown said, FEMA had "proven [in Florida] that we're up to the task" of responding to both terrorism and natural disasters.

Under questioning by Rep. Steve Buyer (R-IN), Brown suggested that Louisiana Gov. Kathleen Blanco (D) had failed to issue an emergency assistance declaration for Orleans Parish, which includes New Orleans. Buyer asked, "Since you went through the exercise in Pam, was that not shocking to you that the governor would have excluded New Orleans from the declaration?" Brown said, "Yes," and that FEMA had questioned Blanco's decision. But Blanco's emergency declaration on August 27 was for all "affected areas" in "southeastern parishes including the New Orleans Metropolitan area."

From the beginning of the hearing, Brown was on the defensive about his lack of credentials for the FEMA director position. Brown blasted a blog site called for spreading "defamatory statements" about him. But Brown confirmed that much of his experience in disaster preparedness came as "an intern while [he] was in undergraduate school in the city of Edmond, Oklahoma" and as "an assistant to the city manager," not the "Assistant City Manager" he claimed to be on his official biography on FEMA's website. Under questioning by Rep. Chris Shays (R-CT), Brown said he coordinated the evacuation of New Orleans merely by "urging the governor and the mayor to order the mandatory evacuation." When Shays suggested that was not enough, Brown asked, "What would you like for me to do, Congressman?" Perhaps Brown should have read his boss's disaster declaration statement. Bush issued an order on August 27 that authorized FEMA to "identify, mobilize, and provide at its discretion, equipment and resources necessary to alleviate the impacts of the emergency."

TIME - Before joining FEMA, [Michael Brown's] only previous stint in emergency management, according to his bio posted on FEMA's website, was "serving as an assistant city manager with emergency services oversight." The White House press release from 2001 stated that Brown worked for the city of Edmond, Okla., from 1975 to 1978 "overseeing the emergency services division." In fact, according to Claudia Deakins, head of public relations for the city of Edmond, Brown was an "assistant to the city manager" from 1977 to 1980, not a manager himself, and had no authority over other employees. "The assistant is more like an intern," she told TIME. "Department heads did not report to him." Brown did do a good job at his humble position, however, according to his boss. "Yes. Mike Brown worked for me. He was my administrative assistant. He was a student at Central State University," recalls former city manager Bill Dashner. "Mike used to handle a lot of details. Every now and again I'd ask him to write me a speech. He was very loyal. He was always on time. He always had on a suit and a starched white shirt.",8599,1103003,00.html



CRAIG COX, UTNE - Margie Burns reports in The American Reporter, an electronic daily newspaper, Marvin P. Bush, the president's younger brother, was a principal in a company called Securacom that provided security for the World Trade Center, United Airlines, and Dulles International Airport. The company, Burns noted, was backed by Kuwam, a Kuwaiti-American investment firm on whose board Marvin Burns also served.

Securacom has since changed its name to Stratesec, but is still backed by Kuwam. Marvin Bush, who did not respond to repeated interview requests from The American Reporter, is no longer on the board of either company and has not been linked with any terrorist activities.

According to Wayne Black, head of a Florida-based security firm, it is somewhat unusual for a single firm to handle security for both an airline and a airport. It's also unusual for a firm linked so closely with a foreign-owned company to handle security on such a "sensitive" international airport as Dulles. "When you have a security contract, you know the inner workings of everything," he said. "Somebody knew somebody," he added, or the contract would have been scrutinized more carefully.

Marvin Bush's alleged connections to these companies may shed new light on the Bush administration's determination in the days after 9/11 to push legislation protecting foreign-owned security companies in the Homeland Security bill. These and other issues will be taken up this week, when Roemer and his colleagues convene the commission's first meeting.






BUSINESS WEEK - Across the country, some teachers complain that President George W. Bush's makeover of public education promotes "teaching to the test." The President's younger brother Neil takes a different tack: He's selling to the test. The No Child Left Behind Act compels schools to prove students' mastery of certain facts by means of standardized exams. Pressure to perform has energized the $1.9 billion-a-year instructional software industry.

Now, after five years of development and backing by investors like Saudi Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal and onetime junk-bond king Michael R. Milken, Neil Bush aims to roll his high-tech teacher's helpers into classrooms nationwide. He calls them "curriculum on wheels," or COWs. The $3,800 purple plug-and-play computer/projectors display lively videos and cartoons: the XYZ Affair of the late 1790s as operetta, the 1828 Tariff of Abominations as horror flick. The device plays songs that are supposed to aid the memorization of the 22 rivers of Texas or other facts that might crop up in state tests of "essential knowledge." Bush's Ignite! Inc. has sold 1,700 COWs since 2005, mainly in Texas, where Bush lives and his brother was once governor. In August, Houston's school board authorized expenditures of up to $200,000 for COWs. . .


WALTER F. ROCHE JR, COMMON DREAMS - With investments from his parents, George H.W. and Barbara Bush, and other backers, Neil Bush's company, Ignite Learning, has placed its products in 40 U.S. school districts and now plans to market internationally. At least 13 U.S. school districts have used federal funds available through the president's signature education reform, the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001, to buy Ignite's portable learning centers at $3,800 apiece.

The law provides federal funds to help school districts better serve disadvantaged students and improve their performance, especially in reading and math. But Ignite does not offer reading instruction, and its math program will not be available until next year.

The federal Department of Education does not monitor individual school district expenditures under the No Child program, but sets guidelines that the states are expected to enforce, spokesman Chad Colby said. Ignite executive Tom Deliganis said that "some districts seem to feel OK" about using No Child money for the Ignite purchases, "and others do not.". . .


BILL BERKOWITZ, INTER PRESS SERVICE - Over the past six months, Neil Bush has been shepherded around several former Soviet republics by a man wanted for fraud by Russian authorities, and has showed up in the Philippines and Taiwan at the side of a self-styled messiah.

If people know anything at all about the star-crossed Neil Bush, it likely relates to either his role in the failed Silverado Savings and Loan scandal during the 1980s, which cost taxpayers more than one billion dollars, or, more recently, the lurid details of his divorce from his wife of 23 years.

After a brief hiatus from the public spotlight, Neil Bush is back. Within a three-month period, Bush has shown up in Latvia, Ukraine and Georgia with Russian fugitive Boris Berezovsky, and has appeared at the side of the Unification Church's Rev. Sun Myung Moon in Taiwan and the Philippines. . .

Bush and Berezovsky, who currently lives in London where he has received political asylum, were toodling around the former Soviet republics to promote Ignite! Learning, the Texas-based interactive education software company Bush founded in 1999.

Berezovsky took Bush "on a tour of countries from the former Soviet Union that have spun out of Moscow's sphere of influence", the St. Petersburg Times reported. In June, it was Ukraine, then Georgia, "where Berezovsky's longtime partner and Tbilisi power broker Badri Patarkatsishvili was on hand to wine and dine the U.S. president's brother".

The Russian newspaper also pointed out that the U.S. Embassy in Moscow had disavowed any knowledge of Bush's activities, while the State Department denied any "involvement in, or any role in arranging, the activities of these two private individuals in Riga".

More recently, Bush showed up in the Philippines and Taiwan at the side of the Reverend Sun Myung Moon, the head of the controversial Unification Church. In the Philippines, Bush attended the inaugural convocation of the Universal Peace Federation in Manila, the Manila Bulletin reported.

Bush, along with other "peace leaders", joined with Moon in meeting with Philippine President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo. The president "praised Moon for his global peace efforts and God-centered, family-centered economic and social initiatives in various parts of the world, including projects in a number of Philippine cities", the Manila paper reported.



STEPHEN FIDLER AND THOMAS CATÁN, FINANCIAL TIMES - Neil Bush, a younger brother of US President George W. Bush, has had a $60,000-a-year employment contract with a top adviser to a Washington-based consulting firm set up this year to help companies secure contracts in Iraq. Neil Bush disclosed the payments during divorce proceedings in March from his now ex-wife, Sharon. The divorce was finalized in April and the court papers were disclosed by the Houston Chronicle this week.

Mr Bush said he was co-chairman of Crest Investment Corporation, a company based in Houston, Texas, that invests in energy and other ventures. For this he received $15,000 every three months for working an average three or four hours a week. The other co-chairman and principal of Crest is Jamal Daniel, a Syrian-American who is an advisory board member of New Bridge Strategies, a company set up this year by a group of businessmen with close links to the Bush family or administrations. Its chairman is Joe Allbaugh, George W. Bush's campaign director in the 2000 presidential elections.


RICK CASEY, HOUSTON CHRONICLE - Maybe the president of Taiwan did pay presidential younger brother Neil Bush a million bucks for a recent 30-minute meeting in New York. I expressed skepticism in a recent column, but that was before I saw Exhibit 24 in the files of Bush's contentious divorce. I didn't realize Bush's advice was so valuable. The exhibit is a two-page contract between Bush and Grace Semiconductor Manufacturing Co., which recently opened a $1.6 billion computer chip production plant in Shanghai. The co-founder and CEO is Winston Wong, son of a wealthy Taiwanese plastics magnate. The contract bears Wong's and Bush's signatures. Under the contract Bush has two duties: · "To provide GSMC from time to time with business strategies and policies; latest information and trends of the related industry, and other expertized advices (sic).". . . "To attend Directors Board Meetings."

HARVEY RICE, HOUSTON CHRONICLE - President Bush's brother Neil provided a tissue sample Friday that will be used to determine whether he fathered a child by his girlfriend while she was still married to another man. He hopes the results will settle a paternity question that is at the core of an $850,000 defamation lawsuit against his ex-wife, according to a statement issued by his attorney, John Spalding. "Neil has nothing to hide and is not the father of the child," Spalding said. The blood test will be used to settle a paternity question raised in the defamation lawsuit filed by Robert Andrews against Bush's ex-wife, Sharon Bush. Andrews is the ex-husband of Maria Andrews, Bush's girlfriend and the mother of a 2-year-old boy whose paternity is in question.

LLOYD GROVE, WASH POST - Last summer, when presidential brother Neil Bush informed his wife of 23 years that he wanted a divorce, he did it by e-mail. When a distraught Sharon Bush phoned her mother-in-law to commiserate about the 48-year-old Neil, Barbara Bush told her coolly, "That's between you and Neilsie."

And when the 50-year-old Sharon met with author Julie McCarron in Houston on April 14 to explore writing a memoir of her life in America's premier political dynasty, they ran into Neil's 40-year-old mistress, Houston socialite Maria Andrews, at a popular restaurant called the Grotto.

"This was very upsetting to Sharon," McCarron wrote in a private memo containing these and other details of their day-long session. Writing to Los Angeles-based entertainment entrepreneur Michael Viner, who withdrew last week from a $200,000-plus deal to publish Sharon's book, "Family First," McCarron noted that "the hostess tried to seat us at the table right next to the one occupied by" Andrews. "We left and went to another restaurant," McCarron hardly needed to add.

Yesterday we confirmed the facts in the memo, which was provided to us after the book deal collapsed. . .MORE

|| MICHAEL ISIKOFF, NEWSWEEK - What was Neil Bush doing in Jidda, Saudi Arabia, last week? Officially, the president's youngest brother was a keynote speaker at an international business forum. . . Newsweek has learned the presidential sibling also had another agenda: recruiting Middle East investors for an educational-software firm that, industry sources say, may benefit enormously from the new $26.5 billion education bill signed by President George W. Bush. Neil Bush's Austin-based firm, called Ignite, has raised about $18 million since last year, mostly from foreign investors in Japan, Taiwan and the Middle East, said Ignite exec Kenneth Leonard. The company is exploring joint ventures with computer software firms in Dubai and is seeking contracts with the United Arab Emirates' Ministry of Education and other foreign governments, said Leonard, who has accompanied Bush on three trips to the Mideast since George W became president.

Neil Bush's business career has created problems for his family in the past. In 1990, while his father was president, he was reprimanded by federal regulators for his role as a director of the failed Silverado Savings & Loan. Bush told Newsweek he has avoided contacting U.S. officials during his recent travels and said there was nothing improper about his seeking business from foreign governments. . . Bush also said he doesn't talk to the White House about Ignite. "I don't get permission from my brother to do business." But some rivals say Bush's role in Ignite could help the firm cash in on a booming new market in "digital learning"-in part due to a fresh infusion of funds for school districts from his brother's education bill. Ignite recently began marketing its first product-an American-history software program-to local school officials. "There's only about four or five [educational-software] firms in a position to take advantage of all this new money, and Neil Bush's company is one of them," said a rival. MORE 2/02




Since the White House won't explain and the archaic media won't investigate, others are left to speculate on the origins and meaning of George Bush's mysterious bulge. Here's an interesting hypothesis: it's a wearable defibrillator. Remember we don't create theories; we only report them.


FAIR - Five days before the presidential election, the New York Times killed a story about the mysterious object George W. Bush wore on his back during the presidential debates, journalist Dave Lindorff reveals in an exclusive report on this week's Counter Spin, FAIR's weekly radio show. The spiked story included photographic and scientific evidence that would have contradicted Bush's claim that the bulge on his back was just a matter of poor tailoring.

"The New York Times assigned three editors to this story and had it scheduled to run five days before the election, which would have raised questions about the president's integrity," said Lindorff. "But it was killed by top editors at the Times; clearly they were chickening out of taking this on before the election."

Lindorff says two other major newspapers, the Washington Post and the Los Angeles Times, also decided not to pursue the story, which featured a leading NASA satellite photo imaging scientist's analysis of pictures of the president's back from the first debate.

The Times' bulge story is the latest example of possible self-censorship by major news media during the election campaign. In September, CBS's 60 Minutes decided to delay until after the election an investigative segment that questioned the Bush administration's use of forged Niger uranium documents in making its case for the Iraq war, saying that "it would be inappropriate to air the report so close to the presidential election"

And on September 10, CNN reporter Nic Robertson said of a CNN documentary on Saudi Arabia, "I don't want to prejudge our executives here at CNN... but I think we can be looking forward to [it] shortly after the U.S. elections." The segment is now scheduled to air this Sunday, five days after the election.


DAN FROOMKIN, WASHINGTON POST - Well, someone finally wasn't afraid to ask President Bush about the bulge. But if you were hoping for resolution, no such luck. . . This morning, in part two of his interview with Bush on ABC's "Good Morning America," Charlie Gibson spit it out. Brandishing a copy of the photo, he asked: "Final question. What the hell was that on your back, in the first debate?"

Bush chuckled.

Bush: "Well, you know, Karen Hughes and Dan Bartlett have rigged up a sound system -- "

Gibson: "You're getting in trouble -- "

Bush: "I don't know what that is. I mean, it is, uh, it is, it's a -- I'm embarrassed to say it's a poorly tailored shirt."

Gibson: "It was the shirt?"

Bush: "Yeah, absolutely."

Gibson: "There was no sound system, there was no electrical signal? There was --"

Bush: "How does an electrical -- please explain to me how it works so maybe if I were ever to debate again I could figure it out. I guess the assumption was that if I was straying off course they would, kind of like a hunting dog, they would punch a buzzer and I would jerk back into place. I -- it's just absurd."

So it's the shirt? Sure doesn't look like a shirt -10/04


KEVIN BERGER, SALON - George W. Bush tried to laugh off the bulge. "I don't know what that is," he said on "Good Morning America" on Wednesday, referring to the infamous protrusion beneath his jacket during the presidential debates. "I'm embarrassed to say it's a poorly tailored shirt."

Dr. Robert M. Nelson, however, was not laughing. He knew the president was not telling the truth. And Nelson is neither conspiracy theorist nor midnight blogger. He's a senior research scientist for NASA and for Caltech's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, and an international authority on image analysis. Currently he's engrossed in analyzing digital photos of Saturn's moon Titan, determining its shape, whether it contains craters or canyons. For the past week, while at home, using his own computers, and off the clock at Caltech and NASA, Nelson has been analyzing images of the president's back during the debates. A professional physicist and photo analyst for more than 30 years, he speaks earnestly and thoughtfully about his subject. "I am willing to stake my scientific reputation to the statement that Bush was wearing something under his jacket during the debate," he says. "This is not about a bad suit. And there's no way the bulge can be described as a wrinkled shirt.". . . Nelson stresses that he's not certain what lies beneath the president's jacket. He offers, though, "that it could be some type of electronic device -- it's consistent with the appearance of an electronic device worn in that manner." - 10/4


ANEMONA HARTOCOLLIS, NY TIMES: Lynne Cheney, wife of the vice president, has challenged Judith A. Rizzo, deputy chancellor for instruction in New York City schools, on what should be taught in the wake of the Sept. 11 attacks, though Dr. Rizzo said her original remarks were misinterpreted. A Sept. 30 article in The Washington Post quoted Dr. Rizzo as saying: "Those people who said we don't need multiculturalism, that it's too touchy-feely, a pox on them. I think they've learned their lesson. We have to do more to teach habits of tolerance, knowledge and awareness of other cultures." In response, Mrs. Cheney, in a speech to the Dallas Institute of Humanities and Culture, said that the argument that it had now become more important to teach multiculturalism implied that "it was our failure to understand Islam that led to so many deaths and so much destruction." Mrs. Cheney said that while it was important to teach about world cultures, she would urge schools to put added emphasis on American history. She cited a survey of 55 colleges that found American history was not a required course.




BEV HARRIS, BLACK BOX VOTING - Gates was on the board of directors of Vote Here, a strange little company that was the biggest elections industry lobbyist for the Help America Vote Act. Vote Here spent more money than ES&S, Diebold, and Sequoia combined to help ram HAVA through. And HAVA, of course, was a bill sponsored by by convicted Abramoff pal Bob Ney and K-street lobbyist buddy Steny Hoyer. HAVA put electronic voting on steroids.

Vote Here was a company shilling cryptographic solutions and filled with NSA types (another director was Admiral Bill Owens, another crony of Rummy, Perle and Wolfowitz. . .

For some reason, it was decided that I should be investigated in connection with [a reported] "hack" of Vote Here -- never mind that I can't remember how to change the password on my own laptop. Therefore I was interviewed by the Secret Service several times about this. Curiously, they never seemed to ask any questions about Vote Here, only my role in finding the Diebold files and publishing the Diebold memos.

This nonsense eventually culminated in a gag order and a letter from the U.S. Attorney to appear in front of a federal grand jury with information on all the visitors to the Black Box Voting Web site. . .

Attorney Lowell Finley went to bat for me on this. A reporter named George Howland from the Seattle Weekly also got wind of it. When it hit the press, and with Lowell Finley's help, their harassment of me stopped.

Vote Here never sold any voting machines that I can find, but apparently did set up some deals to embed its cryptography into some voting systems. We found memos in the Diebold trash about Vote Here's crypto-crap, and Maryland Director of Elections Linda Lamone shows up in Vote Here-related letters. Sequoia Voting Systems signed an agreement with Vote Here, but it's not clear to me whether they ever did anything about it. . .

I don't know about you, but I'd rather use a paper, pencil, and count by hand at the polling place than have former CIA director Robert Gates fooling around with my vote. But that's just me.


[Interview with former US National Security Adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski by Le Nouvel Observateur in 1998]

Question: The former director of the CIA, Robert Gates, stated in his memoirs ["From the Shadows"], that American intelligence services began to aid the Mujahadeen in Afghanistan 6 months before the Soviet intervention. In this period you were the national security adviser to President Carter. You therefore played a role in this affair. Is that correct?

Brzezinski: Yes. According to the official version of history, CIA aid to the Mujahadeen began during 1980, that is to say, after the Soviet army invaded Afghanistan, 24 Dec 1979. But the reality, secretly guarded until now, is completely otherwise Indeed, it was July 3, 1979 that President Carter signed the first directive for secret aid to the opponents of the pro-Soviet regime in Kabul. And that very day, I wrote a note to the president in which I explained to him that in my opinion this aid was going to induce a Soviet military intervention.

Q: Despite this risk, you were an advocate of this covert action. But perhaps you yourself desired this Soviet entry into war and looked to provoke it?

B: It isn't quite that. We didn't push the Russians to intervene, but we knowingly increased the probability that they would.

Q: When the Soviets justified their intervention by asserting that they intended to fight against a secret involvement of the United States in Afghanistan, people didn't believe them. However, there was a basis of truth. You don't regret anything today?

B: Regret what? That secret operation was an excellent idea. It had the effect of drawing the Russians into the Afghan trap and you want me to regret it? The day that the Soviets officially crossed the border, I wrote to President Carter. We now have the opportunity of giving to the USSR its Vietnam war. Indeed, for almost 10 years, Moscow had to carry on a war unsupportable by the government, a conflict that brought about the demoralization and finally the breakup of the Soviet empire.

Q: And neither do you regret having supported the Islamic fundamentalism, having given arms and advice to future terrorists?

B: What is most important to the history of the world? The Taliban or the collapse of the Soviet empire? Some stirred-up Moslems or the liberation of Central Europe and the end of the cold war?

Some stirred-up Moslems? But it has been said and repeated Islamic fundamentalism represents a world menace today.
B: Nonsense! It is said that the West had a global policy in regard to Islam. That is stupid. There isn't a global Islam. Look at Islam in a rational manner and without demagoguery or emotion. It is the leading religion of the world with 1.5 billion followers. But what is there in common among Saudi Arabian fundamentalism, moderate Morocco, Pakistan militarism, Egyptian pro-Western or Central Asian secularism? Nothing more than what unites the Christian countries.
Translated from the French by Bill Blum


JAMES RIDGWAY, MOTHER JONES - While Donald Rumsfeld was Ronald Reagan's errand boy to Saddam Hussein in the mid-1980s, Robert Gates, the man named to succeed him as Secretary of Defense, was at the very heart of the American intelligence apparatus, actively planning and carrying out covert operations in Central America and the Middle East.

Gates, a 26-year CIA veteran and the agency's director between 1991 and 1993, has long been accused of undermining competent, unbiased intelligence analysis at the agency during his tenure, opening the way for its role in partisan politics, a reality brought to the fore again as the Bush administration made its flawed and phony case for war with Iraq. Gates was a high official at the CIA at a time when the U.S. intelligence community experienced one of its most humiliating debacles: the failure to predict the disintegration of the Soviet Union. Instead, under CIA director William Casey the U.S. concocted evidence showing the expansion of Reagan's "evil empire."

On December 14, 1984, in a five page memorandum for then Director of Intelligence Casey, Gates, then serving as deputy director of intelligence, set forth his views: "It is time to talk absolutely straight about Nicaragua," the memo begins. "The Nicaraguan regime is steadily moving toward consolidation of a Marxist-Leninist government, and the establishment of a permanent and well-armed ally of the Soviet Union and Cuba on the mainland of the western hemisphere. Its avowed aim is to spread further revolution in the Americas." Gates goes on to say this is an "unacceptable" course, arguing that the U.S. should do everything "in its power short of invasion to put that regime out.". . .

Nicaragua wasn't the only place Gates wanted to take action. In 1985, sounding very much like one of today's neoconservative hawks, the then head of intelligence analysis at the CIA drafted a plan for a joint U.S.-Egyptian military operation to invade Libya, overthrow Col. Muamar Ghaddafi, and "redraw the map of North Africa." . . .

According to Robert Parry, a reporter who has closely tracked this period in the CIA's history, during this time the Reagan administration was "pressing the CIA to adopt an analysis that accepted right-wing media reports pinning European terrorism on the Soviets. . . "In 1985, Gates closeted a special team to push through another pre-cooked paper arguing that the KGB was behind the 1981 wounding of Pope John Paul II. CIA analysts again knew that the charge was bogus, but could not block the paper from leaving CIA.". . .

In his book, "Firewall: The Iran/Contra conspiracy and Cover-Up," Lawrence E. Walsh, the independent counsel in the Iran-Contra investigation, wrote that he was skeptical of Gates' repeated denials of having been aware or involved with the details of the Iran-Contra operations with Oliver North. . . In blunt terms, Walsh thought Gates was a liar. It was only for a lack of evidence that he eventually gave up trying to indict him.

NY TIMES, 1991 - David Boren, the [Senate Intelligence] committee chairman, commends Mr. Gates for forthrightness. Yet he overlooks occasions when Mr. Gates helped skew intelligence assessments and was demonstrably blind to illegality. The illegality concerns the Iran-contra scandal. Mr. Gates contends he was 'out of the loop' on decisions about what to tell Congress. And he defends his professed ignorance on grounds of deniability--that he was shielding the C.I.A. from involvement. These contentions defy belief.

The testimony of other puts Mr. Gates, on at least two occasions, very much in the loop. He supervised preparation of Director William Casey's deceitful testimony to Congress about the scandal. And one C.I.A. analyst, Charles Allen, says he informed Mr. Gates, before it came to light, of three unforgettable details: Oliver North's involvement, the markup of prices of arms sold surreptitiously to Iran, and diversion of the proceeds into a fund for covert operations. In a telling lapse of his reputedly formidable memory, Mr. Gates could not recall the details when Congress asked two months later.

The second criterion concerns intelligence estimates. Incorrect forecasting should not be disqualifying; estimates can be wrong for the right reasons of political expediency, that's `cooking the books.'

The hearings have documented at least three cases of such slanting: a May 1985 estimate on Iran, estimates of Soviet influence in the third world, and assessments of Soviet complicity in the assassination attempt on Pope John Paul II. . .



ROBERT PARRY, BALTIMORE CHRONICLE - In one of the most chilling public statements ever made by a U.S. Attorney General, Alberto Gonzales questioned whether the U.S. Constitution grants habeas corpus rights of a fair trial to every American. Responding to questions from Sen. Arlen Specter at a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on Jan. 18, Gonzales argued that the Constitution doesn't explicitly bestow habeas corpus rights; it merely says when the so-called Great Writ can be suspended.

"There is no expressed grant of habeas in the Constitution; there's a prohibition against taking it away," Gonzales said.

Gonzales's remark left Specter, the committee's ranking Republican, stammering. "Wait a minute," Specter interjected. "The Constitution says you can't take it away except in case of rebellion or invasion. Doesn't that mean you have the right of habeas corpus unless there's a rebellion or invasion?"

Gonzales continued, "The Constitution doesn't say every individual in the United States or citizen is hereby granted or assured the right of habeas corpus. It doesn't say that. It simply says the right shall not be suspended" except in cases of rebellion or invasion."

"You may be treading on your interdiction of violating common sense," Specter said.

While Gonzales's statement has a measure of quibbling precision to it, his logic is troubling because it would suggest that many other fundamental rights that Americans hold dear also don't exist because the Constitution often spells out those rights in the negative.

For instance, the First Amendment declares that "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press, or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances."

Applying Gonzales's reasoning, one could argue that the First Amendment doesn't explicitly say Americans have the right to worship as they choose, speak as they wish or assemble peacefully. Applying Gonzales's reasoning, one could argue that the First Amendment doesn't explicitly say Americans have the right to worship as they choose, speak as they wish or assemble peacefully. The amendment simply bars the government, i.e. Congress, from passing laws that would impinge on these rights.


[From Senate Judiciary Committee hearing]

Specter: Now wait a minute, wait a minute. The Constitution says you can't take it away except in the case of invasion or rebellion. Doesn't that mean you have the right of habeas corpus?

Gonzales: I meant by that comment that the Constitution doesn't say that every individual in the United States or every citizen has or is assured the right of habeas corpus. It doesn't say that. It simply says that the right of habeas corpus shall not be suspended.


THINK PROGRESS - on CNN's Situation Room, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales was asked if he could think of a single mistake he's made during his service to President Bush during the last six years. He couldn't do it.

Gonzales told Wolf Blitzer, "I think that you and I would - I'd have to spend some time thinking about that." He added, "Obviously I've made some recommendations to my client. Some of those recommendations have not been supported in the courts. In hindsight, you sometimes wonder, well, perhaps, perhaps the recommendation should have been something different."


Refuses to say whether Bush has authorized spying on domestic calls, e-mails and letters or has approved warrentless searchs of Americans' homes and offices

DANA MILBANK, WASHINGTON POST - Gonzales offered the legislative branch little deference yesterday, and certainly no apology for the administration's decision not to seek congressional approval for its surveillance program. "The short answer is that we didn't think we needed to, quite frankly," he declared in a typical exchange.

When did the administration decide it had the authority? "I'm not going to give an exact date," he said.

What does the administration do with the information it collects? "I can't talk about specifics."

Is the information used to obtain search warrants? "I am uncomfortable talking in great detail."

More interesting than what the attorney general said was what he would not say. Has President Bush, invoking his "inherent powers" under the Constitution, also authorized warrantless eavesdropping on domestic calls, opening of Americans' mail and e-mail, and searches of their homes and offices?

"I am not comfortable going down the road of saying yes or no as to what the president has or has not authorized," Gonzales, shifting frequently in his chair, informed the senators. . .


In laying out his agenda for the Justice Department, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales declared the aggressive prosecution of obscenity cases as one of his top priorities and stated "obscene materials are not protected by the First Amendment." Similar to his predecessor John Ashcroft - under his purview, the DOJ spent thousands of dollars to cover up Justice - Gonzales is determined to impose a moral cleansing that has left people questioning the government rather than the so-called violators. In response to the Bush administration-backed House measure approving a significant increase in the maximum FCC fine to $500,000, Rep. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) said that the real victims of such legislation were "free expression and First Amendment rights," declaring that passage of the bill would "make America a less free society."


MICHAEL ISIKOFF, NEWSWEEK - Just two weeks after the September 11 attacks, a secret memo to White House counsel Alberto Gonzales' office concluded that President Bush had the power to deploy military force "preemptively" against any terrorist groups or countries that supported them - regardless of whether they had any connection to the attacks on the World Trade Towers or the Pentagon. The memo, written by Justice Department lawyer John Yoo, argues that there are effectively "no limits" on the president's authority to wage war - a sweeping assertion of executive power that some constitutional scholars say goes considerably beyond any that had previously been articulated by the department.

The existence of the memo, titled "The President's Constitutional Authority to Conduct Military Operations against Terrorists and Nations Supporting Them," was first reported by Newsweek in the fall of 2001. But its contents - including the conclusion that Bush could order attacks against countries unrelated to the 9/11 attacks - were not publicly available until late this week when, with no notice to the public or the news media, the memo was posted on an obscure portion of the Web site of the Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel.

In a footnote that explains why such broad war-making authority is needed, the memo argues that terrorist groups and their state sponsors "operate by secrecy and concealment" and it is therefore difficult to establish, the standards of criminal law, what groups are behind particular terrorist attacks. Moreover, "it may be impossible" for the president to disclose such evidence even if he has it without compromising classified methods and sources.

But the memo concludes that this should not in any way restrict the president from ordering whatever military actions "in his best judgment" he believes are necessary to protect the country. In the exercise of his power to use military force, "the president's decisions are for him alone and are unreviewable."


WASHINGTON POST EDITORIAL - The concerns about Mr. Gonzales begin with his having urged Mr. Bush to deny that the Geneva Conventions apply in Afghanistan. The "new paradigm" of the war on terrorism, reads a January 2002 draft memorandum written in his name, "renders obsolete Geneva's strict limitations on questioning of enemy prisoners." . . . And while Mr. Bush eventually declared that the conventions did apply, he followed Mr. Gonzales's advice not to fully comply with them. Rather, he took the unnecessary step of declaring all detainees "unlawful combatants," and therefore beyond the conventions' protection, without complying with the process international law contemplates for that judgment. This move proved fateful when the headquarters of Lt. Gen. Ricardo S. Sanchez, citing the president's position on "unlawful combatants," approved such interrogation techniques in Iraq as hooding, forcing prisoners into "stress positions" and menacing detainees with dogs.

Mr. Gonzales commissioned the now-infamous torture memorandum from the Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel. The memo followed a meeting in his office regarding the interrogation of a key al Qaeda detainee, in which participants discussed such methods as "waterboarding," mock burial and slapping.

Mr. Gonzales played a key role in the formation of military commissions, a system that, three years after detainees began arriving at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, has yet to produce a single trial. The military commissions are now the subject of litigation, with one judge having already declared them illegal. . .

Across a range of areas, in short, Mr. Gonzales appears to have given the president legal advice that may have empowered him in the short term -- to lock up people he deemed dangerous, to try detainees using a system untested for decades, even to torture -- but that have a great disservice to the president and the country in the long run. . .

When Mr. Bush was governor of Texas, Mr. Gonzales as his chief counsel gave him only the most cursory briefings on upcoming executions, omitting important facts and mitigating circumstances. . .


ALAN BERLOW, ATLANTIC MONTHLY, JULY-AUG 2003 - On the morning of May 6, 1997, Governor George W. Bush signed his name to a confidential three-page memorandum from his legal counsel, Alberto R. Gonzales, and placed a bold black check mark next to a single word: DENY. It was the twenty-ninth time a death-row inmate's plea for clemency had been denied in the twenty-eight months since Bush had been sworn in. In this case Bush's signature led, shortly after 6:00 P.M. on the very same day, to the execution of Terry Washington, a mentally retarded thirty-three-year-old man with the communication skills of a seven-year-old. . .

During Bush's six years as governor 150 men and two women were executed in Texas-a record unmatched by any other governor in modern American history. Each time a person was sentenced to death, Bush received from his legal counsel a document summarizing the facts of the case, usually on the morning of the day scheduled for the execution, and was then briefed on those facts by his counsel; based on this information Bush allowed the execution to proceed in all cases but one. The first fifty-seven of these summaries were prepared by Gonzales, a Harvard-educated lawyer who went on to become the Texas secretary of state and a justice on the Texas supreme court. He is now the White House counsel.

Gonzales never intended his summaries to be made public. Almost all are marked CONFIDENTIAL and state, "The privileges claimed include, but are not limited to, claims of Attorney-Client Privilege, Attorney Work-Product Privilege, and the Internal Memorandum exception to the Texas Public Information Act." I obtained the summaries and related documents, which have never been published, after the Texas attorney general ruled that they were not exempt from the disclosure requirements of the Public Information Act.

Gonzales's summaries were Bush's primary source of information in deciding whether someone would live or die. Each is only three to seven pages long and generally consists of little more than a brief description of the crime, a paragraph or two on the defendant's personal background, and a condensed legal history. Although the summaries rarely make a recommendation for or against execution, many have a clear prosecutorial bias, and all seem to assume that if an appeals court rejected one or another of a defendant's claims, there is no conceivable rationale for the governor to revisit that claim. This assumption ignores one of the most basic reasons for clemency: the fact that the justice system makes mistakes.

A close examination of the Gonzales memoranda suggests that Governor Bush frequently approved executions based on only the most cursory briefings on the issues in dispute. In fact, in these documents Gonzales repeatedly failed to apprise the governor of crucial issues in the cases at hand: ineffective counsel, conflict of interest, mitigating evidence, even actual evidence of innocence. . .

Alberto Gonzales told me in 2000 that in his execution briefings he always presented Governor Bush with a "detailed factual background of what happened," along with "other outstanding facts or unusual issues." Yet a close examination of the written execution summaries he prepared for Bush certainly raises questions about the thoroughness of Gonzales's approach-and, ultimately, given the brevity of the summaries and the timing of their arrival at the governor's office, about the level of attention Bush could possibly have devoted to the clemency process. In his summaries of the cases of Terry Washington, David Stoker, and Billy Gardner, Gonzales did not make Governor Bush aware of concerns about ineffective counsel, essential mitigating evidence, and even compelling claims of innocence. These were all matters of life or death, requiring in-depth explanation and discussion, that no attorney in Gonzales's position should leave out of a written case summary or save for a thirty-minute oral briefing-especially if both are to be delivered on the very day of a scheduled execution. In a state where the criminal-justice system has erred with well-documented regularity, this was a grave failing.


PROGRESS REPORT - DO YOU THINK THERE ARE CIRCUMSTANCES IN WHICH TORTURE IS LEGAL?: Gonzales was involved in drafting and approved an August 2002 memo to the president which included the opinion that laws prohibiting torture do "not apply to the President's detention and interrogation of enemy combatants." The memo also said that an interrogation tactic only constituted torture if it resulted in "death, organ failure, or serious impairment of body functions." In light of the Abu Ghraib prison scandal, it would be irresponsible to have an attorney general who believes torture is legal.

WOULD YOU INSIST ON STRICT COMPLIANCE WITH THE GENEVA CONVENTIONS?: In a 1/25/02 memo to the president, Gonzales wrote, "the war against terrorism is a new kind of war" and "this new paradigm renders obsolete Geneva's strict limitations on questioning of enemy prisoners and renders quaint some of its provisions." The Constitution says that when the United States signs an international treaty it is "the supreme law of the land." The attorney general, our nation's chief law enforcement officer, should understand that.

WOULD YOU RECUSE YOURSELF FROM THE VALERIE PLAME INVESTIGATION?: The Justice Department is currently investigating which senior administration official - in violation of federal law - told columnist Robert Novak that Valerie Plame was a covert CIA operative. Gonzales has appeared before the federal grand jury investigating the case. As White House counsel, Gonzales also advised White House staffers and the president about how to handle the inquiry. As someone who advised potential defendants (and someone who could potentially be called as a witness at trial) it would be highly inappropriate for Gonzales to oversee the investigation.

WOULD YOU RECUSE YOURSELF FROM ALL ENRON-RELATED MATTERS?: For more than a decade, Alberto Gonzales was an attorney for Vinson & Elkins, the firm that represented Enron. When Gonzales ran for reelection to the Texas Supreme Court, he "received $6,500 in campaign contributions from the company." The Justice Department is currently prosecuting top Enron executives - including former CEO Ken Lay. John Ashcroft recused himself from the Enron investigation "because of contributions he received from the company's executives during his campaign for the Senate." Nevertheless, Gonzales - who had a far more extensive relationship with Enron than Ashcroft - continued to be involved in Enron-related investigations as White House counsel.

WOULD YOU RECUSE YOURSELF FROM ALL HALLIBURTON-RELATED MATTERS?: The Justice Department has launched three investigations of Halliburton: for allegedly overcharging the military $61 million for fuel, for allegedly bribing Nigerian officials to win a contract, and for allegedly doing business with Iran through an off-shore subsidiary. Halliburton was a major client of Vinson & Elkins while Gonzales was a partner at the firm. In 1999, as a member of the Texas Supreme Court, Gonzales accepted a $3,000 contribution from Halliburton just before the court was to hear an appeal of a case where "a Halliburton employee had won a $2.6 million trial verdict" against the company. Gonzales did not recuse himself.

WHY DIDN'T YOU GIVE GOV. BUSH ALL THE FACTS ABOUT DEATH PENALTY CASES?: As chief legal counsel for then Gov. Bush in Texas, Gonzales was responsible for writing a memo on the facts of each death penalty case - Bush decided whether a defendant should live or die based on the memos. An analysis of these memos by the Atlantic Monthly concluded that "Gonzales repeatedly failed to apprise the governor of crucial issues in the cases at hand: ineffective counsel, conflict of interest, mitigating evidence, even actual evidence of innocence." In the case of Terry Washington, a mentally retarded 33-year-old, Gonzales's memo "failed to mention that Washington's mental limitations, and the fact that he and his ten siblings were regularly beaten with whips, water hoses, extension cords, wire hangers, and fan belts, were never made known to the jury."


IPS - No country can justify torture, the humiliation of prisoners or violation of international conventions in the guise of fighting terrorism, says a U.N. report released here. The 19-page study, which is likely to go before the current session of the U.N. General Assembly in December, does not identify the United States by name but catalogues the widely publicized torture and humiliation of prisoners and detainees in Iraq and Afghanistan by U.S. troops waging the so-called "war on terrorism." . . .

According to the author of the 19-page U.N. report, 'Torture, and other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment', "The condoning of torture is, per se, a violation of the prohibition of torture."

The study, by U.N. Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Theo van Boven, points out that "legal argument of necessity and self-defense, invoking domestic law, have recently been put forward, aimed at providing a justification to exempt officials suspected of having committed or instigated acts of torture against suspected terrorists from criminal liability."

But, Van Boven says, "the absolute nature of the prohibition of torture and other forms of ill-treatment means that no exceptional circumstances whatsoever, whether a state of war or a threat of war, internal political instability or any other public emergency, may be invoked as justification for torture.". . .

Von Boven said he has received information "on certain methods that have been condoned and used to secure information from suspected terrorists."

He says these include, "holding detainees in painful and-or stressful positions, depriving them of sleep and light for prolonged periods, exposing them to extremes of heat, cold, noise and light, hooding, depriving them of clothing, stripping detainees naked and threatening them with dogs."

"The jurisprudence of both international and regional human rights mechanisms is unanimous in stating that such methods violate the prohibition of torture and ill-treatment," Von Boven adds. . .

According to Francis A Boyle, who teaches international law at the University of Illinois, "As White House counsel, Alberto Gonzales originated, authorized, approved and aided and abetted grave breaches of the Third and Fourth Geneva Conventions of 1949, which are serious war crimes."

"In other words, Gonzales is a prima facie war criminal. He must be prosecuted under the Geneva Conventions and the U.S. War Crimes Act," Boyle told IPS. . .

"Should Gonzales travel around the world in that capacity, human rights lawyers such as myself will attempt to get him prosecuted along the lines of what happened to (former Chilean dictator) General (Pinochet," said Boyle, author of 'Destroying World Order'.

Jordan J Paust, law foundation professor at the University of Houston, agrees with Boyle's thesis.

"The denial of protections under the Geneva Conventions is a violation of the Geneva Conventions, and every violation of the laws of war is a war crime. Complicity in connection with war crimes (such as aiding and abetting the denial of protections) is also criminally sanctionable," Paust told IPS.

Thus, it appears Gonzales is reasonably accused of international criminal activity, he added, although he has the human right to be presumed innocent until proven guilty in a court of law . . .


PHILIP COORY, HERALD SUN, AUSTRALIA - When the Abu Ghraib scandal erupted this year, Mr Gonzales was blamed for helping create the culture which led to the abuses, not just in Iraq but in Afghanistan and Guantanamo Bay. In January 2002, with the war against terror under way, he sent a memo to Mr Bush suggesting the Geneva Convention be ignored when interrogating prisoners. "The nature of the new war places a higher premium on our ability to quickly obtain information from captured terrorists," Mr Gonzales advised.

"In my judgment, this new paradigm renders obsolete the Geneva Convention's strict limitations on questioning of enemy prisoners and renders quaint some of its provisions." Mr Gonzales vigorously denied he or the Administration had ever sanctioned torture.

He was a strident defender of the Government's policy of keeping detainees at such places as Guantanamo Bay for long periods without access to lawyers or courts.

NEWSWEEK - 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."

MAUREEN DOWD, NY TIMES - The president is putting his own counsel, Alberto Gonzales, who wrote the famous memo defending torture, in charge of our civil liberties. Torture Guy, who blithely threw off 75 years of international law and set the stage for the grotesque abuses at Abu Ghraib and dubious detentions at Guantánamo, seems to have a good grasp of what's just. No doubt we'll soon learn what other protections, besides the Geneva Conventions and the Constitution, Mr. Gonzales finds "quaint'' and "obsolete.'' With the F.B.I. investigating Halliburton and the second-term scandal curse looming, Mr. Bush and Mr. Cheney want a dependable ally - and former Enron attorney - at Justice.

[Meanwhile this is all the Washington Post's White House correspondent had to say on the matter]


DANA MILBANK, WASHINGTON POST - Gonzales's most public controversy was his role in administration memos regarding the treatment of prisoners taken in the war on terrorism. But many of the controversies on his watch were less his doing than those of underlings and other young conservative lawyers in the administration.


DAFNA LINZER AND CHARLES BABINGTON WASHINGTON POST - Gen. Michael V. Hayden, President Bush's choice to lead the CIA, strongly defended the administration's policies on domestic surveillance and the treatment of detainees during his confirmation hearing yesterday, and urged senators to suspend debate about CIA failures and give the agency a chance to rebound.

"It's time to move past what seems to me to be an endless picking apart of the archaeology of every past intelligence success or failure," Hayden said. "CIA officers . . . deserve recognition of their efforts, and they also deserve not to have every action analyzed, second-guessed and criticized on the front pages of the morning paper."

Although accountability is important, he said the "CIA needs to get out of the news as source or subject and focus on protecting the American people by acquiring secrets and providing high-quality all-source analysis.". . .

"I understand there are privacy concerns involved in all of this. There's privacy concerns involved in the routine activities of NSA," he said. He said the warrantless eavesdropping was carefully targeted against al-Qaeda suspects. "No one has said that there has been a targeting decision made that wasn't well-founded in a probable-cause standard," Hayden said. Some Democrats questioned the claim, noting that thousands of Americans' calls have reportedly been intercepted.

Sen. Russell Feingold (D-Wis.) asked Hayden "whether people that were not associated with al-Qaeda have been trapped in this sort of thing," Hayden replied that if someone is targeted and then dropped, it "doesn't mean that the first decision was wrong. It just means this was not a lucrative target for communications intelligence.". . .

Hayden said the White House's legal basis is rooted in the opinion that Article II of the Constitution gives the president expansive authorities in a time of war to conduct domestic surveillance. Hayden said he never personally reviewed the legal opinion that was drawn up in support of the program, but "when they came to me and we discussed its lawfulness, our discussion anchored itself on Article II."

He said the administration did not attempt to rest its case on a congressional war resolution passed in the days after the al-Qaeda attacks, as Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales said after the program was disclosed.

DANA MILBANK, WASHINGTON POST - With Hayden's confirmation never in doubt -- "you're gonna be one of America's best CIA directors," proclaimed Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-Neb.) -- the committee's rare public hearing offered a chance to have an examination of the administration's eavesdropping programs. Instead, senators and the nominee implemented a new "don't ask, don't tell" policy.

Democrats, briefed on the secret National Security Agency programs on the eve of the hearing, were now prevented from talking about its classified details other than to cite news reports. Several Republicans limited their oversight responsibilities largely to praising the administration. And Hayden, referring to Congress as "the second branch of government," punted all the interesting answers to a later, secret session.

Is the NSA eavesdropping program that President Bush confirmed the entire program? "I'm not at liberty to talk about that in open session," Hayden said.

Can detainees be held in secret for decades? "Let me give it to you in the closed session."

Is "waterboarding" an acceptable interrogation technique? "Again, let me defer that to closed session.". . .

Hayden's written statement said "UNCLASSIFIED" on each page, though it could have been labeled "UNINTERESTING" because little more than a collection of acronyms survived the declassification process.

Eric Keroack


AMANDA SCHAFFER, SLATE - On Monday, the federal office that oversees the nation's family-planning program got a new boss who doesn't believe in birth control. Eric Keroack is a Massachusetts obstetrician-gynecologist who argues that abstinence until marriage is the only healthy choice for women. Until recently, he served as medical director of a pregnancy-counseling organization that runs down contraception and gives out scientifically false health information - for instance, that condoms "offer virtually no protection" against herpes or HPV. Keroack also promotes a wacky piece of pseudoscience: the claim that premarital sex disrupts brain chemistry so as to create a physiological barrier to happy marriage. . . .

The policy statement of the pregnancy-counseling organization he served as medical director for, A Woman's Concern, says:

"A Woman's Concern does not distribute, or encourage the use of, contraceptive drugs and devices. . . A Woman's Concern is persuaded that the crass commercialization and distribution of birth control is demeaning to women, degrading of human sexuality, and adverse to human health and happiness."



PR WATCH - While the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence drags its feet on discovering how the White House sold the Iraq war, journalist James Bamford has written a major expose on one of the key players: John Rendon. In his Rolling Stone story "The Man Who Sold the War," Bamford traces the development of Rendon and his firm The Rendon Group (TRG) from Democratic Party organizer to Kuwaiti liberator to secretive Pentagon propagandist-for-hire. In a rare interview, Rendon "boasted openly" to Bamford of "the sweep and importance of his firm's efforts as a for-profit spy." One example of TRG's work is the story of Iraqi exile Adnan Ihsan Saeed al-Haideri, who claimed Saddam Hussein had tons of biological, chemical and nuclear weapons. The fact that al-Haideri failed CIA polygraph tests didn't stop TRG from giving Judith Miller the print exclusive interview. "Her front-page story, which hit the stands on December 20th, 2001, was exactly the kind of exposure Rendon had been hired to provide," Bamford writes.




JEREMY SCAHILL, THE NATION - Meet Stewart Simonson. He's the official charged by Bush with "the protection of the civilian population from acts of bioterrorism and other public health emergencies" -- a well-connected, ideological, ambitious Republican with zero public health management or medical expertise, whose previous job was as a corporate lawyer for Amtrak. . .

Simonson's qualifications can be summed up in two words: Tommy Thompson. Simonson was a protege of the former Health and Human Services secretary and longtime Republican governor of Wisconsin. Thompson hired him out of the University of Wisconsin Law School in 1995 and put him on the political fast track, eventually naming him as his legal counsel. Thompson then used his influence as chair of Amtrak's board to place Simonson as the rail service's corporate counsel.

When Bush named Thompson as HHS secretary, Simonson again went with him, and he has been rising through the ranks of the Administration and the Republican Party ever since. "He's a political hack, a sycophant," says Ed Garvey, a prominent Wisconsin attorney and the state's former deputy attorney general. "People just laughed when he was appointed to Amtrak, but when the word came out that he was in charge of bioterrorism, it turned to alarm. When you realize that people's lives are at stake, it's frightening. It's just one of those moments when you say, Oh, my God."

What is particularly disturbing to public health professionals and others is that Simonson is in charge of insuring that the country has adequate vaccines and anti-virals to combat an avian flu outbreak. "Mr. Simonson is a lawyer, not a medical expert," declared Representative Henry Waxman, who highlighted Simonson in a list of five "inexperienced individuals with political connections."



BOSTON GLOBE - President Bush on Tuesday renominated the chairman of the agency that directs U.S. overseas broadcasts even though the nomination has been stalled in the Senate amid allegations of misconduct. Kenneth Y. Tomlinson was nominated again as chairman of the Broadcasting Board of Governors and for a term on the board expiring Aug. 13, 2007. The board oversees Voice of America, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, Radio Free Asia, Radio and TV Marti, broadcasting initiatives in the Middle East and other nonmilitary U.S. broadcasting overseas.

In September, a spokeswoman for the Senate Foreign Relations Committee said senators did not plan to act on Bush's nomination of Tomlinson in January 2005 while a government investigation of his activities was under way. The law that created the board in 1994 allowed Tomlinson to remain as chairman until a successor was confirmed.

AL KAMEN, WASHINGTON POST - Back in August, the State Department's inspector general dinged [Tomlinson] for hiring a friend as a consultant for $244,000 and over-billing the government for his time. The report also found that Tomlinson had used his office to run his thoroughbred horse operation. . . And a close look at one of his e-mails dealing with the ponies during work time makes it quite clear that the racing operation was not completely unrelated to his work for the Board of Governors. Sure, the message to "Colleagues" starts out: "Now put a gun to my head and I gotta say that Clement's Scabbard will win the forth race at Delaware." But he also is clearly focused on international matters, especially when talking about his horse, Massoud. "Afghan Foreign Minister Abdullah Abdullah once told me [the late leader Ahmed Shah ] Massoud loved fast horses and that his followers often made gifts of horses to him."


AL KAMEN, WASHINGTON POST - It's been a somewhat turbulent year for Kenneth Y. Tomlinson , former editor in chief of Reader's Digest and now chairman of the Broadcasting Board of Governors, which oversees the Voice of America, Radio Free Europe, Radio and TV Marti in Cuba, and Radio Free Asia.

Back in August, the State Department's inspector general dinged him for hiring a friend as a consultant for $244,000 and over-billing the government for his time. The report also found that Tomlinson had used his office to run his thoroughbred horse operation. The broadcasting board split 3-3 on partisan lines on whether to fire him, so he remains in the job until a replacement is found, which could easily be another two years. Tomlinson said the allegations were part of a "political vendetta."


WIKIPEDIA - Tomlinson was appointed to the Corporation for Public Broadcasting's board of directors by President Bill Clinton and was confirmed in September 2000. Tomlinson was appointed as chairman of the CPB board by President George W. Bush, for a two-year term, in September 2003. He embarked upon a mission to purge CPB of what he perceived as 'liberal bias'. His efforts sparked complaints of political pressure. His close friendship with Karl Rove is one of many concerns the public has had about his own bias and his intent with respect to CPB, and accusations that he was attempting to turn the balanced content to a right wing agenda similar to FOX television.

Tomlinson commissioned a $10,000 study into Bill Moyers' PBS program, "Now with Bill Moyers" without informing the board of the investigation. He also retained two Republican lobbyists to try to defeat a congressional proposal that would have increased the representation of broadcasters on the board, again without informing the board of the contracts.

The inspector general's report issued 15 November 2005 said that Mr. Tomlinson appears to have violated both the federal law and the corporation's own rules in raising $5 million to underwrite The Journal Editorial Report, a PBS program by the famously conservative editorial board of The Wall Street Journal. . .

Tomlinson resigned from the CPB board on November 4, 2005 after the board saw the report about his tenure by the Inspector General of the CPB, requested by House Democrats. The report described possible political influence on personnel decisions, including e-mail correspondence between Tomlinson and the White House which indicated that Tomlinson "was strongly motivated by political considerations in filling the president/CEO position."

In July 2005, the State Department opened an inquiry into Tomlinson's work at the Broadcasting Board of Governors, after Representative Howard L. Berman, Representative Tom Lantos and Senator Christopher Dodd forwarded accusations of misuse of money from an employee at the board. The New York Times reported that the inquiry was pursuing accusations that Tomlinson had spent federal money for personal purposes and hired unqualified and ghost employees. It also reported that State Department investigators had seized records and e-mail from the board, including correspondence between Tomlinson and Karl Rove, President George W. Bush's chief advisor. Rove, an old friend of Tomlinson's, helped to secure Tominson's position as chairman.

A summary of the year-long report, prepared by the inspector general of the State Department was released by Mr Berman on August 29, 2006. It concludes that Tomlinson used his office at the Broadcasting Board of Governors to oversee a stable of thoroughbreds. Berman has asked that Tomlinson be removed from his position immediately in the light of the reports findings.





CHRISTIAN SCIENCE MONITOR -As Donald Rumsfeld prepares to leave his job as secretary of Defense, the American Civil Liberties Union is seeking to hold him responsible for what it says was widespread torture carried out at his direction. Lawyers representing Mr. Rumsfeld and three US Army commanders are set to appear in federal court here Friday in response to a lawsuit charging that the Defense secretary authorized torture and other illegal abuse of military detainees in Afghanistan and Iraq - including at the infamous Abu Ghraib prison.

The case is important because it represents an attempt to hold US officials accountable for alleged illegal abuse of Iraqi and Afghan civilians who were never detained as enemy combatants or charged with any crime. But some legal analysts say the suit may be aimed more at shaping public opinion than winning in court because such cases are difficult to pursue.


SAM SMITH - A number of progressive voices have been calling for the impeachment of George Bush. It won't happen, trying would just waste valuable congressional time developing a case for the 2008 elections, and at best Bush's term would only be cut a year or less. Besides, there is far more effective and satisfying retribution waiting in the wings, one that could be pressed for years, and for which the criminals - not just Bush but his top aides - would have to pay the rest of their lives.

The alternative is criminal indictment of Bush and his capos, either under war crimes acts or under various domestic laws. Even if some or all of these cases are not resolved, they could create a permanent cloud over the heads of the perps, restrict their travel and discredit their views, witness the effect on Pinochet and Kissinger.

Since we have never charged an ex-president with domestic criminal acts it might take some creative work by lawyers ad law schools to come up with the best procedures. But the more ideas the better. The more indictments the better. And the more perp walks the better.

For starters here is a sample war crime indictment from the First Gulf War:


MICHAEL ISIKOFF, MAY 19, 2004 - The White House's top lawyer warned more than two years ago that U.S. officials could be prosecuted for "war crimes" as a result of new and unorthodox measures used by the Bush administration in the war on terrorism, according to an internal White House memo and interviews with participants in the debate over the issue.

The concern about possible future prosecution for war crimes - and that it might even apply to Bush administration officials themselves - is contained in a crucial portion of an internal January 25, 2002, memo by White House counsel Alberto Gonzales obtained by Newsweek. . .

In the memo, the White House lawyer focused on a little known 1996 law passed by Congress, known as the War Crimes Act, that banned any Americans from committing war crimes-defined in part as "grave breaches" of the Geneva Conventions. Noting that the law applies to "U.S. officials" and that punishments for violators "include the death penalty," Gonzales told Bush that "it was difficult to predict with confidence" how Justice Department prosecutors might apply the law in the future. This was especially the case given that some of the language in the Geneva Conventions-such as that outlawing "outrages upon personal dignity" and "inhuman treatment" of prisoners-was "undefined." . . .

One lawyer involved in the interagency debates over the Geneva Conventions issue recalled a meeting in early 2002 in which participants challenged [John] Yoo, a primary architect of the administration's legal strategy, when he raised the possibility of Justice Department war crimes prosecutions unless there was a clear presidential direction proclaiming the Geneva Conventions did not apply to the war in Afghanistan. The concern seemed misplaced, Yoo was told, given that loyal Bush appointees were in charge of the Justice Department.

"Well, the political climate could change," Yoo replied, according to the lawyer who attended the meeting. "The implication was that a new president would come into office and start potential prosecutions of a bunch of ex-Bush officials," the lawyer said. (Yoo declined comment.)

This appears to be precisely the concern in Gonzales's memo dated January 25, 2002, in which he strongly urges Bush to stick to his decision to exempt the treatment of Taliban and Al Qaeda fighters from the provisons of the Geneva Conventions. . .

One reason to do so, Gonzales wrote, is that it "substantially reduces the threat of domestic criminal prosecution under the War Crimes Act." He added that "it is difficult to predict with confidence what actions might be deemed to constitute violations" of the War Crimes Act just as it was "difficult to predict the needs and circumstances that could arise in the course of the war on terrorism." . . .

In the end, after strong protests from Powell, the White House retreated slightly. In February 2002, it proclaimed that, while the United States would adhere to the Geneva Conventions in the conduct of the war in Afghanistan, captured Taliban and Qaeda fighters would not be given prisoner of war status under the conventions. It is a rendering that Administration lawyers believed would protect U.S. interrogators or their superiors in Washington from being subjected to prosecutions under the War Crimes Act based on their treatment of the prisoners.


REUTERS - Outgoing Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld authorized the mistreatment of detainees at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq, the prison's former U.S. commander said in an interview on Saturday. Former U.S. Army Brigadier General Janis Karpinski told Spain's El Pais newspaper she had seen a letter apparently signed by Rumsfeld which allowed civilian contractors to use techniques such as sleep deprivation during interrogation. . . "The handwritten signature was above his printed name and in the same handwriting in the margin was written: "Make sure this is accomplished," she told Saturday's El Pais. "The methods consisted of making prisoners stand for long periods, sleep deprivation ... playing music at full volume, having to sit in uncomfortably ... Rumsfeld authorized these specific techniques."