Sunday, June 27, 2004

Memo Backed Coercion for Al Qaeda Cases

The New York Times > International > Middle East > Aides Say Memo Backed Coercion for Qaeda Cases:
"An August 2002 memo by the Justice Department that concluded interrogators could use extreme techniques on detainees in the war on terror helped provide an after-the-fact legal basis for harsh procedures used by the C.I.A. on high-level leaders of Al Qaeda, according to current and former government officials.

The legal memo was prepared after an internal debate within the government about the methods used to extract information from Abu Zubaydah, one of Osama bin Laden's top aides, after his capture in April 2002, the officials said. The memo provided a legal foundation for coercive techniques used later against other high-ranking detainees, like Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, believed to be the chief architect of the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, who was captured in early 2003.

The full text of the memo was made public by the White House on Tuesday without explanation about why it was written or whether its standards were applied. Until now, it has not been clear that the memo was written in response to the C.I.A.'s efforts to extract information from high-ranking Qaeda suspects, and was unrelated to questions about handling detainees at Guantánamo Bay or in Iraq."

The memo suggested that the president could authorize a wide array of coercive interrogation methods in the campaign against terrorism without violating international treaties or the federal torture law. It did not specify any particular procedures but suggested there were few limits short of causing the death of a prisoner. The methods used on Mr. Zubaydah and other senior Qaeda operatives stirred controversy in government counterterrorism circles and concern over whether C.I.A. employees might be held liable for violating the federal torture law.

While the memo appeared to give the C.I.A. wide latitude in adopting tactics to interrogate high-level Qaeda detainees, it is still unclear exactly what procedures were used or the extent to which the memo influenced the government's overall thinking about interrogations of other terror detainees captured in Afghanistan and elsewhere.

The officials said the memo illustrated that the Bush administration, in the months after the September 2001 attacks, was urgently looking for ways to force senior Qaeda detainees to disclose whether they knew of any future terrorist attacks planned against the United States.

The memo, which is dated Aug. 1, 2002, was a seminal legal document guiding the government's thinking on interrogation. It was disavowed earlier this week by senior legal advisers to the Bush administration who said the memo would be reviewed and revised because it created a false impression that torture could be legally defensible.

In repudiating the memo in briefings this week, none of the senior Bush legal advisers whom the White House made available to reporters would discuss who had requested that the memo be prepared, why it had been prepared or how it was applied. On Friday, the Justice Department and C.I.A. would not discuss the origins of the memo, but in the past officials at those agencies have said that the interrogation techniques used on detainees were lawful and did not violate the torture statute, which generally forbids inflicting severe and prolonged pain.

The memo was addressed to Alberto R. Gonzales, the White House counsel, and signed by Jay S. Bybee, then the head of the Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel. It said the document was an effort to define "standards of conduct" under international treaties and federal law. The memo concluded that a coercive procedure could not be considered torture unless it caused pain equivalent to that accompanying "serious physical injury, such as organ failure, impairment of bodily function or even death."

Saturday, June 26, 2004

Paul Krugman: Errors on Terror

The New York Times > Opinion > Op-Ed Columnist: Errors on Terror: "Was the report's squishy math politically motivated? Well, the Bush administration has cooked the books in many areas, including budget projections, tax policy, environmental policy and stem cell research. Why wouldn't it do the same on terrorism?
The erroneous good news on terrorism also came at a very convenient moment. The White House was still reeling from the revelations of the former counterterrorism chief Richard Clarke, who finally gave public voice to the view of many intelligence insiders that the Bush administration is doing a terrible job of fighting Al Qaeda. Meanwhile, Mr. Bush was on a 'Winning the War on Terror' campaign bus tour in the Midwest.
Mr. Krueger, a forgiving soul, believes that the report was botched through simple incompetence. Maybe — though we can be sure that if the statistics had told the administration something it didn't want to hear, they would have been carefully checked. By the way, while the report's tables and charts have been fixed, the revised summary still gives little hint of how bad the data really are."

Doubts on Sentencing Rules

Justices, in 5-4 Vote, Raise Doubts on Sentencing Rules:
"The Supreme Court invalidated the criminal sentencing system of the State of Washington on Thursday in a decision that also cast doubt on whether the 20-year-old federal sentencing guidelines can survive a constitutional challenge.

Bitterly split in a 5-to-4 decision that cut across the court's usual ideological lines, the justices continued a profound five-year-long debate over the respective roles of judges and juries in criminal sentencing. In this case, they ratcheted that debate up to a new level that left the federal guidelines in constitutional limbo and cast doubt on the validity of thousands of sentences, at both the state and federal level."

Sentencing in about a dozen states is likely to be affected by the ruling.…

In the Washington guidelines case, Justice Antonin Scalia's majority opinion held that the Washington system, permitting judges to make findings that increase a convicted defendant's sentence beyond the ordinary range for the crime, violated the right to trial by jury protected by the Sixth Amendment. The facts supporting increased sentences must be found by a jury beyond a reasonable doubt, Justice Scalia said.

While the federal system is considerably more complex, it places judges in much the same role, empowering them to make the factual findings that determine the ultimate sentence and requiring nothing more to support those findings than a "preponderance of the evidence." That is the legal system's lowest standard of proof, while "beyond a reasonable doubt" is its highest.

While Justice Scalia said that "the federal guidelines are not before us, and we express no opinion on them," that statement appeared to be simply marking time.

Chicago Tribune | The muckraker: a Profile of Seymour Hersh

Chicago Tribune | The muckraker:

The photographs of unmuzzled dogs terrifying Abu Ghraib prisoners remind Hersh of the police tactics used on Southern civil rights marchers in the 1960s and Jews in Germany during the 1940s.

'We have seen pictures like that before,' Hersh says."

At the conclusion of his remarks at the U. of C., several students queue up to ask how they might make a contribution in this war-dimmed world.

"How is your Arabic?" Hersh asks one.

He urges another to consider working for the government or a human rights agency. The country "is just as much ours as it is theirs," Hersh tells a third student. "They have it now, but we can take it back; that's all. We can't just say, `It's yours,' and slink away." And with inimitable bluntness, he makes his case for patriotism:

"Eleven years after getting out of the University of Chicago -- and I wasn't editor of the Maroon, I wasn't president of anything, I flunked out of law school -- I was sticking two fingers in the eye of the very conservative president, Richard Nixon, and being hailed for it.

"What other country can you do that in?",1,5261144.story

Thursday, June 24, 2004

New York Times on Fahrenheit 9/11 and Michael Moore

New York Times on Fahrenheit 9/11:
"While Michael Moore's documentary about the Bush administration has been likened to an op-ed column, it might more accurately be said to resemble an editorial cartoon."

Exhibit of Abuse of Palestinians by Troops and Jewish Settlers, 3 Soldiers Detained

Chicago Tribune | 3 Israeli soldiers detained, questioned:
"Military police Wednesday detained and interrogated three Israeli reserve soldiers who organized an exhibit of photographs and videotaped testimony of abuse of Palestinians by troops and Jewish settlers, according to the soldiers and a statement issued by the military.

The military's statement said the three men were ordered to provide testimony as part of an investigation into the 'allegedly violent crimes against Palestinians and damage to Palestinian property' depicted in the exhibit.

'The army wants to keep us quiet and scare us away,' said Micha Kurz after what he described as seven hours of questioning by investigators. 'They're not going to shut us up, because we have a lot to say, and they're not going to scare us off.'"


Wednesday, June 23, 2004

Online Journalism Review article: The Best (and Worst) Video Feeds Online

The Best (and Worst) Video Feeds Online:
"Video quality has improved, but it's still a struggle to find feeds on many news sites."

Organizer cancels Comdex 2004 - News - ZDNet

Organizer cancels Comdex 2004 - News - ZDNet:
"Computer trade show Comdex, once the biggest event on the tech calendar, has been canceled this year, a victim of the growing interest in shows emphasizing consumer electronics and specialist IT gear.

Eric Faurot, vice president of Comdex organizer MediaLive Internati
onal, revealed the plans in an exclusive interview with CNET, saying the company plans to give Comdex a breather after years of falling attendance, in the number of both attendees and vendors.

'We feel that while we could run Comdex profitably this year, it really wouldn't serve the interests of the broader IT industry,' he said. The international versions of the show are expected to continue as planned. "

The New York Times > Op-Ed Columnist: Noonday in the Shade – Ashcroft's Bias

The New York Times > Opinion > Op-Ed Columnist: Noonday in the Shade:
"In April 2003, John Ashcroft's Justice Department disrupted what appears to have been a horrifying terrorist plot. In the small town of Noonday, Tex., F.B.I. agents discovered a weapons cache containing fully automatic machine guns, remote-controlled explosive devices disguised as briefcases, 60 pipe bombs and a chemical weapon — a cyanide bomb — big enough to kill everyone in a 30,000-square-foot building.

Strangely, though, the attorney general didn't call a press conference to announce the discovery of the weapons cache, or the arrest of William Krar, its owner. He didn't even issue a press release. This was, to say the least, out of character. Jose Padilla, the accused "dirty bomber," didn't have any bomb-making material or even a plausible way to acquire such material, yet Mr. Ashcroft put him on front pages around the world. Mr. Krar was caught with an actual chemical bomb, yet Mr. Ashcroft acted as if nothing had happened.

Incidentally, if Mr. Ashcroft's intention was to keep the case low-profile, the media have been highly cooperative. To this day, the Noonday conspiracy has received little national coverage.

At this point, I have the usual problem. Writing about John Ashcroft poses the same difficulties as writing about the Bush administration in general, only more so: the truth about his malfeasance is so extreme that it's hard to avoid sounding shrill."

In this case, it sounds over the top to accuse Mr. Ashcroft of trying to bury news about terrorists who don't fit his preferred story line. Yet it's hard to believe that William Krar wouldn't have become a household name if he had been a Muslim, or even a leftist. Was Mr. Ashcroft, who once gave an interview with Southern Partisan magazine in which he praised "Southern patriots" like Jefferson Davis, reluctant to publicize the case of a terrorist who happened to be a white supremacist?

More important, is Mr. Ashcroft neglecting real threats to the public because of his ideological biases?

Mr. Krar's arrest was the result not of a determined law enforcement effort against domestic terrorists, but of a fluke: when he sent a package containing counterfeit U.N. and Defense Intelligence Agency credentials to an associate in New Jersey, it was delivered to the wrong address. Luckily, the recipient opened the package and contacted the F.B.I. But for that fluke, we might well have found ourselves facing another Oklahoma City-type atrocity.

The discovery of the Texas cyanide bomb should have served as a wake-up call: 9/11 has focused our attention on the threat from Islamic radicals, but murderous right-wing fanatics are still out there. The concerns of the Justice Department, however, appear to lie elsewhere. Two weeks ago a representative of the F.B.I. appealed to an industry group for help in combating what, he told the audience, the F.B.I. regards as the country's leading domestic terrorist threat: ecological and animal rights extremists.

Monday, June 21, 2004

BOB HERBERT Op-Ed Columnist: Malpractice Myths

Malpractice Myths:
"President Bush has been complaining about 'junk and frivolous' lawsuits for years. So it's interesting to hear the following from the Center for Justice and Democracy, a consumer advocacy group:

'It may be hard to understand why `tort reform' is even on the national agenda at a time when insurance industry profits are booming, tort filings are declining, only 2 percent of injured people sue for compensation, punitive damages are rarely awarded, liability insurance costs for businesses are minuscule, medical malpractice insurance and claims are both less than 1 percent of all health care costs in America, and premium-gouging underwriting practices of the insurance industry have been widely exposed.'

In looking at medical malpractice cases, I've been amazed by the cold-blooded attitude so many people have taken toward patients who have been seriously, and sometimes grotesquely, harmed. Referring to a Wisconsin woman who had both of her breasts removed after a laboratory mix-up mistakenly indicated she had cancer, a doctor from South Carolina told a Congressional subcommittee:"

"She did not lose her life, and with the plastic surgery she'll have breast reconstruction better than she had before."

Last week I interviewed a woman in Minerva, Ohio, whose abdominal aorta was somehow ruptured while a doctor was performing a tubal ligation. In a discussion of her malpractice suit, the woman, Deborah Rayburn, said the foul-up was not immediately detected. When it became clear that she was in serious trouble, another doctor was called in. "He ended up cutting me open," she said, "and he clamped the aorta."

Ms. Rayburn, who has two children, was unable to work for 18 months. The surgery left her with a scar from chest to groin, and she said she still experiences frequent abdominal pain.

When Ms. Rayburn filed suit, she said, she was made to feel as though she had done something wrong, as if seeking compensation was in some sense an affront to the system.

As a trial date approached, she said, she felt pressured by all the parties involved to agree to a settlement, which she did. She would have preferred to go to trial, she said, not because she was looking for a big payday, but because all the details of her case would then have come out publicly.

And that is one of the essential points that is overlooked by the tort reform zealots: the problem when it comes to malpractice is not the amount of money the insurance companies are making (they're doing fine) or the rates the doctors have to pay, but rather the terrible physical and emotional damage that is done to so many unsuspecting patients who fall into the hands of careless or incompetent medical personnel.

The New York Times > Dispatches: The Army and Torture: What the Rule Book Says

Dispatches: The Army and Torture: What the Rule Book Says:
"…The soldiers who graduate from the army's Humint Collector Course are taught to interrogate prisoners, exploit captured documents and develop sources in foreign battle zones. With the continuing wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the army expects more than 1,000 soldiers to graduate in fiscal 2006, a fourfold increase over 2003. But it is the content of the instruction, more than the quantity of it, that is receiving the most attention in light of the scandal at the Abu Ghraib prison 'What we have done is put a spotlight at what took place at Abu Ghraib,' said Major General James Marks, the outgoing commander of the Army Intelligence Center here. 'We don't train that. It is foreign to us. It is almost as if it popped in from outer space. "

"We have taken those bad examples and put them in front of our soldiers and demonstrated to them what you must not do. You can't even get close to that." The fact is that U.S. military and civilian officials do not need to devise new rules to avoid the sort of abuses that have cropped up at Abu Ghraib.

The scandal could have been avoided by adhering to the old rules as they are laid down by FM 34-52, the 1992 field manual that serves as the basic primer for students and instructors at Fort Huachuca and that outlines the army's doctrine for conducting interrogations. The field manual makes all the right arguments about why mental and physical torture are illegal, morally wrong and counterproductive. It expressly forbids beatings or forcing an individual to sit, stand or kneel in an abnormal position for prolonged periods or tying prisoners up as a form of punishment. Threats, insults or inhumane treatment are not allowed.

The field manual makes several arguments against torture. First, torture is an unreliable technique since a prisoner will say anything to end his suffering. Second, it will undermine public and foreign support for the U.S. military efforts. Third, it will increase the risk that captured American and allied personnel will be abused. Lastly, it is against the Geneva conventions and U.S. policy.

Psychological ploys, verbal trickery and nonviolent ruses are allowed. The field manual offers a common-sense test for determining if interrogators have crossed the line: Imagine that a technique was being applied to American prisoners of war and ask yourself if it would be consistent with U.S. law. "If a doubt still remains as to the legality of a proposed actions, seek a legal opinion from your servicing judge advocate," it instructs.

"Experience indicates that the use of prohibited techniques is not necessary to gain the cooperation of interrogation sources." The Abu Ghraib abuses, in short, constituted not only an outrage that fanned already deep resentments in Iraq about the occupation and increased the danger to U.S. troops, but also represented a case in which the army ran afoul of fundamental tenets of its own long-established doctrine. What could lead to such an outcome? Poorly trained and motivated troops, for one. (The investigation by Major General Antonio Taguba portrayed the military police at the prison as a dysfunctional unit and also faulted Colonel Thomas Pappas, the commander of the 205th Military Intelligence Brigade and a former official at Fort Huachuca, for having failed to supervise his soldiers and ensuring that they stayed faithful to the Geneva conventions.)

U.S. Said to Overstate Value of Guantánamo Detainees

The New York Times > U.S. Said to Overstate Value of Guantánamo Detainees:
"For nearly two and a half years, American officials have maintained that locked within the steel-mesh cells of the military prison here are some of the world's most dangerous terrorists -- ''the worst of a very bad lot,'' Vice President Dick Cheney has called them.

The officials say information gleaned from the detainees has exposed terrorist cells, thwarted planned attacks and revealed vital intelligence about Al Qaeda. The secrets they hold and the threats they pose justify holding them indefinitely without charge, Bush administration officials have said.

But as the Supreme Court prepares to rule on the legal status of the 595 men imprisoned here, an examination by The New York Times has found that government and military officials have repeatedly exaggerated both the danger the detainees posed and the intelligence they have provided."

Saturday, June 19, 2004

The staff of the Sept. 11 commission asserts flatly that there is No Saudi Payment to Qaeda Is Found

The New York Times > Washington > No Saudi Payment to Qaeda Is Found:
"The staff of the Sept. 11 commission has put forward what amounts to a major revision of a widely held perception in Washington that top Saudi officials gave money to Al Qaeda.

The new account, based on 19 months of staff work, asserts flatly that there is 'no evidence' that the Saudi government or senior Saudi officials financed the group, which is led by Osama bin Laden."

Military Memos: Documents Are Said to Show Earlier Abuse at Iraq Prison

The New York Times > International > Middle East > Military Memos: Documents Are Said to Show Earlier Abuse at Iraq Prison:
"American military officials in Baghdad said this week that military lawyers and some colonels had received internal documents that reportedly cited complaints of abuse at Abu Ghraib prison starting in November, about two months before top military officials say they were alerted to the abuse."

The disclosure of the documents has raised new questions about whether top military officers knew about the abuse before January, when a soldier alerted them to photographs of abused prisoners at the facility just west of Baghdad.

At least 20 complaints of abuse were reported in the routine memos, according to interviews of military intelligence personnel, including the beating of five former Iraqi generals in November who were blamed for causing prisoner riots. After reviewing 106 of the memos this week, the military officials said they found only one complaint, in which a prisoner said he had been handcuffed too long, but said that thousands of additional files had not been reviewed.…

According to former workers at the prison, a small unit of interrogators and analysts known as the Detainee Assessment Branch reported complaints of abuse in weekly memos that were sent to top officers who voted on whether to release detainees.

Military officials confirmed that the memos were sent to the prison's Review and Appeal Board, but said the officers on the board — Brig. Gen. Barbara Fast, the top Army intelligence officer in Iraq, and Brig. Gen. Janis Karpinski, the commander of the 800th Military Police Battalion — had stepped down from the board in early November. Col. Marc Warren, a top legal officer to Lt. Gen. Ricardo S. Sanchez, the highest-ranking American commander in Iraq, left the board on Nov. 12, the officials said.

General Fast, General Karpinski and Colonel Warren were replaced by several colonels, as well as other military intelligence and military police personnel, to speed up the release of detainees, the officials said. They did not identify those people by name.

"In November we deleted the general officer members and put colonels on the board so as to provide more opportunity for the meetings," said an allied military official in Baghdad. The new board members started meeting twice a week, officials said.

One of the memos cited a man who was made to stand naked, holding books on his head, while a soldier poured cold water on him, according to the military personnel. At least four of the reported incidents of abuse had occurred in the high-security section of the prison, where the worst abuses happened, and six of the complaints were cited in the documents before January, according to the interviews.

The New York Times > Opinion > Show Us the Proof

The New York Times > Opinion > Show Us the Proof:
"Before the war, Mr. Bush spoke of far more than vague 'ties' between Iraq and Al Qaeda. He said Iraq had provided Al Qaeda with weapons training, bomb-making expertise and a base in Iraq. On Feb. 8, 2003, Mr. Bush said that 'an Al Qaeda operative was sent to Iraq several times in the late 1990's for help in acquiring poisons and gases.' The 9/11 panel's report, as well as news articles, indicate that these things never happened."

Mr. Cheney said yesterday that the "evidence is overwhelming" of an Iraq-Qaeda axis and that there had been a "whole series of high-level contacts" between them. The 9/11 panel said a senior Iraqi intelligence officer made three visits to Sudan in the early 1990's, meeting with Osama bin Laden once in 1994. It said Osama bin Laden had asked for "space to establish training camps, as well as assistance in procuring weapons, but Iraq apparently never responded." The panel cited reports of further contacts after Osama bin Laden returned to Afghanistan in 1996, but said there was no working relationship. As far as the public record is concerned, then, Mr. Cheney's "longstanding ties" amount to one confirmed meeting, after which the Iraq government did not help Al Qaeda. By those standards, the United States has longstanding ties to North Korea.

Mr. Bush has also used a terrorist named Abu Musab al-Zarqawi as evidence of a link between Iraq and Al Qaeda. Mr. Bush used to refer to Mr. Zarqawi as a "senior Al Qaeda terrorist planner" who was in Baghdad working with the Iraqi government. But the director of central intelligence, George Tenet, told the Senate earlier this year that Mr. Zarqawi did not work with the Hussein regime, nor under the direction of Al Qaeda.

When it comes to 9/11, someone in the Bush administration has indeed drawn the connection to Iraq: the vice president. Mr. Cheney has repeatedly referred to reports that Mohamed Atta met in Prague in April 2001 with an Iraqi intelligence agent. He told Tim Russert of NBC on Dec. 9, 2001, that this report has "been pretty well confirmed." If so, no one seems to have informed the C.I.A., the Czech government or the 9/11 commission, which said it did not appear to be true. Yet Mr. Cheney cited it, again, on Thursday night on CNBC.

Mr. Cheney said he had lots of documents to prove his claims. We have heard that before, but Mr. Cheney always seems too pressed for time or too concerned about secrets to share them.

Friday, June 18, 2004

Judge tosses online privacy case

Judge tosses online privacy case - News - ZDNet:
"In a decision dated June 6, U.S. District Court Judge Paul Magnuson ruled that seven consolidated class action lawsuits against Northwest had no merit--in part because the privacy policy posted on the airline's Web site was unenforceable unless plaintiffs claimed to have read it. The plaintiffs had contended that the airline, in giving passenger information to the government in the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, violated laws and its own privacy policy.

'Although Northwest had a privacy policy for information included on the Web site, plaintiffs do not contend that they actually read the privacy policy prior to providing Northwest with their personal information,' Magnuson noted. 'Thus, plaintiffs' expectation of privacy was low.'"

Privacy advocates assailed that part of the decision, saying it rendered Web site privacy policies all but unenforceable.

"I don't think it's relevant whether or not they actually read the privacy policy first," said Lee Tien, senior staff attorney for the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) in San Francisco. "Think of all the 'fine print' we run into every day--warranties and the like. Rather than focus on what the plaintiffs actually read, we should focus on what Northwest said it would do."

"The rationale the court uses calls into question the assurances of any policy posted on any Web site," said David Sobel, general counsel for the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) in Washington, D.C.

Thursday, June 17, 2004

No Evidence of Meeting With Iraqi

The Czech Connection: No Evidence of Meeting With Iraqi:
"The report cited a photograph taken by a bank surveillance camera in Virginia showing Mr. Atta withdrawing money on April 4, 2001, a few days before the supposed Prague meeting on April 9, and records showing his cellphone was used on April 6, 9, 10 and 11 in Florida.

The supposed meeting in Prague by Mr. Atta, who flew one of the hijacked jets on Sept. 11, was a centerpiece of early efforts by the Bush administration and its conservative allies to link Iraq with the attacks as the administration sought to justify a war to topple Saddam Hussein.

The Sept. 11 commission report also forcefully dismissed the broader notion that there was a terrorist alliance between Iraq and Al Qaeda."

Prison Abuse: Rumsfeld Issued an Order to Hide Detainee in Iraq

Prison Abuse: Rumsfeld Issued an Order to Hide Detainee in Iraq:
"Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, acting at the request of George J. Tenet, the director of central intelligence, ordered military officials in Iraq last November to hold a man suspected of being a senior Iraqi terrorist at a high-level detention center there but not list him on the prison's rolls, senior Pentagon and intelligence officials said Wednesday.

This prisoner and other 'ghost detainees' were hidden largely to prevent the International Committee of the Red Cross from monitoring their treatment, and to avoid disclosing their location to an enemy, officials said.

Maj. Gen. Antonio M. Taguba, the Army officer who in February investigated abuses at the Abu Ghraib prison, criticized the practice of allowing ghost detainees there and at other detention centers as 'deceptive, contrary to Army doctrine, and in violation of international law.'"

This prisoner, who has not been named, is believed to be the first to have been kept off the books at the orders of Mr. Rumsfeld and Mr. Tenet. He was not held at Abu Ghraib, but at another prison, Camp Cropper, on the outskirts of Baghdad International Airport, officials said.…

Pentagon and intelligence officials said the decision to hold the detainee without registering him - at least initially - was in keeping with the administration's legal opinion about the status of those viewed as an active threat in wartime.

Seven months later, however, the detainee - a reputed senior officer of Ansar al-Islam, a group the United States has linked to Al Qaeda and blames for some attacks in Iraq - is still languishing at the prison but has only been questioned once while in detention, in what government officials acknowledged was an extraordinary lapse.

"Once he was placed in military custody, people lost track of him," a senior intelligence official conceded Wednesday night. "The normal review processes that would keep track of him didn't."

The detainee was described by the official as someone "who was actively planning operations specifically targeting U.S. forces and interests both inside and outside of Iraq."

But once he was placed into custody at Camp Cropper, where about 100 detainees deemed to have the highest intelligence value are held, he received only one cursory arrival interrogation from military officers and was never again questioned by any other military or intelligence officers, according to Pentagon and intelligence officials.

At Camp Cropper, some prisoners had been held since June 2003 for nearly 23 hours a day in solitary confinement in small cells without sunlight, according to a report by the international Red Cross.

The suspected Ansar official was segregated from the other detainees and was not listed on the rolls. Under the order that had filtered down to General Sanchez, military police were not to disclose the detainee's whereabouts to the Red Cross pending further directives.

The prisoner fell into legal limbo as the military police pressed their superiors for guidance, which has still not formally come.

"Over the course of the next several weeks, the custodians at the prison asked for additional guidance, but there were no interrogations," Mr. Di Rita said.

Before this case surfaced, the C.I.A. has said it had discontinued the ghost detainee practice, but said that the Geneva Conventions allowed a delay in the identification of prisoners to avoid disclosing their whereabouts to an enemy.

How Much Is That Uzi in the Window?

The New York Times > Opinion > Op-Ed Contributor: How Much Is That Uzi in the Window?:
"By the time of the coalition invasion, Iraq had one of the largest conventional arms stockpiles in the world. According to one American military estimate, this included three million tons of bombs and bullets; millions of AK-47's and other rifles, rocket launchers and mortar tubes; and thousands of more sophisticated arms like ground-to-air missiles. Much of the arsenal was stored in vast warehouse complexes, some of which occupied several square miles. As war approached, Iraqi commanders ordered these mountains of munitions to be dispersed across the country in thousands of small caches."

The marines I was embedded with — a forward reconnaissance unit at the front of the initial invasion — were stunned by the sheer amounts of weaponry they saw as we raced across some 400 miles to Baghdad. Along much of the route, Iraqi forces had dug holes every couple of hundred yards in which they'd piled grenades, mortars and other munitions. Village schools, health clinics and other government buildings had been turned into ammunition dumps. New rifles, sometimes still sealed in plastic bags, littered the roadsides like trash along a blighted American highway.

But under orders to reach Baghdad as quickly as possible, the marines rarely had a chance to remove, destroy or even mark the stockpiles. In one village, combat engineers (led by local children whom they had bribed with bags of Skittles candies) discovered an underground bunker crammed with dozens of sophisticated air-to-ground missiles. Yet higher-ups in the division insisted that there was no time to destroy them. The marines moved on, leaving the missiles unguarded.

The job of removing ordnance was complicated by the fact that many of the combat engineers in the invasion were not adequately trained for the task. Munitions are not easy to destroy. Bullets, bombs and rockets are designed to be shock-resistant. As the combat engineers often discovered, blowing up a stack of ammunition just scattered it, unexploded, in all directions.

Ordnance disposal is best carried out by specialized technicians; the entire First Marine Expeditionary Force (which was responsible for roughly half the invasion) had the services of only about 200. As one of those overworked technicians told me the day we reached Baghdad, it would have taken the experts attached to the First Division a year just to clear the munitions they discovered in the city's eastern suburbs.

And within 24 hours of the fall of the capital, the dangers posed by all those unchecked arms became obvious. The marines I was with occupied a warehouse in the Shiite slum now called Sadr City, which quickly became the center of armed insurgence in Baghdad. The moment it got dark, tracer fire lit up the sky, as gun battles erupted across the city.

The marines were told not to worry; their commanders informed them that the violence was a result of "red on red" engagements, meaning that Iraqis were shooting at other Iraqis. When American patrols entered Shiite neighborhoods starting the next day, locals begged them to get rid of the arms. They told us that semi-automatic rifles, nearly unobtainable during Saddam Hussein's rule, could now be obtained for about the cost of a pack of cigarettes. Heavier weapons were not much more expensive. Unexploded artillery shells (which are now being used to make the improvised roadside bombs) were free for the taking, scattered about backyards and alleys.

…by the time occupation authorities got serious about disarming Iraq, many of the munitions that American forces bypassed in the invasion had fallen into the hands of those bent on killing Americans.

American forces have now destroyed some 300,000 tons of munitions. Yet the troops on the ground still complain that the old regime's supply depots remain woefully underguarded. Nobody knows how long it will take to dispose of known stockpiles — American military estimates range from one year to 10. And then there are the unaccounted stashes, which, based on Iraqi documents, are thought to contain hundreds of surface-to-air missiles, tens of thousands of bombs and half a million pounds of C-4 plastic explosive.…

Smack That Cheney-Bot!

The New York Times > Opinion > Op-Ed Columnist: Smack That Cheney-Bot!:
"The Republicans messed up their first attempt at this, when they took Dick Cheney to an undisclosed location to switch him with a replicant. Instead of an affable, reassuring presence, as he was in Bush I, the Bush II vice president is a macabre automaton who keeps repeating, over and over, as contrary evidence piles up, that Saddam and Al Qaeda were linked, and that Mohamed Atta met an Iraqi intelligence officer in Prague."

Mr. Cheney did it again on Monday in Florida speaking at — where else? — a conservative think tank; he said Saddam "had long-established ties with Al Qaeda." This claim, used by the White House to justify its gallop to war, was once more flatly contradicted by the 9/11 panel's report yesterday: "Two senior bin Laden associates have adamantly denied that any ties existed between Al Qaeda and Iraq. We have no credible evidence that Iraq and Al Qaeda cooperated on attacks against the United States."

The report says Osama did seek help from Saddam in the 90's, "despite his opposition to Hussein's secular regime." But aside from sending an official to meet with Osama in Sudan, Saddam stiffed his request for weapons and training-camp space.

Mr. Cheney isn't programmed to process evidence that shows he was wrong; he simply keeps repeating the same nonsensical claims as if he has a microchip malfunction.

Unfortunately, there's no spouse to give him a knock on the head, as the Stepford husbands do when their Farrah fem-bots go haywire and keep repeating things like, "I'll just die if I don't get that recipe. . . . I'll just die if I-I-I [bop!] don't get that recipe. . . ."

Posted Privacy Policy Unenforceable Unless Plaintiffs Claimed to Have Read It

Judge tosses online privacy case - News - ZDNet:
"The dismissal of lawsuits brought against Northwest Airlines has online privacy advocates renewing calls for federal privacy legislation.

In a decision dated June 6, U.S. District Court Judge Paul Magnuson ruled that seven consolidated class action lawsuits against Northwest had no merit--in part because the privacy policy posted on the airline's Web site was unenforceable unless plaintiffs claimed to have read it. The plaintiffs had contended that the airline, in giving passenger information to the government in the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, violated laws and its own privacy policy.

'Although Northwest had a privacy policy for information included on the Web site, plaintiffs do not contend that they actually read the privacy policy prior to providing Northwest with their personal information,' Magnuson noted. 'Thus, plaintiffs' expectation of privacy was low.'"

Monday, June 14, 2004

Fair Use on Digital Media Drives Scholars to Lawbooks

Permissions on Digital Media Drive Scholars to Lawbooks:
"When some 20,000 first-year American medical students reported to their schools last summer, they received a free 20-minute multimedia collage of music, text and short video clips from television doctor dramas, past and present, burned onto a CD-ROM.

'The patients you meet in the coming years may have doubts about you because of the doctors they see on prime-time television,' the introduction reads. 'The aim of this presentation is to explore why that is, and suggest what you can do about it.'"

But the CD was perhaps more of an education for its developer, Joseph Turow, a professor at the University of Pennsylvania's Annenberg School for Communication.

"It's crazy," Professor Turow said of the labyrinth of permissions, waivers and fees he navigated to get the roughly three minutes of video clips included on the CD, which was paid for by a grant from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. The process took months, Professor Turow said, and cost about $17,000 in fees and royalties paid to the various studios and guilds for the use of clips. The film used ranged from, for example, a 1961 episode of "Ben Casey" to a more-recent scene from "ER."

This Friday, Professor Turow and other experts will meet at a conference sponsored by the Annenberg School to debate how digital media fits into the concept of "fair use" - a murky safe harbor in copyright law that allows scholars and researchers limited use of protected materials for educational or commentary purposes.

Earlier Warning of Abuse in Iraq

Unit Says It Gave Earlier Warning of Abuse in Iraq:
"Beginning in November, a small unit of interrogators at Abu Ghraib prison began reporting allegations of prisoner abuse, including the beatings of five blindfolded Iraqi generals, in internal documents sent to senior officers, according to interviews with military personnel who worked in the prison.

The disclosure of the documents raises new questions about whether senior officers in Iraq were alerted about serious abuses at the prison before January. Top military officials have said they only learned about abuses then, after a soldier came forward with photographs of the abuse."

"We were reporting it long before this mess came out," said one of several military intelligence soldiers interviewed in Germany and the United States who asked not to be identified for fear they would jeopardize their careers.

The Red Cross has said it alerted American military commanders in Iraq to abuses at Abu Ghraib in November. But the disclosures that the military's own interrogators had alerted superiors to abuse back then in internal documents has not been previously reported.

At least 20 accounts of mistreatment were included in the documents, according to those interviewed. Some detainees described abuse at other detention facilities before they were transferred to Abu Ghraib, but at least seven incidents said to be cited in the documents took place at the prison, four of them in the area controlled by military intelligence and the site of the notorious abuses depicted in the photographs.

The abuse allegations were cited by members of the prison's Detainee Assessment Branch, a unit of interrogators who screened prisoners for possible release, in routine weekly reports channeled to military judge advocates and others.

Military intelligence personnel said the unit's two- to five-page memorandums were to be sent for final approval to a three-member board that included Brig. Gen. Janis Karpinski, the commander of the 800th Military Police Battalion, and Maj. Gen. Barbara Fast, the top Army intelligence officer in Iraq. The sections in which the abuse was cited were generally only a paragraph or two in a larger document.

Military officials in Baghdad acknowledged Sunday that lawyers on a magistrate board reviewed the reports, but they could not confirm whether Generals Karpinski and Fast had seen them, or whether any action had been taken to investigate the incidents. Col. Jill E. Morgenthaler, chief of public affairs at military headquarters in Baghdad, said Sunday that officials were "trying to find the documents in question."

"Until then, there's nothing we can say," she said.

Most of the Abu Ghraib incidents were reported before January, said military intelligence personnel. In one case a detainee told workers from the Detainee Assessment Branch that he was made to stand naked, holding books on his head, while a soldier poured cold water on him. Among the other incidents cited by military personnel: a man was shoved to the ground before a soldier stepped on his head; a man was forced to stand naked while a female interrogator made fun of his genitals and a woman was repeatedly kicked by a military police guard.

The beating of the former generals, which had not been disclosed, is being examined by the Pentagon as part of its inquiry into abuses at Abu Ghraib, according to people knowledgeable about the investigation.

By mid-December, those people said, two separate reports of the beating had been made — one by the assessment branch and one by a military intelligence analyst. The analyst asked a former general at the end of an interrogation what had happened to his nose — it was smashed and tilted to the left, and a gash on his chin had been stitched.

The prisoner, in his 50's, told the story of the beating, which he said had occurred about a week earlier. His account closely matched that given independently to the Detainee Assessment Branch by another former general around the same time.

Sunday, June 13, 2004

File this Under "What Were They Thinking?"

U.S. to Drop Benefit Cuts Linked to Drug Discounts:
"The Bush administration said Saturday that it would rescind a federal policy that threatened to cut food stamp benefits for several million low-income elderly and disabled people who save money on their medicines by using the new Medicare drug discount cards.

The administration's reversal came two days before President Bush was scheduled to visit Missouri to promote use of the cards, which have received a tepid reaction from many Medicare beneficiaries.

In interviews this week, state officials across the country said low-income people who used the cards could find their food stamp benefits reduced as a result. The cuts, they said, were a direct result of federal regulations and a policy statement issued by the Agriculture Department on March 10."

The purpose of the discount cards is to reduce out-of-pocket drug costs. But when a person's drug expenses go down, state officials said, the food stamp program assumes that the person has more money available to spend on other needs, including food. So the person may receive a smaller food stamp allotment, they said.

Judy K. Toelle, the food stamp director in South Dakota, confirmed that such cuts would occur under the federal rules. For example, she said, a woman with monthly income of $1,060, shelter expenses of $555 and drug costs of $325 now receives $51 a month in food stamps. But, she said, if the card reduced her out-of-pocket drug costs by $100, the woman would get $41 less in food stamps, so the net saving would be $59.

Food stamp officials in California, Colorado, Missouri , New Mexico and Washington State said they were simply following federal rules in reducing food stamp benefits to take account of the fact that people with discount cards spent less on prescription drugs. Those regulations have not been changed.

But after inquiries from The New York Times, Eric M. Bost, an under secretary of agriculture, said, "We will immediately be clarifying policy guidance to ensure that food stamp applicants or recipients who use the new Medicare discount card will experience no impact on their eligibility or benefits."

The abrupt shift highlights the confusion between federal and state officials, and between the two federal agencies that administer Medicare and food stamps.

Medicare officials said on Tuesday that they were unaware of the Agriculture Department policy.

Dr. Mark B. McClellan, administrator of the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, said the drug card, which carries a $600 subsidy for low-income people, was not supposed to "take away any existing federal benefits."

Friday, June 11, 2004

U.S. Alliance Is Built on Shifting Sands

News Analysis: The Constitution: Kurds Find U.S. Alliance Is Built on Shifting Sands:
"'It's not just that we have been misled by the Americans,' said a high-ranking Kurdish official. 'It's also that they change their position day to day without any focus on real strategy in Iraq. There's a level of mismanagement and incompetence that is shocking.'

The temporary constitution, hammered out under American supervision in March, was hailed by the American authorities at the time as one that would prevail until a new constitution is written and ratified and a permanent government takes office under its provisions.

But Iraq's new leaders, in statements this week, described it as only operative until the beginning of next year, when a newly elected national assembly convenes to write the permanent charter.

Iraq's new prime minister, Iyad Allawi, who was picked under a process led by the United Nations, said in Baghdad that the document approved last March remains the law of the land for now. His comment was intended to reassure Kurds, but Kurdish spokesmen said Thursday that it may have had the opposite effect."

Reagan's Legacy Now Begins the Test of Time

Legacy of Reagan's Presidency Now Begins the Test of Time:
"'But he was not a great president,' said Sean Wilentz, professor of history at Princeton University. 'He was master at projecting a mood; he could certainly rally the country. He would have made a great king, a great constitutional monarch, but we do not have that form of government.'

Success in war underpins the claims to greatness of many presidents. Jackson wins the plaudits of historians for broadening the character of American democracy by extending the franchise. But he was a celebrated soldier long before he became president, as were Washington, Theodore Roosevelt and Dwight D. Eisenhower, whose standing among historians and other commentators has increased markedly since he left office. Lincoln, F.D.R., Truman and James K. Polk (the victor in the Mexican War) were all wartime commanders in chief."

Mr. Reagan spent World War II, the global conflict fought and won by his generation, making training films in Hollywood. But he came to power as the cold war was nearing a denouement, and he did all he could to hasten the process by beefing up the American military and then, in Berlin, boldly challenging Soviet leaders to "tear down this wall." After that, it would have been hard for Mikhail S. Gorbachev to believe that Americans had lost their will to resist Soviet power, and he joined with Mr. Reagan to bring the long struggle to a conclusion. It was the result of 45 years of aggressive allied containment, but the commander in chief, as always, got much of the credit.

Thursday, June 10, 2004

Higher-Ranking Officer Is Sought for Abu Ghraib Inquiry

Higher-Ranking Officer Is Sought to Lead the Abu Ghraib Inquiry:
"The commander of American forces in the Middle East asked Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld this week to replace the general investigating suspected abuses by military intelligence soldiers at Abu Ghraib prison with a more senior officer, a step that would allow the inquiry to reach into the military's highest ranks in Iraq, Pentagon officials said Wednesday.

The request by the commander, Gen. John P. Abizaid, comes amid increasing criticism from lawmakers and some military officers that the half dozen investigations into detainee abuse at the prison may end up scapegoating a handful of enlisted soldiers and leaving many senior officers unaccountable.

General Abizaid's request, which defense officials said Mr. Rumsfeld would most likely approve, was set in motion in the last week when the current investigating officer, Maj. Gen. George R. Fay, told his superiors that he could not complete his inquiry without interviewing more senior-ranking officers, including Lt. Gen. Ricardo S. Sanchez, the ground commander in Iraq.

But Army regulations prevent General Fay, a two-star general, from interviewing higher-ranking officers. So General Sanchez took the unusual step of asking to be removed as the reviewing authority for General Fay's report, and requesting that higher-ranking officers be appointed to conduct and review the investigation."

Wednesday, June 09, 2004

Reagan's Legacy, he capitalized on anti-black populism

Online NewsHour: Historians Discuss Reagan's Legacy -- June 7, 2004:
"ROGER WILKINS: Well, Reagan was an incredible combination of a person who was very optimistic, upbeat, but underneath there were some really ugly parts of his politics.

He was, I said once before on this program, by going to Philadelphia and Mississippi , for example, in the beginning of his campaign in 1980.

Nobody had ever heard of Philadelphia and Mississippi outside of Mississippi , except as the place where three civil rights workers had been lynched ?3 in 1964 ?3 he said I believe in states rights. "

Everybody knew what that meant. He went to Stone Mountain , Georgia , where the Ku Klux Klan used to burn its crosses, and he said Jefferson Davis is a hero of mine.

He was rebuked by the Atlanta newspapers – they said we don't need that any more here. He went to Charlotte, North Carolina one of the most successful busing for integration programs in the country and he said I'm against busing and again the Charlotte papers rebuked him. And the impact of that plus his attacks on welfare women, welfare queens in Cadillacs, for example. And his call for cutting the government. He didn't cut the government; the military bloomed in his time. But programs for poor people day diminished entirely and America became a less civilized and less decent place.…

Bans on Torture Didn't Bind Bush

Legal Opinions: Lawyers Decided Bans on Torture Didn't Bind Bush:
"A team of administration lawyers concluded in a March 2003 legal memorandum that President Bush was not bound by either an international treaty prohibiting torture or by a federal antitorture law because he had the authority as commander in chief to approve any technique needed to protect the nation's security.

The memo, prepared for Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, also said that any executive branch officials, including those in the military, could be immune from domestic and international prohibitions against torture for a variety of reasons.

One reason, the lawyers said, would be if military personnel believed that they were acting on orders from superiors 'except where the conduct goes so far as to be patently unlawful.'"

"In order to respect the president's inherent constitutional authority to manage a military campaign," the lawyers wrote in the 56-page confidential memorandum, the prohibition against torture "must be construed as inapplicable to interrogation undertaken pursuant to his commander-in-chief authority."

Senior Pentagon officials on Monday sought to minimize the significance of the March memo, one of several obtained by The New York Times, as an interim legal analysis that had no effect on revised interrogation procedures that Mr. Rumsfeld approved in April 2003 for the American military prison at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba.

Monday, June 07, 2004

The military's justice system is neither particularly free nor particularly democratic.

Judging Abu Ghraib: Why Military Justice Can Seem Unjust:
"Compared with the accepted legal practices of the civilian world, the military's justice system is neither particularly free nor particularly democratic. And it rarely operates in the bright glare of public scrutiny. Justice is not secondary, the system's defenders say, but it is subject to other considerations, not least of which is accomplishing the military's mission, often in the middle of war.

As a result, justice in the military ultimately depends almost entirely on the judgment of commanders. An offense that sends one soldier to Leavenworth after a public court-martial can end for another soldier in a quiet discharge or retirement, with the exact nature of his or her punishment protected by privacy laws.

For example, in the first court-martial stemming from the abuses at Abu Ghraib last fall, Specialist Jeremy C. Sivits pleaded guilty last month to four charges of humiliating Iraqi prisoners and agreed to testify against others. He was demoted and sentenced to a year in prison.

A few months before, in September, a soldier at a smaller prison northwest of Baghdad wrongfully shot and killed a prisoner who was throwing rocks. Facing a court-martial for using excessive force, the soldier asked, and was allowed by his commander, to leave the Army with a demotion. "

"I don't want to in any way diminish what happened at Abu Ghraib, which was torture, but we're talking about murder here," said Marc Garlasco, senior military analyst at Human Rights Watch, which has been monitoring allegations of abuse by American soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Has Bush Learned Anything From His Mistakes?

Has Bush Learned Anything From His Mistakes?:
"With his occupation of Iraq teetering on the brink of strategic catastrophe and his reasons for invading discredited, President Bush has offered us no sign that he has learned from his mistakes, no course correction, and all too much robotic repetition of rhetorical platitudes.

Bush's May 24 speech to the nation was all too typical: No honest coming to grips with the seriousness of the crisis we face. No acknowledgment of the administration's blunders that have aggravated that crisis. No pledge to expand the clearly overstretched occupation force. No plan to turn the tide against the insurgents, other than a pathetic, too-little, too-late proposal to replace the Abu Ghraib prison with a kinder, gentler lockup. No serious move to persuade foreign leaders to help. No hope of stemming the crescendo of America-hating around the world that Bush has inflamed with his arrogant diplomacy and cowboy posturing."

The best that can be said of the speech is that it was less appalling than Bush's recent news conference, at which he ranged between utter unresponsiveness, feckless fumbling, and vacuousness. He has refused not only to talk with reporters, but also to engage with the Republican lawmakers to whom he spoke on Capitol Hill on May 20, only to flee the scene without taking any of their anxious questions.

Bush is seen by a widening circle of Democrats, independents, and even Republicans as alarmingly unequal to the demands of his office—a shallow-minded ideologue impervious to the lessons of experience and incapable of thoughtful reflection.

The danger and the fundamental unfairness embedded in the president's 'what, me worry?' approach to the war

Level With Americans: "The stop-loss policy is the latest illustration of both the danger and the fundamental unfairness embedded in the president's 'what, me worry?' approach to the war in Iraq. Almost the entire burden of the war has been loaded onto the backs of a brave but tiny segment of the population— the men and women, most of them from working-class families, who enlisted in the armed forces for a variety of reasons, from patriotism to a desire to further their education to the need for a job.

They never expected that the failure of their country to pay for an army of sufficient size would result in their being trapped in a war zone with the exit doors locked when their enlistments were up.

Meanwhile, the rest of us have been given a pass. The president has not asked us to share in the sacrifice and we haven't demanded the opportunity to do so. We're not even paying for the war. It's being put on credit cards issued in the names of future generations.

For America's privileged classes, this is the most comfortable war imaginable. There's something utterly surreal about a government cutting taxes and bragging about an economic boom while at the same time refusing to provide the forces necessary to relieve troops who are fighting and dying overseas. "

Sunday, June 06, 2004

public demand versus the entrenched institutional interests that block radical change

Foreign Affairs - The New Politics of Intelligence: Will Reforms Work This Time? - Richard K. Betts:
"The failure to prevent the attacks of September 11, 2001, the failure to find weapons of mass destruction (WMD) in Iraq, and the proliferation of official investigations trying to figure out what went wrong in both cases have combined to put intelligence issues in a very unusual position this year: at the center of a closely contested presidential campaign.

All the attention creates both an opportunity and a danger. The opportunity stems from the consensus that major reforms are necessary. Previous controversies over the quality of intelligence have generally been inside-the-Beltway debates leading to only minor reforms at best. That will probably be true this time as well. But if there were ever a moment when public demand might overcome the entrenched institutional interests that block radical change, this should be it."

No investigation completely independent of the Pentagon exists

Investigations: Wide Gaps Seen in U.S. Inquiries on Prison Abuse:
"No investigation completely independent of the Pentagon exists to determine what led to the abuses at Abu Ghraib prison, and so far there has been no groundswell in Congress or elsewhere to create one.

But on Capitol Hill, even some Republicans have begun to question whether the Pentagon's inquiries are too narrowly structured to establish the causes of the abuses, as Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld and others have pledged to do, and then to determine if anyone in the chain of command was responsible for them."

Some House Republicans, bucking their leaders who have said the focus on Abu Ghraib is distracting from the larger effort in Iraq, have joined Democrats in urging a more aggressive review of the investigations. In the Senate, members of both parties said there remained major aspects that fell outside the scope of any of the investigations that are under way — including the role of military lawyers in drafting policy on detainees and the involvement of civilian contractors in their interrogations.…

Dozens of criminal investigations into accusations of abuses against prisoners have yet to be resolved, and some may never be, officials concede. Additional criminal cases stemming from the abuses at Abu Ghraib appear to have been put on hold while a separate investigation is completed into the role military intelligence soldiers may have played there and at other prisons in Iraq — an inquiry whose findings have been delayed at least until July.

In addition to the criminal cases, which have included investigations into the deaths of at least 40 prisoners in Iraq and Afghanistan, the Pentagon has ordered six inquiries or reviews since a soldier came forward in January with evidence of the Abu Ghraib abuses. Two have been completed. The others have narrow focus and limited scope; while in theory they could recommend criminal charges, that is not their focus.

Friday, June 04, 2004

Abu Ghraib Abuse Could Constitute War Crime

U.N. Says Abu Ghraib Abuse Could Constitute War Crime:
"The United Nations' top human rights official said today that the mistreatment of Iraqi prisoners by American soldiers could constitute a war crime, and he called for the immediate naming of an international figure to oversee the situation.

Bertrand Ramcharan, the acting high commissioner for human rights, acknowledged that the removal of Saddam Hussein represented 'a major contribution to human rights in Iraq' and that the United States had condemned the conduct and pledged to bring violators to justice."

"Everyone accepts the good intentions of the coalition governments as regards the behavior of their forces in Iraq," he said in a 45-page report issued at the agency's headquarters in Geneva.

But, Mr. Ramcharan declared, after the occupation of Iraq, "there have sadly been some violations of human rights committed by some coalition soldiers."

In an apparent reference to the incidents of abuse at Abu Ghraib prison and to cases where Iraqi prisoners have died in detention, Mr. Ramcharan said that "willful killing, torture and inhuman treatment" represented a grave breach of international law and "might be designated as war crimes by a competent tribunal."

He said it was a "stark reality" that there was no international oversight or accountability for the thousands of detainees, the conditions in which they were held and the manner in which they were treated.

To correct this situation, he said, the coalition authorities should immediately appoint "an international ombudsman or commissioner." That person would be charged with monitoring human rights in Iraq and producing periodic reports on "compliance by coalition forces with international norms of human rights and humanitarian law."

Thursday, June 03, 2004

Lakhdar Brahimi Wants New Iraq Government to Court Foes of Occupation

Politics: U.N. Envoy Wants New Iraq Government to Court Foes of Occupation:
"The United Nations special envoy called on the new Iraqi government on Wednesday to broaden discussions to include Iraqis who oppose the American occupation, and he suggested that his own authority in shaping the new government had been sharply limited by American officials."

Lakhdar Brahimi, at a news conference wrapping up a nearly monthlong visit here, suggested that the Americans were pursuing a strategy in Iraq that relied too heavily on force and not enough on subtlety and persuasion.

Mr. Brahimi, who called L. Paul Bremer III, the chief American administrator here, a "dictator," seemed to stop just short of calling on the United States to open talks with the insurgents.

"Why is there what is, I think, to use a neutral term, there is this insurgency?" Mr. Brahimi said, addressing reporters in both Arabic and English. "I think it's a little bit too easy to call everybody a terrorist. And I think if you find out that there are people who are not terrorists who are respectable, genuine Iraqi patriots you must find a way of talking to them."

Mr. Brahimi suggested he might have done things differently if he had been given a freer hand in setting up the new government that was unveiled on Tuesday. Asked about the selection of the prime minister, which became a divisive affair, he alluded to the role of Mr. Bremer.

"The government of Iraq, I sometimes say — I'm sure he doesn't mind my saying it — Mr. Bremer is the dictator of Iraq," Mr. Brahimi said. "He has the money. He has the signature. Nothing happens without his agreement in this country."

Tuesday, June 01, 2004

Yes, Prints Can Lie

Can Prints Lie? Yes, Man Finds to His Dismay:
"In front of the immigration judge, the tall, muscular man began to weep. No, he had patiently tried to explain, he was not Leo Rosario, a drug dealer and a prime candidate for deportation.

He was telling the truth. He was Rene Ramon Sanchez, an auto-body worker and merengue singer from the Bronx who bore not even a passing resemblance to Mr. Rosario, a complete stranger 12 years his junior and a half-foot shorter.

'Why don't you get his photo then?' Mr. Sanchez cried out in Spanish, pounding a fist into his palm. 'And compare my fingerprints with his?'"

The judge, Alan L. Page, had been told the prints were the same. "The general rule is, the prints don't lie," Judge Page had said earlier. "If you got the same prints that Leo Rosario has, you're Leo Rosario. And there's nothing I can do about it."

So Mr. Sanchez, in late 2000, was sent back for another week in a grim detention center in Lower Manhattan, severed from his family and livelihood, because his fingerprints had been mistakenly placed on the official record of another man.

Remarkably, this was not the first time Mr. Sanchez had paid for that mistake. He had been arrested three times for Mr. Rosario's crimes, and ultimately spent a total of two months in custody and was threatened with deportation before the mistake was traced and resolved in 2002.

Mr. Sanchez's ordeal, unearthed from court records and interviews, amounts to a strange, sometimes absurd odyssey through a criminal justice system that made a single error and then compounded it time and again by failing to correct it.

The limits of fingerprint evidence have been much in the news. An Oregon lawyer jailed as a material witness in the Madrid train bombings was freed this month after the F.B.I. said it had mistakenly matched his prints with others found near the scene of the attacks.

Mr. Sanchez's case, if less dire or public, is no less chilling a lesson in how easily a person's identity can be smudged in this era of shared databases, and how long it can take to cleanse it — particularly if, like Mr. Sanchez, he speaks little English and has a minor police record of his own.
con·cept: June 2004