Tuesday, January 17, 2006

ACLU Sues to Stop Illegal Spying on Americans, Saying President Is Not Above the Law (1/17/2006)

ACLU Sues to Stop Illegal Spying on Americans, Saying President Is Not Above the Law (1/17/2006)

CONTACT: media@aclu.org

Prominent Journalists, Nonprofit Groups, Terrorism Experts and Community Advocates Join First Lawsuit to Challenge New NSA Spying Program

NEW YORK – Saying that the Bush administration’s illegal spying on Americans must end, the American Civil Liberties Union today filed a first-of-its-kind lawsuit against the National Security Agency seeking to stop a secret electronic surveillance program that has been in place since shortly after September 11, 2001.

“President Bush may believe he can authorize spying on Americans without judicial or Congressional approval, but this program is illegal and we intend to put a stop to it,” said ACLU Executive Director Anthony D. Romero. “The current surveillance of Americans is a chilling assertion of presidential power that has not been seen since the days of Richard Nixon.”

The lawsuit was filed on behalf of a group of prominent journalists, scholars, attorneys, and national nonprofit organizations (including the ACLU) who frequently communicate by phone and e-mail with people in the Middle East. Because of the nature of their calls and e-mails, they believe their communications are being intercepted by the NSA under the spying program. The program is disrupting their ability to talk with sources, locate witnesses, conduct scholarship, and engage in advocacy. The program, which was first disclosed by The New York Times on December 16, has sparked national and international furor and has been condemned by lawmakers across the political spectrum.

In addition to the ACLU, the plaintiffs in today’s case are:

Authors and journalists James Bamford, Christopher Hitchens and Tara McKelvey

Afghanistan scholar Barnett Rubin of New York University’s Center on International Cooperation and democracy scholar Larry Diamond, a fellow at the Hoover Institution

Nonprofit advocacy groups NACDL, Greenpeace, and Council on American Islamic Relations, who joined the lawsuit on behalf of their staff and membership

"The prohibition against government eavesdropping on American citizens is well-established and crystal clear,” said ACLU Associate Legal Director Ann Beeson, who is lead counsel in ACLU v. NSA. “President Bush's claim that he is not bound by the law is simply astounding. Our democratic system depends on the rule of law, and not even the president can issue illegal orders that violate Constitutional principles.”

According to news reports, President Bush signed an order in 2002 allowing the NSA to monitor the telephone and e-mail communications of "hundreds, perhaps thousands, of people inside the United States" with persons abroad, without a court order as the law requires. Under the program, the NSA is also engaging in wholesale datamining by sifting through millions of calls and e-mails of ordinary Americans.

Journalist James Bamford, a plaintiff and one of the world’s leading experts on U.S. intelligence and the National Security Agency, said that “the spying program removes a necessary firewall that would prevent the kind of government abuse seen during the Watergate scandal.” Bamford was threatened with prosecution in the 1970s as he prepared to disclose unclassified details about illegal NSA spying on Americans in his book, The Puzzle Palace.

In the legal complaint filed, the ACLU said the spying program violates Americans’ rights to free speech and privacy under the First and Fourth Amendments of the Constitution.

The ACLU also charged that the program violates the Constitution because President Bush exceeded his authority under separation of powers principles. Congress has enacted two statutes, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act and Title III of the federal criminal code, which are “the exclusive means by which electronic surveillance. . . and the interception of domestic wire, oral, and electronic communications may be conducted.”

The lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court in the Eastern District of Michigan, seeks a court order declaring that the NSA spying is illegal and ordering its immediate and permanent halt. Attorneys in the case are Beeson, Jameel Jaffer, and Melissa Goodman of the national ACLU Foundation, and Michael Steinberg of the ACLU of Michigan.The lawsuit names as defendants the NSA and Lieutenant General Keith B. Alexander, the current the Director of the NSA.

For more information on the lawsuit, including the legal complaint, fact sheets on the case law and on the NSA spying program, and links to statements from the plaintiffs in the lawsuit, please go to www.aclu.org/nsaspying

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Catholic Bishop Breaks Ranks and Silence Regarding Abuse Cases

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

This Story from the Washington Post Deserves as much attention as possible:

Breaking ranks with his peers, a Roman Catholic bishop called yesterday for state legislatures to temporarily remove the time limits that have prevented many victims of sex abuse from suing the church.

In making that extraordinary appeal, Auxiliary Bishop Thomas Gumbleton of Detroit also unburdened himself of a secret. As a teenager 60 years ago, he said, he was "inappropriately touched" by a priest.

Gumbleton, 75, is the first U.S. bishop to disclose that he was a victim of clergy sexual abuse. He is also the first to endorse proposals in Ohio, Pennsylvania, New York and other states to follow California's example and open a one-year window for victims to file lawsuits over sexual abuse, no matter how long ago it took place.

"I don't want to exaggerate that I was terribly damaged. It was not the kind of sexual abuse that many of the victims experience," Gumbleton said in a telephone interview. But, he said, he knows why sex abuse victims often cannot file lawsuits within the period allowed by the statute of limitations, which in many states is two to five years after the alleged crime.

"They are intimidated, embarrassed, and they just bury it. I understand that," he said. "I never told my parents. . . . I never told anybody."

Gumbleton is stepping into the middle of a legislative battle between victims' groups and lobbyists for the Roman Catholic Church and other religious organizations. It began in 2002, when the California legislature voted to lift the state's statute of limitations on sex abuse lawsuits for one year, from Jan. 1 to Dec. 31, 2003. During that period, victims filed more than 800 suits against California dioceses. Most are still in mediation, with a cost that attorneys on both sides have said could top $1 billion -- about what the sex abuse scandal has cost all other U.S. Catholic dioceses in the country combined.

The complete story may be found here:

Monday, January 09, 2006

German Chancellor Says Close Guantanamo

The BBC reported today:

German Chancellor Angela Merkel says the US detention camp at Guantanamo Bay "should not exist", in an interview days before she meets George W Bush.

In the interview to be published on Monday, Mrs Merkel criticises the US camp in Cuba, saying "different ways" should be found to deal with prisoners.

Her visit to Washington is her first since she took office in November.

Mrs Merkel hopes to improve relations with the US, which were strained when Gerhard Schroeder opposed the Iraq war.

Mrs Merkel told the German magazine Der Spiegel: "An institution like Guantanamo can and should not exist in the longer term.

"Different ways and means must be found for dealing with these prisoners."

At a news conference on Saturday, Mrs Merkel defended her comments, but said she would not demand the immediate closure of the camp when she meets with President Bush next week.

"That's my opinion and my view and I'll say it elsewhere just as I have expressed it here," she said.

The complete story may be found at the link below:

Thursday, January 05, 2006

Kickback Mountain.....New Screenplay in the Works?

This photo captures the essence of the bribery scandal now unfolding in Washington, we thought our readers would enjoy viewing it. It was found by us on the web, credit printed on photo.

Emmy Award Winning Reporter Placed on No Fly List--REALLY SCARY

The following article from The Daily Kos shows the continued abuse of power by the Bush administration,

link to complete story at bottom

James Moore is an Emmy-winning former television news correspondent and the co-author of the bestselling, Bush's Brain: How Karl Rove Made George W. Bush Presidential. He has been writing and reporting from Texas for the past 25 years on the rise of Rove and Bush and has traveled extensively on every presidential campaign since 1976.

This author was placed on the no fly list. Two points: there's nothing you or I can do to help him but make this public, and two- we are all targets here. Excerpt, Link and horror story on the flip.


Bush Reserves Right to Torture Prisoners, Signing Statement Proves Intent

The Boston Globe Reported January 4, 2006

WASHINGTON -- When President Bush last week signed the bill outlawing the torture of detainees, he quietly reserved the right to bypass the law under his powers as commander in chief.

After approving the bill last Friday, Bush issued a ''signing statement" -- an official document in which a president lays out his interpretation of a new law -- declaring that he will view the interrogation limits in the context of his broader powers to protect national security. This means Bush believes he can waive the restrictions, the White House and legal specialists said.

''The executive branch shall construe [the law] in a manner consistent with the constitutional authority of the President . . . as Commander in Chief," Bush wrote, adding that this approach ''will assist in achieving the shared objective of the Congress and the President . . . of protecting the American people from further terrorist attacks."

Some legal specialists said yesterday that the president's signing statement, which was posted on the White House website but had gone unnoticed over the New Year's weekend, raises serious questions about whether he intends to follow the law.

A senior administration official, who spoke to a Globe reporter about the statement on condition of anonymity because he is not an official spokesman, said the president intended to reserve the right to use harsher methods in special situations involving national security.

''We are not going to ignore this law," the official said, noting that Bush, when signing laws, routinely issues signing statements saying he will construe them consistent with his own constitutional authority. ''We consider it a valid statute. We consider ourselves bound by the prohibition on cruel, unusual, and degrading treatment."

But, the official said, a situation could arise in which Bush may have to waive the law's restrictions to carry out his responsibilities to protect national security. He cited as an example a ''ticking time bomb" scenario, in which a detainee is believed to have information that could prevent a planned terrorist attack.

''Of course the president has the obligation to follow this law, [but] he also has the obligation to defend and protect the country as the commander in chief, and he will have to square those two responsibilities in each case," the official added. ''We are not expecting that those two responsibilities will come into conflict, but it's possible that they will."

David Golove, a New York University law professor who specializes in executive power issues, said that the signing statement means that Bush believes he can still authorize harsh interrogation tactics when he sees fit.

''The signing statement is saying 'I will only comply with this law when I want to, and if something arises in the war on terrorism where I think it's important to torture or engage in cruel, inhuman, and degrading conduct, I have the authority to do so and nothing in this law is going to stop me,' " he said. ''They don't want to come out and say it directly because it doesn't sound very nice, but it's unmistakable to anyone who has been following what's going on."

The complete story may be read here:

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Catholic Church Accused of Re-victimizing Abuse Plaintiffs

According to a Dec 30 article in the Boston Herald

The Archdiocese of Boston is using new tough litigation tactics aimed at weeding out dozens of alleged sexual abuse victims seeking settlements, plaintiff attorneys said.
Lawyers say they were notified just before Christmas that the church would begin using a new multitiered settlement structure in which only selected plaintiffs would be invited to have an arbitrator decide an award of up to $200,000 in damages.

Other plaintiffs would be deposed and have to submit evidence to prove alleged assaults took place, and also would be subject to statute of limitations and immunity defenses the church previously waived.

Plaintiffs with claims deemed dubious by church officials will not be offered the opportunity to be heard by the arbitrator at all and must file any claims in court.
“What they are doing is revictimizing the victims, and that is not fair,” said Mitchell Garabedian, who represents 55 of the more than 200 remaining church abuse victims seeking settlements.
Attorneys worry that subjecting abuse victims to aggressive examinations either will scare them away or cause irreparable emotional damage. “I worry about someone going through this process and getting rejected, and what they might do next,” said attorney Carmen L. Durso, an attorney for dozens of persons claiming abuse, one of whom committed suicide.

The complete article may be found here:

Republicans Running for Cover, Attempting to Return Funds in Hopes of Avoiding Upcoming Indictments

President Bush, former House Majority Leader
Tom DeLay and his successor Roy Blunt Wednesday joined the growing list of officials shedding political donations from Jack Abramoff, the once powerful lobbyist who has agreed to testify in a broad-ranging political corruption investigation.

Bush's re-election campaign is giving up $6,000 in campaign contributions connected to Abramoff, who pleaded guilty Tuesday to fraud, corruption and tax evasion charges in Washington. The lobbyist was due in federal court in Miami Wednesday afternoon to plead guilty to fraud charges stemming from his purchases of a Florida gambling boat fleet called SunCruz.

In a plea agreement with government prosecutors, Abramoff agreed to tell the
FBI about alleged bribes to lawmakers and their aides on issues ranging from Internet gambling to wireless phone service in the House.

The full extent of the investigation is not yet known, but Justice Department officials said they intended to make use of the trove of e-mails and other material in Abramoff's possession as part of a probe that is believed to be focusing on as many as 20 members of Congress and aides.

"The corruption scheme with Mr. Abramoff is very extensive and we will continue to follow it wherever it leads," said Assistant Attorney General Alice Fisher, head of the Justice Department's criminal division.

Bush, DeLay, Blunt and Rep. Bob Ney (news, bio, voting record) joined House Speaker
Dennis Hastert in announcing plans to either return campaign contributions from Abramoff or give them to charity. Several others announced in December that they were giving back Abramoff's donations to their campaigns.

Link to complete story from AP News may be found here:


Tuesday, January 03, 2006

U. S. Not Planning Iraq Withdrawal Anytime Soon-$1.75 Billion Embassy in The Works-Anyone Surprised?

According to The Mirror

AMERICA is to spend £1billion ($1.75 Billion) on an embassy in Baghdad "more secure than the Pentagon".

Plans for the hi-tech complex are being kept secret because of the terrorist threat in Iraq.

The exact location is not being released until later this year but it is likely to be built in the heavily fortified Green Zone area where the Iraqi government and US military command is based.

The embassy will be guarded by 15ft blast walls and ground-to-air missiles and the main building will have bunkers for use during air offensives.

The grounds will include as many as 300 houses for consular and military officials.

And a large-scale barracks will be built for Marines who will protect what will be Washington's biggest and most secure overseas building.

A US source in the Middle East said last night: "Plans for the embassy building are being kept behind closed doors because of the terrorist threat.

"It will be more secure than The Pentagon because it will be under constant threat from attack." The Green Zone is the safest part of Baghdad, surrounded by concrete blast walls and checkpoints.

The US also wants to build four massive military superbases around Iraq's capital.

The plans will fuel speculation they want to keep a firm foothold in Iraq for many years.

An Iraqi security source said last night: "The plans for the embassy building will make it the largest and best protected diplomatic building overseas for the US.

"You may as well move the Pentagon to Iraq. It will be amazingly secure but it also flies in the face of claims American is preparing to leave Iraq to be policed and governed by Iraqis.

The complete story may be read here:

Homeland Security May Be Opening Your Mail, Bet You Didn't Know

According to a recent article in the Lawrence Journal-World:

"A retired Kansas University professor says the federal government has been poking into the mail he receives from abroad.

Grant Goodman on Monday showed the Journal-World a recent letter he had received from a friend in the Philippines; it apparently had been opened, then re-closed with green tape bearing the seal of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and a message that it had been opened “by Border Protection.”

“Very uneasy. And very surprised,” Goodman, 81, a KU professor emeritus of history, said of his reaction to the federal snooping. “I never expected to see that.”

Goodman’s revelation came the same day that President Bush defended his decision to authorize — without permission from Congress or the courts — a secret program to eavesdrop on U.S. citizens suspected of terrorism.

Goodman said the news about warrantless wiretaps prompted him to go public about his opened mail. He said he had last seen such intrusions during World War II, when as an Army lieutenant he was required to censor the mail of men under his command.

“I don’t know why they would censor this kind of mail,” he said. “It’s amazing.”
Grant Goodman says this letter from a friend in the Philippines was opened by a division of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. Goodman, a Kansas University professor emeritus of history, says the government’s actions make him “very uneasy.”

Grant Goodman says this letter from a friend in the Philippines was opened by a division of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. Goodman, a Kansas University professor emeritus of history, says the government’s actions make him “very uneasy.”

The complete story may be found at this truly amazing link:

Report Says Eight U. S. Representatives Sponsoring Bush Impeachment Resolution

Bush Impeachment Inquiry Has 8 House Co-Sponsors
Matthew Cardinale, Atlanta Progressive News

Jan 1, 2006

A total of eight US House members have co-sponsored Resolution 635 to create a select committee to investigate the grounds for impeaching President Bush, Atlanta Progressive News has learned.

The co-sponsors are Rep. Lois Capps (D-CA), Rep. John Conyers (D-MI), Rep. Sheila Jackson-Lee (D-TX), Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-CA), Rep. Donald Payne (D-NJ), Rep. Charles Rangel (D-NY), Rep. Maxine Waters (D-CA), and Rep. Lynn Woolsey (C-CA), according to the US Congressional website Thomas.loc.gov

HR 635 reads as its official title: "Creating a select committee to investigate the Administration's intent to go to war before congressional authorization, manipulation of pre-war intelligence, encouraging and countenancing torture, retaliating against critics, and to make recommendations regarding grounds for possible impeachment."

The bill was initially proposed by Rep. Conyers on 12/18/2005. The 7 other co-sponsors added their names on 12/22/05.

"In brief, we have found that there is substantial evidence the President, the Vice-President and other high ranking members of the Bush Administration misled Congress and the American people regarding the decision to go to war in Iraq; misstated and manipulated intelligence information regarding the justification for such war; countenanced torture and cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment in Iraq; and permitted inappropriate retaliation against critics of their Administration. There is at least a prima facie case that these actions that federal laws have been violated – from false statements to Congress to retaliating against Administration critics," Rep. Conyers said in a press release on 12/20/05.

As reported last week in Atlanta Progressive News, US Rep. John Lewis (D-GA) stated in a radio program that he would sign a bill of impeachment of President Bush if it were drafted on account of Bush’s approval of illegal domestic wiretapping. US Senator Barbara Boxer has also requested a report by legal scholars regarding the grounds for the Bush’s impeachment for the same reason. The article regarding the statements by Rep. Lewis and Sen. Boxer is available here: http://www.atlantaprogressivenews.com/pages/13/index.htm

Meanwhile, a current pageview of an MSNBC.com poll as of 01/01/06, shows 86% of 185,673 total respondents believe President Bush should be impeached. The poll is available here and has been active online for several days: http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/10562904

Matthew Cardinale is the Editor of Atlanta Progressive News. He may be reached
at matthew@atlantaprogressivenews.com


Lawmakers Frantic as Abramoff Prepares to Sing, More Republicans in Jeopardy Than Dems

Bloomberg reported today, that Members of Congress are now biting their fingernails, as former lobbyist Jack Abramoff, appears close to a deal with federal prosecutors.
Previous news reports have indicated that 20+ lawmakers and White House staff members may find themselves in the slammer before the dust settles.

Some 220 lawmakers received at least $1.7 million in political donations from Abramoff, his associates and nine tribal clients between 2001 and 2004, according to a review of Federal Election Commission and Internal Revenue Service records. Of those, 201 are still in Congress. Republicans received $1.1 million, or 64 percent of the total.

``When this is all over, this will be bigger than any (government scandal) in the last 50 years, both in the amount of people involved and the breadth to it,'' said Stan Brand, a former U.S. House counsel who specializes in representing public officials accused of wrongdoing. ``It will include high-ranking members of Congress and executive branch officials.''

Other Inducements

Several lawmakers are giving back the money they took in from Abramoff's clients and associates. Senator Byron Dorgan of North Dakota, the top Democrat on the Senate Indian Affairs Committee, said Dec. 13 he was returning $67,000 in donations.

Scanlon's plea agreement suggests investigators also are looking at Abramoff's use of his Washington restaurant, sporting-event skyboxes and golf trips as inducements for favors from members of Congress.

A cooperating Abramoff would be ``the insider who will describe every event, every phone call, every cup of coffee and conversations at golf outings,'' said Joshua Berman, a partner at Sonnenschein, Nath & Rosenthal in Washington who until 2004 was an attorney in the Justice Department's Public Integrity Section, which is leading the prosecution. ``The paper records won't tell you what was discussed at the fourth hole. Abramoff can.''

A 2002 golf trip to Scotland was one of the gifts Scanlon pleaded guilty to offering Ney, who heads the House Administration Committee.

White House Official

David Safavian, the former top procurement officer at the White House, was indicted in October for making false statements about business his agency had with Abramoff before taking part in the same golf trip. The trip cost Abramoff's Capital Athletic Foundation at least $166,634, according to financial records released in November by the Senate Indian Affairs Committee.

The complete story may be found here:

Sunday, January 01, 2006

Military Brass Disenchanted by Rumsfeld Team-Worried About Army's Reputation

Your editor heartily recommends an article by Ralph Nader
Published on Saturday, December 31, 2005 by CommonDreams.org
A brief excerpt follows, link below at end of this story.

"To top Army officers, the worst of all worlds is Iraq. Their Chief of Staff, General Eric Shinseki, after testifying before Congress about the need for over 300,000 soldiers for any such invasion, found his retirement accelerated. Draft-dodger Paul Wolfowitz, then number two in the Pentagon, rejected his estimate and recommended less than half that number.

Retired high military officers, diplomats and intelligence officials, with good sources inside the Department of Defense, say that the military is furious with Bush/Cheney. The latter orders torture with thinly veiled instructions and dubious legal memos and when disclosed, as at Abu Gharib, the Army takes the rap to its reputation."

Complete article at this link:

Bush's Own Justice Department Officials Declined to Approve Domestic Spying Program

According to the New York Times, Dec. 31 - A top Justice Department official objected in 2004 to aspects of the National Security Agency's domestic surveillance program and refused to sign on to its continued use amid concerns about its legality and oversight, according to officials with knowledge of the tense internal debate. The concerns appear to have played a part in the temporary suspension of the secret program.The concerns prompted two of President Bush's most senior aides - Andrew H. Card Jr., his chief of staff, and Alberto R. Gonzales, then White House counsel and now attorney general - to make an emergency visit to a Washington hospital in March 2004 to discuss the program's future and try to win the needed approval from Attorney General John Ashcroft, who was hospitalized for gallbladder surgery, the officials said.

The unusual meeting was prompted because Mr. Ashcroft's top deputy, James B. Comey, who was acting as attorney general in his absence, had indicated he was unwilling to give his approval to certifying central aspects of the program, as required under the White House procedures set up to oversee it.

The complete story may be found at this link: