Friday, November 11, 2005

The White House Thinks You Are Stupid

Accusing Democrats of attempting to "rewrite history" of the run-up to the Iraq War, national security advisor Stephen Hadley argues that "the intelligence was clear in terms of the weapons of mass destruction," citing a National Intelligence Estimate provided to Bush. "The case that was brought to him, in terms of the NIE, and parts of which have been made public, was a very strong case."

Duh, Steve. What about the parts that weren't made public?

The whole point is that Democrats did not have access to the same intel as did the White House, nor were they aware of how the intel was being manipulated by Cheney and his gang.

Read more here.

Alito Broke His Promise to Congress Because it Was "Too Restrictive"

"Supreme Court nominee Samuel Alito said yesterday that he was ''unduly restrictive" in promising in 1990 to avoid appeals cases involving two investment firms and said he has not made any rulings in which he had a ''legal or ethical obligation" to step aside.

***

Alito issued the letter one day after all eight Democrats on the committee called for voluminous records involving a 2002 case in which Vanguard was a defendant. They pointed out that Alito had promised at the time of his confirmation to the appeals court seat that he would avoid cases involving Vanguard; Smith Barney; First Federal Savings & Loan of Rochester, N.Y.; and his sister's law firm.

***

When he listed the companies in the 1990 questionnaire, ''my intention was to state that I would never knowingly hear a case where a conflict of interest existed," Alito said. ''As my service continued, I realized that I had been unduly restrictive."

Senator Edward M. Kennedy, Democrat of Massachusetts, criticized Alito's response in a statement Wednesday. ''I'm troubled to learn that Judge Alito does not stand by his 1990 promise to recuse himself from any cases involving the Vanguard companies," Kennedy said. ''His letter raises serious factual questions, as well as questions of law and judgment."

Did the Administration Say Iraq Was an "Imminent Threat?" You Decide

November 10, 2005



KENNEDY STATEMENT ON THE ADMINISTRATION'S EFFORTS TO EXAGGERATE THREATS IN THEIR MARCH TO WAR
AS CHALABI, THE PENTAGON'S FAVORITE IRAQI DISSIDENT, VISITS D.C., KENNEDY REMINDS SENATE OF CHALABI'S OWN WORDS

"Earlier this week, several of our Republican colleagues came to the Senate floor and attempted to blame individual Democratic Senators for their errors in judgment about the war in Iraq.

It was little more than a devious attempt to obscure the facts and take the focus off the real reason we went to war in Iraq. 150,000 American troops are bogged down in a quagmire in Iraq because the Bush Administration misrepresented and distorted the intelligence to justify a war that America never should have fought.

As we know all too well, Iraq was not an imminent threat. It had no nuclear weapons. It had no persuasive links to Al Qaeda, no connection to the terrorist attacks of September 11th, and no stockpiles of weapons of mass destruction.

But the President wrongly and repeatedly insisted that it was too dangerous to ignore the weapons of mass destruction in the hands of Saddam Hussein, and his ties to Al Qaeda.

In his march to war, President Bush exaggerated the threat to the American people. It was not subtle. It was not nuanced. It was pure, unadulterated fear-mongering, based on a devious strategy to convince the American people that Saddam's ability to provide nuclear weapons to Al Qaeda justified immediate war.

Administration officials suggested the threat from Iraq was imminent, and went to great lengths to convince the American people that it was.

At a roundtable discussion with European journalists last month, Secretary Rumsfeld deviously insisted: "I never said imminent threat."

In fact, Secretary Rumsfeld told the House Armed Services Committee on September 18, 2002, "…Some have argued that the nuclear threat from Iraq is not imminent -- that Saddam is at least 5-7 years away from having nuclear weapons. I would not be so certain."

In May 2003, White House spokesman Ari Fleischer was asked whether we went to war "because we said WMD were a direct and imminent threat to the United States." Fleischer responded, "Absolutely."

What else could National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice have been suggesting, other than an imminent threat -- an extremely imminent threat -- when she said on September 8, 2002, "We don't want the smoking gun to be a mushroom cloud."

President Bush himself may not have used the word "imminent", but he carefully chose strong and loaded words about the nature of the threat -- words that the intelligence community never used -- to persuade and prepare the nation to go to war against Iraq.

In the Rose Garden on October 2, 2002, as Congress was preparing to vote on authorizing the war, the President said the Iraqi regime "is a threat of unique urgency."

In a speech in Cincinnati on October 7, President Bush Specifically invoked the danger of nuclear devastation: "Facing clear evidence of peril, we cannot wait for the final proof -- the smoking gun -- that could come in the form of a mushroom cloud."

At an appearance in New Mexico on October 28, 2002, after Congress had voted to authorize war, and a week before the election, President Bush said Iraq is a "real and dangerous threat."

At a NATO summit on November 20, 2002, President Bush said Iraq posed a "unique and urgent threat."

In Fort Hood, Texas on January 3, 2003, President Bush called the Iraqi regime a "grave threat."

Nuclear weapons. Mushroom cloud. Unique and urgent threat. Real and dangerous threat. Grave threat. These words were the Administration's rallying cry for war. But they were not the words of the intelligence community, which never suggested that the threat from Saddam was imminent, or immediate, or urgent.

It was Vice President Cheney who first laid out the trumped up argument for war with Iraq to an unsuspecting public. In a speech on August 26, 2002, to the Veterans of Foreign Wars, he asserted: "…We now know that Saddam has resumed his efforts to acquire nuclear weapons…Many of us are convinced that Saddam will acquire nuclear weapons fairly soon." As we now know, the intelligence community was far from certain. Yet the Vice President had been convinced.

On September 8, 2002, he was even more emphatic about Saddam. He said, "[We] do know, with absolute certainty, that he is using his procurement system to acquire the equipment he needs in order to enrich uranium to build a nuclear weapon." The intelligence community was deeply divided about the aluminum tubes, but Vice President Cheney was absolutely certain.

One month later, on the eve of the watershed vote by Congress to authorize the war, President Bush said it even more vividly. He said, "Iraq has attempted to purchase high-strength aluminum tubes…which are used to enrich uranium for nuclear weapons. If the Iraqi regime is able to produce, buy, or steal an amount of highly enriched uranium a little larger than a single softball, it could have a nuclear weapon in less than a year. And if we allow that to happen, a terrible line would be crossed…Saddam Hussein would be in a position to pass nuclear technology to terrorists."

In fact, as we now know, the intelligence community was far from convinced of any such threat. The Administration attempted to conceal that fact by classifying the information and the dissents within the intelligence community until after the war, even while making dramatic and excessive public statements about the immediacy of the danger.

In October 2002, the intelligence agencies jointly issued a National Intelligence Estimate stating that "most agencies" believed that Iraq had restarted its nuclear program after inspectors left in 1998, and that, if left unchecked, Iraq "probably will have a nuclear weapon during this decade."

The State Department's intelligence bureau, however, said the "available evidence" was inadequate to support that judgment. It refused to predict when "Iraq could acquire a nuclear device or weapon."

About the claims of purchases of nuclear material from Africa, the State Department's intelligence bureau said that claims of Iraq seeking to purchase nuclear material from Africa were "highly dubious." The CIA sent two memorandums to the White House stressing strong doubts about those claims.

But the following January, in 2003, the President included the claims about Africa in his State of the Union Address, and conspicuously cited the British government as the source of that intelligence.

Information about nuclear weapons was not the only intelligence distorted by the Administration. On the question of whether Iraq was pursuing a chemical weapons program, the Defense Intelligence Agency concluded in September 2002 that "there is no reliable information on whether Iraq is producing and stockpiling chemical weapons, or whether Iraq has -- or will -- establish its chemical warfare agent production facilities."

That same month, however, Secretary Rumsfeld told the Senate Armed Services Committee that Saddam has chemical weapons stockpiles.

He said, "We do know that the Iraqi regime has chemical and biological weapons of mass destruction," that Saddam "has amassed large clandestine stocks of chemical weapons." He said that "he has stockpiles of chemical and biological weapons," and that Iraq has "active chemical, biological and nuclear programs." He was wrong on all counts.

Yet the October 2002 National Intelligence Estimate actually quantified the size of the stockpiles, stating that "although we have little specific information on Iraq's CW stockpile, Saddam probably has stocked at least 100 metric tons and possibly as much as 500 metric tons of CW agents -- much of it added in the last year." In his address to the United Nations on February 5, 2003, Secretary of State Colin Powell went further, calling the 100 to 500 metric ton stockpile a "conservative estimate."

Secretary Rumsfeld made an even more explicit assertion in his interview on "This Week with George Stephanopoulos" on March 30, 2003. When asked about Iraqi weapons of mass destruction, he said, "We know where they are. They're in the area around Tikrit and Baghdad and east, west, south and north somewhat."

The Administration's case for war based on the linkage between Saddam Hussein and Al Qaeda was just as misguided.

Significantly here as well, the Intelligence Estimate did not find a cooperative relationship between Saddam and Al Qaeda. On the contrary, it stated only that such a relationship might develop in the future if Saddam was "sufficiently desperate" -- in other words, if America went to war. But the estimate placed "low confidence" that, even in desperation, Saddam would give weapons of mass destruction to Al Qaeda.

A year before the war began, senior Al Qaeda leaders themselves had rejected a link with Saddam. The New York Times reported last June that a top Al Qaeda planner and recruiter captured in March 2002 told his questioners last year that "the idea of working with Mr. Hussein's government had been discussed among Al Qaeda leaders, but Osama bin Laden had rejected such proposals." According to the Times, an Al Qaeda chief of operations had also told interrogators that it did not work with Saddam.

Mel Goodman, a CIA analyst for 20 years, put it bluntly: "Saddam Hussein and bin Laden were enemies. Bin Laden considered and said that Saddam was the socialist infidel. These were very different kinds of individuals competing for power in their own way and Saddam Hussein made very sure that Al Qaeda couldn't function in Iraq."

In February 2003, investigators at the FBI told the New York Times they were baffled by the Administration's insistence on a solid link between Al Qaeda and Iraq. One investigator said: "We've been looking at this hard for more than a year and you know what, we just don't think it's there."

But President Bush was not deterred. He was relentless in playing to America's fears after the devastating tragedy of 9/11. He drew a clear link -- and drew it repeatedly -- between Al Qaeda and Saddam.

On September 25, 2002, at the White House, President Bush flatly declared: "You can't distinguish between Al Qaeda and Saddam when you talk about the war on terror."

In his State of the Union Address in January 2003, President Bush said, "Evidence from intelligence sources, secret communications, and statements by people now in custody reveal that Saddam Hussein aids and protects terrorists, including members of Al Qaeda," and that he could provide "lethal viruses" to a "shadowy terrorist network."

Two weeks later, in his Saturday radio address to the nation, a month before the war began, President Bush described the ties in detail, saying, "Saddam Hussein has longstanding, direct and continuing ties to terrorist networks …"

He said: "Senior members of Iraqi intelligence and Al Qaeda have met at least eight times since the early 1990s. Iraq has sent bomb-making and document-forgery experts to work with Al Qaeda. Iraq has also provided Al Qaeda with chemical and biological weapons training. An Al Qaeda operative was sent to Iraq several times in the late 1990s for help in acquiring poisons and gases. We also know that Iraq is harboring a terrorist network headed by a senior Al Qaeda terrorist planner. This network runs a poison and explosive training camp in northeast Iraq, and many of its leaders are known to be in Baghdad."

Who gave the President this information? The NIE? Scooter Libby? Chalabi?

In fact, there was no operational link and no clear and persuasive pattern of ties between the Iraqi government and Al Qaeda. A 9/11 Commission Staff Statement in June of 2004, put it plainly: "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 9/11 Commission Report stated clearly that there was no "operational" connection between Saddam and Al Qaeda. That fact should have been abundantly clear to the President. Iraq and Al Qaeda had diametrically opposing views of the world.

The Pentagon¹s favorite Iraqi dissident, Ahmed Chalabi, is actually proud of what happened. "We are heroes in error," Chalabi said in February 2004. "As far as we're concerned, we've been entirely successful. That tyrant Saddam is gone and the Americans are in Baghdad. What was said before is not important. The Bush Administration is looking for a scapegoat. We're ready to fall on our swords, if he wants."

What was said before does matter. The President's words matter. The Vice President's words matter. So do those of the Secretary of State, the Secretary of Defense and other high officials in the Administration. And they did not square with the facts.

The Intelligence Committee agreed to investigate the clear discrepancies, and it's important that they get to the bottom of this, and find out how and why President Bush took America to war in Iraq. Americans are dying. Already more than 2000 have been killed, and more than 15,000 have been wounded.

The American people deserve the truth. It's time for the President to stop passing the buck and for him to be held accountable."

Senator Kennedy Responds to White House Veterans Day Propaganda

"Today is a day when above all we honor the heroism, the sacrifice, and the bravery of our men and women in uniform. We pay tribute to those whose dedication to this nation has taken them far away from their loved ones, and those whose past service has made this country what it is today.

It's deeply regrettable that the President is using Veterans Day as a campaign-like attempt to rebuild his own credibility by tearing down those who seek the truth about the clear manipulation of intelligence in the run up to the Iraq War. Instead of providing open and honest answers about how we will achieve success in Iraq and allow our troops to begin to come home, the President reverted to the same manipulation of facts to justify a war we never should have fought. Each day, the American people learn more and more about the truth. It's time for the President to restore the trust of the American people in their leaders by coming clean about the war and leading us to a place where we can better protect our citizens and restore our leadership in the world. But, today's speech didn't do that. It only further tarnished this White House and further damaged his presidency."

Thursday, November 10, 2005

GOP To Vets: Screw the Troops

"On Tuesday — three days before Veterans Day — House Veterans’ Affairs Committee Chairman Steve Buyer (R-IN) announced that for the first time in at least 55 years, “veterans service organizations will no longer have the opportunity to present testimony before a joint hearing of the House and Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committees.”

Remember that Buyer was handpicked by criminally-indicted Rep. Tom DeLay (R-TX) to replace former veterans committee chairman Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ), who had been extremely vocal about the consistent underfunding of veterans causes.

The Disabled American Veterans, the “official voice of America’s service-connected disabled veterans,” just issued a scathing release calling the move “an insult to all who have fought, sacrificed and died to defend the Constitution.” The timing, they said, “could not have been worse.''"

Frist Likes Torture Too

"WASHINGTON (AP) - Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist says he is more concerned about the leak of information regarding secret CIA detention centers than activity in the prisons themselves.

Frist told reporters Thursday that while he believed illegal activity should not take place at detention centers, he believes the leak itself poses a greater threat to national security and is ``not concerned about what goes on'' behind the prison walls.

***

"Frist was asked if that meant he was not concerned about investigating what goes on in detention centers.

``I am not concerned about what goes on and I'm not going to comment about the nature of that,'' Frist replied."

Pat Robertson is Barking Mad

"Conservative Christian televangelist Pat Robertson told citizens of a Pennsylvania town that they had rejected God by voting their school board out of office for supporting "intelligent design" and warned them on Thursday not to be surprised if disaster struck."

***

"I'd like to say to the good citizens of Dover: if there is a disaster in your area, don't turn to God, you just rejected Him from your city," Robertson said on his daily television show broadcast from Virginia, "The 700 Club."

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Help George With His Drinking Problem

Play here.

Bill Frist Has His Priorities Backwards

November 8, 2005

Honorable Peter Hoekstra
Chairman
Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence
United States House of Representatives
Washington, D.C. 20515


Honorable Pat Roberts
Chairman
Select Committee on Intelligence
United States Senate
Washington, D.C. 20515


Dear Chairman Hoekstra and Chairman Roberts:

We request that you immediately initiate a joint investigation into the possible release of classified information to the media alleging that the United States government may be detaining and interrogating terrorists at undisclosed locations abroad. As you know, if accurate, such an egregious disclosure could have long-term and far-reaching damaging and dangerous consequences, and will imperil our efforts to protect the American people and our homeland from terrorist attacks.

The purpose of your investigation will be to determine the following: was the information provided to the media classified and accurate?; who leaked this information and under what authority?; and, what is the actual and potential damage done to the national security of the United States and our partners in the Global War on Terror? We will consider other changes to this mandate based on your recommendations.

Any information that you obtain on this matter that may implicate possible violations of law should be referred to the Department of Justice for appropriate action.

We expect that you will move expeditiously to complete this inquiry and that you will provide us with periodic updates. We are hopeful that you will be able to accomplish this task in a bipartisan manner given general agreement that intelligence matters should not be politicized. Either way, however, your inquiry shall proceed.

The leaking of classified information by employees of the United States government appears to have increased in recent years, establishing a dangerous trend that, if not addressed swiftly and firmly, likely will worsen. The unauthorized release of classified information is serious and threatens our nation's security. It also puts the lives of many Americans and the security of our nation at risk.

Thank you for your prompt attention to this matter.

Sincerely,

William H. Frist, M.D.

Majority Leader

U.S. Senate


J. Dennis Hastert
Speaker
U.S. House of Representatives

A Madman is Running the Country

Daniel Benjamin of Slate argues that Cheney really is running the country, while James Carroll explains "just how damaging the long public career of Richard Cheney has been to the United States."

Monday, November 07, 2005

Cheney Likes Torture



"Over the past year, Vice President Cheney has waged an intense and largely unpublicized campaign to stop Congress, the Pentagon and the State Department from imposing more restrictive rules on the handling of terrorist suspects, according to defense, state, intelligence and congressional officials.

***

McCain's amendment would limit the military's interrogation and detention tactics to those described in the Army Field Manual, and it would prohibit all U.S. government employees from using cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment.

Cheney pushed hard to have the entire amendment defeated. He twice held meetings with key lawmakers to lobby against the measure, once traveling to Capitol Hill in July, to button-hole Sens. John W. Warner (R-Va.), McCain and Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.).

When that tack did not work -- 90 senators supported the measure -- Cheney handed McCain language that would exempt the CIA. Despite Cheney's concerns, Graham said he has not heard any concerns from the CIA suggesting it needs an exemption from the McCain amendment. The CIA declined to comment.

***

Beside personal pressure from the vice president, Cheney's staff is also engaged in resisting a policy change. Tactics included "trying to have meetings canceled ... to at least slow things down or gum up the works" or trying to conduct meetings on the subject without other key Cabinet members, one administration official said. The official said some internal memos and e-mail from the National Security Council staff to the national security adviser were automatically forwarded to the vice president's office -- in some cases without the knowledge of the authors.

***

Cheney's chief aide in this bureaucratic war of wills is David S. Addington, who was his chief counsel until last week when he replaced I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby as the vice president's chief of staff.

Addington exerted influence on many of the most significant policy decisions after Sept. 11, 2001. He helped write the position on torture taken by the Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel, a stance rescinded after it became public, and he helped pick Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, as the location beyond the reach of U.S. law for holding suspected terrorists.

Read the rest
here.

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