Friday, December 09, 2005
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Congressional leaders reached a deal Thursday to extend key provisions of the Patriot Act, the government's premier anti-terrorism law. However, prominent Democratic senators said they opposed the compromise, and one threatened a veto.
Under the deal, three controvesial provisions that expire at the end of the year will be extended for four years, Sen. Arlen Specter, chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee announced.
The controversial U.S. anti-terrorism law passed in the months after the September 11, 2001, attacks and expanded government surveillance powers. The deal marks Congress' first revision of the law.
"There's no doubt about the need for tools for law enforcement to fight terrorism both domestically and internationally," said Specter, the Pennsylvania Republican who led negotiations on the Senate side. "But equally clearly there's been a need for refinement of the protection of civil liberties and civil rights."
Specter said the compromise bill was "not perfect" but "acceptable" and preferable to the alternatives -- the existing Patriot Act or no law at all.
Immediate opposition to compromise
However, Sen. Patrick Leahy, the ranking Democrat on the Judiciary Committee, said he opposed the compromise between the House and Senate leaders because it permitted the government to violate citizens' privacy rights without sufficient checks and balances.
Negotiations also excluded Democrats, Leahy said, which has turned renewal of the act into a partisan issue and undermined its credibility in the eyes of the American public.
"If this comes across as simply a partisan bill, do you think people in this country... will respect this legislation? They're not. They're not," Leahy said.
"This is simply seen as a fiat by one party or a small section of one party. It's not going to be respected," he said.
Sen. Russ Feingold, a Wisconsin Democrat and the only senator to vote against the original Patriot Act in 2001, called the agreement "a major disappointment" and promised to do "everything I can, including a filibuster, to stop this Patriot Act conference report."
"Merely sunsetting bad law is not adequate," Feingold said in a statement released after the agreement was announced. "We need to make substantive changes to the law, and without those changes I am confident there will be strong, bipartisan opposition here in the Senate."
Thursday, December 08, 2005
Rummy Exit Rumored; Lieberman Eyed for Job
By Thomas M. DeFrank and Kenneth R. Bazinet
The New York Daily News
Thursday 08 December 2005
Washington - White House officials are telling associates they expect Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld to quit early next year, once a new government is formed in Iraq, sources said yesterday.
Rumsfeld's deputy, Gordon England, is the inside contender to replace him, but there's also speculation that Sen. Joe Lieberman - a Democrat who ran against Bush-Cheney in the 2000 election - might become top guy at the Pentagon.
That's not as farfetched as it might first appear.
The Daily News has learned that the White House considered Lieberman for the UN ambassador's job last year before giving the post to John Bolton, a Bush adviser said.
"He thought about it for a week or so and finally said no," the adviser recalled.
A source close to the White House said Rumsfeld wanted out a year ago, after Bush's reelection, but neither he nor President Bush wanted his departure to appear to have been forced.
"They didn't want to give the critics the satisfaction that their piling on was what got rid of him," a Bush adviser said.
Bush has told friends that Rumsfeld is a political liability, but the President has a history of sticking with his personnel baggage until an opportune moment.
"Only Rumsfeld will make Rumsfeld leave," a White House source said.
Rumors that Lieberman could replace Rumsfeld started flying early this week, and Bush and Vice President Cheney fanned the flames by quoting the former Democratic veep candidate's pro-war statements.
(AgapePress) - Friends and family of a Tucson man are crying discrimination after the homosexual man's organs were rejected by the Donor Network of Arizona. However, a Kansas surgeon who works in organ transplantation says the decision was a good one.
Albert Soto, 51, intended to donate his eyes and other tissues after death, but a spokesman from the Network says the Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta has established guidelines allowing centers to reject donations from men who have had sex with men in the last five years. Dr. David Pauls, a spokesman for the Christian Medical Association, says those guidelines are needed regardless -- even if the donor is HIV negative, as in Soto's case.
"Number one, HIV in early stages cannot be detected on testing; it takes a little bit [of time] there," Pauls explains. "But even if he's HIV negative, there's other infectious diseases that are fairly common within the homosexual population -- particularly hepatitis, which can be a very deadly complication in somebody who receives a transplant, and that sometimes also can be missed by screening."
Pauls says the organ donation and transplant business is heavily reliant on trust. "Trust is probably one of the most valuable commodities we have," he says. "If I ... as a physician am going to be doing a transplant, I'm want to do everything I can to make sure that the organs or the tissue that I'm transplanting is safe and is not going to cause other problems or other diseases in that patient."
Transplant patients, he says, obviously should have the same concerns. In Soto's case, Pauls says the man's risky sexual behavior makes using his organs a high risk for the recipient, who otherwise might be put in a position of being exposed to deadly infections. Meanwhile, Soto's family is petitioning officials in Tucson to change the CDC guidelines. The man died after suffering a stroke on Thanksgiving Day.
Wednesday, December 07, 2005
Under Pressure, Ford Will Cut Its Ads in Gay Publications
By JEREMY W. PETERS
Published: December 6, 2005
DETROIT, Dec. 5 - After a threatened boycott from a conservative religious organization, the Ford Motor Company has said it will cut back on advertising in gay-oriented publications.
The group, the American Family Association, called for the boycott in May because of what it said was the company's "track record for supporting the homosexual agenda."
After a meeting last week between Ford executives and members of the group, the company said that its Jaguar and Land Rover brands would no longer be advertised in gay publications. It said it had no plans to change the advertising strategy for Volvo, another Ford unit.
A spokesman played down the role the boycott had in the company's decision, saying that the ads were eliminated as a cost-cutting measure. "As they begin planning their marketing for next year," the spokesman, Mike Moran, said Monday, "they've streamlined their budgets."
Mr. Moran said he could not provide specifics on Ford's past advertising in gay-oriented publications.
The American Family Association's chairman, Donald E. Wildmon, in a statement, expressed satisfaction. "They've heard our concerns," he said. "They are acting on our concerns."
Ford's decision to cut back the ads has troubled gay rights activists, who pointed out that among the company's personnel practices, it provides the same benefits for homosexual couples as it does for heterosexuals.
Joe Solmonese, president of the Human Rights Campaign, a gay advocacy group, said, "I can only hope that this is a case of a large corporation, and the left hand not knowing what the right hand is doing, and this will in very short order be cleared up."
Sen. Clinton co-sponsors anti-flag burning law
WASHINGTON (AP) _ Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton is supporting new legislation to criminalize desecration of the United States flag _ though she still opposes a constitutional ban on flag attacks.
Clinton, D-N.Y., has agreed to co-sponsor a measure by Republican Sen. Bob Bennett of Utah, which has been written in hopes of surviving any constitutional challenge following a 2003 Supreme Court ruling on the subject.
Her support of Bennett's bill follows her position in Congress last summer, when a constitutional ban on flag-burning was debated. Clinton said then she didn't support a constitutional ban, but did support federal legislation making it a crime to desecrate the flag.
In her public statements, she has compared the act of flag-burning to burning a cross, which can be considered a violation of federal civil rights law.
The Bennett-sponsored measure outlaws a protester intimidating any person by burning the flag, lighting someone else's flag, or desecrating the flag on federal property.
Monday, December 05, 2005
The Post sells this as a result of pressure on the CIA to achieve results, but I'm not so sure. I smell something more, especially given the nature of the rendition system, but I don't really have much to go on. Any suspicions would be tinfoil-hattery, something I've sworn not to engage in on the Junkheap. Anyway, read on, and learn some of the attitudes behind the secret prison system...
Wrongful Imprisonment: Anatomy of a CIA Mistake
German Citizen Released After Months in 'Rendition'
By Dana Priest
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, December 4, 2005; A01
In May 2004, the White House dispatched the U.S. ambassador in Germany to pay an unusual visit to that country's interior minister. Ambassador Daniel R. Coats carried instructions from the State Department transmitted via the CIA's Berlin station because they were too sensitive and highly classified for regular diplomatic channels, according to several people with knowledge of the conversation.
Coats informed the German minister that the CIA had wrongfully imprisoned one of its citizens, Khaled Masri, for five months, and would soon release him, the sources said. There was also a request: that the German government not disclose what it had been told even if Masri went public. The U.S. officials feared exposure of a covert action program designed to capture terrorism suspects abroad and transfer them among countries, and possible legal challenges to the CIA from Masri and others with similar allegations.
The Masri case, with new details gleaned from interviews with current and former intelligence and diplomatic officials, offers a rare study of how pressure on the CIA to apprehend al Qaeda members after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks has led in some instances to detention based on thin or speculative evidence. The case also shows how complicated it can be to correct errors in a system built and operated in secret.
The CIA, working with other intelligence agencies, has captured an estimated 3,000 people, including several key leaders of al Qaeda, in its campaign to dismantle terrorist networks. It is impossible to know, however, how many mistakes the CIA and its foreign partners have made.
Unlike the military's prison for terrorist suspects at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba -- where 180 prisoners have been freed after a review of their cases -- there is no tribunal or judge to check the evidence against those picked up by the CIA. The same bureaucracy that decides to capture and transfer a suspect for interrogation-- a process called "rendition" -- is also responsible for policing itself for errors.
The CIA inspector general is investigating a growing number of what it calls "erroneous renditions," according to several former and current intelligence officials.
One official said about three dozen names fall in that category; others believe it is fewer. The list includes several people whose identities were offered by al Qaeda figures during CIA interrogations, officials said. One turned out to be an innocent college professor who had given the al Qaeda member a bad grade, one official said.
"They picked up the wrong people, who had no information. In many, many cases there was only some vague association" with terrorism, one CIA officer said.
While the CIA admitted to Germany's then-Interior Minister Otto Schily that it had made a mistake, it has labored to keep the specifics of Masri's case from becoming public. As a German prosecutor works to verify or debunk Masri's claims of kidnapping and torture, the part of the German government that was informed of his ordeal has remained publicly silent. Masri's attorneys say they intend to file a lawsuit in U.S. courts this week.
Masri was held for five months largely because the head of the CIA's Counterterrorist Center's al Qaeda unit "believed he was someone else," one former CIA official said. "She didn't really know. She just had a hunch."