Thursday, July 13, 2006
CCrime Emergency Declared In The Nation's Capital
Following a recent wave of homicides in Washington, D.C., the capital's police chief has declared a crime emergency, at the height of the tourist season.
Since July 1, 13 people have been killed in the district, including a community activist and a British citizen whose throat was slit on the stylish streets of Georgetown.
After an outcry from residents at community meetings and candlelight vigils held for the victims, Police Chief Charles Ramsey made his decision. He beefed up patrols in high-crime areas by changing officers' schedules and canceling days off.
"You can't make sense of it because it doesn't make any sense," Ramsey said at a briefing, trying to explain the sudden surge in homicides. "Thirteen people is simply unacceptable by anyone's standards," he added. "We have to do something right now."
So far this year, the murder rate in the nation's capital stands at 94 - the same number killed at this point last year - but July has been a particularly violent month.
Early Sunday morning, 27-year-old Alan Senitt, a British citizen working in Washington on a possible presidential run by former Virginia governor Mark Warner, was walking a female companion home on a tree-lined street in a quiet Georgetown neighborhood when they were held up at gunpoint. One robber allegedly tried to rape Senitt's friend. Police say the assailants slit Senitt's throat. The three suspects - one a juvenile - have all been arrested.
That particular crime produced some racial tension. The victims were white, and the suspects were black.
At a packed community meeting in Georgetown after the murder, one white police officer, inspector Andy Solberg, told residents to watch out for any suspicious activity in the neighborhood. He said the suspects would have stood out at 2 a.m. in that area. "They were black," Solberg said. "This is not a racial thing to say that black people are unusual in Georgetown. This is a fact of life."
Solberg was reassigned and is under investigation for his "racially insensitive" remarks.
One black D.C. police officer, Junis Fletcher, who worked under Solberg, called his comments "out of character" and said, "I've never had problems with him." And one black storeowner in Georgetown told The Washington Post he believed Solberg merely stated the truth.
"How come people don't know that? These people live in a box?" Lowaunz Tascoe, a 40-year resident of Georgetown, asked. "It is highly, highly unusual to see three young black males roaming around up there in the residential neighborhoods."
The police department has been criticized for its slow response to the killing of black activist Christ Crowder, shot early Saturday in a park near the Washington convention center.
No arrests have been made in that case, compared with the quick police action in the Georgetown slaying. But officers said obvious clues pointed them to the suspects' apartment and arrests were made within hours of the slaying.
Ramsey's declaration of emergency also follows a highly publicized string of violent robberies and assaults on the Washington monument mall. Police are investigating whether those crimes are linked to any of the homicides.
The police chief's media relations spokesperson said the crime emergency measures will not go on indefinitely. "The situation will be reviewed in 30 days."
So far, the Washington Convention and Tourism Corp. has received no inquiries from tourists concerned about the crime emergency. According to spokeswoman Victoria Isley, it's too early to tell how it might affect tourism.
"Certainly, safety and security of our residents as well as our visitors, are our primary focus," Isley said. "We support the [police] chief acting as swiftly as he has."
By LAURA MARQUEZ ABC News.
Wednesday, July 12, 2006
Iraq says to ask U.N. to end US immunity
Mon Jul 10, 2006 5:07 PM ET
By Mariam Karouny
BAGHDAD (Reuters) - Iraq will ask the United Nations to end immunity from local law for U.S. troops, the government said on Monday, as the U.S. military named five soldiers charged in a rape-murder case that has outraged Iraqis.
In an interview a week after Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki demanded a review of foreign troops' immunity, Human Rights Minister Wigdan Michael said work on it was now under way and a request could be ready by next month to go to the U.N. Security Council, under whose mandate U.S.-led forces operate in Iraq.
"We're very serious about this," she said, adding a lack of enforcement of U.S. military law in the past had encouraged soldiers to commit crimes against Iraqi civilians.
"We formed a committee last week to prepare reports and put it before the cabinet in three weeks. After that, Maliki will present it to the Security Council. We will ask them to lift the immunity," Michael said.
"If we don't get that, then we'll ask for an effective role in the investigations that are going on. The Iraqi government must have a role."
Analysts say it is improbable the United States would ever make its troops answerable to Iraq's chaotic judicial system.
Asked to respond to Michael's remarks, White House spokesman Tony Snow dismissed that as a "hypothetical game".
But Snow said: "We also understand Prime Minister Maliki's concerns and we want to make sure he's fully informed and also that he is satisfied, regardless of what the treaty situation may be on these issues, that justice truly is being done, and that he can make that demonstration to his people as well."
The day before handing formal sovereignty back to Iraqis in June 2004, the U.S. occupation authority issued a decree giving its troops immunity from Iraqi law. That remains in force and is confirmed by U.N. Security Council Resolution 1546 on Iraq.
Many Iraqis have complained for the past three years about hundreds of civilians killed by U.S. troops and abuses such as those highlighted in the Abu Ghraib prison scandal of 2004.
But a handful of new U.S. investigations into incidents, including the killing of 24 people at Haditha and the quadruple murder and rape case at Mahmudiya, have caused an outcry that prompted the newly formed national unity government to speak out.
Michael said commanders' failure to hold soldiers to account had fostered a climate of impunity: "One of the reasons for this is the U.N. resolution, which gives the multinational force soldiers immunity. Without punishment, you get violations."
U.S. commanders say troops are not immune from justice and must answer to U.S. military law. But officials concede a flurry of cases reflect a crackdown aimed at restoring credibility with Iraqis. Sixteen troops were charged with murder in Iraq in recent weeks, as many as in the previous three years.
Four soldiers were charged on Saturday with rape and murder in the Mahmudiya case, dating from March. A military official named them on Monday as Privates First Class Jesse Spielman and Bryan Howard, Sergeant James Barker and Specialist Paul Cortez.
All are accused of conspiring with Steven Green, then a private in the 502nd Infantry Regiment, who was charged as a civilian with rape and murder in a U.S. court last week.
Prosecutors say four soldiers went to the home after drinking, intending to rape 14-year-old Abeer al-Janabi and left a fifth manning their nearby checkpoint. They say Green shot Janabi's parents and 6-year-old sister, before he and one other raped the teenager and Green also then shot her dead.
Sergeant Anthony Yribe was charged with dereliction of duty for failing to report what he knew of the case.
U.S. official documents say Janabi was raped.
U.S. officials have said Janabi was aged 20 or 25. But documents obtained by Reuters put her age at 14.
(Additional reporting by Mussab Al-Khairalla and Alastair Macdonald)
Novak: Rove was a source in outing Plame
By PETE YOST, Associated Press Writer 24 minutes ago
Columnist Robert Novak said publicly for the first time Tuesday that White House political adviser Karl Rove was a source for his story outing the identity of CIA officer Valerie Plame.
In a column, Novak also says his recollection of his conversation with Rove differs from what the Rove camp has said.
"I have revealed Rove's name because his attorney has divulged the substance of our conversation, though in a form different from my recollection," Novak wrote. Novak did not elaborate.
A spokesman for Rove's legal team, Mark Corallo, said that Rove did not even know Plame's name at the time he spoke with Novak, that the columnist called Rove, not the other way around, and that Rove simply said he had heard the same information that Novak passed along to him regarding Plame.
"There was not much of a difference" between the recollections of Rove and Novak, said Corallo.
Novak said he is talking now because Special Counsel Patrick Fitzgerald told the columnist's lawyer that after 2 1/2 years his investigation of the CIA leak case concerning matters directly relating to Novak has been concluded.
Triggering the criminal investigation, Novak revealed Plame's CIA employment on July 14, 2003, eight days after her husband, White House critic and former U.S. Ambassador Joseph Wilson, accused the administration of manipulating prewar intelligence to exaggerate the Iraqi threat from weapons of mass destruction.
Novak's secret cooperation with prosecutors while maintaining a public silence about his role kept him out of legal danger and had the effect of providing protection for the Bush White House during the 2004 presidential campaign.
The White House denied Rove played any role in the leak of Plame's CIA identity and Novak, with his decision to talk to prosecutors, steered clear of potentially being held in contempt of court and jailed. Novak said he had declined to go public at Fitzgerald's request.
In a syndicated column to be released Wednesday, Novak says he told Fitzgerald in early 2004 that Rove and then-CIA spokesman Bill Harlow had confirmed information about Plame.
Contacted Tuesday night, Harlow declined to comment. But a U.S. intelligence official familiar with the matter denied that Harlow had been a confirming source for Novak on the story. The official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said Harlow repeatedly tried to talk Novak out of running the information about Plame and that Harlow's efforts did not in any way constitute confirming Plame's CIA identity. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because Harlow may end up being a witness in a separate part of Fitzgerald's investigation, the upcoming criminal trial of Vice President Dick Cheney's former chief of staff, I. Lewis Libby, on charges of perjury, obstruction and lying to the FBI.
In his column, Novak said he also told Fitzgerald about another senior administration official who originally provided him with information about Plame. Novak said he cannot publicly reveal the identity of that source even now.
"I have cooperated in the investigation while trying to protect journalistic privileges under the First Amendment and shield sources who have not revealed themselves," Novak said in his statement. "I have been subpoenaed by and testified to a federal grand jury. Published reports that I took the Fifth Amendment, made a plea bargain with the prosecutors or was a prosecutorial target were all untrue."
Rove's role in the scandal wasn't revealed until last summer when Time magazine reporter Matthew Cooper disclosed that Rove had leaked him the CIA identity of Wilson's wife. Cooper cooperated with prosecutors only after all his legal appeals were exhausted and he faced jail.
While Rove escaped indictment, Libby has been charged with lying about how he learned of the covert CIA officer's identity and what he told reporters about it.
As is true for many lawyers who have defended First Amendment free speech rights, I have represented several groups and individuals with extremist and even despicable viewpoints (in general, and for obvious reasons, it is only groups and individuals who espouse ideas considered repugnant by the majority which have their free speech rights threatened). Included among this group were several White Supremacist groups and their leaders, including one such group -- the World Church of the Creator -- whose individual members had periodically engaged in violence against those whom they considered to be the enemy (comprised of racial and religious minorities along with the "race traitors" who were perceived to defend them).
One of the favorite tactics used by such groups is to find the home address and telephone number of the latest enemy and then publish it on the Internet, accompanied by impassioned condemnations of that person as a Grave Enemy, a race traitor, someone who threatens all that is good in the world. A handful of the most extremist pro-life groups have used the same tactic. It has happened in the past that those who were the target of these sorts of demonization campaigns that included publication of their home address were attacked and even killed.
But these intimidation tactics work even when nothing happens. Indeed, these groups often publish the enemy's home address along with some cursory caveat that they are not encouraging violence. The real objective is the same one shared by all terrorists -- to place the person in paralyzing fear. The goal is to force the individual, as they lay in bed at night, to be preoccupied with worry that there is some deranged individual who read one of the websites identifying them as the enemy and which provided their address and who believes that they can strike some blow for their Just Cause by visiting their home and harming or killing them. The fear that they are vulnerable in their own home lurks so prominently and relentlessly in a person's mind that it can be as effective as a physical attack in punishing someone or intimidating them.
This thuggish tactic of intimidation -- publicly railing against someone's grave crimes and then publishing their home address -- has been creeping out of the most extremist precincts on the Right and is becoming increasingly common among mainstream right-wing individuals and organizations.
This weekend, prominent neoconservative David Horowitz proclaimed that the United States is fighting a war and "the aggressors in this war are Democrats, liberals and leftists." In particular, he cited the now infamous NYT Travel section article on Dick Cheney and Don Rumsfeld's vacation homes as evidence that the employees of the NYT are among the enemies in this war, and he then linked to and recommended as a "proposal for action" this post from his associate, Front Page contributor Rocco DiPippo. The post which Horowitz recommended was entitled "Where Does Punch Sulzberger Live?" and this is what it said:
I issue a call to the blogosphere to begin finding and publicly listing the addresses of all New York Times reporters and editors. Posting pictures of their residences, along with details of any security measures in place to protect the properties and their owners (such as location of security cameras and on-site security details) should also be published.
DiPippo published the home address of NYT Publisher Arthur Sulzberger, along with directions to his home, and linked to a post by right-wing blogger Dan Riehl which contained directions to Sulzberger's home along with photographers of it. In a now-deleted post, DiPippo also published the home address of Linda Spillers, the NYT photographer who took the photograph of Don Rumsfeld's vacation home (with Rumsfeld's express permission), and he urged everyone to go (presumably to the home address he provided) and confront Spillers about her actions.
That was not an isolated incident. This week, Bartholomew's Official Notes on Religion reported on the new "project" implemented by the group StopTheACLU.org. As that group describes it, the project is called "Expose the ACLU Plaintiffs," and promises to publish the home addresses of all individuals who are "using the ACLU" in any First Amendment lawsuit based on the Establishment clause which challenges the constitutionality of governmental promotion of Christianity. The first such enemy targeted for this treatment is a Jewish family in Delaware who sued their local school district over its alleged promotion of Christianity in the public schools. StopTheACLU published their home address and telephone number on its website, and the family -- due to all sorts of recriminations and fear of escalating attacks -- was forced to leave their home and move to another town, which was one of the apparent goals of StopTheACLU in publishing their home address.
Stop the ACLU is not some fringe, isolated group. To the contrary, the "official blog" of StopTheACLU.org is StopTheACLU.com (h/t Hunter), a very prominent player in the right-wing blogosphere. That blog is the 14th most-linked-to blog on the Internet, and is often promoted and approvingly cited to as a source by numerous right-wing bloggers such as Instapundit and Michelle Malkin. The blog Expose the Left (which aspires to be the C&L of the Right), yesterday condemned the "nutcases on the left side of the blososphere" who "are sending unfounded attacks" against StopTheACLU for this plainly despicable thug behavior.
These self-evidently dangerous tactics are merely a natural outgrowth of the hate-mongering bullying sessions which have become the staple of right-wing television shows such as Bill O'Reilly's and websites such as Michelle Malkin's (who, unsurprisingly, has become one of O'Reilly's favorite guests). One of the most constant features of these hate fests is the singling out of some unprotected, private individual -- a public school teacher here, a university administrator there -- who is dragged before hundreds of thousands of readers (or millions of viewers), accused of committing some grave cultural crime or identified as a subversive and an enemy, and then held out as the daily target of unbridled contempt, a symbol of all that is Evil.
Malkin frequently includes contact information for the identified Enemies, and O'Reilly often shows photographs or video of them on multiple programs. These bullying tactics of intimidation -- whereby people who are often just private individuals and who have no defenses (as opposed to, say, prominent politicians or media figures) are singled out for widespread public rituals of contempt -- have quite foreseeable consequences, chief among them placing those targets in fear of retribution. Publishing the home addresses of such individuals is not some wholly different approach, but is merely the next small and foreseeable step, an obvious outgrowth of the hate sessions on which many leading representatives of the Right now heavily rely.
And it is not only those who engage in the tactics themselves who bear responsibility for the consequences, but also those who offer coldly bureaucratic indifference towards these tactics, or even an implicit defense of them. While numerous right-wing bloggers commented this weekend on the truly inane attacks against the NYT Travel article, none (at least that I read) condemned Horowitz for promoting the campaign to publish the home addresses of editors and reporters of the Times. They had much to say about the Evil that is the NYT, but nothing to say about this extraordinary and despicable campaign perfected by extremist groups on the Right and now promoted by Horowitz and groups such as StopTheACLU, to intimidate and endanger journalists and private individuals by collecting and publishing their home addresses.
Beyond merely failing to condemn these tactics, Glenn "Instapundit" Reynolds yesterday deliberately defended them by arguing that they are no different than what the NYT did in its Travel article. Reynolds attacked a post written this weekend by Reason's Dave Weigel, in which Weigel condemned publication of the home address of the NYT photographer. Reynolds -- who pointedly avoided condemning Horowitz and publication of Spiller's home address -- quoted and then attacked Weigel's condemnation as "incoherent":
As so often happens with these things, angry bloggers have struck back and posted the addresses and phone numbers of the Times' photogs. (No link.)
No link? Why not? By Weigel's standards, a link wouldn't contribute to invasion of privacy. Anybody can find that stuff, right?
And if anybody can find that stuff, why's he so upset about publishing office phone numbers of public officials?
In order to avoid criticizing his comrades on the Right who are engaging in thug tactics, Reynolds actually equates discussion of the vacation homes of top government officials (who enjoy the most extensive and high-level security on the planet) with publication of the home addresses of private individuals and journalists (who have no security of any kind). By his reasoning, mentioning that the Vice President has a vacation home on the Eastern Shore of Maryland is no different than publishing the home address of private individuals who are publicly identified as traitors.
And, lo and behold, the Right's tactics of intimidation against private individuals are reduced by the conniving Reynolds into nothing more than a common and innocuous invasion of privacy of which the NYT and many others are also guilty. And with that corrupt equivalency established, Reynolds is able to posts on these matters without condemning the Right's thug tactics, and in fact, implicitly defends them by suggesting that they are rather innocuous and common and nothing to get excited about.
And revealingly, in choosing which villains to criticize from this weekend's treason accusations against the NYT and the thug tactics they inspired, Reynolds chooses Weigel for attack. But he has nothing to say about Horowitz and company for their newly announced campaign "to begin finding and publicly listing the addresses of all New York Times reporters and editors."
As people like Horowitz, Malkin and Reynolds well know -- and just as my most extremist former White Supremacist clients well knew -- if you throw burning matches at gasoline enough times, an explosion is inevitable. The rhetoric of treason -- accusing individuals and organizations of aiding and abetting our nation's enemies and even waging war on this country -- is a lit match. After all, the widely accepted penalty for traitors is execution, which is why it is such an inflammatory yet increasingly common accusation being hurled by the Right against their domestic "enemies" (for precisely the same reason, the favorite accusation of the World Church of the Creator was to label someone a "race traitor," since everyone knows what should be done with traitors).
Openly speculating about whether journalists and politicians are guilty of treason has become unbelievably common of late. And when those accusations are paired with publication of the traitor's home address, the intended result is both obvious and inevitable. Anyone who endorses those tactics in any way -- or who plays cute, coy games in finding ways to justify or minimize them -- knows exactly what they are doing.
As the Bush movement collapses, it is only to be expected that its more fevered adherents will resort to increasingly extremist rhetoric and tactics, out of frustration and anger, if for no other reason. The penetration of these thug tactics into increasingly mainstream venues on the Right is one of the more glaring, and more disturbing, developments of late.
UPDATE: In response to several comments here, let me be clear that I do not believe that the despicable statements referenced in this post can or should be grounds for criminal or civil liability. For reasons I set forth in comments here, here and here, the First Amendment should bar (and the Supreme Court has held it does bar) the imposition of liability based on the consequences flowing from the expression of protected political speech. The point is that these statements are despicable and dangerous, not illegal. The persons who engage in such tactics, or who defend them, bear the ethical and moral responsibilites -- but not legal liability -- for what they spawn.
Monday, July 10, 2006
White House kept "major program" secret
By Alan Elsner
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The Bush administration was running several intelligence programs, including one major activity, that it kept secret from Congress until whistle-blowers told the House of Representatives Intelligence Committee, the committee's chairman said on Sunday.
Rep. Pete Hoekstra, a Michigan Republican who chairs the House Intelligence Committee, said on Fox News Sunday he had written a four-page to
President George W. Bush in May warning him that the failure to disclose the intelligence activities to Congress may be a violation of the law.
In doing so, he confirmed a story that first ran in Sunday editions of the New York Times.
"I take it very, very seriously otherwise I would not have written the letter to the president," Hoekstra said.
"This is actually a case where the whistle-blower process was working appropriately and people within the intelligence community brought to my attention some programs that they believed we had not been briefed on. They were right," said Hoekstra, a close ally of Bush.
"We asked by code name about some of these programs. We have now been briefed on those programs but I wanted to reinforce to the president and to the executive branch and the intelligence community how important by law is the requirement that they keep the legislative branch informed of what they are doing," Hoekstra said.
The White House declined to comment directly on the allegations in Hoekstra's letter. "We will continue to work closely with the chairman and other congressional leaders on important national security issues," said Alex Conant, a White House spokesman.
Critics have charged that the Bush administration has a penchant for secrecy and has pushed its legal powers to the limit and possibly beyond in pursuing its "war on terror." But Hoekstra's complaint was particularly significant since it came from a strong supporter of the administration's tactics.
Hoekstra complained in his letter to Bush that the U.S. Congress "simply should not have to play 'Twenty Questions' to get the information that it deserves under our Constitution."
In the letter and the interview, Hoekstra did not provide details about the programs, which presumably remain secret.
Hoekstra had been briefed about both the National Security Agency's domestic surveillance program and the
Treasury Department's tracking of international banking transactions, both of which were leaked to the media.
He said he did not expect to be briefed about everything intelligence agencies were doing but at least one of the secret activities was a major program which Congress definitely should have been informed about.
In the letter, Hoekstra said the lack of disclosure possibly constituted a "breach of responsibility by the administration, a violation of the law, and, just as importantly, a direct affront to me and the members of this committee who have so ardently supported efforts to collect information on our enemies."
Japan Considers Strike Against N. Korea
By Mari Yamaguchi
The Associated Press
Monday 10 July 2006
Tokyo - Japan said Monday it was considering whether a pre-emptive strike on the North's missile bases would violate its constitution, signaling a hardening stance ahead of a possible U.N. Security Council vote on Tokyo's proposal for sanctions against the regime.
Japan was badly rattled by North Korea's missile tests last week and several government officials openly discussed whether the country ought to take steps to better defend itself, including setting up the legal framework to allow Tokyo to launch a pre-emptive strike against Northern missile sites.
"If we accept that there is no other option to prevent an attack ... there is the view that attacking the launch base of the guided missiles is within the constitutional right of self-defense. We need to deepen discussion," Chief Cabinet Secretary Shinzo Abe said.
Japan's constitution currently bars the use of military force in settling international disputes and prohibits Japan from maintaining a military for warfare. Tokyo has interpreted that to mean it can have armed troops to protect itself, allowing the existence of its 240,000-strong Self-Defense Forces.
A Defense Agency spokeswoman, however, said Japan has no attacking weapons such as ballistic missiles that could reach North Korea. Its forces only have ground-to-air missiles and ground-to-vessel missiles, she said on condition of anonymity due to official policy.
Despite resistance from China and Russia, Japan has pushed for a U.N. Security Council resolution that would prohibit nations from procuring missiles or missile-related "items, materials goods and technology" from North Korea. A vote was possible in New York later Monday, but Japan said it would not insist on one.
"It's important for the international community to express a strong will in response to the North Korean missile launches," Abe said. "This resolution is an effective way of expressing that."
China and Russia, both nations with veto power on the council, have voiced opposition to the measure. Kyodo News agency reported Monday, citing unnamed Chinese diplomatic sources, that China may use its veto on the Security Council to block the resolution.
The United States, Britain and France have expressed support for the proposal, while Japanese Foreign Minister Taro Aso has said there is a possibility that Russia will abstain.
South Korea, not a council member, has not publicly taken a position on the resolution, but on Sunday Seoul rebuked Japan for its outspoken criticism of the tests.
"There is no reason to fuss over this from the break of dawn like Japan, but every reason to do the opposite," a statement from President Roh Moo-hyun's office said, suggesting that Tokyo was contributing to tensions on the Korean Peninsula.
Abe said Monday it was "regrettable" that South Korea had accused Japan of overreacting.
"There is no mistake that the missile launch ... is a threat to Japan and the region. It is only natural for Japan to take measures of risk management against such a threat," Abe said.
Meanwhile, a Chinese delegation including the country's top nuclear envoy - Vice Foreign Minister Wu Dawei - arrived in North Korea on Monday, officially to attend celebrations marking the 45th anniversary of a friendship treaty between the North and China.
The U.S. is urging Beijing to push its communist ally back into six-party nuclear disarmament talks, but the Chinese government has not said whether Wu would bring up the negotiations. A ministry spokeswoman said last week that China was "making assiduous efforts" in pushing for the talks to resume.
Talks have been deadlocked since November because of a boycott by Pyongyang in protest of a crackdown by Washington on the regime's alleged money-laundering and other financial crimes.
Beijing has suggested an informal gathering of the six nations, which could allow the North to technically stand by its boycott, but at the same time meet with the other five parties - South Korea, China, the U.S., Japan and Russia. The U.S. has backed the idea and said Washington could meet with the North on the sidelines of such a meeting.
Still, U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Christopher Hill questioned just how influential Beijing was with the enigmatic regime.
"I must say the issue of China's influence on DPRK is one that concerns us," Hill told reporters in Tokyo. "China said to the DPRK, 'Don't fire those missiles,' but the DPRK fired them. So I think everybody, especially the Chinese, are a little bit worried about it."
The DPRK refers to the North's official name, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea.
Hill is touring the region to coordinate strategy on North Korea. He has emphasized the need for countries involved to present a united front.
"We want to make it very clear that we all speak in one voice on this provocative action by the North Koreans to launch missiles in all shapes and sizes," Hill said. "We want to make it clear to North Korea that what it did was really unacceptable."
More Than 50 Brutally Executed in Baghdad
By Joshua Partlow and Saad al-Izzy
Washington Post Staff Writers
Sunday, July 9, 2006; 12:42 PM
BAGHDAD, July 9 -- Shiite militiamen rampaged through a Baghdad neighborhood Sunday morning, killing more than 50 people and leaving many of the bodies littering the streets, according to Iraqi officials and witnesses. The attacks were apparently retaliation for a car bombing at a Shiite mosque the night before.
The dramatic display of sectarian killing began when armed men, some dressed in black, entered the al-Jihad neighborhood of western Baghdad. They set up checkpoints to stop cars, burst into homes, and singled out Sunni Arab residents for execution, witnesses and police said. Some of the corpses were handcuffed and pocked with bullet holes while others were pegged with nails, witnesses said.
Police picked up 57 bodies from the neighborhood, and three Interior Ministry police were also killed there, said Ali Hussein, a commando with the Interior Ministry who ferried bodies to the Yarmouk Hospital. Gen. Saad Mohammed al-Tamini of the Interior Ministry confirmed that more than 50 people were killed.
[Late in the day, bombs in two parked car struck the al-Timim Shiite mosque in central Baghdad, killing 17 people and wounding 38, according to police Lt. Mohammed Khayoun.]
Residents of al-Jihad identified the gunmen as members of the Mahdi Army, the powerful militia controlled by Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr. In the past three days Iraqi troops, with the support of U.S.-led coalition forces, have raided the homes of some leaders of the Mahdi Army homes and detained them.
Iraq's deputy prime minister for security affairs, Salam al-Zawbae, accused the defense and interior ministries of working with the militias to carry out the violence.
"Interior and defense ministries are infiltrated [by militias] and there are officials who lead brigades who are involved in this," Zawbae said in an interview on al-Jazeera television. "What is happening now is an ugly slaughter."
Officials in Sadr's organization denied the involvement of the Mahdi Army.
"Since we joined the parliament, the Sadr movement and the Mahdi Army became targets," said Sahib al-Amiri, a close aide to Sadr in the southern holy city of Najaf. "They don't have any evidence that the armed men who are killing in al-Jihad neighborhood are members of the Mahdi Army."
"These armed men are receiving their orders from the occupation forces to create civil strife among Iraqi people," he added.
Across the al-Jihad neighborhood, a predominantly Sunni enclave along the road to the Baghdad International Airport, police in white pickup trucks patrolled the roads. Fighters gathered in the streets holding rocket launchers and belts of machine gun ammunition. A hot wind scoured across the neighborhood scattering the black smoke that billowed from burning tires.
Ali Muhsin, 58, a retiree from al-Jihad, said he witnessed three cars of gunmen pull up near his house and begin shooting people. Four corpses lay on the ground about 100 yards from his door and another four were shot at a vegetable market nearby, he said.
He saw gunmen get out of an Opal sedan, grab two bodies from the trunk, "and throw them on the street," he said.
"The whole problem and the killings is because of the occupation and the government is trying to create sectarian violence," he said.
Residents said that the violence stemmed from a car bomb attack on the Shiite Al-Zahra mosque Saturday night.
When Abdul Rahman Mohammed Hameed woke up at 9 a.m. Sunday he said he saw Mahdi Army militiamen deployed in the streets and manning a checkpoint on the main commercial street through the neighborhood. Busloads of militiamen were involved, he said.
"We heard some fierce shooting but it stopped and we have not been able to see what is going on," said Hameed. "We have gathered our stuff to flee the area but we are afraid to leave."
An official in a Sunni political party in al-Jihad said he saw Mahdi Army fighters riding in the same vehicles with Interior Ministry commanders. He took his family out of the house because he feared it would be raided by militiamen. Outside, he said he saw 15 bodies.
"Some of them were tortured with drills," he said. "Some of them were hanged by ropes."
Confronting the Mahdi Army has never been easy for U.S. and Iraqi forces, which put down two Sadr-led uprisings in 2004. While U.S. officials have blamed the group for contributing to the spike in sectarian violence here in recent months, politicians loyal to Sadr control more than 30 seats in Iraq's parliament and several cabinet posts, making the militia a politically risky target.
Special correspondents Bassam Sebti in Baghdad and Saad Sarhan in Najaf contributed to this report.