Friday, September 29, 2006

Senate Approves Detainee Bill Backed by Bush

The United States legalized the torture and execution of people without fair trials. Just re-read that sentence again and let it sink in. Holy crap, what is happening?

Senate Approves Detainee Bill Backed by Bush
Constitutional Challenges Predicted

By Charles Babington and Jonathan Weisman
Washington Post Staff Writers
Friday, September 29, 2006; Page A01

Congress approved landmark changes to the nation's system of interrogating and prosecuting terrorism suspects last night, preparing the ground for possible military trials for key al-Qaeda members under rules that critics say will draw stiff constitutional challenges.

The Senate joined the House in embracing President Bush's view that the battle against terrorism justifies the imposition of extraordinary limits on defendants' traditional rights in the courtroom. They include restrictions on a suspect's ability to challenge his detention, examine all evidence against him, and bar testimony allegedly acquired through coercion of witnesses.

Detainee Policy

Bush acknowledged the existence of secret CIA prisons abroad Sept. 6, 2006, as he called for the authority to try prisoners by military commissions.
• Analysis: President Shifts Argument
• Pentagon War Policy: New Interrogation Rules

Washington Post reporter Dana Priest reported on Nov. 2 that the CIA operates a network of secret prisons where it holds terror suspects. Priest was awarded a Pulitzer Prize on April 17 for her beat reporting on the CIA and the War on Terror.
• From the Office of the Director of National Intelligence: Summary of the High Value Terrorist Detainee Program (pdf)

Detainee Database
View the largest list of names made public thus far, comprising men whose identities have appeared in media reports, on Arabic Web sites and in legal documents.

President Bush delivers remarks on terrorism, Sept. 6, 2006.


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The Senate's 65 to 34 vote marked a victory for Bush and fellow Republicans a month before the Nov. 7 elections as their party tries to make anti-terrorism a signature campaign issue. Underscoring that strategy, the House last night voted 232 to 191 to authorize Bush's warrantless wiretapping program, with GOP leaders hoping to add it to their list of accomplishments even though it has no chance of Senate passage before this weekend's scheduled adjournment. On the final wiretapping vote, 18 Democrats joined 214 Republicans to win passage. Thirteen Republicans, 177 Democrats and one independent voted nay.

Democrats resisted both measures and nearly amended the detainee bill to allow foreigners designated as enemy combatants to challenge their captivity by filing habeas corpus appeals with the federal courts. But Republicans held fast, gambling that Democrats will fail in their bid to convince voters that the GOP is sacrificing the nation's traditions of justice and fairness in the name of battling terrorists and winning elections.

"As our troops risk their lives to fight terrorism, this bill will ensure they are prepared to defeat today's enemies and address tomorrow's threats," Bush said after the vote.

With control of both houses possibly at stake this fall, yesterday's debates were often impassioned and deeply partisan. House Majority Leader John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) called Democrats "dangerous." Patrick J. Leahy (Vt.), the ranking Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee, said the nation is losing its "moral compass."

The Senate approved the detainee legislation after Bush's allies narrowly fended off five amendments. The vote on final passage drew support from 53 Republicans and 12 Democrats, while 32 Democrats, one independent and one Republican -- Lincoln D. Chafee (R.I.) -- voted nay.

Judiciary Committee Chairman Arlen Specter (R-Pa.) voted for the bill after telling reporters earlier that he would oppose it because it is "patently unconstitutional on its face." He cited its denial of the habeas corpus right to military detainees. In an interview last night, Specter said he decided to back the bill because it has several good items, "and the court will clean it up" by striking the habeas corpus provisions.

Posted by crimnos @ 1:51 PM :: (0) comments

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Detainee bill may allow US citizens to be classified as "enemy combatants"

Who needs unitary executive theory and signing statements when you've got a Congress that will approve any authoritarian measure the Bush Admin desires?

Detainee Measure to Have Fewer Restrictions
White House Reaches Accord With Lawmakers

By R. Jeffrey Smith
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, September 26, 2006; A01

Republican lawmakers and the White House agreed over the weekend to alter new legislation on military commissions to allow the United States to detain and try a wider range of foreign nationals than an earlier version of the bill permitted, according to government sources.

Lawmakers and administration officials announced last week that they had reached accord on the plan for the detention and military trials of suspected terrorists, and it is scheduled for a vote this week. But in recent days the Bush administration and its House allies successfully pressed for a less restrictive description of how the government could designate civilians as "unlawful enemy combatants," the sources said yesterday. They spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of negotiations over the bill.

The government has maintained since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks that, based on its reading of the laws of war, anyone it labels an unlawful enemy combatant can be held indefinitely at military or CIA prisons. But Congress has not yet expressed its view on who is an unlawful combatant, and the Supreme Court has not ruled directly on the matter.

As a result, human rights experts expressed concern yesterday that the language in the new provision would be a precedent-setting congressional endorsement for the indefinite detention of anyone who, as the bill states, "has engaged in hostilities or who has purposefully and materially supported hostilities against the United States" or its military allies.

The definition applies to foreigners living inside or outside the United States and does not rule out the possibility of designating a U.S. citizen as an unlawful combatant. It is broader than that in last week's version of the bill, which resulted from lengthy, closed-door negotiations between senior administration officials and dissident Republican senators. That version incorporated a definition backed by the Senate dissidents: those "engaged in hostilities against the United States."

The new provision, which would cover captives held by the CIA, is more expansive than the one incorporated by the Defense Department on Sept. 5 in new rules that govern the treatment of detainees in military custody. The military's definition of unlawful combatants covers only "those who engage in acts against the United States or its coalition partners in violation of the laws of war and customs of war during an armed conflict."

Kate Martin, director of the Center for National Security Studies, said that by including those who "supported hostilities" -- rather than those who "engage in acts" against the United States -- the government intends the legislation to sanction its seizure and indefinite detention of people far from the battlefield.

Martin noted that "the administration kidnapped an innocent German citizen" and "held him incommunicado for months . . . because the CIA or Pentagon wrongly suspected him of terrorist ties." She was referring to Khalid al-Masri, who the Bush administration eventually acknowledged was detained on insufficient grounds.

Nothing in the proposed legislation -- which mostly concerns the creation of new military panels, known as "commissions," to try terrorism suspects -- directly addresses such CIA apprehensions and "renditions."

But the bill's new definition "would give the administration a stronger basis on which to argue that Congress has recognized that the battlefield is wherever the terrorist is, and they can seize people far from the area of combat, label them as unlawful enemy combatants and detain them indefinitely," said Suzanne Spaulding, an assistant general counsel at the CIA from 1989 to 1995.

Traditionally, courts have found it reasonable for parties to armed conflicts to seize or try people they encounter on a battlefield, to keep them from returning to the hostilities, added Spaulding, who was also a general counsel for the House and Senate intelligence committees. "The Supreme Court could potentially look at this and say Congress has now defined how anyone anywhere in the world" is subject to detention and military trial, even when far from an active combat zone, she said.

White House spokeswoman Dana Perino said: "We are satisfied with the definition because it will allow us to prosecute the terrorists, and it also has important limitations that say a terrorist must have purposefully and materially supported terrorism."

Spokesmen for John W. Warner (R-Va.), John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.) -- the senators leading negotiations with the Bush administration -- did not immediately respond to requests for comment on the new language, but others on Capitol Hill said the three had accepted it.

Under a separate provision, those held by the CIA or the U.S. military as an unlawful enemy combatant would be barred from challenging their detention or the conditions of their treatment in U.S. courts unless they were first tried, convicted and appealed their conviction.

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Arlen Specter (R-Pa.) yesterday assailed the provision as an unconstitutional suspension of habeas corpus, which he said was allowable only "in time of rebellion or in time of invasion. And neither is present here."

He was joined by the committee's senior Democrat, Sen. Patrick J. Leahy (Vt.), who said that under the provision, legal U.S. immigrants could be held "until proven innocent, not until proven guilty."

Bruce Fein, a senior Justice Department official in the Reagan administration, testified against the provision at a Senate hearing. Kenneth W. Starr, a solicitor general under President George H.W. Bush, said in a letter to Specter that he concerned the legislation "may go too far in limiting habeas corpus relief."

Sen. John Cornyn (R-Tex.) defended the provision, saying alien enemy combatants are not "entitled to rights under the United States Constitution similar to those accorded to a defendant in a criminal lawsuit."

Congressional sources said Specter is unlikely to derail the compromise legislation over those objections.

Posted by crimnos @ 4:27 PM :: (0) comments

Cardin has huge lead over Steele in Maryland

Awwww right.

Poll shows Cardin lead over Steele
Bush's low ratings, Democratic majority help build 11-point edge

By Jennifer Skalka and Matthew Hay Brown
Sun reporters

Originally published September 25, 2006
With a down-to-the-wire primary behind him, Democratic Rep. Benjamin L. Cardin enters the U.S. Senate general election contest with an 11-point lead over his rival, Republican Lt. Gov. Michael S. Steele, according to a new poll for The Sun.

Six weeks before the November vote, Cardin leads Steele, 51 percent to 40 percent, according to the statewide survey of 815 likely voters. But with Republican and Democratic parties expected to flood the state with money and appearances in the weeks to come, the race remains volatile.

"This is not the kind of lead that's insurmountable at this stage," said James G. Gimpel, a professor of government at the University of Maryland, College Park. "Cardin has a lead to protect, and Steele has to be the more aggressive campaigner, probably take a few more risks."

Cardin's support stretches across the state, according to the poll, and he dominates in Maryland's most solidly African-American communities: Baltimore and Prince George's County.

Cardin, who beat former NAACP chief Kweisi Mfume in the Democratic primary by fewer than 20,000 votes, holds a nearly 3-to-1 advantage over Steele among black voters, a traditionally Democratic constituency into which the lieutenant governor has attempted to make inroads.

Steele, the highest-ranking statewide black official, leads Cardin, who is white, in rural Maryland, a typically Republican stronghold, and with voters younger than 50. Self-described conservatives strongly favor Steele, a former chairman of the Maryland Republican Party.

Cardin has maintained an 11-point lead over Steele through three Sun polls taken during the past year. The number of undecided voters, meanwhile, has dwindled, from about one in four last November to fewer than one in 10 in the current poll.

The undecided could include supporters of Kevin Zeese, who is backed by the Green, Libertarian and Populist parties.

The telephone survey conducted Sept. 15 to Sept. 18 has a margin of error of 3.5 percentage points.

Keith Haller of Potomac Inc. of Bethesda, the independent firm that conducted the survey for The Sun, said Cardin appears to have emerged from a tight primary race with Mfume "no worse for wear."

Cardin benefits from the 2-to-1 registration advantage Democrats enjoy over Republicans in Maryland and the unpopularity of President Bush and the Republican Party in the state, Haller said.

Thirty-five percent of those surveyed said they had more confidence in Republicans to handle the most important problems facing the state. Forty-nine percent believed the Democrats would do a better job.

Only 34 percent, meanwhile, approve of Bush's performance as president. Fifty-nine percent disapprove.

"Maryland remains one of his worst states," Haller said of the president. "He's kind of like raw meat for the Democratic wolf pack."

For that reason, Gimpel said he expects Steele to talk more like a Democrat and play down his ties to the Republican Party.

Elected with Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. in 2002, Steele, 47, has never won office on his own. During the Senate campaign, he has received fundraising help from Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney and a host of White House loyalists - support that Democrats regularly mention.

But Steele has a panache that Cardin lacks and is working to craft a likable, moderate persona in a series of quirky television ads that do not mention his party affiliation.

The poll shows Steele gaining unusually high support for a Republican among African-American voters. While Cardin is leading with 66 percent of the black vote, 24 percent now favor Steele.

"It's an unprecedented number for a Republican running statewide against a prominent Democrat," Haller said.

Temple Hills resident Robert W. Chandler, 53, is a registered Democrat who said he plans to vote for Ehrlich in the gubernatorial contest and Cardin for Senate. Chandler, who is black, said he believes Ehrlich has done a good job and cheered his pro-slots position. But Steele, he said, has yet to articulate where he stands on issues.

Posted by crimnos @ 11:04 AM :: (0) comments

Monday, September 25, 2006

Congress Looks to Slash HIV/AIDS funding to New York

This feels an awful lot like the slashing of terrorism funds to New York and feels like pandering to the Southern states. Could it be a form of political punishment?

AIDS/HIV care money might leave New York
As local cases rise, Congress might shift some funding to Southern states.
Monday, September 25, 2006
By James T. Mulder
Staff writer

If testing for the AIDS virus becomes routine for everyone, Syracusans who test positive might have a hard time finding care, according to the coordinator of the Central New York HIV Care Network.

Stephen Waldron said at the same time the federal government is encouraging routine testing, Congress is considering legislation that would cut the amount of federal funding New York gets to help care for people with HIV and AIDS by as much as $78 million over four years.

"If you are promoting or encouraging or at some point requiring testing, the system needs to be able to respond with care," Waldron said. "It's only half of the equation to get people tested."

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention last week recommended routine testing for all Americans ages 13 to 64, saying that an HIV test should be as common as a cholesterol check. HIV - short for human immunodeficiency virus - causes AIDS. HIV is spread most often through sexual contact, contaminated needles shared by drug users, infected blood and from infected women to their babies. The CDC estimates 250,000 Americans are infected and don't even know it.

There are 1,477 Central New Yorkers living with HIV and AIDS, about half of them Onondaga County residents.

Testing alone isn't the answer, according to Waldron.

"We are concerned that any emphasis on testing is matched with an emphasis on appropriate levels of funding," said Waldron, whose network links those living with and responding to the HIV/AIDS epidemic in Central New York.

AIDS advocates are worried because bills pending in Congress would shift federal money spent on uninsured AIDS patients away from states like New York, New Jersey and California to Southern states. The bills would reauthorize the Ryan White Comprehensive AIDS Resources Emergency Act, the nation's largest HIV-specific grant program, for another five years. The program has a budget this year of about $2.1 billion. New York's share is about $349 million.

The bills would redirect some money from states like New York with large urban areas to more rural states like Alabama that have seen sharp increases in AIDS and HIV in recent years. Alabama's share of the Ryan White money would grow from $11 million to $18 million annually under a bill approved last week by the House Committee on Energy and Commerce.

Sens. Hillary Clinton, D-N.Y. and Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., and Rep. James T. Walsh, R-Onondaga, oppose the new funding distribution formula.

Southern states need more money to combat the epidemic, but they should not get it at the expense of New York, which has more HIV and AIDS cases than any other state, Waldron said.

The proposals come at a time when the number of people in the region with HIV and AIDS is increasing, and the cost of caring for them is soaring, he said.

The active patient caseload at SUNY Upstate Medical University, the region's designated AIDS center, is about 700, up from about 350 four years ago, according to Waldron.

The numbers are growing because better treatments are helping infected people live longer, according to Waldron. The increase also reflects outreach efforts that encourage people to get tested, he said.

Medications to treat people with HIV and AIDS can cost $10,000 to $15,000 annually, he said. Ryan White money is used to help pay some drug costs for patients not covered by Medicaid or other health insurance.

Congress could take final action on the bills this week, Waldron said.

Posted by crimnos @ 11:09 AM :: (1) comments