Why so secret?

  1. I heard on my patients TV news this morning the President and Vice President will be testifying before the 9/11 commission but there will NOT be a transcript.
  2. 4 Comments

  3. by   pickledpepperRN
    Published on Tuesday, April 27, 2004 by the Niagara Falls Reporter

    Bush Afraid to let American People See Deadly Reality of Needless War
    by Bill Gallagher

    Editors' note: As of Sunday, April 25, a total of 718 American sons and daughters have come home from Iraq in flag-draped coffins, 117 in April alone. While President George W. Bush does not seem to be concerned about this -- he hasn't attended a single military funeral since launching the war -- he does seem to be concerned about the American people seeing images of the carnage his disastrous policies have wrought.

    DETROIT -- It is an image of dignity and respect -- photographs of flag-draped coffins. Some of the pictures show white-gloved soldiers doing their somber duty carrying the remains of the fallen. One is a poignant scene of the inside of a cargo plane where 20 coffins are secured to be flown to the military mortuary in Dover, Del.
    The photos are riveting and thought-provoking. You think of young lives lost and the grief anguished families are experiencing. There is nothing exploitive about the pictures. They are, above all, respectful and reverential.

    The images, however, capture the tragic reality of war and that's why George W. Bush doesn't want you to see any more of them. The truth is the president's torturer, and any image that challenges his arrogant fantasies must be stopped.

    He has succeeded in creating a false image of himself, and he has been widely successful in selling the phony reasons for war and images he's fabricated to the American people. Grim, vivid reality cannot be tolerated.

    The first picture published came from a military contract employee who took the shot of a transport plane loaded with the coffins while it was parked at the Kuwait International Airport.
    Tami Silicio and her husband, David Landry, were fired because they "violated Department of Defense and company policies by working together to photograph and publish the flag-draped caskets of our servicemen and women being returned to the United States," said William Silva, president of Maytag Aircraft.

    Silva admits the firings came after the Seattle Times published the picture and he told the Washington Post the military had "very specific concerns" about the photo. The couple did not accept money and Silicio says her only motive was to let Americans share in the grief and to show parents of the dead how respectfully remains are treated and that "their children weren't thrown around like a piece of cargo."

    A few days later, Russ Kick, a First Amendment activist, won a long struggle with the Air Force to obtain photos of Iraq war dead. He filed a Freedom of Information Act request that was initially denied. Kick appealed and the Air Force relented, sending him 361 pictures of coffins arriving at the Dover Air Force Base.

    Military photographers took the pictures for historic reasons. The photos are professional, subdued and, of course, dignified. But when Kick posted the pictures on his Web site, www.thememoryhole.org, the White House and the Pentagon went into a tizzy.

    President Bush said he wants to protect the privacy of the families and no more coffin photos will be released. A Pentagon official insisted the ban was not related to any concern about public opinion. Sure.

    John Molino, a Deputy Undersecretary of Defense, said the censorship is necessary because "we don't want the remains of our service members who have made the ultimate sacrifice to be subject to any kind of attention that is unwarranted or undignified."

    The censorship has nothing to do with protecting dignity and has everything to do with protecting George W.'s political hide. Actually, his father first initiated the ban on public access to pictures and videos of returning war dead in 1991.

    As Gulf War I began, Bush the Elder feared a repeat of the Vietnam-era images of an unrelenting stream of coffins returning home. Forget a free society and a Constitution that protects expression, these are forbidden images, unfit for the eyes of the American people.

    Barbara Bush, wife and mother of the presidents, already stated her aversion to such unpleasant images, and perhaps she's making the call here.

    In March of last year, as the invasion of Iraq began, Mrs. Bush told Diane Sawyer of ABC News that she wouldn't watch any television reports about her boy's war because, she said, "Why should we hear about body bags and death and how many? ... Oh, I mean, it's not relevant. So why should I waste my beautiful mind on something like that?"

    Jane Bright of West Hills, Calif., disagrees. Her 24-year-old son Evan Ashcraft was killed in combat in Iraq last July. She told CBS, "We need to stop hiding the deaths of our young. We need to be open about their deaths."

    President Bush fears openness about anything, especially Iraq. He and his handlers want to control every image and the reality of war -- death, suffering and destruction -- must be suppressed.

    It's all about images. While money is the mother's milk of politics, image is the honey. Sweet and smooth, it cloaks and covers, dominating what it touches.

    The bees in the Bush White House are always busy, working to ensure that the images they create will stick in the public's mind. Any other image, not of their making, will be forbidden, squashed or censored.

    One image they hoped would endure forever was the triumphant commander in chief in his flyboy suit strutting across the deck of an aircraft carrier draped with a banner reading "Mission Accomplished."

    We never saw the reality of worried Pentagon professionals who knew Iraq was still a tinderbox and that planning for a post-Saddam nation ranged from little to nonexistent.

    We never saw the image of the search for the outlawed weapons arsenals we were told were there and were the most urgent reason for the invasion and war. Defense Secretary Rumsfeld told us he knew "exactly" where to find them.

    Then there is the image of the brave and compassionate crusader -- the president paying a surprise visit, serving a prop Thanksgiving turkey dinner to the thrilled and hungry troops in Iraq. Those chosen for the meal, the image -- and, thus, the politically correct photo op -- were picked based on their race and gender.

    The reality we didn't see was the other troops eating cold sandwiches because Halliburton, the company given the no-bid contract for military food service in Iraq, regularly screwed up and used the concession to overbill the taxpayers millions of dollars for meals never served.

    The image of Saddam's big statue toppling left the desired impression that this was not aggression and imperialism but rather liberation, and that George W. Bush, the father of freedom in the Middle East, was doing God's work.
    We never see the reality of occupying forces shutting down newspapers and shooting reporters and photographers.

    Bush loves the image of the despised, bearded and disheveled Saddam Hussein rooted from hiding in his spider-hole. Here's the murderous dictator whose regime posed an immediate threat to our national security. The next picture we'll see of him will be in the hangman's noose.

    The reality we don't see is President Reagan's special envoy to Iraq, Donald Rumsfeld, presenting the then-beloved Saddam an expensive pair of cowboy boots from Ronald Reagan in recognition of their great friendship.

    Rumsfeld also provided Saddam with U.S. satellite photos the Iraqi "madman" would then use to guide nerve gas attacks on Iranian soldiers and Kurdish villages. We helped Saddam use horrible weapons on his own people, and now we're going to put him on trial.

    In his new book, "Plan of Attack," Bob Woodward tells us Bush gave the order to commence the war with the image of noble, public purpose, as the gallant protector of our national security, telling the generals this must be done "for the peace of the world and the freedom of the Iraqi people."

    The realty is a world with less peace and more violence, and the Iraqi people are far from freedom in a land increasingly hostile to the "liberating" armies. It's a bloody mess. America is less secure and we have never been more despised in the Arab world.

    George W. and Field Marshall Rumsfeld sell the image of free enterprise and a new, sovereign Iraqi government bringing freedom, peace and stability there.
    The reality is that the "privatized" war has produced profiteering, mercenaries, cronyism and corruption, and the American taxpayers will get stuck with the tab as our Iraqi puppets enjoy the looting.

    But, sadly, Bush's use of image works very effectively and truth doesn't trump it. A new poll shows that 57 percent of Americans still believe Saddam gave "substantial support" to al-Qaeda. The University of Maryland survey also shows 45 percent have the impression that there was "clear evidence" Iraq worked closely with Osama bin Laden, and 60 percent believe that Iraq either had weapons of mass destruction or a major program to develop them.

    There is no evidence or truth to any of those beliefs, but it shows we are clearly living in an age of cognitive dissonance, in which people cling to whatever fits their own opinions and facts don't interfere with their false beliefs.

    That's just the way the president likes it and his drones in the corporate media helped him do it. George W. Bush is politically secure as long as the American people are content licking the honey of his images and refuse to swallow the bitter reality and truth of his deeds.

    Bill Gallagher, a Peabody Award winner, is a former Niagara Falls city councilman who now covers Detroit for Fox2 News.
  4. by   pickledpepperRN

    The Bush administration will today seek to prevent a former FBI translator from providing evidence about 11 September intelligence failures to a group of relatives and survivors who have accused international banks and officials of aiding al-Qa'ida.
    Sibel Edmonds was subpoenaed by a law firm representing more than 500 family members and survivors of the attacks to testify that she had seen information proving there was considerable evidence before September 2001 that al-Qa'ida was planning to strike the US with aircraft. The lawyers made their demand after reading comments Mrs Edmonds had made to The Independent.

    But the US Justice Department is seeking to stop her from testifying, citing the rarely used "state secrets privilege". Today in a federal court in Washington, senior government lawyers will try to gag Mrs Edmonds, claiming that disclosure of her evidence "would cause serious damage to the national security and foreign policy interests of the United States".

    Mrs Edmonds, 33, a Turkish-American who had top secret security clearance, claimed this month that while working in the FBI's Washington headquarters, she saw information proving senior officials knew of al-Qa'ida plans to attack the US with aircraft months before the strikes. She has provided sworn testimony to the independent panel appointed by President George Bush to investigate the circumstances surrounding 11 September.

    Mrs Edmonds was subpoenaed by the law firm Motley-Rice, which represents hundreds of families who are taking civil action against a number of banks and two members of the Saudi royal family for allegedly aiding al-Qa'ida.

    Her lawyer, Mark Zaid, said last night: "The FBI wants to shut her up completely." He said it was ridiculous to claim that everything Mrs Edmonds knew had national security implications. Rather, he said, the FBI wanted to silence his client to save its embarrassment.

    The Bush administration has been put on the back foot by allegations that senior officials - perhaps even Mr Bush himself - were provided with considerable information warning of an imminent attack by al-Qa'ida and that they failed to act. Mrs Edmonds said yesterday: "What are they are afraid of? If I am not allowed to give evidence, the families will not get the information I have; that will be that."

    She said it was wrong for the Bush administration to claim it wanted a full investigation. "If there is transparency, there is going to be accountability and that is what they don't want."
  5. by   pickledpepperRN

    Supreme Court to rule on Cheney's right to withhold sources
    By Andrew Buncombe in Washington
    28 April 2004

    The White House yesterday argued that the US Constitution gave President George Bush and his deputy Dick Cheney authority to make executive decisions without revealing to the public how they were made or who was consulted.

    In what could be the most serious clash yet between the Bush administration and the US judicial system, the Supreme Court was yesterday asked to decide whether Mr Cheney should reveal the names of the industry executives he consulted when drawing up controversial energy policy. For almost three years, Mr Cheney has repeatedly refused to do this.

    "This is a case about the separation of powers," the administration's senior lawyer, Solicitor General Theodore Olson, told the justices yesterday. The White House is portraying the case as a test of executive power, arguing that the forced disclosure of confidential records intrudes on a president's power to obtain honest information and advice.

    Environmentalists and others interested in more transparent government claim that disclosure is the only way to ensure the administration did not provide special favours to energy industry groups that have made thousands of dollars in donations to Republican campaigns.

    Controversy has been fuelled further by Justice Antonin Scalia's decision not to excuse himself from the hearing over his friendship with Mr Cheney. Several months ago it was revealed the two went on a duck-hunting trip in Louisiana on a government jet paid for by taxpayers.

    In an unusual 21-page memorandum, Mr Scalia rejected a request by the environmental group, the Sierra Club, to step down. "If it is reasonable to think that a Supreme Court justice can be bought so cheap, the nation is in deeper trouble than I had imagined," he wrote.

    "A rule that required members of this court to remove themselves from cases in which the official actions of friends were at issue would be utterly disabling. [Many Supreme Court justices get their jobs] precisely because they were friends of the incumbent president or other senior officials."

    The Supreme Court is the administration's last hope of keeping the records private. It has already lost two rounds of legal action in lower courts. A ruling is expected by July and if it supports a lower court's previous decision that the papers must be released, the administration would have to do so, just as the presidential election campaign hots up.
  6. by   pickledpepperRN
    Published on Tuesday, April 27, 2004 by the Inter Press Service

    'Enemy Combatants' Finally Before Supreme Court
    After two years of litigation, the U.S. Supreme Court is finally set to decide whether the executive branch of the U.S. government may detain alleged ''enemy combatants'' indefinitely without any judicial review of their status.

    by Jim Lobe

    WASHINGTON - Three cases -- one of them argued before the nation's highest court last week and the other two due to be presented here Wednesday -- will determine the extent of U.S. presidential power to detain both U.S. citizens and foreign nationals in the ''war on terrorism''.
    Dozens of independent groups -- including human rights and relief organizations, former prisoners-of-war and legal associations -- have filed ''friend of the court'' briefs, most of them opposed to the government's position.
    While the nine-judge court will not issue its ruling until later this spring, civil-liberties advocates are hopeful that a majority of justices will insist that the executive branch cannot prevent detainees from gaining access to federal courts to determine whether the government has sufficient grounds for their detention.
    ''It seems four of the justices are strongly on the side of detainees (held) at the U.S.' Guantanamo (Bay naval base in Cuba) on the question of whether U.S. courts have jurisdiction'', according to Deborah Pearlstein, director of the U.S. law and security program at Human Rights First (HRF), formerly known as the Lawyers Committee for Human Rights.
    Reflecting on the oral arguments before the Court last week, she added that two other justices -- Sandra Day O'Connor and Anthony Kennedy -- also indicated skepticism about the case put forward by Bush administration Solicitor-General Ted Olson, that the executive branch's powers to detain ''enemy combatants'' should be virtually unlimited during war.
    ''(They) will be swing votes'', Pearlstein said of the two justices who were appointed by former Republican presidents Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan, respectively.
    The three cases, which are being closely watched by human rights activists and foreign ministries around the world, are the first of a slew of hearings concerning the fate of ''enemy combatants'' held by the Pentagon in its ''war on terror'' and pending trials before specially created military commissions whose proposed procedures have been widely criticized for failing to meet international standards of due process.
    Some 700 suspected operatives of the al-Qaeda terrorist group or the former governing Taliban regime in Afghanistan have been held at Guantanamo Bay since their capture during and after the U.S.-led military campaign in Afghanistan in late 2001. About 100 of them, including some deemed harmless, have been returned to their home countries, leaving 595 from more than 40 countries still in custody.
    Quoting a senior Pentagon official, the 'Boston Globe' reported Sunday that the administration lacks sufficient evidence on most of the detainees to try them before a military commission but that they are considered too dangerous or too valuable as possible intelligence assets to be released within the foreseeable future.
    Last week's cases were brought on behalf of 16 Guantanamo detainees who contend that they were innocent combatants picked up or delivered to U.S. military authorities in Afghanistan or Pakistan by mistake.
    Under the Geneva Conventions, prisoners of war (POWs) are entitled to appeal their status to an independent tribunal, but, in a highly controversial decision, the Bush administration decided in early 2002 that the Guantanamo detainees were not entitled to POW status. As a result, lawyers acting on behalf of the 16 -- two of whom have since been returned to Britain -- filed habeas corpus petitions.
    Citing a precedent that resulted in the imprisonment and execution of German saboteurs during the Second World War, Olson argued that federal courts lacked jurisdiction over detainees held at the Guantanamo base because it is not on U.S. territory.
    He also argued that the executive branch enjoys much greater detention powers during a time of war, and warned that any judicial review ''would place the federal courts in the unprecedented position of micro-managing the executive's handling of captured enemy combatants from a distant combat zone'' in violation of the constitutional ''separation of powers'' doctrine that allocates responsibilities to each branch of government.
    But Olson's argument provoked a battery of questions from six of the justices, including O'Connor and Kennedy, about whether detainees could be placed in a ''no law'' zone without recourse to any judicial authority and where they were effectively deprived of all basic rights.
    Olson might have an even more difficult time in Wednesday's cases, which both involve U.S. citizens who have been held for two years without charge at a U.S. Navy brig in South Carolina. As ''enemy combatants'' -- a phrase that has no legal precedent -- both were denied the right to consult with a lawyer until quite recently or to contest their detentions in court.
    Yaser Hamdi, who was captured by the Northern Alliance in Afghanistan before being transferred to Washington's custody, acquired U.S. citizenship by being born in the United States to Saudi parents, who then returned to their homeland.
    An appeals court in Virginia held last year that Hamdi could continue to be held after the Pentagon submitted a nine-paragraph affidavit asserting that he had been captured while fighting for the Taliban. Whether that document constituted adequate grounds for his indefinite detention without charge or whether Hamdi should be granted the right to rebut the government's affidavit in court will be the focus of argument Wednesday.
    The companion case of Jose Padilla, who was arrested at Chicago's main airport two years ago on suspicion of plotting with al-Qaeda to detonate a radioactive device, might be even more difficult for the administration to win, according to civil liberties experts, if only because he was detained so far from the actual battleground.
    In that case, an appeals court in New York ruled Padilla should be granted the chance to rebut the government's case, which is based on confidential sources, and that, absent a law approved by Congress authorizing such a detention, the president has no authority to act on his own.
    In all three cases, the administration argues that the determination of enemy combatant status is a ''quintessentially military judgment, representing a core exercise of the commander-in-chief authority'' that should not be reviewed by the courts.
    ''Not since the internment of Japanese American citizens during World War II have we seen such a far-reaching assertion of presidential power'', said Ralph Neas, president of the civil-libertarian People for the American Way Foundation, which has filed a joint amicus brief with the right-wing Rutherford Foundation.
    While many experts believe that the fact that Hamdi and Padilla are citizens make it more probable they will prevail in their cases before the Court, some predict the majority of justices will not make such a distinction.
    ''The (U.S. Constitution's) Bill of Rights ... does not distinguish between citizens and non-citizens'', according to David Cole, who teaches law at Georgetown University here.
    ''It extends its protections in universal language, to 'persons', 'people' or 'the accused'. The framers considered these rights to be God-given natural rights, and God didn't give them only to persons holding American passports.''
    ©Copyright 2004 IPS-Inter Press Service