A federal judge in San Francisco has ruled that a new ban on late term abortions is unconstitutional because it jeopardizes a women’s right to choose and because it could threaten the health of women who seek to end their pregnancies. The ruling was a major setback to the Bush administration and opponents of abortion who have expressed hope that the bill — officially known as the Partial Birth Abortion Ban Act — would become the first step toward making all abortions illegal. Planned Parenthood brought the suit against the Justice Department. The group’s President Gloria Feldt said on Tuesday "Today’s ruling is a landmark victory for medical privacy rights and women’s health. The Ashcroft Department of Justice can no longer threaten Planned Parenthood doctors with the daunting specter of criminal prosecution for putting their patients first." The judge accused Congress of being "grossly misleading and inaccurate" when it referred to the banned procedure — which is known in the medical world as "intact dilation and extraction" — as "infanticide" President Bush’s re-election campaign issued a statement describing the judge’s decision as a "tragic ruling."
The Bush administration defended the make-up of the newly selected Iraqi interim government even though it will be led by members of the Iraqi Governing Council which was widely seen as illegitimate by the Iraqi people. One former leading member of the Council, Mahmoud Othman protested the actions of U.S. occupation head Paul Bremer and the United Nations envoy Lakhdar Brahimi in shaping the new government. Othman told the Guardian "The behaviour of Mr. Bremer and Mr. Brahimi has been shameful. It’s like being in a dictatorship again." National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice defended the make-up of the government saying "Look, these are not America’s puppets." The interim prime minister, president, deputy president and one of the ministers of state were all members of the U.S.-appointed Iraqi Governing Council which dissolved itself Tuesday to allow the interim government to take power. Agence France Press reported the new prime minister, Iyad Allawi, a former Baathist with ties to the CIA and Saudi intelligence, went out of his way to call for US forces to stay in Iraq. He said "I call on the United States and Europe to protect Iraq." A New York Times editorial today reads "The end of the Governing Council concludes a chapter of unpopular, ineffectual governance that failed to stem a growing insurgency and did little to lay the groundwork for a workable democracy. .. the new governing body looks uncomfortably like the old one with a new name and a few added powers."
It still remains unclear what power the interim government will have even though the U.S. claims it will have full sovereignty. A revised UN resolution put forward by the US yesterday would allow Iraq to oversee its own military and police forces but 140,000 U.S. troops would remain and have the power to act at will. The resolution however does appear to set a 2006 deadline for the departure of U.S. and other foreign troops from Iraq. China, France, Russia and other nations expressed disappointment with the new resolution’s failure to give the Iraqi government true sovereignty. The interim government will not have the power to make laws or revoke any laws instituted by the U.S. occupying forces. It is not clear what will happen after June 30th to the thousands of Iraqis who are currently being detained — many of whom have never been charged with a crime. U.S. soldiers and contractors will likely remain immune from criminal prosecution and liability in Iraq. Meanwhile under current rules, the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund, the United Nations and the Arab Development Bank will supervise an "advisory and monitoring board" that will keep tabs on Iraq’s revenues and expenditures. And up to 160 U.S. advisors will continue working in the newly formed Iraqi ministries. One UN diplomat said "It’s a charade — The problem is that you need a charade to get to the reality of an elected government next January. There’s no other way to do this."
The New York Times is reporting that the U.S.-backed Iraqi exile leader Ahmed Chalabi disclosed to an Iranian official one of Washington’s most guarded secrets about Iran — that it had broken Iran’s top-secret communications code allowing the U.S. to easily spy on Iran’s intelligence services. According to the Times, the breaking of Iran’s code was so important that the Bush administration requested, on national security grounds, that the New York Times and other newspapers not to report on the story. The Times said it agreed to the order. It is not clear how long the Times knew about the charge before it published its article today. The order not to publish was rescinded by the government on Tuesday as information about the code-breaking began to leak out to the press. American officials said that about six weeks ago, Chalabi told the Baghdad station chief of Iran’s spy service that the United States was reading its communications traffic. According to officials the Iranian station chief then sent a cable to Tehran detailing the conversation using the code. The U.S. intercepted and read the cable. The FBI soon opened an espionage investigation to determine who told Chalabi that the Iranian code was broken.
The Justice Department launched a campaign Tuesday to defend its detainment of Jose Padilla as an enemy combatant. The Brooklyn-born Padilla has been held in solitary confinement for two years. No charges have been filed against him. He has never appeared in court and has had almost no contact with his lawyer. In a few weeks the Supreme Court will rule on his detention but yesterday the Justice Department attempted to win its case in the court of public opinion by declassifying documents that allege Padilla received training and orders from Al Qaeda to build a dirty bomb and to blow up hotels and apartment buildings. "Michael Greenberger, a University of Maryland law professor who has followed the Padilla case, said he believes the government is trying to influence Supreme Court justices who are now weighing Padilla’s challenge to his 'enemy combatant' status. Greenberger said "I’m sorry to say, I come away with no other conclusion than it was designed to have some kind of extra-judicial influence on the Supreme Court decision.’
The Washington Post reports President Bush has run one of the most negative advertising presidential campaigns in U.S. history. According to calculations based on the top 100 tv markets, Bush has aired 49,000 negative ads–or about 75 percent of his total ads. Senator John Kerry meanwhile has run just over 13,000 negative ads–or about 27 percent of his total.
In other election news, Democrat Stephanie Herseth has won a special election in South Dakota to fill the seat of Republican Bill Janklow who stepped down after being convicted in a fatal car accident. It marked the second special election in a row that the Democrats picked up a house seat. The party needs to gain 11 seats in November to gain a majority of the House
And it was announced on Tuesday that Michael Moore’s new documentary "Fahrenheit 9/11" will open in theaters on June 25. Last month news broke that Disney was refusing to distribute the film which is highly critical of the Bush administration but Disney sold the film’s rights to Harvey and Bob Weinstein who will personally help distribute the film in partnership with Lions Gate Films and IFC Films.