Bush Asks Congress To Authorize Spy Program

President Bush continued his series of speeches around the anniversary of the September 11 attacks Thursday with a new call for Congress to approve his warrantless spy program. In a theme Republicans say they’ll pursue in the lead-up to the November elections, the President said his policies have made the country safer from future attacks.

  • President Bush: "We are safer because we’ve taken action to protect the homeland. We are safer because we are on offense against our enemies overseas. We’re safer because of the skill and sacrifice of the brave Americans who defend our people."

As the President spoke, a bill to authorize the spy program hit a major roadblock in the Senate after Democratic Senator Russ Feingold introduced several amendments. Feingold said: "The president has basically said I’ll agree to let a court decide if I’m breaking the law if you pass a law first that says I’m not breaking [it]. That won’t help re-establish a healthy respect for separation of powers. It will only make matters worse."

GOPers, Military Lawyers Among Critics of Revised Tribunal Proposal

The President’s call comes one day after he urged Congress to approve the White House’s proposed revisions to military tribunals at Guantanamo Bay. On Thursday, several key Republicans and military lawyers said the President’s new proposals would not withstand legal scrutiny. Brigadier General James Walker, the Marines’ top uniformed lawyer, criticized the administration’s attempts to retain provisions that would deny defendants the right to see evidence used against them. According to the New York Times, Walker said no civilized country should deny a defendant that right and that the US "should not be the first."

Calls Grow For Scrutiny of CIA Activities in Europe

In Europe, President Bush’s acknowledgement of his administration’s secret prison program is prompting calls for increased scrutiny of CIA activities.

  • Sarah Ludford, a British member of European Parliament: "What the Supreme Court said is that people in US custody, even when they are outside the United States can be protected by the Geneva conventions and the Bush adminstration is very worried that its officials could be responsible for war crimes if it’s found that they committed torture or other illegal acts against these prisoners."

Meanwhile Thursday, Europe’s top human rights official called for the monitoring of CIA agents operating throughout the continent. The official, Council of Europe Secretary General Terry Davis, said he would support a review of granting diplomatic immunity. He said: "Immunity should not mean impunity." Davis also called for a ban on the transport of suspects in military planes.

Suicide Attack Kills 18 in Afghanistan

In Afghanistan, at least eighteen people are dead and more than two dozen wounded after a suicide car bombing struck a US military convoy earlier today. Eight Afghan civilians and two American soldiers are among the dead. The attack comes as the US-led NATO force is appealing for more troops, helicopters and planes to continue its mission.

  • NATO spokesperson James Appathurai: "This is in many ways moving into territory with which we were not familiar. No international forces have been there in a sustained way and of course the Taliban has this year substantially it seems upgraded its capability to resist in terms of its tactics and in terms of the numbers that it’s massing."

Video Shows Bin Laden With 9/11 Highjackers

Meanwhile Al Jazeera has aired new video showing Osama bin Laden meeting with some of the hijackers who carried out the September 11 attacks. The footage shows two hijackers delivering what is believed to be there last statements before 9/11.

Baghdad Morgue Triples August Death Count

In Iraq, there are growing signs of what the Washington Post calls "the most dramatic surge in violence" during the US-led occupation. On Thursday, Baghdad’s morgue said it’s nearly tripling its count of violent deaths last month. Officials have revised the toll from five hundred and fifty dead to more than fifteen hundred. Meanwhile, the Health Ministry says it’s approved construction of two morgues to accommodate the rising death toll.

Pentagon: Roadside Bombings at Record Levels

In another development, the Pentagon said Thursday US troops are being targeted with more roadside bomb attacks than ever before. Around 1200 improvised explosive devices — IEDs — were set off in August — four times more than in January of 2004. IEDs are the leading killer of US troops in Iraq.

Iraq Shuts Down Al Arabiya TV Over Coverage

Meanwhile, the Iraqi government has shut down another television network inside the country. On Thursday, officials said Al Arabiya’s bureau in Baghdad will be closed for a month for inciting violence and carrying "unprofessional" reporting. Al Arabiya’s main rival, Al Jazeera has been barred from Iraq for more than two years.

Israel Lifts Air Blockade But Maintains Naval Seige

In Lebanon, Israel has lifted its air blockade but will continue its naval seige for at least another two days. Israel says it’s made the move because UN forces are not ready to patrol Lebanon’s coast. Within moments of the lifting of the air blockade, a Middle East Airlines flight from Paris circled over Beirut three times in celebration before landing at Rafik Hariri international airport.

UN: Gaza Strip Reaching “Breaking Point”

In the Occupied Territories, a senior UN official is warning daily life for Palestinians in the Gaza Strip is reaching a "breaking point." The official, UN Relief and Works Agency Karen Abuzayd, says Israel’s ongoing military offensives and economic blockade is creating suffering and mass despair for Gaza’s one and a half million residents. Abuzayd called on the international community to send an influx of foreign monitors.

New Hurdles For Bolton Confirmation Effort

Back in the United States, the Bush administration’s ongoing effort to win Senate approval of UN Ambassador John Bolton is again facing internal Republican opposition. On Thursday, Republican Senator Lincoln Chafee of Rhode Island said he will not vote for Bolton until the Bush administration answers his questions on US policies in the Middle East. Chafee says he wants the Bush administration to block Israel’s expansion of its settlements in the Occupied West Bank. Senator Chafee is facing re-election this year. Bolton was given a recess appointment last year after his nomination failed to win enough support in the Senate.

Armitage Confirms Plame Disclosure

After weeks of increased speculation, former deputy secretary of state Richard Armitage has admitted he was the primary source to reveal the identity of CIA operative Valerie Plame. Armitage maintains the disclosure was an error and he did not know Plame was a covert operative.

5,000 Rally in Washington, DC for Immigrant Rights

And finally, more than 5,000 people gathered on the National Mall Thursday in support of the rights of undocumented immigrants. The We Are America Alliance rally comes as House Republicans announced they would launch a new effort to pass several border crackdown measures before their recess next month.

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