Hicks Becomes First Gitmo Prisoner to Plead Guilty

The Australian citizen David Hicks has become the first Guantanamo prisoner to plead guilty under the Military Commissions Act passed last year. Hicks entered the plea as part of a deal with military prosecutors.

Pentagon spokesperson Beth Kubala: "At approximately 20:25 this evening, the military judge assembled the parties and reopened the proceedings. The military judge stated that he had been advised at an 8:02 conference that Mr. Hicks desired to enter pleas. For Mr. Hicks, Major Morey entered a plea of guilty to specification 1, not guilty to specification 2, and guilty to the charge."

Hicks has been held at Guantanamo for the past five years. The U.S. government had originally accused him of conspiracy to commit murder, conspiracy to engage in acts of terrorism, attempted murder and aiding the enemy but only ended up charging him with one crime — providing material support for terrorism. Pentagon officials say Hicks will likely serve his sentence in Australia.

Hicks’ Attorneys Barred from Trial

The plea came after a military judge barred two of Hicks’s lawyers from the court proceedings. One of the attorneys had refused to sign a document pledging to follow court rules that weren’t defined.

Hicks attorney Joshua Dratel: "David has been through an extraordinary ordeal for more than five years, and I don’t think that one day, one evening, one situation, more or less is going to change the tide of what he has undergone for five years, and that is going to take some time. And again, as Mr. McLeod said, this is the beginning of a process that I hope will make David whole again, as soon as possible."

Legal observers are criticizing the trial. Jennifer Daskal of Human Rights Watch said: "Today’s antics highlighted the illegitimacy of a hastily crafted process without established precedent or established rules. It appears that Mr. Hicks was strong-armed into pleading guilty after two of his counsel were thrown off the case."

New Prisoner Sent to Gitmo From Kenya

Meanwhile, a new prisoner has been transferred to Guantanamo. The prisoner, Abdul Malik, is accused in the deadly 2002 bombing of a hotel in Kenya. Malik was reportedly handed over by the Kenyan government and held at a secret CIA prison overseas.

UK Ignored Experts’ Endorsement of Lancet Study on Iraq Toll

BBC News is reporting the British government ignored the conclusions of its own experts when it dismissed a medical study estimating more than 650,000 Iraqis have died due to the Iraq war. The study appeared in the British medical journal the Lancet last year. Researchers based their findings on interviews with a random sampling of households taken in clusters across Iraq. In newly-released memos, the chief scientific adviser at Britain’s Ministry of Defence called the researcher’s methods "close to best practice" and "robust." Both the US and Britain publicly rejected the study and criticized its methods.

Iraq Considers Re-Instating Baath Members

The Iraqi government has announced its approved a draft law that would reinstate members of Saddam Hussein’s Baath Party in their government jobs. The measure would go towards reversing one of the first acts of the US occupation after the invasion when thousands of Baath party members were dismissed.

Arab League to Revive Israel Peace Offer

The Arab League is set to announce the resumption of its five-year old peace offer to Israel. The proposal calls for full recognition in return for Israel’s withdrawal from the Occupied Territories. On Monday, Jordan’s King Abdullah called on the Israeli government to accept the deal.

King Abdullah: "We must send a message to Israel that proves it carries the biggest responsibility towards attaining peace in the region and if it has the desire and honest intention to live in peace it should seek peace and accept the Arab peace initiative which guarantees Israel’s people to live in security and peace alongside the peoples of the region."

GOP to Rely on Bush Veto of Iraq Spending Bill

On Capital Hill, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell has announced Republicans will not attempt to block the Democrats’ war spending bill that includes deadlines for a withdrawal from Iraq. McConnell says Republicans will rely on President Bush’s promise to veto the bill.

Gonzales Aide Won’t Testify About Attorney Firings

A top aide to Attorney General Alberto Gonzales has announced she will take the Fifth Amendment to avoid self-incrimination when she testifies before a Senate hearing into the firing of the eight US attorneys. Monica Goodling serves as Gonzales’ counsel and liason with the White House. Gonzales had previously vowed his top aides would testify voluntarily and under oath. The development comes amidst increasing calls for Gonzales to step down.

Republican Sen. Chuck Hagel: "The only currency that matters in governance is trust and when you debase that currency you lose trust–you can’t govern. The chief law enforcement of America must be beyond any question, unfortunately the attorney general is dealing with a cloud handing over his credibility and the president is going to have to deal with that."

Meanwhile, the House has voted repeal the provision of the Patriot Act that allowed the attorney general to appoint U.S. attorneys without Senate confirmation. The Senate passed a similar measure earlier this month.

Reagan Budget Director Indicted for Conspiracy, Fraud

A former budget director under President Ronald Reagan has been indicted on charges of conspiracy, obstruction of justice and fraud. Prosecutors say David Stockman misled investors in a Michigan auto parts manufacturer that he used to head.

Clinton Calls for Universal Health Care

New York Senator Hillary Clinton has become the latest Democratic presidential hopeful to call for universal health insurance. On Monday, Clinton said she would introduce universal health care if elected president but said she has yet to come up with a specific plan.

CIA Links Colombian Army Chief to Paramilitaries, Traffickers

In news from Colombia, the CIA has reportedly obtained evidence linking the head of the Colombian army to right-wing paramilitaries and drug traffickers. According to the Los Angeles Times, a CIA report has concluded General Mario Montoya collaborated with the groups during a military operation on a rebel-controlled shantytown in 2002. At least fourteen people were killed and another forty-six went missing. General Montoya has worked with the Pentagon on military training and on a new hemispheric taskforce on drug trafficking.

Kissinger Focus of Uruguay Extradition Request

In Uruguay, the family of a victim of the twelve-year US-backed dictatorship has asked for the extradition of former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger. The victim, Bernardo Arnone, was arrested in 1976 and flown to Argentina where he was presumably executed. Arnone’s family says Kissinger was a key figure behind the Condor Plan, a pact between South American dictatorships to violently repress political dissidents. Uruguayan prosecutors are studying the request.

Tillman Family Rejects Pentagon Probe into Shooting Death

And finally, Pentagon investigators are recommending disciplinary action against nine officers involved in the initial probe into the death of former football star turned soldier Pat Tillman. Tillman was killed in Afghanistan after being shot by a fellow Army Ranger. The military initially said he died from an attack by Taliban fighters. The probe found the nine officers passed along misleading and inaccurate information and delayed reporting their belief Tillman was killed by friendly fire. The officers include four generals — Lt. Gen. Stanley McChrystal, retired Brigadier General Gary Jones, now-Brigadier General James Nixon and Lt. Gen. Philip Kensinger. McChrystal is commander of the Joint Special Operations Command while Jones led a previous military investigation into Tillman’s death. Meanwhile investigators have also ruled out criminal negligence in Tillman’s shooting. Tillman’s family has rejected the findings. In a statement, the Tillman family called the investigation "shamefully unacceptable" and called for a Congressional probe.

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