The head of the government’s independent commission investigating the Sept. 11 attacks said for the first time yesterday that 9/11 could have been and should have been prevented. In an interview with CBS News, the former New Jersey Republican governor Thomas Kean said “As you read the report, you’re going to have a pretty clear idea what wasn’t done and what should have been done. This was not something that had to happen.” While not identifying any officials by name Kean laid the blame on the Bush administration. Kean said “There are people that, if I was doing the job, would certainly not be in the position they were in at that time because they failed. They simply failed.” Kean was appointed to head the commission by President Bush.
The head of Iraq’s Governing Council, Abdul Aziz al-Hakim, has said that the captured Saddam Hussein will stand trial in Iraq. Hakim did not say whether Hussein would face the death penalty. Responding to criticism that the Iraqi courts are not prepared for such a case, Hakim said international monitors could observe the trial and that global legal standards will be taken into account. Hakim also said that Iran deserved reparations for Iraq’s invasion of Iran that led to a brutal eight-year war.
David Kay the top US official overseeing the hunt for weapons of mass destruction is quitting the project within the next two months well before the Iraq Survey Group issues its final report. This according to the Washington Post. To date no weapons of mass destruction have been found in Iraq. The Post said Kay is stepping down for personal and family reasons. Meanwhile during an interview with ABC on Tuesday, President Bush was asked whether he still believes that Saddam had actual “weapons of mass destruction as opposed to the possibility that he could move to acquire those weapons.” Bush responded “So what’s the difference. The possibility that he could acquire weapons. If he were to acquire weapons, he would be the danger.”
The Washington Post is reporting that the Bush administration has attempted to rewrite history by removing a transcript of an interview with the head of the US Agency for International Development from earlier this year during which he said that the reconstruction would cost U.S. taxpayers only $1.7 billion. The estimate by Andrew Natsios turns out to be off by several tens of billions of dollars. Now his comments have been purged from government websites. After the scrubbing of the transcript was noticed, USAID claimed that the page was taken down not because of political reasons but because there was a cost for keeping up a transcript from ABC’s Nightline. However ABC said that was not true.
The New York Times is reporting that a new U.S.-government run Arabic satellite tv station could be broadcasting into the Middle East as early as January. The government is hoping the new station, called Al Hurra which means the Free One, will serve as a counter to Al Jazeera. The station marks the largest government sponsored international media project since the U.S. launched Voice of America in 1942. The credibility of the station is already coming under criticism from within the Arab world. In an interview with the New York Times, the station’s news director [Mouafac Harb] attempted to show that the station would be more objective and balanced than Al Jazeera. He said if the station were to report on an Israeli raid on Palestinians that his station, unlike Al Jazeera, would see no need to note that the Israelis were flying U.S.-made aircraft. Harb asked “Why say that? You can feel which way they are leading you.” The U.S. government plans to spend $62 million on the station during its first year.
Meanwhile in Iraq, the Coalition Provisional Authority is planning to soon award a nearly $100 million contract to rebuild Iraq’s national TV, radio and newspaper infrastructure. According to O’Dwyers PR, among the companies bidding on the project is a nine-business consortium that includes the secretive PR company the Rendon Group which oversaw the formation of the Iraqi National Congress. The INC led by Ahmed Chalabi became the main Iraqi opposition group over the past decade and it has been widely accused of giving the U.S. bad intelligence about Iraq in the lead up to the invasion.
In Washington, U.S. trade officials inked a new free trade deal with four Central American nations but failed to agree to terms with Costa Rica which has the largest economy in the region. Costa Rica rejected the agreement because the U.S. was demanding it open up its telecommunications and insurance sectors to foreign investors.
Former New York governor Mario Cuomo has filed a $15 million libel suit against BBC reporter and best-selling author Greg Palast. In his book The Best Democracy Money Can Buy, Palast charges Cuomo improperly influenced a federal judge to throw out a multi-billion verdict against the Long Island Lighting Company.
In Illinois, former Gov. George Ryan, was indicted Wednesday on charges of racketeering, mail and tax fraud, and lying to law enforcement officials. Prosecutors said Ryan took cash, gifts, vacations and other favors from political supporters and in return helped give them state contracts and jobs. Ryan is best known for becoming a fierce critic of the death penalty. Before leaving office he cleared out Illinois’s death row by pardoning four condemned prisoners and commuting the death sentences of 167 others.
John Hinckley, the man who tried to assassinate President Ronald Reagan in 1982, has been granted permission to take unsupervised trips away from the psychiatric facility where he has been held for the past 20 years. Hinckley was found not guilty by reason of insanity and has now been awarded permission to take six daytime visits and two overnight visits with his parents.