Senator John Kerry easily won the New Hampshire primary Tuesday night for his second major victory in a week. Coming in a distant second was former Vermont Governor Howard Dean. The New York Times describes Dean’s second place as a “significant setback.” Dean had been leading in polls in New Hampshire by a significant margin up until two weeks ago. Kerry won about 39 percent of the vote. Dean took 26 percent. General Wesley Clark and Senator John Edwards nearly tied for third with 12 percent. Senator Joseph Lieberman earned 9 percent and Congressman Dennis Kucinich received 1 percent of the vote. Kerry is only the third Democrat in three decades to win both Iowa and New Hampshire in contested races. The other two, Jimmy Carter in 1980 and Al Gore in 2000, both won the party’s nomination. Next Tuesday, the candidates will face off in races in Missouri, South Carolina, Oklahoma, Arizona, New Mexico, Delaware and North Dakota. We’ll have more on the primary in a few minutes.
President Bush on Tuesday declined to repeat past claims that weapons of mass destruction would be found in Iraq. This comes as former US weapons inspector David Kay says he believes Iraq destroyed its arsenal years before the U.S. invasion.
Meanwhile during the White House press briefing Scott McClellan claimed the Bush administration never considered Saddam Hussein to be an imminent threat to the United States. McClellan said the threat was “grave and gathering” but not imminent. A reporter responded to this clarification by suggesting that means the U.S. war against Iraq was not preemptive — which applies to imminent threats — but preventive — which applies to non-imminent threats.
And Vice President Dick Cheney’s recent comments on weapons of mass destruction are also coming under criticism. Senator Carl Levin from Michigan said “Just within the last few days, Vice President Cheney has said that it is clear that a couple of vehicles that were found in Iraq were mobile biological weapons labs, exactly the opposite of what David Kay is reportedly saying.”
Meanwhile The New York Times is reporting the White House is expected to reject a request by Democrats to form an independent panel to examine how the National Intelligence Estimate on Iraq could have been so flawed.
In Iraq on Tuesday a series of attacks killed 13 people including six U.S. soldiers, two employees of CNN and four Iraqi police officers. The CNN employees died after their vehicle was ambushed on the outskirts of Baghdad. Killed were CNN’s driver Yasser Khatab and CNN’s Translator/producer Duraid Isa Mohammed.
In Baghdad early today, an explosion destroyed a police station and tore off the front of the Shahine hotel which is frequently used by foreign businessmen. At least four people died.
9/11 Commission: Gov’t Ignored Suicide Hijackings Threat
The federal 9/11 commission reported Tuesday that federal aviation authorities had failed to focus on the potential threat of suicide hijackings even though officials knew it was a possible means of attack as far back as 1998. The commission also said aviation officials did little to increase security or screening procedures even in the weeks before Sept. 11 when the intelligence community knew an Al Qaeda attack was imminent. Two of the hijackers had been placed on terrorist watch lists in the weeks before the attacks but their names were never provided to the Federal Aviation Agency. Their names never appeared on no-fly lists. An audiotape of Flight 11 attendant Betty Ong was also released yesterday. She said “I think we’re getting hijacked. [The] cockpit is not answering their phone.... We can’t even get into the cockpit. We don’t know who’s up there.”
The Justice Department’s inspector general’s office has issued a report that claims the USA Patriot Act has never been used to abuse anyone’s civil rights or civil liberties. The report comes a week after President Bush asked Congress to renew the law. A Justice Department spokesperson said on Tuesday, “It is clear that the government has been thoroughly responsible in its implementation of the act.” How the Justice Department came to this conclusion is less clear. The report states the agency received over 1200 civil rights and civil liberties complaints during a six month period ending in mid-December. Of those complaints the agency determined only 17 involved Justice employees and merited a full investigation. And none of the 17 involved abuses specifically related to the Patriot Act.
Meanwhile in Geneva, the American Civil Liberties Union filed a complaint Tuesday with the United Nations on behalf of immigrants imprisoned and deported from the United States after 9/11. The ACLU’s executive director Anthony Romero said “We are filing this complaint before the United Nations to ensure that U.S. policies and practices reflect not just domestic constitutional standards, but accepted international human rights principles.”
On a trip to Moscow, Secretary of State Colin Powell told Russia that it should not be concerned about U.S. plans to expand its military presence in the former Soviet empire. The U.S. recently sent troops to Georgia to train the country’s army. In 2001 the U.S. set up bases in Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan. And the U.S. is considering building bases in Romania, Poland and Bulgaria. Powell said in a radio interview QUOTE “We are not trying to surround anyone. The Cold War is over. The Iron Curtain is down. We should not see things in old Cold War terms.” The U.S. currently has a military presence in over 130 countries around the globe.
Nine Palestinians have been killed in Gaza City after Israeli forces invaded the city with tanks earlier today. The fighting began when Israeli forces launched an operation from the settlement Netzarim. The fighting intensified when tanks entered Gaza City. According to Haaretz, five of the dead were members of Islamic Jihad. In addition to the nine dead, there were several Palestinians injured including an ambulance worker. Israeli forces also bulldozed several fields farmed by Palestinians. There were no reports of casualties suffered by the Israeli military.
In London, questions have surfaced over the future of British Prime Minister Tony Blair after he nearly lost a vote in Parliament to triple university tuition fees. The final vote was 316 to 311. The Guardian of London said the vote marked the biggest revolt by MPs in Blair’s own Labor party since he took office in 1997. Today senior British judge Brian Hutton is releasing a report on the suicide of David Kelly. Kelly is the weapons inspector who died shortly after it was revealed that he charged the Blair government had sexed up intelligence on Iraq. According to a leaked copy of the report, Blair is cleared of wrongdoing and the BBC Is criticized for how it covered Kelly’s comments.
For the first time the Bush administration is publicly saying that scheduled general elections in Afghanistan scheduled June may be delayed. The State Department’s coordinator for Afghanistan William said that as of Tuesday just 6 percent of the nation’s 10 million electorate had registered to vote.
President Bush is scheduled to meet with Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan today. The Turkish leader is expected to argue against the U.S. allowing Kurds in northern Iraq to remain autonomous.
MoveOn Dot Org is reporting that 340,000 people have filed complaints with CBS over the network’s decision to refuse to run a 30-second ad by MoveOn that criticizes President Bush’s economic policies during Sunday’s Super Bowl. On Monday Senator Dick Durbin said the ban is “Exhibit A in the case against media concentration.” According to the publication, Broadcasting and Cable, Durbin charged that CBS was refusing to run an ad critical of Bush in return for the White House’s support for a higher media ownership cap that will allow CBS’s parent company Viacom to keep all of its stations. Durbin said “The CBS Eye has been closed to truth and to fairness.”