The Washington Post has obtained new information that U.S. generals in Iraq were warned last year–more than a month before the Abu Ghraib scandal emerged–that detainees were being beaten and abused in Iraq. The Post has obtained a confidential report from last December that was sent to Army Generals in Iraq warning that an elite military and CIA unit–known as Task Force 121 — was abusing Iraqis and hiding some detainees in secret facilities. The report also found that the US was carrying out illegal arrests and that the US policy of mass arrests was helping to fuel the Iraqi resistance. In particular the report criticized the US policy of arresting the relatives of wanted men. During house raids, the military would often detain the relatives of wanted persons if they could not capture their actual target. The relatives would then be jailed until the target turned himself in. The author of the report, Stuart Herrington wrote that the practice “has a 'hostage' feel to it.”
Tom Ridge, the country’s first homeland security director has resigned. He is the seventh member of President Bush’s cabinet to resign since November’s election. The New York Times reports there is no indication Bush made a concerted effort to persuade Ridge to stay. Possible successors include RIdge’s deputy Asa Hutchinson, White House homeland security adviser Frances Townsend, former New York police chief Bernard Kerik and Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney.
The Los Angeles Times is reporting a rift is growing within the Pentagon over the military distributing misinformation to the media as part of psychological operations. The paper has uncovered incidences where the military has sent spokespersons to major news networks to deliberately lie about military operations in Iraq in an effort to deceive the Iraqi resistance. In one case, on Oct. 14, a Marine spokesperson appeared on CNN from Fallujah and said “Troops crossed the line of departure.” CNN was soon reporting the battle for Fallujah had begun. In fact it wouldn’t begin for another three weeks. The military claimed it wanted to see how Iraqi fighters responded to the so-called news report. Several top officials told the LA Times that they see a danger of blurring what are supposed to be well-defined lines between the stated mission of military public affairs and psychological and information operations. One senior defense official told the paper “The movement of information has gone from the public affairs world to the psychological operations world. What’s at stake is the credibility of people in uniform.” But the Bush administration has defended the use of py-ops. One official told the paper, “Information is part of the battlefield in a way that it’s never been before. We’d be foolish not to try to use it to our advantage.”
In Iraq the death toll in November for US troops has reached at least 135–making it the deadliest month so far for the military. Among those killed in recent days are two New York area firefighters. One of the firefighters, Christian Engeldrum, had been photographed shortly after Sept. 11 helping to raise a U.S. flag over Ground Zero.
In Denmark, a former Danish military intelligence agent was sentenced Tuesday to six months in jail for leaking a classified report to the media stating there was no evidence of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. Frank Grevil admitted to leaking the report to a daily Danish newspaper. Grevil claimed that he had done a public service by leaking the document, and said the sentence was “completely disproportionate” to the crime. Grevil said “It’s as if the legal system has forgotten that people sometime follow their conscience, and it was my conscience that led me to provide these documents.”
In Ukraine, the parliament has passed a no-confidence motion in Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych in a move that has brought down the sitting Ukrainian government. Outgoing President Leonid Kuchma must now appoint a caretaker government. This comes as the pro-Kremlin Yanukovych is in the midst of a contested presidential election battle wih the pro-Western Viktor Yushchenko. Supporters of the opposition leader Yushchenko pushed the no-confidence motion through Parliament. Meanwhile the local parliament in Yanukovych’s home region of Donetsky has voted to hold a referendum in January to seek autonomy from the central Ukraine government.
In election news in this country, the Green and Libertarian Parties have filed for recounts of the presidential election in two additional states, Nevada and New Mexico. The parties have already filed for a recount in Ohio. In Ohio, Senator John Kerry’s campaign has made its first official move in helping the state recount to go forward. The Washington Post reports that on Tuesday the campaign asked an Ohio judge to allow it to join a legal fight to force election officials in Delaware County to take part in the state’s impending recount. Kerry lawyer Dan Hoffheimer said “If there’s going to be a recount in Ohio, we don’t want it to exclude Delaware County or any other county.”
A United Nations panel has proposed the international body undergo the most sweeping changes in its history including expanding the size of the Security Council from 15 to 24 nations. The panel also proposes stringent conditions for the legal use of force by one state against another, in what the Guardian describes as a “clear rebuff to the Bush administration’s doctrine of pre-emptive action against foreign threats.”
In news from Haiti, the Rev. Gérard Jean-Juste has been released after serving seven weeks in prison. We’ll speak to the priest later in the show. Meanwhile Secretary of State Colin Powell is scheduled to visit Haiti today to meet with the US-backed prime minister Gerard Latortue and other officials.
In Italy, millions of workers staged a half-day strike Tuesday to protest the economic policies of Silvio Berlusconi’s government. Factories shut down. Banks closed. And the nation’s airline cancelled 100 flights.
And in news from Africa, the Guardian is reporting that the Rwandan government signaled yesterday that it was on the verge of invading the Democratic Republic of Congo to hunt Hutu militants. The Guardian reports the incursion could open a new phase in a brutal war which has claimed 3 million lives.