A newly released Pentagon memo written by the head of the Defense Intelligence Agency claims that two intelligence specialists witnessed the beating of Iraqi prisoners by U.S. special forces as recently as June — two months after the Abu Ghraib prison torture scandal broke. The specialists who witnessed the beating were then threatened by U.S. interrogators and ordered not to discuss what they had witnessed. The Washington Post reports “The Bush administration fought vigorously to keep the new documents from public view.”
In news from Capitol Hill, the House voted 336 to 75 Tuesday night to back legislation that reforms aspects of the nation’s intelligence community. Although the bill had the support of President Bush, key Republicans held up the legislation until a compromise was reached that ensured that the Pentagon retains control of much its own intelligence operations. The bill creates a national intelligence director that will be in charge of the budgets of the country’s 15 spy agencies. The Los Angeles Times reports the compromises have left many government officials and espionage experts skeptical that key reforms will amount to more than an administrative reshuffling–or that they will make the nation any safer. Under the compromise, the Pentagon retains significant control of the Defense Intelligence Agency, the National Reconnaissance Office which controls all spy satellites and the National Security Agency which is the country’s largest intelligence unit. The American Civil Liberties Union opposed the bill because it will QUOTE “centralize the intelligence community’s surveillance powers, increasing the likelihood for government abuses.”
In news from Argentina, the Bush administration is being widely criticized during the international conference on climate change for refusing to sign the Kyoto Protocol. Senior US negotiator Harlan Watson defended Bush’s position on global warming claiming that the international treaty has no scientific basis. Watson said “The Kyoto protocol was a political agreement. It was not based on science.”
The New York state legislature has agreed to partially reform part of the state’s harsh Rockefeller drug laws that has imprisoned thousands of non-violent drug users over the past three decades. While the new agreement reduces the minimum sentences of some drug offenses, critics of the drug laws said the changes in the law do not go far enough. Critics have argued that judges should be given more discretion in sentencing and that some offenders should be allowed to avoid prison in favor of treatment. But neither of these reforms are included in the new bill. Democratic State Senator Thomas Duane from Manhattan said “It would be an unbelievable stretch to call this Rockefeller drug law reform.” Currently drug offenders can be sentenced 15 years-to-life. Under the proposed agreement they would be sentenced 8 to 20 years. Roughly 400 inmates serving terms of 15-years or more would be allowed to seek reduced sentences if the legislature approves the changes. In other prison news, the Department of Homeland Security has barred the use of dogs in immigration detention centers. Until now dogs were being used in 81 detention centers across the country.
A former Marine sergeant recounted Tuesday that his unit in Iraq killed more than 30 innocent Iraqi civilians over a two-day period in March 2003. Marine Sgt. Jimmy Massey, recalled the killings during his testimony before a Canadian tribunal that is deciding whether U.S. war resister Jeremy Hinzman should be given refugee status in Canada. Hinzman fled to Canada in January after he refused to fight in Iraq. He has maintained the war in Iraq was illegal and that fighting in it would make him a war criminal. On Tuesday, Massey told Canada’s Immigration and Refugee Board, “I do know that we killed innocent civilians.” He then recounted how US forces once fired up to 500 rounds of ammunition into four cars filled with civilians after they failed to stop at a checkpoint. On the next day he witnessed Marines shooting dead four unarmed Iraqi demonstrators. Massey said “I was never clear on who was the enemy and who was not. When you don’t know who the enemy is, what are you doing there?” Massey went on to say “I was deeply concerned about the civilian casualties. What they were doing was committing murder.”
In Kuwait today, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld came under intense questioning from troops over the war in Iraq. One soldier asked Rumsfeld why vehicle armor is still in short supply in Iraq. After he asked the question, a big cheer arose from the 2,000 soldiers in the audience. Rumsfeld replied, “You go to war with the Army you have.” Another soldier questioned Rumsfeld about the military using its stop-loss power to block soldiers from leaving the military even after they fulfilled their commitment. A third soldier complained that active-duty Army units have been receiving priority over the National Guard and Reserves when it came to distributing the best equipment in Iraq.
In Britain a group of 46 military leaders, ex-diplomats and Bishops have called on Prime Minister Tony Blair to open an inquiry into civilian deaths in Iraq. The request comes after the British medical journal Lancet estimated 100,000 Iraqi civilians have died since the U.S. invasion.
The Washington Post is reporting that at least five government-owned vehicles parked outside military recruitment offices have been damaged or destroyed by fires in recent weeks just outside Washington D.C. On Monday three government-owned cars were destroyed in Silver Spring Maryland. They were parked behind an office shared by recruiters for the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marines. Meanwhile officials in Fairfax and Chantilly Virginia are investigating similar fires.
In Canada, a group calling itself the Initiative de Resistance Internationaliste has taken responsibility for setting off an explosion to damage a hydro tower plant in Quebec that sends electricity to the Boston area. The group charged the United States was “pillaging” Quebec’s resources.
In business news, the dollar is slowly gaining value after it fell to a record low earlier this week compared to the Euro. The Economist magazine is warning that the nation’s economy could face severe long-term consequences if the value of the dollar continues to fall. The editors write in the new issue: “If America keeps on spending and borrowing at its present pace, the dollar will eventually lose its mighty status in international finance and that would hurt.” The magazine explains that the country now has the privilege of being able to print the world’s reserve currency which allows the country to borrow cheaply, and thus to spend much more than it earns. The Economist goes on to describe the historic role of the dollar: “Imagine you could write checks that were accepted as payment but never cashed. That is what it amounts to. If you had been granted that ability, you might take care to hang on to it. America is taking no such care, and may come to regret it.”