Republican Leaders Seek Declassification of 2002 Clarke Testimony; Rice Reiterates Refusal to Testify

Mar 29, 2004

Republican attempts to discredit the administration’s former counterterrorism chief Richard Clarke are continuing a week after Clarke first accused the Bush administration of failing to focus on the threat of Al Qaeda in the months leading up to Sept. 11.

On Friday, Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist called for the declassification of testimony Clarke gave the House-Senate intelligence committee two years ago.

On the floor of the Senate, Frist, accused Clake of telling “two entirely different stories under oath.”

Frist later retreated from directly accusing Clarke of perjury. He told reporters that he personally had no knowledge that there were any discrepancies between Clarke’s two appearances.

Democratic Senator Bob Graham, who was co-chairman of the joint intelligence inquiry, said Clarke’s comments were not inconsistent. Graham said Clarke’s entire testimony should be declassified in order to prevent the White House from selectively declassifying portions. Clarke appeared on Meet the Press Sunday and encouraged the administration to declassify even more.

He said “The White House is selectively now finding my e-mails… and selectively leaking them to the press. Let’s take all of my e-mails and all of the memos that I sent to the national security adviser and her deputy from January 20th to September 11th, and let’s declassify all of it.”

Meanwhile Rice went on 60 Minutes Sunday to again say she will not testify publicly before the 9/11 commission claiming there is a “long-standing principle that sitting national security advisers do not testify before the Congress.”

Rice also admitted that President Bush pressed Clarke on Sept. 12, to find out whether Iraq was involved in the attacks. In his book, Against All Enemies, Clarke accused the Bush administration with being fixated on Iraq before and after 9/11. Just a week ago on the same program Rice’s deputy Steve Hadley all but accused Clarke of lying about the Sept. 12.

White House Bases Intel on Discredited Iraqi Defector

Mar 29, 2004

This item from the Los Angeles Times. The Bush administration’s prewar claims that Saddam Hussein had built a fleet of trucks and railroad cars to produce anthrax and other deadly germs were based chiefly on information from a now-discredited Iraqi defector code-named “Curveball.” This according to current and former intelligence officials.

U.S. officials never had direct access to the defector, and didn’t even know his real name until after the war. Instead, his story was provided by German agents, and his file was so thick with detail that American officials thought it confirmed long-standing suspicions that the Iraqis had developed mobile germ factories to evade weapons inspections.

Curveball’s story has since crumbled under doubts raised by the Germans and the scrutiny of U.S. arms hunters, who have come to see his code name as particularly apt, given the problems that plagued much prewar intelligence collection and analysis.

United Nations weapons inspectors first hypothesized that such trucks might exist, officials said. Then they asked former exile leader Ahmed Chalabi, a bitter enemy of Hussein, to help search for intelligence supporting their theory.

Soon after, a young chemical engineer emerged in a German refugee camp and claimed he had been hired out of Baghdad University to design and build mobile biowarfare laboratories for the Iraqi army.

Based largely on his account, President George W. Bush and his aides repeatedly warned of the shadowy germ trucks, and they became a crucial part of the White House case for war–including Secretary of State Colin Powell’s presentation to the UN Security Council just weeks before the war began.

Only later, U.S. officials said, the CIA discovered that the defector is the brother of one of Chalabi’s top aides, and began suspecting that he might have been coached to provide false information. Partly as a result, some U.S. intelligence officials and congressional investigators fear the CIA inadvertently conjured up and then chased a phantom weapons system.

David Kay, who resigned in January as head of the CIA-led group created to find illicit weapons in Iraq, said that of all the intelligence failures in Iraq, the case of Curveball is particularly troubling.

Kay said “This is the one that’s damning.” This is the one that has the potential for causing the largest havoc in the sense that it really looks like a lack of due diligence and care in going forward.”

UN No Longer Expects to Meet AIDS Treatment Goal

Mar 29, 2004

The New York Times is reporting that the United Nations is no longer expected to meet its goal of treating 6 million people with AIDS by next year. Currently only about 300,000 people receive treatment. President Bush had vowed to spend $15 billion over five years to fight AIDS but in his most recent budget he requested only $200 million from Congress.

ABC News Cameraman and Up to 15 Others Killed In Iraq

Mar 29, 2004

This news from Iraq: On Friday in Fallajuh, up to 16 people died including an ABC News cameraman who was shot by US soldiers, during gun battles. A U.S. Marine also died.

Witnesses said the Iraqi cameraman, Bourhan Mohammed, was shot in the head. Reporters Without Borders called on the US Army to “open an immediate investigation into this very serious incident.”

According to the group the U.S. has now killed seven journalists in the past year. A total of 23 media workers have died since the U.S. invasion of Iraq.

Meanwhile the U.S. has shut down an Iraqi Shiite newspaper because it claimed the paper was inciting violence against U.S. troops. Over the weekend, dozens of U.S. troops arrived at the paper’s headquarters and padlocked the office door. The staff was threatened with arrest if they did not leave.

One Iraqi journalist said, “I guess this is the Bush edition of democracy.”

The paper had accused the head of the US occupation, Paul Bremer, of ruling the country and mistreating the Shiite population in a manner, “like Saddam.”

Sistani Considers Fatwa Opposing Interim Iraqi Constitution

Mar 29, 2004

In other Iraq news, the country’s most influential Shiite cleric, the Ayatollah Sistani, is considering issuing a fatwa declaring the scheduled US transfer of power to Iraqis to be illegal if the interim constitution is not amended.

Global Warming Fears: CO2 Levels Rise By Record Amount

Mar 29, 2004

Levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere have risen by a record amount in the past 12 months raising fears that global warming may be accelerating out of control. This according to a report in the Independent of London.

The data is based on measurements by US government scientists. Scientists have found that the level of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere has risen sharply in each of the past three years. Some scientists fear this shows that global warming is feeding itself with rising temperatures causing increases in carbon dioxide which then helps drive the temperatures even higher.

Prosecutor Recommends Sharon Indictment

Mar 29, 2004

In Israel, the country’s top prosecutor recommended on Sunday that Prime Minister Ariel Sharon be indicted on charges of taking bribes in return for political favors.

Chirac Party Suffers Major Defeat in Regional Elections

Mar 29, 2004

In France, president Jacques Chirac’s party suffered a major defeat at the polls in regional elections. According to the BBC, the socialists and their allies won 50 percent of the second-round voters while Chirac’s center-right party won about 40 percent. The results could cause French Prime Minister Jean-Pierre Raffarin to be sacked.

Kofi Annan: World Guilty of “Sins of Omission” in Rwandan Genocide

Mar 29, 2004

At a memorial conference at the United Nations on the Rwandan genocide, the United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan said he could and should have done more to stop the killing that took at least 800,000 lives.

Annan said: “The international community is guilty of sins of omission.”

At the time the UN Security Council failed to send a small peacekeeping force to stop the ethnic cleansing.

Afghan Elections Postponed

Mar 29, 2004

In Afghanistan, elections have been postponed from June until September yesterday because of security concerns and voter registration delays.

Pro-Choice Lawsuits Head to Court

Mar 29, 2004

Even before President Bush signed a bill into law in November outlawing a type of late-term abortion, opponents made the unusual step of filing three federal lawsuits seeking to block it.

The federal lawsuits will be heard today in a trio of courtrooms stretching from coast to coast as pro-choice activists challenge the first substantial limitation on abortion since the Supreme Court’s landmark Roe v. Wade decision.

The simultaneous litigation focuses on the ban on late term abortions.

The National Abortion Federation, Planned Parenthood Federation of America and a handful of doctors sued in San Francisco, New York and Lincoln, Neb., to overturn the law.

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