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After weeks of stonewalling, the White House has agreed to allow National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice to testify in public under oath before the 9/11 commission. In addition President Bush announced that he and Vice President Cheney would meet together with the 10 commissioners and testify in secret not under oath.
While the move was widely described as the White House backing down, it was made on a series of conditions which may limit the extent the 9/11 commission can investigate what led to the Sept. 11 attacks.
As part of the deal, the 9/11 Commission agreed not to seek public testimony from any more White House officials.
The Family Steering Committee for the 9/11 Independent Commission criticized the commission for agreeing to this measure. In a letter they wrote "[This] is of particular concern because decisions made by those officials on the day of 9/11 are critically important to provide a full accounting to the American public."
But regardless of what Rice says under oath, no more White House officials can be sought to testify.
The New Republic described the deal like this: "The White House is, in effect, trading a Rice appearance for a guarantee that the administration’s two leading men won’t be dragged down with her."
In addition the New Republic also notes this means Bush will never meet with any of the commissioners without Cheney by his side. Originally Bush was scheduled to meet alone with the commissioner’s two chairmen.
On his website TalkingPointsMemo.com, journalist Josh Marshall writes "The White House does not trust the president to be alone with the Commission members for any great length of time without getting himself into trouble, either by contradicting what his staff says, or getting some key point wrong, or letting some key fact slip. And Cheney’s there to make sure nothing goes wrong."
In Iraq, the U.S. death toll reached 600 today after one of the bloodiest days in weeks. Five U.S. soldiers died after a bomb exploded under a military vehicle near Fallujah. In another attack in Fallujah, gunmen attacked two cars carrying foreign nationals. Up to six people were killed.
The Arabic-news network Al Arabiya is now accusing the U.S. of assassinating two of its journalists on March 18. The U.S admitted on Monday that its troops shot dead the journalists but claimed it was an accident.
The Bush administration argued before the Supreme Court on Tuesday for the court to uphold the authority of federal agents to essentially kidnap wanted individuals overseas and to curtail the rights of foreigners trying to sue the U.S. government or corporations for human rights violations.
The case centers on a Mexican doctor who charges he was kidnapped in his home country by U.S. agents in connection with the slaying of a U.S. drug enforcement agent. He was later acquitted.
The doctor, Humberto Alvarez-Machain then sued under the Alien Tort Claims Act which has also been used by foreign nationals to sue U.S. corporations for human rights violations committed abroad.
The International Court of Justice at The Hague ruled today that the US violated the rights of 51 Mexicans on death row here by not telling them of their rights to legal assistance from the Mexican counsel. The presiding judge said the US should review each of the convictions and sentences. The US has long dismissed the international court’s role in the case claiming that the men have already received fair trials and that any such ruling would infringe on Washington’s sovereignty over its criminal justice system.
In Britain eight British citizens of Pakistani origin were arrested Monday in raids involving 700 police officers. Seized were 1,000 pounds of ammonium nitrate which could be used as an explosive. The government released little information on the detainees, their plans or if they had ties to militant groups.
Due to security concerns, the Pentagon has decided to drop a pilot program that would have allowed 100,000 U.S. military personnel and civilians living overseas to vote online.
The New York Times is reporting that seven major companies will announce today their plans to apply for a license to build the country’s first new commercial nuclear power plant in 30 years. No decision has been made as to where the plant would be located.
The announcement comes during the same week as the 25th anniversary of the country’s worst nuclear incident at Three Mile Island.
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