Former national security adviser Sandy Berger has resigned from his post as an advisor to Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry. This follows the revelation this week that Berger is under criminal investigation by the Justice Department over allegations that he took secret documents from the National Archives while reviewing Clinton administration records for the 9/11 commission. Sources said that among the documents Berger took were drafts of a Clinton administration “after-action” report on efforts to thwart the so-called “millennium plot,” a suspected al Qaeda attack planned around the New Year’s holiday in 1999. Berger said in a statement Monday that the removal of the papers was unintentional.
In a brief statement to reporters Tuesday night, Berger said that while reviewing documents last year he “made an honest mistake. It is one that I deeply regret.” He said any suggestion that he had done anything other than try to aid the 9/11 commission “is simply, absolutely wrong.” Law enforcement sources said archive staff members told FBI agents they saw Berger placing items in his jacket and pants, and one archive staffer told agents that Berger also placed something in his socks. That latter allegation drew a sharp response from Berger associate and former White House lawyer Lanny Davis, who challenged any unnamed official who makes such an accusation to come forward publicly. Davis said “I suggest that person is lying. And if that person has the guts, let’s see who it is who made the comment that Sandy Berger stuffed something into his socks.”
Berger was designated as the official from the Clinton administration who would review documents relevant to 9/11 commission inquiries into the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. He also was a witness at commission hearings and reviewed records to prepare for his personal testimony.
The U.S. military death toll since the start of operations in Iraq reached 900 this morning when one soldier was killed north of Baghdad and six others were wounded in a roadside bomb explosion. Two marines and two soldiers have also been killed since Monday in the western Al-Anbar province.
Top Halliburton executives asked to testify before the House Government Reform Committee tomorrow refused to appear to answer questions about the company’s contracting services in Iraq. Instead, Halliburton will send executives lower down in the chain of command. This will be the first time Halliburton officials have gone before a congressional panel to discuss thecompany’s performance. Four whistle-blowers will also appear before the panel to explain their charges against the company, including that personnel were ordered to abandon an $85,000 truck because of a flat tire.
The Filipino truck driver held hostage in Iraq for two weeks returned to his home in Manila yesterday after the Phillipines vowed to withdraw its entire force from the country.
Japan has said it will keep its 550 noncombat troops in Iraq despite threats this week from a group claiming links to al Qaeda.
Russia meanwhile is dismissing reports that it will deploy tens of thousands of troops to Iraq. A Defense Ministry spokeperson said yesterday that “Russia’s position remains unchanged. We are not going to send Russian military personnel to conflict zones in Afghanistan or Iraq, either for free or in exchange for economic benefits.” The Texas-based private consulting group Stategic Forecasting published a analysis this week saying that Moscow and Washington are discussing a Bush administration request for Russia to send troops to one of the two hot spots this fall.
Under intense pressure from the United States, Greece has said it will allow 400 American Special Forces soldiers to be present at the Olympic Games next month and will also permit US, Israeli and possibly British security officers to carry weapons. The decision represents a significant departure from Olympic tradition, as well as from Greek law, which prohibits foreign personnel from carrying weapons within the country. Until now, the only nation known to have armed its security forces at the Olympics is Israel, whose agents have been carrying arms largely without prior approval from host countries since 1972, when a Palestinian group killed Israeli athletes and officials in the Olympic Village in Munich.
In addition to the Special Forces, the agreements call for 100 armed American agents to be used largely as bodyguards for American athletes and dignitaries. The F.B.I. is also sending a hostage rescue team, as well as evidence-gathering and analysis personnel who will be pressed into service in the event of an attack. An American law enforcement official said they these officers would also be armed.
A six-month examination by The New York Times reveals that several financial services companies have been targetting soldiers on US military bases, attempting to sell insurance policies and investments. The Times found that Insurance agents have made misleading pitches to “captive” audiences on bases and that they have posed as counselors on veterans benefits and independent financial advisers. And they have solicited soldiers in their barracks or while they were on duty in violation of Defense Department regulations.
The Times says the problem has intensified since the beginning of the Iraq war. With the death toll rising in Iraq, interest in insurance among the troops has surged, making the war a selling opportunity for many agents. To reach the buyers, many companies have used their military connections to lend credibility to their sales efforts. The advisory board at one company, First Command Financial Planning in Fort Worth, includes Gen. Anthony C. Zinni, the retired commander in chief of the United States Central Command.
A campaign finance report filed yesterday by the Bush-Cheney campaign revealed that Bush”s record fund raising approached $230 million as July began, leaving him with tens of millions in the bank and several weeks of private donations to come before he accepts a government check for his general election campaign in early September. Last month alone, Bush spent $12 million. Democratic rival John Kerry’s campaign said earlier this month that he had collected at least $34 million in June through events and other fund raising, boosting his party-record total to more than $180 million.
Pennsylvania Congressman Joe Hoeffel and political comedian and activist Dick Gregory were arrested yesterday in a protest outside the Sudanese Embassy in Washington DC. They were arrested as part of a campaign calling on the UN Security Council to impose sanctions on Sudan and suspend the country”s membership on the U. N. Human Rights Commission.
An investigator for the animal rights group PETA captured video showing chickens being kicked, stomped and thrown against a wall by workers at a supplier for Kentucky Fried Chicken, which has been under pressure since last year over the treatment of animals. Officials from Yum! Brands Inc., which owns the fast-food chain, said that the employee or employees responsible will be terminated. The footage was secretly taken at a plant in West Virginia by a PETA activist who worked there from October to May. PETA says its investigator also obtained eyewitness testimony about employees “ripping birds” beaks off, spray painting their faces, twisting their heads off, spitting tobacco into their mouths and eyes, and breaking them in half–all while the birds are still alive.” PETA said it planned to ask West Virginia authorities to prosecute plant employees and managers under state animal-cruelty laws.
The New York Times= is reporting that a Florida lesbian couple who married in Massachusetts sued the federal government to have their union legally recognized in the rest of the country. The couple, the Rev. Nancy Wilson and Paula Schoenwether, married on July 2. They applied for a marriage license in Florida afterward and were denied. The lawsuit names Attorney General John Ashcroft and a county clerk, Richard L. Ake.
Pop music singer Linda Ronstadt was fired from an engagement at the Alladin Casino in Las Vegas on Saturday after praising Michael Moore’s film “Fahrenheith 9/11.” Ronstadt dedicated her encore finale of the Eagles song “Desperado” to Moore, whom she described as a “great American patriot who is spreading the truth.” Some members of the audience booed the comment and walked out of the show while others cheered.