The final report of the September 11 commission to be released today will call for sweeping changes in Congressional oversight of intelligence agencies. The Washington Post is reporting that the panel will address the Bush administration’s controversial decision not to grant prisoner-of-war protections to captured al Qaeda suspects, calling for the development of “a common coalition approach toward the detention and humane treatment of captured terrorists.” Lawmakers who have seen the report told the New York Times that the commission would call for a reorganization of domestic-intelligence programs within the F.B.I., although not for a separate domestic security intelligence agency; for an office within the White House with an estimated 200 employees to coordinate the work of the 15 intelligence agencies; and for an interagency counterterrorism center to absorb the smaller antiterrorism center that the C.I.A. operates. Information about the previously disclosed recommendation to create a post for a so-called national security director indicates that the director would operate with cabinet- level authority in the executive office of the president, but would not be part of the cabinet.
U.S. marines yesterday killed 25 Iraqi fighters, injured 17 and captured 25 during several hours of fighting in the western city of Ramadi. Military officials said fighting began after a roadside bomb was detonated near a marine convoy and Iraqi fighters opened fire with rifles and grenades. Ramadi is one of the Suni-dominated cities around Baghdad where resistance to the U.S. occupation has been strongest.
An Iraqi group is holding seven foreign contract drivers hostage. Video released to news agencies today showed there were three Kenyan hostages, one more than previously announced. The other hostages included three Indians and an Egyptian.
The U.S. military has already spent most of the $65 billion approved by Congress to pay for wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Now they are struggling to find 12.3 billion more within the Defense Department budget to finance military action through the end of the fiscal year. This according to a report out from the U.S. Government Accountability Office, the most in-depth study of the military’s funding problems. The report contradicts White House assurances that the services have enough money to get through the calendar year. The Army, which is overspending its budget by $10.2 billion for operations and maintenance, is asking the Marines and the Air Force to help cover the escalating costs of its logistics contract with Halliburton Co.
A study by the college of economics at Baghdad University has found that the unemployment rate in Iraq is 70%. The study says the problem of high unemployment is going from bad to worse, with the security situation deteriorating and the reconstruction process faltering.
-See related Story: Iraqi unemployment rate reaches 70%
John Kerry’s presidential campaign accused the Bush White House yesterday of disclosing the existence of a criminal investigation against former national security adviser Sandy Berger for political advantage. Berger is accused of taking secret documents from the National Archives while reviewing Clinton administration records for the 9/11 commission. In a political memo distributed by e-mail, the Kerry campaign charged that the objective of the leak was to take attention away from the 9-11 commission’s final report which comes out today. The criminal investigation of Berger began last October but only came to light this week. Meanwhile, the head of the Democratic National Committee, Terry McAuliffe, filed a Freedom of Information Act request seeking the release of any correspondence between the Justice Department and the White House on the Berger probe. Republicans have accused Bill Clinton’s former national Security Advisor of stealing the documents for use by Kerry’s campaign. White House spokesman Scott McClellan said the White House had nothing to do with the disclosure that Berger was under investigation. He said officials in the White House legal counsel’s office were made aware of the Berger investigation some time ago because they were in charge of putting together documents for the Sept. 11 commission to see.
UN Secretary General Kofi Annan yesterday said the world is no safer today than it was three years ago, countering President Bush’s claims he had made the world a safer place. At a news conference, Annan also criticized a Bush administration decision to withhold $34 million from the U.N. Population Fund, saying the agency was saving women’s lives. He was responding to a reporter who asked for comment on the Bush funding move and also whether Annan felt the world had become safer in the last two or three years.
Democrats in Detroit are denouncing a Republican lawmaker quoted in a newspaper as saying the GOP would fare poorly in this year’s elections if it failed to “suppress the Detroit vote.” State Rep. John Pappageorge acknowledged using what he called “a bad choice of words” but said his remark shouldn’t be construed as racist. Pappageorge was quoted in July 16 editions of the Detroit Free Press as saying, “If we do not suppress the Detroit vote, we’re going to have a tough time in this election.” African-Americans make up more than 80 percent of Detroit’s population, and the city routinely gives Democratic candidates a substantial majority of its votes.
The U.S. Army is known for its recruiting slogan “Be All You Can Be,” But now, according to The New Yorker magazine, the military is offering a new incentive. Soldiers and their families can receive plastic surgery, including breast enlargements, funded by US taxpayers.
In its July 26th edition, the New Yorker reports that members of all four branches of the U.S. military can get face-lifts, breast enlargements, liposuction and nose jobs for free — something the military says helps surgeons practice their skills. Dr. Bob Lyons, chief of plastic surgery at Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio told the magazine “Anyone wearing a uniform is eligible.” Between 2000 and 2003, military doctors performed 496 breast enlargements and more than 1,300 liposuction surgeries on soldiers and their dependents, the magazine said. The magazine quoted an Army spokeswoman as saying, “the surgeons have to have someone to practice on.”
According to a report released this week by a public interest watchgroup, tens of thousands of black farmers have yet to see any of the compensation promised them by the U.S. Department of Agriculture five years ago in one of the federal government’s largest-ever racial bias settlements. A two-year probe by the Environmental Working Group and the National Black Farmers Association. found that the government had denied restitution to 81,000 out of 94,000 black farmers who sought compensation. The farmers, who were seeking payments for unequal treatment when they applied for loan programs and other aid, agreed to the settlement in 1999.
Clear Channel Communications, the largest radio station owner in the country, sued the distributor of Howard Stern’s radio show for $3 million yesterday. The media giant accused Stern of violating federal indecency rules. Stern and distributor Infinity Broadcasting Corporation responded by suing Clear Channel for $10 million. Earlier this year, Clear Channel dropped Stern from six markets.