Iraq’s unelected Prime Minister has been given the right to declare martial law and personally take control of much of the government in times of crisis. Iraq’s interim government approved the new national security law earlier today. Ayad Allawi, who is a former Baathist with ties to the CIA, will be given the power to take control of the military, police and intelligence unit. He will be able to institute curfews, ban public demonstrations, conduct emergency searches of private property and order the army to fight the Iraqi resistance. He will also be allowed to ban groups that he deems to be seditious. Allawi had sought even greater powers, but he will be forced to gain support from within his government before declaring emergency law. In addition, Allawi is expected to announce as early as today a plan to offer amnesty to members of the Iraqi resistance.
On the campaign trail, Senator John Kerry has been joined by his new running mate Senator John Edwards has joined on a four-day tour through Ohio, Florida, West Virginia and New Mexico. Edwards’ selection as a running mate for Kerry is not sitting well with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. Even before he was selected, the Chamber of Commerce threatened to abandon its traditional stance of neutrality in an effort to defeat the Democratic ticket. This according to the Wall Street Journal. One anonymous Fortune 100 CEO called Edwards “the one we fear the most” because he is a trial lawyer.
The Miami Herald has determined that at least 2,100 people — many of them African-American Democrats — are wrongly included on a list of felons who may not be able to vote in Florida in November. The Miami Herald reviewed the names on a state list of voters to be purged and found 2,100 of them had been granted clemency and therefore had the right to vote. The American Civil Liberties Union has announced it will sue the state to remove the names of any voters with clemency from the state database.
In Washington a federal judge has thrown out a lawsuit filed by FBI whistleblower Sibel Edmonds against the Justice Department before he even heard evidence in the case. The judge, who admitted his decision was draconian, ruled a trial might expose government secrets that could damage national security. In her suit Edmonds charges she was wrongly fired in March 2002 after she complained that there were major problems within the FBI translation unit. Edmonds, who speaks Turkish and Farsi, was hired after the Sept. 11 attacks to translate intelligence related to Al Qaeda gathered over the previous year. Edmonds has since told the press the FBI had evidence before 9/11 that indicated an attack using airplanes was imminent. Edmonds’ attorney Mark Zaid said, “The decision today represents another example of the Executive Branch’s abusive nature of using secrecy as a weapon against whistleblowers. It is quite disappointingly evident that accountability is no longer a word in our government’s dictionary.”
NBC News is now reporting that former Navy Secretary John Lehman, who is now serving on the 9/11 commission, has become the lead contender to replace George Tenet as the director the CIA. He served as Secretary to the Navy under President Reagan. Lehman is a longtime critic of the CIA and has close ties to neoconservatives in Washington. His brother, Chris Lehman, served in the Office Of Special Plans, the Pentagon’s special intelligence unit that was set up to help make the case for the Iraq invasion.
In Gaza, the Red Cross has begun distributing food and medicine to hundreds of Palestinians who have been trapped in the town of Beit Hanoun for a week. Since the Israeli army took over the town last week, Palestinians report more than half of the farm land in the area has been destroyed including thousands of orange and lemon trees. Israel entered the area after Palestinians launched a fatal rocket attack on southern Israel.
Former US paratrooper Jeremy Hinzman will ask Canadian officials for asylum today. Hinzman is one of at least three known US army deserters who refused to fight in Iraq and are now seeking refugee status in Canada. The 25-year-old is living in Toronto with his wife and two-year-old son. Hinzman will likely be asked to prove, like other refugee applicants, that he has a reason to believe he would be persecuted if he returned home. Supporters of Hinzman point to the case of Sergeant Camilo Mejia, who was sentenced to a year in prison for deserting his unit in Iraq. Hinzman says he has received many threatening emails, mostly from Americans, which he hopes will strengthen his case for asylum.
Despite wide opposition from Democrats and groups like Planned Parenthood, the Senate confirmed James Leon Holmes to the U.S. District Court in Arkansas yesterday in a vote of 51 to 46. The vote followed debate over Holmes’ position on abortion, women’s rights, race and separation of church and state. He has written that the role of “the wife is to subordinate herself to her husband,” compared pro-choice activists to “Nazis,” said that rape victims don’t often get pregnant, and compared abortion to slavery.
The inspector general’s office of the Health and Human Services Department concluded yesterday that Bush Administration officials did not violate the law when they withheld information about the high costs of the planned Medicare overhaul last year. Congress passed the administration’s Medicare bill based on an estimated cost of about $400 billion. In January, Bush announced the overhaul would actually cost $534 billion over 10 years. Democratic lawmakers initiated an investigation when the HHS chief actuary Richard Foster announced in March that top administrator Tom Scully had threatened to fire him if he released that information to legislators during the Congressional debate. Bush’s plan overhauled the healthcare program for 41 million senior and disabled beneficiaries by increasing the role of private insurance companies, health maintenance organizations and drug-benefit managers.
A Texas couple was charged with trespassing on the Fourth of July for wearing anti-Bush t-shirts at a speech given by the president in West Virginia. Although the couple, Nicole and Jeffrey Rank, had tickets to the event, security insisted they leave or stand in a designated protest zone. When they refused, police detained them. From the stage Bush said, “We’re thankful that this nation they created 228 years ago remains free and independent and the best hope for all mankind.”