Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld came under intense criticism yesterday by a panel he appointed to review the abuse and torture that took place at the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq. The four-member panel headed by former defense secretary James Schlesinger faulted Rumsfeld’s leadership, his battle plan to invade Iraq and his failure to develop plans for a postwar Iraq. The panel revealed that the Pentagon is now investigating 300 incidents of prison abuse — three times as many cases as previously known. At least five prisoners have died from abuse during interrogations and another 23 detainee deaths are still under investigation. One member of the panel Congressman Tillie Fowler of Florida, said, “We found fundamental failures throughout all levels of command, from the soldiers on the ground to Central Command and to the Pentagon. These failures of leadership helped to set the conditions which allowed for the abusive practices to take place.” However the panel claimed Washington did not order the abuse that occurred at the prison. Schlesinger said, “There was sadism on the night shift at Abu Ghraib, sadism that was certainly not authorized. It was kind of 'Animal House' on the night shift.”
In Russia at least 89 people have died after two airplanes crashed within minutes of each other yesterday. There was speculation that Chechen separatists were behind the attack but Chechen leaders denied playing any role. The two airplanes both were flying out of the same Moscow airport. Russia’s main intelligence agency has said it has yet to find any evidence of terrorism in its initial investigations at the crash sites.
In Iraq, the country’s leading Shiite cleric, the Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani has returned home to Najaf with hopes of brokering a peace deal to end the three-week stand-off between cleric Moqtada al Sadr and U.S. forces. Sistani called on his followers to be ready to march on Najaf to save the city. Sistani had been in Britain for the past three weeks to receive medical treatment. A spokesperson for Sadr said “We are ready to negotiate to put an end to the suffering.
In Albany, a federal judge ordered two men to be released from jail less than a month after Attorney General John Ashcroft had the men arrested on terrorism charges. The judge blasted the government’s case and said there is no evidence the men have any links to terrorists. The judge ordered the two men, both prominent Muslims in Albany, to be released on bond and held in home detention until trial. The men were arrested in a sting operation carried out by a government informant. Defense attorneys said their clients have been the victims of government entrapment.
Contempt of court charges have been dropped against Time Magazine reporter Matthew Cooper after he agreed to give private testimony to a special counsel investigating who within the Bush administration outted the identity of CIA operative Valerie Plame.
Vice President Dick Cheney distanced himself from President Bush’s support for a constitutional amendment to ban same sex marriage in a remark yesterday to a campaign rally in Davenport, Iowa. Cheney cited his lesbian daughter Mary in explaining that his view of marriage is that “freedom means freedom for everyone.” Meanwhile, Republican leaders are pushing for inclusion of the constitutional amendment banning gay marriage in the GOP platform. The last Republican platform included a more general statement supporting the definition of marriage as being between a man and a woman. State delegates are reviewing a draft platform today and tomorrow in preparation for next week’s convention.
People for the American Way and the NAACP are scheduled to release a report today documenting how African-American voters are still being intimidated from voting in some areas, 40 years after the passage of the Voting Rights Act. The report is titled The Long Shadow of Jim Crow: Voter Intimidation and Suppression in America.
This news from Zimbabwe. The Independent of London is reporting that the United States has called for the building of a “coalition of the willing” to push for regime change to end Robert Mugabe’s presidency in Zimbabwe. The new U.S. ambassador to South Africa — Jendayi Frazer — said the US couldn’t diplomatically act on its own but would join a coalition of other countries. The ambassador, who is considered to be a protégée of Condoleeza Rice, said, “We have got to re-look at the approach, that South Africa is taking in terms of quiet diplomacy … It’s not evident that it’s working at this point.”
In news from South Africa: The son of former British prime minister Margaret Thatcher, Mark Thatcher, has been arrested for allegedly bankrolling a coup plot in oil-rich Equatorial Guinea.
United for Peace and Justice is expected to find out later today whether it will be allowed to hold a massive anti-war rally in Central Park on Sunday, one day before the start of the Republican National Convention. Yesterday the group announced that if did not receive the OK for Central Park, the group would cancel its rally and instead only hold a march up Seventh Avenue and past Madison Square Garden. Meanwhile, many protesters have said they plan to rally in Central Park with or without a permit.
The Republican National Convention is expected to cost New York City more than 300 million dollars due to lost business and security costs. This according to an estimate by City Comptroller William Thompson. Up until now Mayor Michael Bloomberg has been estimating the convention would generate $260 million for the city.
And this news from Colorado: Community radio station KGNU, 88.5FM in Boulder, announced yesterday that it is set to expand into the Denver market by purchasing a commercial AM radio signal. KGNU will begin broadcasting in Denver on 1390 AM this Sunday with special coverage of the protests against the Republican National Convention. The purchase bucks the trend in the radio world which has witnessed rapid consolidation in ownership over the past decade. One company, Clear Channel now owns over 1200 channels across the country including 8 in Denver.