The * New York Times* and the * Washington Post* are reporting that CBS News will likely admit today that it was deceived about the origins of recently unearthed memos concerning President Bush’s National Guard service. 60 Minutes host Dan Rather and others at the network reportedly still believe that the sentiment in the memos was accurate, but that the documents’ authenticity are now in grave doubt. A Washington Post investigation found that there was doubt within CBS News about the memos even before the original program aired. However the station decided to go ahead with the story after the White House didn’t challenge their authenticity. “60 Minutes” executive Josh Howard told the Post, * “we completely abandoned the process of authenticating the documents.* Obviously, looking back on it, that was a mistake. We stopped questioning ourselves. I suppose you could say we let our guard down.”
Within hours of the 60 Minutes broadcast questions arose about the documents on the conservative Free Republic website by an anonymous writer known as Bankhead who The Los Angeles Times revealed to be Harry MacDougald. MacDougald is an * Atlanta lawyer with strong ties to conservative Republican causes* and who helped draft the petition urging the Arkansas Supreme Court to disbar President Clinton after the Monica Lewinsky scandal. MacDoughald’s background is expected to fuel speculation that Republicans were behind the forged documents in an effort to undermine reports that Bush received preferential treatment in the National Guard more than 30 years ago. Newsweek is reporting that the documents may have been sent anonymously to former Texas National Guardsman — and Bush critic — Bill Burkett, who then shared the documents with 60 Minutes.
In campaign news, President Bush and Sen. John Kerry have tentatively settled on a package of * three face-to-face debates* beginning next Thursday. The first debate will focus on foreign policy and take place on September 30 in Florida. A town hall meeting style debate will occur on October 8 in Missouri and a debate on domestic policy will take place on October 13 in Arizona. Meanwhile Vice President Cheney and Democratic vice presidential nominee John Edwards will debate Oct. 5 in Ohio.
In other campaign news, the Florida state Supreme Court ruled Friday that presidential candidate Ralph Nader’s name will appear on statewide ballots in November. He is now on the ballot in 27 states.
In Britain, the Daily Telegraph has uncovered a series of secret government papers that show British Prime Minister Tony Blair was warned a year before invading Iraq that a * “”:http://washingtontimes.com/world/20040919-120227-1101r.htm* without keeping large numbers of troops there for “many years.” In March 2002, British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw predicted that postwar Iraq would cause major problems and that no one had a clear idea of what would happen afterwards.
Yesterday Blair admitted the US and Britain were fighting a “new conflict” in Iraq. In the first conflict Saddam Hussein was successfully removed, but now the enemy is the Iraqi resistance.
Blair’s comments came during a joint press conference with Iraq’s unelected prime minister Ayad Allawi. Allawi, who will be arriving soon in the United States, claimed that elections in Iraq would go forward and that the resistance is losing power. He told ABC’s This Week, * “It’s not getting stronger; it’s getting more desperate.* We are squeezing out the insurgency.” Allawi claimed the increasing number of attacks mark the last stand by the resistance. He said “We are winning.” Allawi is coming to the United States to address Congress and the United Nations at the opening of the General Assembly tomorrow. Other leaders speaking at the UN this week include President Bush and Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez. John Kerry will also be in New York to campaign and hold fundraisers. While Allawi claimed the US-backed government was winning in Iraq, the weekend saw another series of deadly car bombings, kidnappings and other attacks.
In Kirkuk a suicide car bombing near the Iraqi Nat’l Guard building killed 19 recruits. Nearly 70 Iraqi police officers, National Guardsmen, and recruits have been killed over the past week.
Kidnappers have threatened to kill two American contractors and a British engineer unless all Muslim women held at the Abu Ghraib prison near Baghdad and at another prison in the southern city of Umm Qasr were released. Another resistance group has claimed it has kidnapped 15 members of the Iraqi National Guard. And a video has emerged online purportedly showing three Iraqi members of a Kurdish party being beheaded. And Agence France Press is reporting about a dozen Turkish truck drivers have been either killed or abducted in Sunni Muslim strongholds north of Baghdad over the past two days.
In Fallujah, a pair of US bombings killed four people and injured six. The New York TImes is reporting the US is preparing to launch a major assault on Fallujah before the New Year in an attempt to wrest control of the city from the resistance. One senior US commander said “We need to make a decision on when the cancer of Fallujah is going to be cut out.” In Samarra, an Iraqi soldier and civilian were killed by an apparent suicide car bombing. Seven people were wounded including four U.S. troops.
And Al Jazeera is reporting that a senior member of the influential Islamic authority the Association of Muslim Scholars has been assassinated. The Sunni leader Shaikh Hazim al-Zaidi was abducted yesterday just hours after US backed forces arrested a senior aide to Shiite leader Muqtada al Sadr.
In news from Afghanistan, the Independent of London is reporting the U.S. and Britain are both planning to send some 9,000 troops to Afghanistan ahead of the country’s October elections. According to the Independent all but 1,000 of the troops will be British.
And CBS News is reporting that the FBI and Department of Homeland Security plan to take “extraordinary measures” to disrupt the possibility of a domestic attack to disrupt the elections. According to the report, FBI officials here are preparing a massive counter-offensive of interrogations, surveillance and possible detentions. The plan will go into effect during the first week of October. The FBI is expected to aggressively expand surveillance on a short list of people suspected of being terrorist sympathizers, but who have not committed a crime. Other “persons of interest,” including their family members, may also be brought in for questioning. Agents also plan to visit Mosques to ask members whether they’ve observed any suspicious behavior.
The death toll from Hurricane Ivan has increased to at least 52 making it one of the deadliest hurricanes in the country’s history.
Meanwhile in Haiti, at least 90 people have died following mass floods caused by tropical storm Jeanne. Much of the Gonaives region is under water. The same storm also killed eight people in the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico.