President Bush has nominated federal judge and former prosecutor Michael Chertoff to head the Department of Homeland Security. Chertoff was working under John Ashcroft in the Justice Department after Sept. 11 and led the government’s move to jail hundreds of Muslim and Arab men without pressing charges by using the “material witness” statute. He was also a chief architect of the USA Patriot Act. In a statement the American Civil Liberties Union said, “We are troubled that his public record suggests he sees the Bill of Rights as an obstacle to national security.”
Chertoff has however criticized some of the Bush administration’s post Sept. 11 policies. Last year he published a piece in the Weekly Standard criticizing the policy of indefinitely jailing people as “enemy combatants” without giving them access to the courts. President Bush’s selection of Chertoff comes after former New York Police Commissioner Bernard Kerik withdrew his name from consideration.
The White House expects Chertoff to be easily confirmed. In 2003 Chertoff was confirmed to a federal judgeship by an 88-1 Senate vote. The lone dissenting vote came from Senator Hillary Clinton. Chertoff clashed with the Clintons a decade ago when he served as counsel to a special Republican-led congressional panel that investigated the so-called Whitewater real estate scandal.
In Paris today, financial officials from many of the world’s richest countries will meet to discuss whether the countries affected by last month’s tsunami should be temporarily relieved of paying off billions of dollars in debt payments. According to the World Bank, the affected nations owe hundreds of billions in debt. Indonesia owes $132 billion. India owes just over $100 billion. Thailand owes $60 billion and Malaysia owes $50 billion. According to the Jubilee Debt Campaign, the money spent by Indonesia on one day’s debt repayments, could instead pay for 100 much-needed aid flights. The Jubilee campaign has long called for the cancellation of all debt payments.
Noreena Hertz, who wrote The Debt Threat, recently noted that in Sub Saharan Africa some 15,000 children die every day from poverty related diseases. Yet still the governments are required to pay out some $30 million every day to the World Bank, the IMF and rich world creditor nations. According to Hertz. every one dollar that is given to that region in aid one and a half dollars goes out to cover debt repayments.
In California, at least six people have died after a devastating mudslide in the town of La Conchita. 13 people remain missing. Over the past two weeks Southern California has had about 17 inches of rain.
In news from Iraq, the Washington Post reports the hunt for weapons of mass of destruction has ended. The U.S. inspectors apparently gave up the search with no public notice late last month. The government spent hundreds of millions of dollars on the search but the public may never know how much was spent. A spokesman for the Pentagon’s Defense Intelligence Agency said the entire budget will remain classified.
Meanwhile the United Nations refugee agency in Iraq reported Tuesday that only 8,500 residents of Fallujah have returned home following the devastating US attack on the city two months ago. The city was once populated by some 300,000 residents many of whom fled before the attack.
In California, an AWOL soldier who didn’t want to return to Iraq, shot dead a police sergeant Sunday outside a convenience store. The 19-year-old Andres Raya died hours later when he was shot by police. Raya’s mother said her son served in Fallujah and returned home in September. She said, “He came back different.”
A former Iraqi prisoner at the Abu Ghraib prison has accused the US of carrying out torture more severe than during the reign of Saddam Hussein. The Iraqi, Hussein Matar, said, “They tortured us as though it was a theatre for them.” Matar reported he was made to strip naked and masturbate in front of others before being hurled onto a pile of prisoners. He said, “Saddam did not do this to us.” A video testimony of Matar was presented by the US government Tuesday during the court martial of Specialist Charles Graner, who is being charged with instigating the abuse at Abu Ghraib.
In political news, former Vermont governor and presidential candidate Howard Dean has officially announced he is running to become chairman of the Democratic National Committee.
The New York Times is reporting that Saturday’s nuclear submarine accident in the Pacific was more serious than the Navy originally let on. An email from a top admiral aboard said the nuclear sub was traveling at top speed when it hit an uncharted underground mountain. According to the admiral, 60 crew members aboard were injured. One sailor died.
In news from the Occupied Territories, the Israeli army has proposed building a 75 foot deep moat along the border between Gaza and Egypt in an effort to stop illegal border crossings and arms smuggling through tunnels. The Guardian of London reports the construction of the mote would result in the demolition of hundreds–and possibly thousands of Palestinian homes in Rafah. The Israel attorney general is expected to visit the border area soon to examine the proposal.
Meanwhile an Israeli civilian died today and three Israeli soldiers were injured when members of Islmaic Jihad set off a bomb in a Gaza settlement.
And civil rights organizer James Forman has died at the age of 76. In the early 1960s he served as executive secretary of SNCC, the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee. He was seen as a major strategist within the civil rights movement. In 1964 he helped organize Freedom Summer and helped plan the 1963 March on Washington. After leaving SNCC, Forman became one of the first to call for the US government to pay reparations to African Americans. Julian Bond said of Forman, “He was indefatigable. It was said that on his death bed, Frederick Douglass’s last words were 'Organize! Organize!' That’s what Forman did every day of his life.”