Speculation is growing in Washington that Vice President Dick Cheney’s chief of staff Lewis “Scooter” Libby and President Bush’s top advisor Karl Rove could soon be indicted by a federal prosecutor investigating the outing of CIA agent Valerie Plame. Investigative Journalist Murray Waas is reporting in the National Journal that Libby failed to tell the grand jury about a discussion he had with New York Times reporter Judith Miller in June 2003–weeks before Plame’s name first appeared in the press. Federal Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald only learned of the discussion after Miller announced last week that she had discovered a set of notes on the conversation. Fitzgerald, who has been investigating the case for nearly two years, has now asked Miller to testify again today before the grand jury. Meanwhile the Wall Street Journal reports Fitzgerald’s pursuit now suggests he might be investigating not a narrow case on the leaking of the agent’s name, but perhaps a broader conspiracy. The Journal reports at least part of the outcome likely hangs on the inner workings of what has been dubbed the White House Iraq Group which was set up to sell the Iraq war to the American public. Libby and Rove were instrumental in the group. Plame’s name was leaked only after her husband, Ambassador Joseph Wilson, publicly revealed that the Bush administration had lied when it claimed Iraq was trying to purchase enriched uranium from the country of Niger in order to build nuclear weapons. Wilson has long accused the White House of outing his wife as an agent in an effort to smear him. We’ll speak to Murray Waas in a few minutes.
In Pakistan, aid has started to reach some of the most damaged areas affected by Saturday’s earthquake. Heavy rain and hail had seriously impeded the relief effort. Aid convoys to remote areas of Pakistan-controlled Kashmir were mobbed by desperate villagers without food and water for days. “In our family more than 30 people died in my own family,” said one survivor. “Now we have tents here because the water is here and the river but we also need water. We need tents and everything but now we pray to Allah.” A spokesman for the Pakistani Army told reporters Tuesday rescuers have not yet reached “hundreds of villages.” The government is putting the official death toll between 35,000 to 40,000 people. Muzaffarabad, the capital of Pakistani-controlled Kashmir, is without electricity or running water. Many of its 125,000 residents have been left homeless with winter just six weeks away. The area’s Prime Minister said he is now “the ruler of a graveyard.” UN officials say aid has only reached a small proportion of the 4 million people whose homes have been destroyed or damaged. A member of the UN’s disaster assessment team told the Financial Times “This is a huge catastrophe and the more we see the worse it’s getting.” Pakistan’s Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz thanked India for providing aid: “”Pakistan has no problem accepting assistance from India subject to our needs and we have also, when there was an earthquake in Ahmadebad, Pakistan sent a lot of relief aid to India and India was kind enough to accept it. I think in this difficult moment we have to share with each other.”
In Guatemala, the death toll from mudslides caused by Hurricane Stan has passed 2,000 people. Rescuers called off their search yesterday for hundreds of people trapped for six days beneath solidifying mud. Agence France Presse reports 2,055 were killed in Guatemala alone. Forty-two others were killed in Mexico, 72 in El Salvador and 11 in Nicaragua. Guatemalan leaders have launched an appeal to the United Nations for over $21 million in aid. The Washington Post reports officials said about 107,000 people were living in shelters and the country would need about 22,000 tons of food over the next three months.
In Iraq, negotiators have agreed to a last-minute change that will effectively allow for the constitution to be redrafted after elections are held in December. The deal was aimed to encourage Sunni support for the draft constitution, which will be voted on in a nation-wide referendum Saturday. The agreement would create a panel in the next parliament with the power to propose broad new revisions to the constitution. U.S. ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad took part in negotiating the deal, which the New York Times called “a major victory for American officials.”
Fighting has escalated in Afghanistan in the run-up to a visit by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. On Monday U.S. warplanes bombed a suspected Taliban hideout killing ten. Meanwhile, separate rebel attacks killed 24 Afghan police officers and five medical workers. The medical workers were killed when attackers opened fire on their vehicle near Kandahar city. Hours before Rice’s arrival, four rockets exploded in the capital city of Kabul. One hit a government intelligence compound, while the other landed outside the Canadian ambassador’s residence. Police say two guards were injured. On Tuesday Rice was in Kyrgyzstan where she reached an agreement with leaders of the Central Asian country to maintain use of an aircraft base used for missions to Afghanistan. In July Krygzstsran and three other Central Asian states called on the U.S to evacuate all its bases in the region.
Israeli Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz announced that the army will appeal last week’s High Court ruling that bans the use of Palestinian “human shields” in the occupied territories. The court outlawed the practice following a petition brought by human rights groups. Israeli soldiers have been accused of using Palestinians to search houses thought to be booby-trapped or containing wanted suspects. Palestinians are also used as “human shields” to protect the soldiers from attack.
Meanwhile in Syria, the government’s state news agency is reporting Interior Minister Ghazi Kanaan has committed suicide. Kanaan headed Syria’s military presence in Lebanon.
Liberia has held its first elections since a 14-year civil war ended two years ago. Former professional soccer player George Weah has emerged as the frontrunner among 22 candidates for the presidency. His main rival, Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, is a former World Bank economist who if elected would become Africa’s first female president. Partial results are expected later today.
Here in this country — The Texas prosecutor pursuing conspiracy and money laundering charges against indicted Republican Congressman Tom Delay was served a subpoena by Delay’s legal team on Tuesday. Delay contends District Attorney Ronnie Earle maintained improper contact with three grand jury investigations into whether Delay illegally funneled corporate money to Republican candidates in state legislative elections. Delay was forced to temporarily step down as House majority leader when charges were brought against him two weeks ago.
Meanwhile Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist’s private financial dealings are back in the news. The Associated Press reports Frist earned tens of thousands of dollars from stock in HCA, the family-founded hospital chain largely controlled by his brother. Earlier this month the Securities and Exchange Commission began investigating whether Frist engaged in insider trading by selling off stocks in HCA. The nonpartisan Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights estimates that Frist made between $2 million and $6 million by selling his HCA holdings just before stock values plummeted in the face of a bad earnings report.