Reuters is reporting White House officials will learn today whether special prosecutor Patrick FItzgerald will seek indictments over the Bush administration’s outing of undercover CIA operative Valerie Plame. Reports indicate that the grand jury could indict both President Bush’s chief advisor Karl Rove and VIce President Dick Cheney’s chief of staff Lewis “Scooter” Libby for perjury or conspiracy. Both Rove and Libby failed to disclose key information about their role in the leak to the grand jury. Late last week Fitzgerald launched a website prompting speculation that he set it up to post the indictments. Fitzgerald has already posted documents that reveal the Justice Department gave him authority two years ago to expand his inquiry to include any criminal attempts to interfere with the investigation.
Meanwhile New York Times reporter Judith Miller remains in the headlines. Miller is the reporter who spent 85 days in jail for initially refusing to testify before the grand jury about the CIA leak. On Friday, the paper’s executive editor Bill Keller accused Miller of misleading the paper about her involvement in the CIA leak investigation. Keller also admitted he should have been quicker to correct Miller’s stories about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. On Sunday the paper’s public editor Byron Calame wrote “It seems to me that whatever the limits put on her, the problems facing her inside and outside the newsroom will make it difficult for her to return to the paper as a reporter.” Meanwhile Times columnist Maureen Dowd headlined her Sunday piece about Miller “Woman of Mass Destruction.”
The possible indictments over the CIA leak come at a time that the White House is facing intense pressure on a number of fronts. In Iraq, the U.S. death toll will soon pass 2,000. In Washington, calls are increasing for Bush to withdraw his nomination of Harriet Miers to the Supreme Court. And a series of high profile Republicans have publicly criticized Bush’s handling of the country.
Last week, Colin Powell’s former chief of staff Colonel Lawrence Wilkerson accused Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld of running a cabal that is undermining the country’s democracy. And now former national security advisor Brent Scowcroft has slammed the Bush administration in an interview with the New Yorker magazine. He directed much of his criticism to the neoconservatives and their handling of Iraq. He said, “This was said to be part of the war on terror, but Iraq feeds terrorism.” Scowcroft, who is close friends with George H.W. Bush, admitted it was difficult to criticize the sitting president. When New Yorker reporter Jeffrey Goldberg asked Scowcroft if the son was different from the father, he said, “I don’t want to go there.” When Goldberg asked him to name issues on which he agrees with the younger Bush, Scowcroft said, “Afghanistan.” He then paused for twelve seconds. Finally, he said, “I think we’re doing well on Europe.” Scowcroft went on to say “The real anomaly in the Administration is Cheney. I consider Cheney a good friend–I’ve known him for thirty years. But Dick Cheney I don’t know anymore.”
In Iraq, the U.S. death toll has reached 1,996. Anti-war groups, including the American Friends Service Committee and Peace Action, have called for demonstrations to be held across the country to mark the 2000th American killed in Iraq. The number of Iraqis killed since the invasion is unknown but estimates put the total over 100,000.
Meanwhile a new poll commissioned by the British military has found that 82 percent of Iraqis strongly oppose the continued presence of foreign troops. Less than 1 percent of the population feels foreign troops have helped improve security in Iraq. The poll also found 45 percent of Iraqis feel attacks against US troops are justified.
On Saturday the Pentagon admitted that four U.S. contractors working for Halliburton were killed last month in Iraq. The military officially announced the killings took place only after a report was published in the Telegraph newspaper of London.
Here in this country, Hans Blix accused the Bush administration of misleading the world about Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction . Blix, the former chief UN weapons inspector, spoke in Boston on Friday.
In other news from the Middle East, The United States, Britain and France are calling for tough international measures against Syria following the release of a UN report that implicates top Syrian and Lebanese officials in the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri. Representatives from the three countries are expected to press the issue at a meeting of the UN Security Council set for Tuesday. A Syrian government source told the Financial Times permanent council members Russia and China said they would block punitive measures against Syria. Syria has rejected the report’s findings. The UN is expected to release another report this week that will increase international pressure on Syria. The new report is expected to accuse Syria of not complying with UN Resolution 1559, which calls for an end to outside political and military interference in Lebanon.
Here in this country, thousands have evacuated Southwestern Florida to escape Hurricane Wilma which made landfall this morning. The Category 3 storm battered Florida with winds 125 miles per hour . In Broward, the county’s emergency management director said Hurricane Wilma may be the worst storm to hit the area in half a century. The storm has already devastated the Yucatán Coast in Mexico leaving 15,000 people homeless. Wilma marks the eighth hurricane to hit Florida over the past 14 months. Meanwhile Tropical Storm Alpha has hit Haiti and the Dominican Republic on Sunday. Alpha was the 22nd named system in the Atlantic Ocean this season making 2005 the most active hurricane season in 150 years. For the first time ever, weather officials had to turn to the Greek alphabet for a storm’s name.
In New York, a State Supreme Court judge has convicted an undercover police officer of negligent homicide in the killing of an African immigrant two years ago. The officer, Bryan Conroy, shot the unarmed Ousmane Zongo during a raid on a CD duplication plant inside a Manhattan warehouse. Zongo, who spoke little English, was in the warehouse working on restoring African artifacts. The officer faces up to four years in prison. Conroy could have faced a 15-year prison term but the judge cleared him of second-degree manslaughter. Meanwhile on Saturday protests were held across the country to mark the 10th annual National Day of Protest Against Police Brutality.
And new Justice Department statistics show the U.S. prison population grew by nearly 2 percent last year to nearly 2.3 million. According to the International Center for Prison Studies in London, there are more people behind bars in the United States than in any other country. Federal prisons in this country are now at 40 percent over capacity.
And the Washington Post is reporting the FBI has conducted clandestine surveillance on some U.S. residents for as long as 18 months at a time without proper paperwork or oversight. Government records indicate that the FBI has investigated hundreds of potential violations related to its use of secret surveillance operations. In one case, FBI agents kept an unidentified target under surveillance for at least five years — including more than 15 months without notifying Justice Department lawyers after the subject had moved from New York to Detroit. In other cases, the Post reports agents obtained e-mails after a warrant expired, seized bank records without proper authority and conducted an improper “unconsented physical search.”
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