For the second time in a week, a Texas Grand Jury has indicted Tom Delay, the influential Republican lawmaker who up until last week served as House Majority Leader. On Monday, Delay was indicted for money laundering. If convicted Delay could be sentenced to life in prison. Delay is accused of illegally funneling $190,000 in corporate campaign donations to local candidates. Last week a different grand jury indicted him for conspiracy. Meanwhile the Bush administration has confirmed that the Justice Department has asked British police to question former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher over a 2000 meeting she had with Delay that was organized by Washington lobbyist Jack Abramoff. Abramoff–who Delay has called one of his “closest and dearest friends”–is the target of a separate wide-ranging Justice Department investigation for corruption. According to the New York Times, the interview request of Thatcher is the first publicly disclosed evidence from the Justice Department that Delay was under scrutiny in the Abramoff investigation.
Questions are being raised over President Bush’s nomination of Harriet Miers as Supreme Court Justice because of her lack of judicial experience and her close ties to the president. The 60-year-old Miers has been in Bush’s inner circle for a decade–first as his personal attorney in Texas, later as White House counsel. In the hours after Bush’s announcement, some of the strongest criticism of Miers came from conservatives. Weekly Standard editor William Kristol said he was “disappointed, depressed and demoralized” by the selection which he said hints of cronyism. Vice President Dick Cheney took to the conservative airwaves to make the case for Miers. On Sean Hannity’s radio show Cheney vowed that she would fit the mold of Justice Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas. Legal Times described her as a “devout churchgoer.” She was raised Catholic but is now a member of a church whose ministers describes it as “conservative, Bible-based, evangelical.” Meanwhile Democrat Harry Reid, the Senate Minority Leader, appeared side-by-side with Miers and praised her qualifications. Last week during a conference call with bloggers, Reid reportedly announced that he had asked President Bush to consider Miers for the job. Miers has never served as judge and her stance on many pressing issues remains unknown. As president of the Texas State Bar she lead in an unsuccessful fight to get the American Bar Association to reconsider its pro-abortion rights stance. This marks the first time since 1971 that a President nominated someone without judicial experience to serve on the Supreme Court. If confirmed Miers will become the third ever female Justice. We’ll have more on her nomination in a few minutes.
In Iraq, the U.S. has launched its second major offensive in the past four days in western Iraq. About 2,500 Marines, soldiers and sailors as well hundreds of Iraqi troops took part in what is being called Operation River Gate. Bridges across the Euphrates River between Haqlanaiyah and Haditha were bombed to prevent insurgents from using them. The Associated Press reports this is the largest U.S. offensive of the year in the Anbar province, a Sunni stronghold. On Saturday, about 1,000 U.S. troops launched a separate offensive near the Syrian border.
Meanwhile Sunni leaders are threatening to boycott the October 15th vote on the constitution after Iraqi leaders changed the rules for ratification that will make it almost impossible for the constitution to be rejected. Under the new rules, the constitution will fail only if two-thirds of all registered voters reject it in at least three of the 18 provinces. Originally the constitution could have been defeated if two-thirds of all those actually casting ballots rejected it in three provinces. Sunni leaders are accusing the Shiite leadership of fixing the vote on the constitution. One secular Sunni lawmaker–Adnan al-Janabi–said, “This is a mockery of democracy, a mockery of law. Many Sunnis have been telling me they didn’t believe in this democratic process, and now I believe they are vindicated.” The rules were changed on Sunday during an unannounced vote in Parliament.
In Gaza City, over three dozen Palestinian police officers broke into the Palestinian parliament building there to protest a lack of bullets and proper equipment. Monday’s protest came one day after members of Hamas attacked a police station with assault rifles and rocket-propelled grenades. Three people died including a deputy police chief and 50 were injured in the bloodiest fighting between Hamas and the police in Gaza in over a decade.
Human Rights Watch is demanding Louisiana officials investigate reports that prisoners evacuated from the Jefferson Parish Prison due to Hurricane Katrina were beaten and mistreated after they were taken to the Jena Correctional Facility. Prisoners have told Human Rights Watch Inmates that correctional officers have beaten, kicked and hit them while they were shackled. They also say that officers sprayed the walls with chemicals and forced inmates to hold their faces against the sprayed walls. When some inmates became ill and vomited, officers wiped their faces and hair in the vomit. Corinne Carey of Human Rights Watch said, “It appears that men who have been through the horrors of Katrina were then subjected to new horrors at the hands of prison officers.”
In Haiti, at least two journalists have been beaten by bodyguards of the country’s interim president Boniface Alexandre. According to the Associated Press, the bodyguards were American employees of the private security firm DynCorp. The company has been contracted by the U.S. State Department to protect Alexandre, the unelected interim president of Haiti. Alexnadre took power after the coup that toppled Haitian President Jean Bertrand Aristide. The journalists were beaten as they tried to cover a ceremony marking the reopening of the courts after the summer holidays. Police said the journalists arrived late and then tried to force their way into the building.
The Justice Department confirmed on Monday that it will investigate the FBI killing of Puerto Rican independence leader Filiberto Ojeda Rios. The killing has sparked widespread outrage in Puerto Rico. On Sept. 23, over 100 FBI agents surrounded the house of the 72-year-old Ojeda Rios. After he was shot, the FBI let him lie wounded in his house for nearly a day during which time he bled to death. The FBI claimed Ojeda Rios fired first, but his wife said this is not true. Ojeda Rios had been on the FBI’s most wanted list for his role in a $7 million bank heist but he was a legendary figure in Puerto Rico for his lifelong resistance to U.S. colonialism. Tens of thousands of Puerto Ricans attended his funeral services last week.
The Senate Intelligence Committee has approved new legislation that would allow Pentagon intelligence operatives to collect information from U.S. citizens without revealing their status as government spies. According to the Los Angeles Times, the bill would end a long-standing requirement that military intelligence officers disclose their government ties when approaching any U.S. citizen in the United States.
At least 460 undocumented immigrants have died over the past 12 months trying to cross the Mexican-U.S. border–a 20 percent increase over the previous year. Border Patrol said most of the deaths occurred along the Arizona-Mexico border.