On Capital Hill Tuesday, Democrats forced the Republican-controlled Senate into closed session to question intelligence used by the Bush administration to justify the invasion of Iraq. In the rare move, public spectators were cleared out, the doors were closed and the lights were dimmed in the Senate chamber. The intelligence behind the US invasion of Iraq remains a key issue with last week’s indictment of Vice President Cheney chief of staff Lewis Libby over the outing of CIA agent Valerie Plame. Shortly before forcing the closed session, Democratic Senate Minority leader Harry Reid said: “The Libby indictment provides a window into what this is really all about, how this administration manufactured and manipulated intelligence in order to sell the war in Iraq and attempted to destroy those who dared to challenge its actions.” Republican leaders dismissed the closed session as a political stunt. However, they agreed to a bi-partisan review of a Senate Intelligence Committee’s investigation into pre-war intelligence. Democrats have called the investigation inadequate.
The Washington Post is reporting the CIA has been hiding and interrogating important al Qaeda detainees at a Soviet-era secret prison in Eastern Europe. The prison is part of a small global network of secret CIA and military compounds used in the so-called war on terror, including the Guantanamo Bay prison in Cuba. At the request of U.S. officials, the Post did not publish the names of the Eastern European countries involved in the secret program. Intelligence officials and legal experts told the Post the prisons “would be considered illegal under the laws of several host countries, where detainees have rights to have a lawyer or to mount a defense against allegations of wrongdoing.”
Meanwhile the New York Times is reporting the Bush administration is engaged in an internal debate over new guidelines for interrogating detainees. Vice President Cheney’s new chief of staff David Addington has emerged as a key opponent of including language from the Geneva Conventions that prohibits inhumane treatment. Addington was promoted from chief counsel following last week’s resignation of Lewis Libby. The Times reports Addington verbally assailed an aide who referenced Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions in a Pentagon briefing. Speaking of the aide, a Pentagon official told the Times : “He left bruised and bloody. He tried to champion Article 3, and Addington just ate him for lunch.”
The NAACP has voiced strong concerns over Supreme Court nominee Samuel Alito. At a fundraising event Tuesday, NAACP President Bruce Gordon said : “I sense that this is a nomination that may not be consistent with the America that Rosa Parks sat down to create… If I see the extreme right celebrating this nomination, that puts my antenna up.”
The judge presiding over campaign finance charges against Republican Congressional leader Tom Delay was removed from the case Tuesday. Delay’s lawyers had argued for the dismissal of Texas District Judge Bob Perkins because of donations he’s made to Democratic candidates and liberal advocacy group Move On. Delay is also seeking to have the trial moved out of Austin, saying the state capitol is “one of the last enclaves of the Democratic Party in Texas.”
Also Tuesday, President Bush unveiled a $7.1 billion dollar plan for combating the possible outbreak of a global flu pandemic. Most of the proposed funding will go to buying vaccines and developing new ones. The Washington Post notes Bush’s plan would leave states responsible for covering up to 75% of the cost of the vaccines. Meanwhile the Los Angeles Times observes Bush’s plan would leave the Department of Homeland Security, not Health and Human Services, in charge of the federal response to a flu pandemic. Kim Elliott, deputy director of the nonprofit, nonpartisan Trust for America’s Health, told the Times : “When the emergency occurs, it would be handed to folks most of whom have not been trained on the public health aspects.”
Meanwhile Fortune magazine is reporting Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld stands to reap a financial windfall from the sale of flu vaccines. Rumsfeld is an investor in Gilead Sciences, a California company that owns the patent to Tamiflu, the influenza remedy currently the most-sought after drug in the world. Rumsfeld was Gilead’s chair from 1997 until joining the Bush administration in 2001. His stake in the company is valued at between $5 million and $25 million.
This news from Ethiopia — Government officials say at least eight people were killed and 43 wounded in clashes between police and protesters in the capitol city of Addis Ababa Tuesday. The country is embroiled in a bitter dispute surrounding May parliamentary elections. The opposition party Coalition for Unity and Democracy claims it won the elections over the ruling Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front. The protests were called in the lead-up to a general strike set for later this month. Government officials said several top CUD leaders had been arrested and warned journalists of detention if they publish what they called baseless reports and propaganda from the opposition.
In other world news, a prison riot in the Central Asian state of Kyrgyzstan has claimed the lives of a reported 20 prisoners. A prison official denied the toll, saying only five had been killed. Officials said the riots erupted after an attempt to transfer a powerful gang leader to a different prison. But officials also conceded the prisoners had been waging hunger strikes in protest of poor conditions. Kyrgyzstan is a key US ally in the region, hosting a US military base often used for flights to neighboring Afghanistan.
The Palestinian group Hamas is warning that Israel has “started a war” by waging targeted killings on its leadership. Two Palestinian militant leaders were killed in an Israeli strike on a vehicle they were traveling in Tuesday. Agence France Presse is reporting at least ten Palestinian civilian bystanders were wounded in the attack, which took place near the Jabaliya refugee camp in the northern Gaza Strip. A senior Hamas official said: “Israel has started a war with this assassination and it will pay a heavy price.” Hamas has claimed responsibility for the killing of an Israeli soldier today in Jenin.
The New York Times is reporting new evidence has emerged about the Gulf of Tonkin incident in 1964 that precipitated the escalation of the Vietnam War. A National Security Agency historian has determined officers at the agency knowingly falsified intelligence in order to make it look as if North Vietnam had attacked U.S. destroyers in the Tonkin Gulf. Following the alleged attack, Johnson ordered retaliatory air strikes on North Vietnamese targets and used the event to persuade Congress to pass the Gulf of Tonkin resolution, which led to the escalation of the war. The NSA’s historian determined the intelligence may have been falsified not for political reasons but to cover up earlier mistakes made by intelligence officers. However, the Times reports there has also been a cover up of the historian’s account, which was first published in a classified in-house journal of the National Security Agency in 2001. The historian’s article remains classified. According to the Times, policymakers at the NSA feared the release of the historical study might prompt uncomfortable comparisons with the flawed intelligence used to justify the war in Iraq.
Over 200 protests and rallies are scheduled today across the country as part of a national day of action organized by the group The World Can’t Wait, Drive Out the Bush Regime. In New York the protests began Tuesday after one of the city’s leading hip-hop stations, Hot 97, rejected a paid ad promoting the protests. Organizers with World Can’t Wait are urging students across the country to walk out of classes in support of the protest. In Seattle, the Post-Intelligencer reports student walk-outs are scheduled in over two dozen schools.
And in Detroit, thousands of people are preparing to honor Rosa Parks at her funeral today. Over the past day, tens of thousands visited the Charles Wright Museum of African-American History in Detroit to pay their respects. The civil rights pioneer died last week at the age of 92. The Rev. Jesse Jackson is to give the eulogy and Aretha Franklin will sing. Yesterday Jackson called Rosa Parks “the mother of a new America.”