Republican Congressman Randy “Duke” Cunningham has resigned after admitting to accepting more than $2.4 million in bribes from military contractors. The eight-term Congressman from California also admitted to evading more than $1 million in taxes and committing mail and wire fraud. He faces up to 10 years in jail. Cunningham served on the House Appropriations subcommittee on defense and was chair of the House Intel subcommittee on terrorism/human intelligence, analysis and counterintelligence.
A multi-national hostage team is trying to find a group of four members of the Christian Peacemakers Team that were kidnapped in Iraq on Sunday. The group includes an American, two Canadians and a British man identified as retired professor and peace activist Norman Kember. The other three peace activists kidnapped have not been identified. The Christian Peacemakers Team is a non-missionary organization that has been documenting the abuse of Iraqi detainees and working with the families of prisoners. They opposed the war and continue to oppose the occupation.
In a separate incident, a German woman is also believed to have also been kidnapped in Iraq. The German tv network ARD said it had obtained a video cassette in which the kidnappers threatened to kill the woman and her Iraqi driver if the German government didn’t break off all cooperation with the Iraqi government.
In other news from Iraq, three British Muslims were shot dead during a Shiite pilgrimage to the country’s holy sites.
The New York Times is reporting more evidence has emerged that Iraqi Shiite death squads are carrying out mass executions in Sunni neighborhoods. One human rights group told the Times that 700 Sunni civilians have been killed or disappeared over the past four months. An investigator with the group said “Quite a few have been handcuffed and shot in the back of the head. The stories are pretty much consistent across the board, both in the manner that the men are being abducted and in who they say is taking them.”
Newly released Justice Department documents show that Supreme Court nominee Samuel Alito argued in the 1980s that immigrants who enter the United States illegally and foreigners living outside their countries are not entitled to the constitutional rights afforded to Americans. Alito made the argument at a time when he was deputy assistant attorney general in the Reagan administration. Conservative constitutional analyst Bruce Fein said “He seems to be saying that there is no constitutional constraints placed on U.S. officials in their treatment of nonresident aliens or illegal aliens. Could you shoot them? Could you torture them?” Martin Redish, a constitutional law professor at Northwestern University Law School, told the Washington Post that Alito’s view could be used to justify the current administration policy under which the CIA conducts interrogations in secret prisons overseas. The New York Times reports the newly released documents also show Alito played an active role in advancing the administration’s efforts to expand law enforcement powers and limit restrictions on prosecutors.
The European Commission has warned all member states of the European Union that they could have their voting rights suspended if they are found to have operated secret CIA prisons. “The protection of basic rights and liberty is deeply rooted in our culture, is the basis of the European charter for fundamental rights,” said Franco Frattini, European Union Justice Commissioner. “That’s why we will continue following a balanced approach between increasing security and confirming protection and promotion of our liberties” The Washington Post recently reported the CIA has been operating two secret prisons in former Soviet states in Eastern Europe. At the request of the Pentagon, the Post did not name the countries but Human Rights Watch has idenitified them as Poland and Romania.
The Council of Europe’s Human rights commissioner has accused the United States of running a Guantanamo-style prison in Kosovo. The official, Alvaro Gil-Robles, revealed in an interview last week that he visited the site in 2002 and was shocked to see a barbed wire-rimmed prison inside a US military base. He told the French newspaper Le Monde the camp resembled 'a smaller version of Guantanamo.” Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is scheduled to travel to Europe next week and is expected to try to deflect growing European pressure over the CIA's secret operations.
The Vatican has officially banned the ordination of gay men into the priesthood. The prohibition applies to seminarians involved in homosexual practices as well as those displaying “deeply ingrained homosexual tendencies,” or those who support “gay culture.” One dissident Catholic newsletter, Adista, has described the move as “ethical cleansing.”
The Supreme Court has rejected an appeal from FBI whistleblower Sibel Edmonds who has been trying to sue the FBI and Justice Department over her dismissal. Edmonds says she was fired after speaking out about possible security breaches, misconduct and incompetent translation work. A U.S. District Judge originally dismissed the case after then-Attorney General John Ashcroft invoked the rarely used “state secrets privilege.” Ashcroft had warned that further disclosure of the duties of Edmonds and other translators could cause “serious damage to the national security interests of the United States.” Edmonds first made headlines when she claimed the FBI had information that an attack using airplanes was being planned before Sept. 11.
In Britain, members of Greenpeace disrupted a speech of Prime Minister Tony Blair’s in which he launched an energy review which could lead to new nuclear power stations. The Greenpeace activists climbed into the roof above the podium and unfurled a banner saying: “Nuclear: Wrong Answer.” They also dropped stickers onto the delegates below them.
On Monday President Bush called for a series of new border-security measures aimed at undocumented immigrants. Bush called for stronger border enforcement with high-tech detection systems, larger centers to detain those captured, swifter proceedings to deport them and increased policing of illegal immigrants in the interior. Bush also repeated his proposal for a temporary worker program. While many Republicans have criticized the proposal, Humberto Fuentes, of the Farmworker Justice Fund, praised the guest worker program. Fuentes said “It’s unrealistic to think that 8 or 10 million undocumented workers are just going to pick up and leave.” Fuentes went on to say “They made a living here, and have families and kids in school. So we need to look at a comprehensive approach, and provide a door–an opportunity to get their legal papers in order.”
This update on the CIA leak case–the Washington Post is reporting Karl Rove’s defense team is hoping the testimony of a reporter from Time Magazine might help Rove escape indictment. On Sunday Time revealed that its reporter Viveca Novak had agreed to testify about a conversation she had last year with Rove’s attorney Robert Luskin. A person familiar with the investigation told the Washington Post that Luskin cited his conversations with Novak in persuading Special Prosecutor Fitzgerald not to indict Rove in late October. So far Vice President Dick Cheney’s former chief of staff Lewis Scooter Libby is the only administration to be indicted over the outing of Valerie Plame’s identity as an undercover CIA operative.
In Haiti, at least 15 people died in the poor neighborhood of Cite Soleil on Sunday during a raid by UN troops. Cite Soleil is a stronghold for the Lavalas Party–the party of ousted president Jean Bertrand Aristide.