The Pentagon has concluded in a new report that none of the dozens of cases of abuse and torture of detainees in Iraq, Afghanistan or Guantanamo Bay were the result of official Pentagon policy. To date no high-ranking Pentagon official has faced charges in connection to the abuse and torture of detainees overseas. And the report, which is to be released today, suggests that no top officials should be held accountable. The authors of the report said they had found “no evidence to support the notion that the office of the Secretary of Defense, the National Security staff, Centcom or any other organization applied explicit pressure for intelligence — or gave 'back-channel' permission to forces in the field — to use more aggressive interrogation techniques.” According to the New York Times, the report also found that early warning signs of serious abuses did not receive enough high-level attention as the abuses unfolded, and that unit commanders did not get clear instructions that might have halted the problem. Human Rights Watch Director Kenneth Roth again criticized the role of the Pentagon leadership in the abuse scandal. He said, “These practices are not just the product of a few bad apples … but very much the product of policy decisions taken at the most senior levels of government.”
On Wednesday Human Rights Watch urged the United Nations Commission on Human Rights to condemn Washington for the “systematic use of torture and mistreatment” of detainees overseas.
The Guardian of London is reporting the U.S. military is planning to hand over authority of the Abu Ghraib prison and other jails in Iraq to the new Iraqi government. The U.S. is now imprisoning more than 10,000 Iraqis–the highest count since the war began two years ago.
Gunmen shot dead the head of a police station in Baghdad earlier today as well as two others in a drive-by-shooting. Meanwhile US authorities have revealed that the massive suicide truck bomb in Baghdad that killed three people Wednesday also injured 30 U.S. private contractors. The blast occurred outside a hotel used by the contractors. Al-Qaida claimed responsibility for the attack.
Meanwhile a former Marine is claiming the U.S. fabricated how Saddam Hussein was captured and that Iraq’s former leader was actually found in a village home not a hole as depicted by the U.S. military Sgt. Nadim Abou Rabeh has told a Saudi newspaper that he participated in the capture which took place in a small village near Saddam’s hometown of Tikrit after an intense firefight. Rabeh claims a US military production team fabricated the film of Saddam’s capture in a hole and staged it in a deserted well. Rabeh also claims the capture took place on Dec. 12 — one day earlier than the military claimed.
In Lebanon, the country’s president has reappointed pro-Syrian Prime Minister Omar Karami, 10 days after Karami resigned amid a storm of anti-Syrian protests. President Emile Lahoud asked the Sunni Muslim politician to form a national unity government after the parliament nominated him for the post on Wednesday. It remains unclear if any of the opposition candidates calling for Syria’s complete withdrawal from Lebanon will join the new government.
In Guatemala, police fired tear gas and water cannons at hundreds of demonstrators who battled with police in the capital city during protests against a new free-trade agreement with the United States. The demonstrators have successfully delayed the country’s Congress from voting on the pact for the past two days. But the army has threatened to send in 500 troops to stop the mass demonstrations. On Tuesday protesters managed to block some lawmakers from even reaching the Legislative Palace. On Wednesday, the vote was postponed a second time. The trade agreement commonly called CAFTA stands for the Central American Free Trade Agreement. Last May the United States signed the agreement with Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, and Costa Rica. Opponents of the treaty say it will hurt local farmers and workers and could lead to the privatization of public services.
In news from Israel, an official government report has revealed that the Israeli government has been actively and secretly conniving with Jewish settlers in the occupied West Bank to construct more than 100 settlements in direct violation of domestic and international law. The Independent of London describes the report–which was sanctioned by Prime Minister Ariel Sharon–as the most authoritative and comprehensive indictment yet of how the government helped fund and build illegal settlements on land seized from Palestinians in 1967.
In news from Washington. the Bush administration has withdrawn from part of the Vienna Convention on Consular Rights to protect foreigners arrested abroad. This according to a report in The Washington Post. The United States proposed the protocol 40 years ago to protect American citizens abroad and became the first country to invoke it during the 1979 US hostage crisis in Tehran. But lately the Vienna Convention has been increasingly used by foreign governments and US opponents of capital punishment to complain before the International Court of Justice when their citizens are sentenced to death by US courts. Last year the World Court ruled the U.S. had violated international agreements after 49 Mexican nationals were sentenced to death without being given access to the Mexican embassy. Last week Bush surprised attorneys for the death row prisoners by ordering new hearings for all of the Mexicans.
A new secret FBI report obtained by ABC News has questioned the capability of Al Qaeda to strike inside the United States. The FBI concluded the Al Qaeda has tried to recruit members to form sleeper cells but the U.S. has never actually found any true “sleeper” cells insider the country.
In business news, the data management company Lexis Nexis has admitted that hackers accessed one of the company’s databases and gained access to the personal files of as many as 32,000. LexisNexis collects detailed personal information on almost everyone in the country. The information compromised included names, addresses, Social Security and driver’s license numbers. The company also collects credit history, medical records and other financial information but claims this information was not accessed. Last month another data collection company ChoicePoint accidentally sold the personal information of as many as 145,000 Americans to fraudsters engaged in an identity theft scheme.
In other news, after 24 years Dan Rather signed off Wednesday night as the anchor of CBS News. The network has named Bob Schieffer to serve as his interim replacement. Schieffer is the host of Face the Nation and the network’s chief Washington Correspondent. Questions have arisen over Schieffer’s personal ties to the Bush administration. Schieffer’s younger brother, Tom, is U.S. ambassador to Australia and Bush recently nominated him to serve as ambassador to Japan. Tom Schieffer and the future president served as partners of the Texas Rangers baseball team in the early 1990s. During that time Bob Schieffer became friends with the future president and attended dozens of baseball games with him.
And in New York, three students at City College were arrested Wednesday during a protest against military recruiters on campus. The arrests occurred after the students began chanting anti-war slogans in front of a National Guard recruitment table at a job fair. The students were arrested when they refused to leave the building. Two of the students were charged with the felony of assaulting a police officer.