New York Times reporter Judith Miller was released from prison on Thursday after agreeing to testify before a grand jury investigating who in the Bush administration leaked the identity of covert CIA operative Valerie Plame. Miller said in a statement issued by the newspaper she was freed after her source “voluntarily and personally released me from my promise of confidentiality regarding our conversations.” The Times identified that source as Vice President Dick Cheney’s chief of staff, Lewis “Scooter” Libby. Miller agreed to appear on Friday before the grand jury in the case. The Times says Miller met with Libby on July 8, 2003 and talked with him by telephone later that week. Miller was in jail 3 months.
Meanwhile, a coalition of 120 liberal and progressive groups calling themselves VelvetRevolution.us has launched what they call the “Government Accountability Reward Fund,” a $100,000 prize for information leading to the arrest and conviction of “high government officials” in the outing of CIA operative Valerie Plame. They are also offering the reward for arrest and convictions over alleged fraud in the 2004 Ohio presidential election, and bribes allegedly given to Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert, as reported in Vanity Fair.
Judge John Roberts became the youngest US chief justice in two centuries after being sworn in on Thursday. Earlier, he easily won confirmation by a more than three-fourths majority in the Senate. Here is John Roberts: “Thank you, Mr.President, for nominating me. There is no way to repay the confidence you have shown in me, other than to do the best job I possibly can do, and I will try to do that every day. ” The 50 year old conservative protegee of the late William Rehnquist becomes the 17th chief justice, presiding over a Supreme Court that faces key decisions on abortion and other critical issues. The court opens a new term on Monday. Now the focus shifts to President Bush’s second Supreme Court nomination, which he is expected to make within days.
A Texas judge on Thursday ordered former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay to appear in court next month to face the charge that he conspired to funnel corporate money to state political campaigns. The summons calls for DeLay to appear in the court in Austin on Oct. 21. A grand jury indicted DeLay and reindicted two of his associates Wednesday in an investigation of a political fundraising group DeLay founded, Texans for a Republican Majority. DeLay’s lawyers have been scrambling behind the scenes to prevent Delay from being handcuffed, photographed and fingerprinted when he appears in Austin.
In international news, Venezuela’s President Hugo Chavez is striking back at the US following a judge’s refusal to hand-over Cuban-born militant and former CIA operative Luis Posada Carriles to Venezuela. The judge said he would not send Posada to either Venezuela or Cuba, saying he could face torture in either country. Caracas has officially requested that Posada be extradited to face charges over the bombing of a Cuban civilian airplane in a 1976 bombing that killed 73 people. As President Chavez arrived at the airport in Brazil for a regional summit, he blasted the U.S.: “They protect him (Luis Posada Carriles) and besides allege, in a cynical way, that they’re protecting him against Venezuela because Venezuela is going to torture him. That’s to say, the government of the United States is protecting the number one torturer in the history of Latin America, the Bin Laden of Latin America. It’s a cynical and sham government, whose mask falls more everyday and it’s left in front of the world with its Dracula molars full of blood.”
A federal judge ruled Thursday that graphic pictures of prisoner abuse at Iraq’s Abu Ghraib prison must be released, despite government claims that they could damage the US image. Last year a Republican senator conceded that they contained scenes of “rape and murder” and Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld said they included acts that were “blatantly sadistic.” The ACLU and Center for Constitutional Rights sought the release of 87 photographs and four videotapes taken at the prison as part of the ongoing lawsuits over Abu Ghraib. The government is being given 20 days to appeal the decision. Last year, after viewing a large cache of unreleased images, Rumsfeld said “If these are released to the public, obviously it’s going to make matters worse.”
Now to the ongoing crisis in New Orleans. NBC News is reporting on documents it has obtained that show that the US Army Corp of Engineers was warned in the late 1990s that there were major construction problems with the 17th Street Canal but that those warnings were ignored and construction moved forward. The breaking of that levee a month ago led to much of the flooding in New Orleans. A 1998 ruling, by an administrative judge for the Corps’ Board of Contract Appeals, shows that the contractor, Pittman Construction, told the Corps that the soil and the foundation for the walls were “not of sufficient strength, rigidity and stability” to build on.
Meanwhile, the New Orleans police department says it is investigating a dozen officers in connection with looting during Hurricane Katrina. News reports in the aftermath of the storm put officers at the scene of some of the heaviest looting, at the Wal-Mart in the Lower Garden District. Some witnesses, including a Times-Picayune reporter, said police were taking items from shelves. The acting Police Superintendent Warren Riley said at a news conference that incidents in which officers took Cadillacs from a dealer’s lot were not looting because the officers patrolled in the cars. This comes as reports are emerging about the systematic exaggeration by the authorities of rapes, murders and other violent crimes allegedly committed by civilians.
Ronald Reagan’s former Education Secretary and prominent Republican pundit Bill Bennett is under fire for racist comments he made on his radio program. A caller to Bennett’s September 28 radio show suggested that the Social Security system would have money to spare if abortion was outlawed in the US. Bennet responded, saying he didn’t believe in what he called such “far-reaching, extensive extrapolations.” Then came Bill Bennett’s next comment: “I do know that it’s true that if you wanted to reduce crime, you could — if that were your sole purpose, you could abort every black baby in this country, and your crime rate would go down. That would be an impossible, ridiculous, and morally reprehensible thing to do, but your crime rate would go down.” Former Education Secretary and prominent Republican pundit Bill Bennett. Thanks to MediaMatters for that clip.
A new study shows that six in 10 women who have served in the National Guard and Reserves said they were sexually harassed or assaulted. The study says that less than a quarter reported it and many who did were encouraged to drop the complaint. The survey, done by the Department of Veterans Affairs, found that nearly half of the women who responded said the sexual assaults occurred while they were on duty.
A Pentagon analyst charged with providing classified information to an Israeli official and members of a pro-Israeli lobbying group will plead guilty to one or more charges. This according to the federal court hearing the case. There were no further details released. The analyst, Larry Franklin was one of the Pentagon’s policy experts on Iran and the Middle East. He was indicted in June on charges of disclosing national defense information to people not entitled to receive it, including two members of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee. The indictment also alleges he leaked top secret information about two unidentified Middle Eastern officials to the media.
A Belgian judge has issued an international arrest warrant charging Chad’s former dictator Hissène Habré with atrocities during his rule from 1982-90 . Habré is known as the “African Pinochet.” He lives in exile in Senegal, where he was indicted five years ago before courts ruled that he could not be tried there. Belgium is now formally seeking Habré’s extradition from Senegal to stand trial. Human Rights Watch says the warrant marks a turning point in the case, calling it “reminiscent of Spain’s arrest warrant for Gen. Augusto Pinochet of Chile. ”
The United Nations reports the government of Burma continues to imprison more than 1,100 (eleven hundred) political prisoners, including Nobel peace laureate and pro-democracy leader, Aung San Suu Kyi. A report delivered by a UN human rights envoy to the General Assembly documented forced labor, sexual violence, extortion and expropriation committed by troops in the ruling military junta. Meanwhile, outside the United Nations several Burmese pro-democracy activists have entered the thirteen day of a hunger strike. This is Burmese refugee, Han Lin: “It is time that the United Nations to take effective action against the Burmese brutal military regime. It is time. We Burmese people cannot be suffering anymore because the real situation in Burma gets worse.”