President Bush has nominated four star general Michael Hayden today to become the new director of the CIA to replace Porter Goss who abruptly resigned on Friday afternoon. Hayden was the director of the National Security Agency in 2001 when President Bush ordered the NSA to begin conducting domestic surveillance without the court warrants required by law.
Numerous lawmakers have already expressed concern over Hayden’s nomination because of his close ties to the military.
House Minority Leader, Nancy Pelosi also questioned President Bush’s nominee.
Questions still remain over why Porter Goss resigned from the CIA. Neither Goss nor President Bush have publicly given any reason for the resignation. On Saturday Goss told CNN his departure is “just one of those mysteries.”
Goss quit just days after it was revealed that one of his top appointees within the agency was under a federal criminal investigation. The official, Kyle “Dusty” Foggo, has been linked to a defense contractor bribery scandal that has already sent former Republican Congressman Duke Cunningham to jail. It has been alleged that a defense contractor named Brent Wilkes bribed Cunningham and other lawmakers with prostitutes, limousines rides and free rooms at the Watergate and Grand Westin Hotels.
In Iraq, at least 80 people have died since Saturday. A series of car bombings in Baghdad and Karbala killed 30 people on Sunday. Another 51 bodies were found in the capital. All of the dead were handcuffed, blindfolded and shot in the head and abdomen.
Meanwhile in Basra, a British Army helicopter was shot down killing up to five soldiers. After the helicopter crashed, a crowd of over 300 Iraqis celebrated at the crash scene. Iraqi police said five Iraqis including a child were killed after British forces opened fire on the crowd which had been hurling stones and Molotov cocktails at the soldiers. The fighting marked the most intense anti-British riots in Basra since August of 2003.
In other news from Iraq, the Los Angeles Times, reports at least 4,100 civilians were killed in Baghdad during the first three months of the year. Many of the dead were found hogtied and shot execution-style. Many bore signs of torture such as bruises, drill holes, burn marks, gouged eyes or severed limbs. Execution-style killings are now claiming nine times more lives than car bombings.
In Britain, Prime Minister Tony Blair has demoted Foreign Secretary Jack Straw shortly after he spoke out against a possible U.S.-led attack on Iran. Straw had described such an attack as “nuts.” Several reports in the British press allege the White House pressured Blair to get rid of Straw. Straw was sacked just days after Blair’s Labour Party recorded its worst defeats in local elections since coming to power in 1997.
This news out of Iran — for the first time in 27 years an Iranian head of state is reaching out to an American president to discuss U.S.-Iranian relations. The Iranian government announced today that president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has sent a letter to President Bush via the Swiss Embassy in Tehran. The Iranian government did not release the text of the letter but said Ahmadinejad discussed “new solutions for getting out of international problems and the current fragile situation of the world.” Iran sent the letter as the U.S. is pushing the U.N. Security Council to censure Iran for refusing to cease enrichment of uranium. John Bolton, the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, warned he would push through a resolution even if it is not supported by China or Russia. “We are still working and we again, the five permanent members to achieve unanimity. Let’s be clear that if a permanent members abstains and we have a nine vote majority, the resolution will be adopted,” Bolton said. “We are not prepared to extend these negotiations. We are working real hard to achieve permanent five unanimity but we are prepared to go for a vote with out it.”
In Sudan, a peace deal has been signed between the Sudanese government and the Sudan Liberation Army. Two smaller opposition groups refused to sign the deal which was brokered by the African Union. Over the past three years, fighting has killed at least 180,000 people and forced 2 million people from their homes. “I welcome the agreement signed between the government of Sudan and the main rebel group at the inter-Sudanese talks in Abuja,” said UN Secretary General Kofi Annan. “I urge the other two parties to seize this historic moment and sign the agreement that will bring this tragic chapter In the history of Sudan to an end.”
A British aid organization is warning girls as young as eight years old are being sexually exploited in Liberia by humanitarian workers and peacekeeping troops stationed at refugee camps. According to the group Save the Children, the aid workers are forcing the girls to have sex in exchange for food, money and clothing.
At the United Nations, the Bush administration is being forced to defend its treatment of detainees captured in the so-called war on terror. On Friday the U.N. Committee Against Torture began reviewing U.S. compliance with international treaties barring torture. The panel raised questions about abuse inside Iraqi prisons, extraordinary renditions and the CIA’s secret overseas jails. A representative from China asked “Where would you put such methods as interrogation by mock drownings — as torture or as other forms of cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment?” State Department legal adviser John Bellinger denied the U.S. is torturing prisoners in Iraq, Afghanistan or at Guantánamo Bay.
John Bellinger: “At the outset I want to reiterate the United States government’s absolute commitment to upholding our national and international obligations to irradiate torture and to prevent cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment or punishment worldwide. The President of the Unites States has made clear that quote “torture anywhere is an affront to human dignity everywhere,” end quote. And quote ” and freedom from torture is an inalienable right.”
The State Department’s John Bellinger also described many of the allegations of abuse at the hands of U.S. forces as absurd.
John Bellinger: “While I am acutely aware of the innumerable allegations that have appeared in the press and other forums about various U.S. actions, I would ask you not to believe every allegation that you have heard. Allegations about U.S. military or intelligence activities have become so hyperbolic as to be absurd. Critics will accept virtually any speculation and rumour in circulation as fact. The U.S. government has tried to address as many of these allegations as quickly and as fully as possible.”
Meanwhile the U.S. has released five Chinese Muslim men from Guantanamo — more than two years after the Pentagon determined they had no ties to terrorists. The Bush administration said the men could not be sent back to China out of fear they would be persecuted. Last week Albania agreed to take the men. On Thursday lawyers made public a letter one of the men wrote to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice in January. The man identified as Ahmed Doe wrote, '’It is very hard to understand that I am still languishing in a prison with very little rights even after being found innocent. He went to write, “It is beyond my reasoning … that a nation like the United States that has an agenda to promote and protect democratic rights of the oppressed people would treat anyone the way that I have been treated.'’
And President Bush has told a German television station that he would like to see Guantanamo Bay closed if the Supreme Court allows suspects to be tried by military tribunals.
Meanwhile in another interview with the German press, President Bush was questioned about the high point of his presidency. Bush said “I would say the best moment of all was when I caught a 7.5 pound perch in my lake.”
In Virginia, an exonerated death row prisoner who came within nine days of being executed has been awarded $2.25 million. A jury determined the man, Earl Washington, was put on death row because a police officer deliberately falsified evidence. Washington’s lawyers say this marks the largest award in a federal civil rights case in Virginia history. Washington spent nine years on death row before his sentence was commuted.
And in Afghanistan, 10 U.S. soldiers have died after their helicopter crashed. All of the soldiers were based at Fort Drum, New York.
In Greece, tens of thousands of protesters marched in Athens on Saturday to condemn the Iraq invasion and a possible U.S. attack on Iran. According to press account, one small group of protesters fired petrol bombs and stones at police outside the U.S. embassy. Riot police responded with tear gas.