Antiwar momentum gathered steam on Capitol Hill Tuesday with new resolutions and testimony challenging the Bush administration’s plans for Iraq. Appearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee, former Bush administration counsel Bradford Berenson said the Constitution gives Congress “broad authority” to end the war. Three other constitutional experts gave backing testimony. Republican Senator Arlen Specter challenged President Bush’s recent vow to send more troops to Iraq regardless of what happens in Congress.
Sen. Arlen Specter: “I would suggest respectfully to the president that he is not the sole decider, that the decider is a shared and joint responsibility.”
The Senate is expected to take up a nonbinding resolution against the White House’s handling of the Iraq War later today. Meanwhile, Senator Russ Feingold said he would introduce a measure barring funding for the war over a six-month period.
Sen. Russ Feingold: “This hearing has shown that this legislation is fully consistent with the Constitution of the United States. Congress should enact it, and soon.”
Other measures continue to arise. On Tuesday, Democratic Senator Barack Obama introduced a bill calling for the withdrawal of all U.S. troops by April of next year.
Meanwhile, Congressmember John Murtha announced he plans to hold hearings on the use of military contractors in Iraq.
Rep. John Murtha: “Well, we’re going to have extensive hearings to find out exactly what’s going on with contractors. I hear estimates of a hundred thousand. But the worst thing is they don’t know, they don’t have a clear mission, and they’re falling all over each other.”
Capitol Hill was also the site of more protest. Activists with the group CodePink occupied the office of New York Senator Hillary Clinton calling on the presidential hopeful to oppose the Iraq War. One banner said: “We want a woman for peace, not just a woman.” Six people were arrested.
In news from Iraq, there are new doubts about the U.S. and Iraqi claim hundreds of people killed in a battle in Najaf were members of a messianic cult. London Independent correspondent Patrick Cockburn reports the official story could actually be covering up for a massacre. The Iraqi government says it battled members of the “Soldiers of Heaven” who were planning to disrupt the Shiite holy festival of Ashura. But independent reports indicate the fighting actually centered around an entirely different tribe called the Hawatim. According to these accounts, the Hawatim were on their way to the celebrations in Najaf when Iraqi soldiers opened fire, killing their chief, his wife and their driver. The tribesmen are said to have responded by attacking the Iraqi military checkpoint. Two U.S. soldiers died after their helicopter was struck as it backed the Iraqi forces. The new account has not been verified, as Iraqi authorities have barred reporters from speaking to survivors.
In Germany, prosecutors have issued arrest warrants for 13 CIA operatives linked to the kidnapping and torture of the German citizen Khalid El-Masri. Masri was seized along the Serbian-Macedonian border and flown to Afghanistan, where he was tortured inside a secret prison. He was released without charge after five months. Masri tried to sue the CIA in federal court, but his case was dismissed on grounds a trial could harm national security. The news comes as an Italian court is considering whether to try two dozen U.S. agents over the kidnapping of the Egyptian cleric Abu Omar.
In Cuba, new video has appeared of Fidel Castro for the first time in three months. Castro is seen meeting with Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez on Monday. Castro temporarily stepped down last July to recover from an unspecified intestinal condition.
Back in Washington, Chavez has come under new criticism from National Intelligence Director John Negroponte. On Tuesday, Negroponte said Chavez is a threat to democracy who exports “radical populism.” Negroponte was speaking before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, which is considering his nomination to become deputy secretary of state.
The Bush administration is facing new accusations of suppressing information about global warming. On Tuesday, NASA climatologist Drew Shindell told the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee his reports on climate change were delayed, edited and watered down by White House appointees who were said to have vetted all climate-related material.
In other environmental news, Greenpeace is calling for a higher reduction of carbon dioxide emissions than mandated under the Kyoto Protocol. On Tuesday, Greenpeace released a report calling for a reduction of nearly 50 percent over the next half-century. Greenpeace climate and energy policy adviser Steve Sawyer warned of drastic consequences if the world’s temperature rises by even a few degrees.
Steve Sawyer: “My country, where I live in, Holland, will effectively disappear. The World Trade Center memorial will be underwater, and the coast lines of the continents as we know them will have completely changed beyond all recognition, and we’ll be looking at hundreds of hundreds of millions of people with no place to live.”
The U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change is planning to release a report Friday saying there is at least a 90 percent chance human activities are the main cause of climate change. The same scientists listed a 66 percent probability six years ago.
In domestic surveillance news, the FBI appears to have adopted an invasive Internet surveillance technique that collects far more data on innocent Americans than previously disclosed. CNET News reports that instead of recording only what a particular suspect is doing, agents conducting investigations appear to be assembling data on thousands of Internet users at a time into massive databases. Those databases can then be mined for names, email addresses or keywords.
A federal appeals court has re-instated a key charge in the government’s terrorism case against Jose Padilla. On Tuesday, the court overturned an earlier ruling Padilla was facing extra punishment for being charged more than once over the same act. The re-instated charge is the only one that could sentence Padilla to life in prison. Padilla was initially accused of being an “enemy combatant,” but he’s now being held on less serious charges.
Back in Washington, former New York Times reporter Judith Miller testified Tuesday in the perjury and obstruction trial of Vice President Dick Cheney’s former chief of staff, Lewis “Scooter” Libby. Miller became the sixth witness to reveal Libby talked about former CIA operative Valerie Plame earlier than he has claimed. Miller spent nearly three months in jail in 2005 for refusing to reveal her confidential source in her coverage of the case. The source turned out to be Libby.
In Florida, police in Tampa are facing a major controversy for jailing a female college student after she reported she was raped. The unidentified woman was kept behind bars for two days. She was also denied a second dose of the morning-after contraceptive pill because of a prison worker’s religious beliefs. Police say they made the arrest after discovering a four-year-old warrant stemming from a burglary arrest when the woman was a juvenile. The warrant was discovered as police were accompanying the woman to the crime scene. They immediately stopped the investigation and put her in handcuffs.
And a federal jury has ruled police in Seattle violated the constitutional rights of nearly 200 protesters during the 1999 protests against the World Trade Organization. The protesters were arrested after gathering at a public park. The jury ruled the police violated the protesters’ Fourth Amendment rights against unreasonable search and seizure. City officials say they plan to appeal.