The Bush administration is vowing to veto a Democratic proposal that would withdraw U.S. combat troops from Iraq in 2008. Democrats announced the plan Thursday after weeks of negotiation. The Senate version would have combat troops gone by March of next year. The House version would set the timetable at no later than August 2008. The withdrawal would come earlier if security goals aren’t reached. White House counselor Dan Bartlett says the proposal is a “non-starter” and will be vetoed if it passes Congress. Antiwar Democrats have also come out against the plan. New York Congressmember Jerrold Nadler, a member of the Out of Iraq Caucus, said: “All this bill will do is fund another year of the war, and I can’t vote for that.”
Meanwhile in Iraq, top U.S. commander General David Petraeus said he could not rule out the possibility of requesting more troops.
General David Petraeus: “Right now, we do not see other requests (for troops) looming out there. That’s not to say that some emerging mission or emerging task will not require that. And if it does, then of course we will ask for that.”
General Petraeus went on to say there is no pure military solution to the Iraq War and that the U.S. will eventually be forced to negotiate with Iraqi militant groups.
A Justice Department audit has found numerous errors and possible breaches of the law in how the FBI uses its powers to access the personal information of U.S. citizens. The FBI can obtain telephone, email and financial records by issuing “national security letters” under the USA PATRIOT Act. Twenty-two possible breaches of internal FBI and government regulations were found out of a sampling of just 300 cases. Close to 20,000 national security letters were issued last year.
In Brazil, an estimated 30,000 people took to the streets of Sao Paulo Thursday as President Bush landed for the first stop of his Latin America tour. Demonstrators marched through the downtown core chanting slogans including “Out with Bush!” and “No to War!” Thousands more turned out for protests in other cities and towns across Brazil. Bush meets with Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva later today before going on to Uruguay, Colombia, Guatemala and Mexico.
The International Atomic Energy Agency has approved a measure to restrict technical aid to Iran. The IAEA declared Iran in violation of a deadline to stop uranium enrichment last month. Iranian Ambassador Ali Asghar Soltanieh rejected the decision.
Iranian Ambassador Ali Asghar Soltanieh: “They (aid cuts) would have no effect on our nuclear enrichment program because none of them have been on the issue of nuclear enrichment and even the rest of the projects are not related to the enrichment. Therefore, the enrichment program has been indigenous and independent. Nobody, not even the IAEA, has cooperated or worked with us, and therefore this project will continue as planned, under the supervision of the IAEA.”
In Israel, a leading human rights group is accusing the Israeli military of renewing its practice of using Palestinian civilians as “human shields” in the Occupied Territories. B’Tselem says Israeli soldiers used at least three Palestinians to raid homes in Nablus, including an 11-year-old girl.
Back in the United States, the Bush administration has agreed to back down on a Democratic challenge to a provision in the USA PATRIOT Act that allows the U.S. attorney general to replace prosecutors without Senate confirmation. Democrats have vowed to repeal the provision following the controversy over the firings of eight U.S. attorneys. On Thursday, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales told members of the Senate Judiciary Committee President Bush would not intervene if Congress passes a reversal. The announcement comes as the administration continues to take heavy criticism over its handling of the controversy. In a reference to Gonzales, Senator Arlen Specter, the top Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee, said: “One day there will be a new attorney general, maybe sooner rather than later.”
Former Republican House Speaker Newt Gingrich has admitted to having an extramarital affair at the same time he led efforts to impeach former President Bill Clinton over the Monica Lewinsky scandal. Gingrich made the admission in an interview with the Christian group Focus on the Family. Gingrich says he is still considering seeking the Republican presidential nomination.
Two leaders of a mosque in Albany, New York, have been sentenced to 15 years in prison in a case that raised major questions over the conduct of government officials. The men, Yassin Aref and Mohammed Hossain, were convicted of aiding a government informant in a fictional plot to assassinate a Pakistani diplomat. Defense lawyers say the FBI used entrapment on two men who had no prior criminal history. The case has also drawn scrutiny for coming out of the Bush administration’s warrantless spy program. At his sentencing, Yassin Aref said: “I never had any intention to harm anyone in this country. And I don’t know why I’m guilty.”
And the state of Massachusetts is urging the federal government to stop transferring jailed immigrant workers out of state until their children are found and cared for. Around 100 young children were left without parents this week following a massive raid on a factory employing undocumented workers. More than 300 people were detained, most of them women. Close to half have already been flown to a detention center in Texas, where they await possible deportation. In one case, a mother was detained despite having her seven-month-old infant hospitalized for dehydration. The mother was finally released last night.