The CIA has declassified nearly 700 pages of documents detailing scores of operations from the 1950s to 1970s. They include the illegal wiretapping of American journalists, extensive surveillance of civil rights and antiwar groups, bugging of political conventions, performing drug tests on U.S. citizens without consent, and plotting to assassinate world leaders. In 1960, the CIA enlisted two mobsters on the FBI’s most-wanted list in an attempt to assassinate Fidel Castro.
A new poll shows support for the Iraq War has reached an all-time low of 30 percent. According to CNN, nearly two-thirds of Americans favor an immediate withdrawal. More than half say U.S. action in Iraq is not morally justified.
Meanwhile, criticism of the war is growing within Republican ranks. On Tuesday, Senator George Voinovich called on President Bush to develop a plan for an eventual U.S. withdrawal from Iraq, warning “we are running out of time.” His comments come one day after Republican Senator Richard Lugar gave an unannounced speech on the Senate floor calling for the reduction of U.S. troops in Iraq.
Republican Senator Richard Lugar: “In my judgment, the costs and risks of continuing down the current path outweigh the potential benefits that might be achieved. Persisting indefinitely with the surge strategy will delay policy adjustments that have a better chance of protecting our vital interests over the long term.”
Richard Lugar is the ranking Republican on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
In the Occupied Territories, at lest 10 Palestinians were killed in an Israeli attack on the Gaza Strip earlier today. The Israel Defense Forces say at least five of the dead were Palestinian militants. The attack comes just two days after Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert met Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in Egypt. Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh, who has not recognized his dismissal as Palestinian prime minister by Abbas last week, said Israel is trying to further divide Palestinians.
Ismail Haniyeh: “We want to alert the Palestinian and Arab leaderships to the luring policy of Olmert which aims to divide our people and cause internal problems.”
In Britain, Prime Minister Tony Blair steps down today after 10 years in office. He is to be replaced by Treasury chief Gordon Brown. Blair is expected to begin working as Middle East envoy for the Quartet of the U.S., Russia, the U.N. and the European Union.
Meanwhile, President Bush has paid tribute to his longtime ally and partner in the Iraq War. In an interview with the British newspaper The Sun, Bush said it was unfair to call Blair a U.S. “poodle,” saying: “He’s bigger than that. … Somehow our relationship has been seen as Bush saying to Blair, 'jump' and Blair saying, 'how high?.' But that’s just not the way it works. It’s a relationship where we say we’re both going to jump together.”
Two major U.S. oil firms have moved closer to ending operations in Venezuela. On Tuesday, the Venezuelan government announced ExxonMobil and ConocoPhillips have failed to meet a deadline on new terms that would see Venezuela take majority control in oil operations there. Four other companies including Chevron and BP have agreed to deals that will see Venezuela hold a minimum 60 percent stake in the projects.
Venezuelan Energy Minister Rafael Ramirez: “To the companies that have taken a stake in our country, a stake in our future: Welcome! You can count on support from the Venezuelan government, on the support of our national company Petroleos, to jointly develop the immense businesses and opportunities that we have shaped in our national design for the development of the Orinoco petrol belt.”
U.S. plans for a military command based in Africa have met a new setback. The Guardian of London reports a State Department delegation was rebuffed in several meetings with African nations earlier this month. Morocco — the Bush administration’s closest northern African ally — indicated it would reject a permanent U.S. presence on its soil. A State Department official said the U.S. has a “a big image problem [in Africa],” adding: “Public opinion is really against getting into bed with the U.S.”
On Capitol Hill, Senate Republicans have blocked a measure aimed at easing barriers for workers to join unions. The Employee Free Choice Act would stop employers from demanding secret-ballot elections and require them to recognize unions if a majority of workers consented. The House passed the bill in March. But on Tuesday, Senate Democrats failed to reach the 60 votes needed to move the measure to vote.
President Bush’s former deputy secretary of the interior, Steven Griles, has been sentenced to 10 months in prison. Griles pleaded guilty earlier this year to lying about his relationship with Republican lobbyist Jack Abramoff. Griles is the highest-ranking Bush administration official convicted in the Abramoff lobbying scandal. Abramoff’s clients paid more than $500,000 to a nonprofit environmental group run by Griles’ girlfriend, who was a former aide to then-Secretary of the Interior Gale Norton.