The Washington Post is reporting Attorney General Alberto Gonzales assured Congress the FBI respected privacy rights despite receiving reports that violations had in fact occurred. Gonzales’ comments came in April 2005 as he sought congressional renewal of broad law enforcement powers under the PATRIOT Act. At the time, he told Congress: “There has not been one verified case of civil liberties abuse.” But internal FBI documents show Gonzales received at least half a dozen reports contradicting that claim in the three months before. The violations included unauthorized surveillance and illegal property search.
President Bush has invoked executive privilege to block the testimony of two former aides and deny Congress key documents in its probe into the firing of nine U.S. attorneys. Monday morning was the deadline for the White House to explain its refusal to comply. In a letter to the House and Senate Judiciary Committees, White House Counsel Fred Fielding said former Karl Rove aide Sara Taylor and former White House counsel Harriet Miers were covered under Bush’s executive privilege.
The Iraqi government is warning of a massive build-up of Turkish troops along the northern Iraqi border. Turkey has accused Iraq’s northern Kurdish region of harboring Kurdish militants responsible for cross-border attacks.
Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari: “There’s a huge build-up, in our view, our intelligence assessment, levels up to 140,000 troops. They have been there for quite some time. We are trying to defuse the situation to work closely with the Turkish government, and we believe the best way is to revive working group, or the security working group that is made up of the United States, Iraq and Turkey.”
In other Iraq news, reports of deadly U.S. attacks on Iraqi civilians continue to emerge by the day. On Monday, dozens gathered at a mosque in Baquba to mourn eight family members killed in a U.S. bombing.
Baquba resident Sami Yassin Lateef: “Members of my family have been killed by a U.S. airstrike. They were eight members: my parents, two brothers, three kids and my wife. They have been buried here in a mosque in al-Mualemeen area.”
On Capitol Hill, the Senate is expected to take up several Democratic amendments to a military spending bill challenging the Bush administration on Iraq. One measure would call for a U.S. troop withdrawal within the next three months. The debate comes as an increasing number of Republicans have voiced doubts about the administration’s Iraq strategy. On Monday, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid urged them to turn words into action.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid: “For those Senate Republicans who have been saying the right things, they must put their talk into action by voting with us to responsibly end this war.”
The administration is expected to inform Congress in a mandatory report the Iraqi government has failed to meet any of its U.S.-ordered political or economic goals. Ongoing chaos on the ground and Republican defections at home have fueled reports the administration would announce an early withdrawal. But White House Press Secretary Tony Snow insisted U.S. troops are in Iraq to stay.
White House Press Secretary Tony Snow: “There is no intensifying discussion about removing troops. What there is, is — what we are talking about is a surge that just got complete, in terms of troop elements, two weeks ago.”
Meanwhile, the top commander of U.S. troops in Iraq, General David Petraeus, has warned the U.S. occupation could last for years. In an interview with the BBC, Petraeus said: “I don’t know whether this will be decades, but the average counter insurgency is somewhere around a nine- or a 10-year endeavor.”
A new poll from Gallup and USA Today shows more than seven out of 10 Americans want a full U.S. withdrawal by April of next year.
President Bush’s approval rating has also fallen to a record low of 29 percent.
Meanwhile, a new congressional estimate says the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are now costing around $12 billion a month. Congress has spent $450 billion on the Iraq War alone.
Pakistani troops have stormed a mosque in Islamabad where a hard-line rebel cleric has led a standoff for the past week. Initial reports say about 50 militants and eight soldiers were killed. Up to 500 students, including women and children, are said to be trapped inside. Distraught parents have gathered near the mosque amidst the loud sounds of gunfire from inside the compound. Critics have faulted the Pakistani government for abandoning talks with the clerics. But military spokesperson Major-General Waheed Arshad said the raid would continue.
Major-General Waheed Arshad: “It is going to take some more time. Obviously it has not ended, and the end of the operation does not mean that fighting has solved and the operation is finished. Until the whole complex is cleared fully and it is sanitized, only then we term it as the operation has ended. So this will continue.”
The International Atomic Energy Agency has agreed to send monitors to verify North Korea’s shutdown of its nuclear program. The visit will be the first since monitors were expelled in 2002 after the Bush administration accused North Korea of secretly pursuing nuclear activities.
Meanwhile, the IAEA has also announced it’s sending a team to continue talks with Iran. IAEA Director Mohamed ElBaradei said Iran is showing signs of “slowing down” nuclear efforts, but cautioned more monitoring is needed.
IAEA Director Mohamed ElBaradei: “We will continue to report on this. This is obviously a decision Iran has to make: They can accelerate the process, they can slow down the process. My hope, my trust, is that at this stage, at this delicate stage, ideally they will even freeze what they have at the present stage.
In Afghanistan, at least 17 civilians have been killed in a suicide bombing in Uruzgan province. The attack targeted a NATO patrol in a crowded marketplace. At least 30 people were wounded, including seven NATO troops.
In Detroit, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People held a mock funeral Monday to mark the symbolic burial of the N-word. Hundreds of people turned out for the event.
NAACP Chair Julian Bond: “I think the Don Imus controversy gave all of us a heightened awareness of how harmful the spoken word can be. And while we are great respecters of the First Amendment — had there not been a First Amendment, this organization would not exist — but we don’t believe it’s a violation of the First Amendment to say to somebody, 'You ought not to talk that way. You ought not denigrate women. You ought not condemn people because of the color of their skin.' So this, we hope, is sending a message to the country, in particular the world, that there are certain words that ought not be spoken.”
The event took place as part of the NAACP’s 98th annual convention.
And finally, in military news, the U.S. Army has announced it’s failed to meet recruiting goals for the second straight month. A Pentagon official said the military was more than 1,000 recruits short of meeting its goal for June.