A new Senate investigation has confirmed the Pentagon sought the help of military psychologists as early as 2002 to devise aggressive interrogation methods that are considered torture by many legal and human rights groups. According to the Senate report, the Pentagon’s then-general counsel William Haynes sent a memo in June 2002 inquiring about a military program known as SERE — “Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape.” The program was originally designed to train Army soldiers how to survive enemy interrogations, but the US military reverse-engineered the program and used it on prisoners held overseas. Haynes is scheduled to testify today before the Senate Armed Services Committee.
Meanwhile, a major investigation by the McClatchy newspapers has concluded the US has wrongfully imprisoned perhaps hundreds of men in overseas prisons, including Guantanamo, on the basis of flimsy or fabricated evidence, old personal scores or bounty payments. McClatchy interviewed sixty-six former prisoners. About half had no ties to militant groups or activities. Only seven had connections to the leadership of al-Qaeda.
In California, dozens of gay and lesbian couples were married Monday night as the state performed its first legally recognized same-sex weddings. California is the second state, after Massachusetts, to marry same-sex couples, but it is the first ready to grant licenses to couples from any state.
Former Vice President Al Gore has endorsed Senator Barack Obama for president. Gore spoke at an Obama campaign rally in Detroit on Monday.
Al Gore: “After eight years of lost jobs and lower wages, we need change. After eight years of incompetence, neglect and failure, we need change. After eight years in which our Constitution has been dishonored and disrespected, we need change. After eight years of the worst, most serious foreign policy mistakes in the entire history of our nation, we need change.”
Barack Obama praised Gore for his years of public service.
Sen. Barack Obama: “I want to thank, most of all, Al Gore. I want to thank him for his support. I want to thank you for your service. I want to thank Al Gore for everything that he is doing to ensure that we leave a planet that is better for our children.”
In other campaign news, Obama has hired Senator Hillary Clinton’s former campaign manager Patti Solis Doyle to be chief of staff of Obama’s future running mate. Many Clinton supporters view the decision as proof that Obama will not pick Clinton as his vice president. Clinton ousted Doyle as her campaign manager in February, and the two are said to be barely on speaking terms.
Meanwhile, the presumptive Republican nominee, John McCain, has called for the lifting of a federal ban on offshore oil drilling. McCain said such a move is needed to help the country become more energy independent. McCain’s call is expected to be controversial even within his own party. The Republican governors of California and Florida, Arnold Schwarzenegger and Charlie Crist, both oppose drilling off their states’ coastlines.
In Afghanistan, Taliban fighters have seized control of seven villages near Kandahar, Afghanistan’s second largest city. The Taliban offensive comes just days after militants blew up a prison in Kandahar, allowing over 1,000 prisoners to escape.
Amnesty International is accusing the United States and other nations of evading its responsibility toward Iraqi refugees by promoting a false picture of the security situation in Iraq. Amnesty’s Sarnata Reynolds said, “While the US government’s rhetoric indicates otherwise, the human rights situation in Iraq remains too dire to encourage voluntary returns.” According to the United Nations, the number of Iraqis who have fled their homes has now reached 4.7 million, the highest number since the US invasion.
Iraqi refugee living in Damascus: “Their houses have been even destroyed or taken by another persons. There is no services like drinkable water, electricity. Even for the hospitals, it’s not qualified enough to have medical treatment for the people. For the schools, there is always fighting from the family about their children; they’re concerned about their children from being kidnapping.”
In news from Capitol Hill, two senior Democratic senators are coming under criticism for accepting special low-interest mortgages from Countrywide Financial, the mortgage firm at the center of the sub-prime lending crisis. The D.C. watchdog group Citizens for Ethics and Responsibility in Washington has filed an ethics complaint against the two Democrats, Chris Dodd of Connecticut and Kent Conrad of North Dakota. The publication Portfolio reported Dodd and his wife saved more than $70,000 because of the special treatment.
In other news from Washington, the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee has formally issued a subpoena for FBI reports from interviews with President Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney in the CIA leak investigation. On Friday, former White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan is scheduled to testify about the CIA leak case before the House Judiciary Committee.
Meanwhile, there is a development in the US attorneys scandal. The Wall Street Journal reports federal prosecutors are pursuing their first criminal indictment in the case. The subject of the grand jury is reportedly Bradley Schlozman, the former chief of the Justice Department civil rights division. Schlozman has been accused of politicizing the civil rights division by staffing it with conservative allies.
In legal news, the Supreme Court has agreed to take a case that will determine whether former Attorney General John Ashcroft, FBI Director Robert Mueller and others can be sued for damages by Muslim and Arab men rounded up after 9/11. The court’s decision will affect several cases, including a class action lawsuit involving hundreds of former prisoners.
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has called for an end to the “culture of impunity” surrounding the killings of journalists. Ban Ki-moon made the comment as he opened a thirty-two-foot-high glass sculpture in London dedicated to news gatherers and those who work with them who have been killed in the course of their jobs.
Ban Ki-moon: “Those who murder journalists don’t only stop the free flow of information, they kill the ability of millions of people to have their stories told. This monument stands in tribute to all those who have sacrificed their lives so that the rest of us could be informed. But it is also for those who survive, those who are out there right now risking their lives to report what they uncover in the face of deadly threats.”
Meanwhile, there is a new development in the case of Waleed Khaled, a Reuters sound technician who was shot dead by US troops in Baghdad in 2005. The Pentagon’s inspector general has determined the US soldiers who killed Khaled acted within military rules. But the inspector general admitted the Army’s probe of the incident was tainted by its failure to preserve video evidence of the shooting. An Army investigator allegedly lost video from a Reuters cameraman in the car that captured events leading up to and including the shooting.
In other media news, the newspaper chain McClatchy has announced it is cutting 1,400 jobs — ten percent of its workforce. The biggest cuts are expected to be at the Miami Herald and Charlotte Observer. The Tribune newspaper chain has also announced cutbacks of another sort. The paper plans to eliminate about 500 pages a week from its newspapers, including the Los Angeles Times and Chicago Tribune.
Tension remains high in Zimbabwe, ten days ahead of a run-off election between President Robert Mugabe and Morgan Tsvangirai. On Monday, Mugabe threatened to arrest opposition leaders.
Robert Mugabe: “Sooner or rather than later, we are going to accuse the party and the party leadership of being vicariously liable and responsible for those crimes of violence, because there is now a pattern readable across the country, and that has to stop. We want to go into the election exercise peacefully.”
In London, President Bush and British Prime Minister Gordon Brown accused Mugabe of orchestrating the violence in Zimbabwe.
Gordon Brown: “Mugabe must not be allowed to steal the election that is now less than two weeks away. And that is why we call for Zimbabwe to accept a United Nations human rights envoy to visit Zimbabwe now and to accept the international monitors from all parts of the world who are available to ensure that this is a free and fair election.”
Robert Mugabe has ruled Zimbabwe since it won its independence from Britain in 1980.
The devastating flooding in Iowa has sent the price of corn to record highs. On Monday the price of corn soared above $8 a bushel for the first time ever. The worst flooding in the Midwest in fifteen years has affected as many as five million acres of farmland. The rising price of corn will also drive higher prices of other food staples, including milk and eggs, as well as many processed foods. While customers are spending more at the supermarket, some companies are profiting. Wal-Mart’s stock recently hit a four-year high in part on the increased spending on groceries.
Lawyers for a death row prisoner in Texas scheduled to be executed tonight are claiming the prisoner’s conviction should be nullified, because the judge in the double murder trial was having an affair with the prosecutor. Charles Hood has been on death row since 1990. On Monday, the state criminal appeals court rejected Hood’s appeal, saying that his lawyers offered no evidence that the alleged affair made a difference in the jury finding Hood guilty.
And finally, President Bush has accused a British journalist of slandering America after he challenged Bush on the treatment of prisoners at Guantanamo. Bush’s comments came during an interview with British Sky News reporter Adam Boulton.
Boulton: I mean, you’ve talked a lot about freedom. I’ve heard you talk about freedom I think every time I’ve seen you.
Boulton: And yet, there are those who would say, look, let’s take Guantanamo Bay and Abu Ghraib and rendition and all those things, and to them that is the complete opposite of freedom.
Bush: Of course, if you want to slander America, you can look at it one way. But you go down — what you need to do — I think I suggested you do this at a press conference. If you go down there to Guantanamo and take a look at how these prisoners are treated — and they’re working it through our court systems. We are a land of law.
Boulton: But the Supreme Court have just said that — you know, ruled against what you’ve been doing down there.
Bush: But the district court didn’t. And the appellate court didn’t.
Boulton: The Supreme Court is supreme, isn’t it?
Bush: It is, and I accept their verdict. I don’t agree with their verdict. And it’s not what I was doing down there. This was a law passed by our United States Congress that I worked with the Congress to get passed and signed into law.
Boulton: But it looked like an attempt to bypass the Constitution, to a certain extent.
Bush: This is a law passed, Adam. We passed a law. Bypassing the Constitution means that we did something, you know, outside the bounds of the Constitution. We went to the Congress and got a piece of legislation passed.
Boulton: Which is now being struck down, effectively.
Bush: It is, and I accept what the Supreme Court did, and I necessarily don’t have to agree with it. My only point to you is, is that, yeah, I mean, we certainly wish Abu Ghraib hadn’t happened, but that should not reflect, you know, America. This was the actions of some soldiers. That doesn’t show the heart and soul of America.