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HeadlinesJune 18, 2008

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Senate Hearing Exposes Bush Administration’s Role in Torture Policy

Jun 18, 2008

On Capitol Hill, the chair of the Senate Armed Forces Committee Carl Levin has accused top Bush administration officials of sanctioning the use of harsh interrogation techniques used at Guantanamo, Iraq and Afghanistan.
During a hearing on Tuesday, Levin revealed a senior CIA lawyer told Pentagon staff at Guantanamo in 2002 that torture is “basically subject to perception.” CIA attorney Jonathan Freedman said in 2002, “If the detainee dies, you’re doing it wrong.” Levin also revealed military psychologists played a role in devising the military’s interrogation routines.

Sen. Carl Levin: “On October 2, 2002, a week after John Rizzo, the acting CIA general counsel visited Gtimo, a second senior CIA lawyer, Jonathan Freedman, who was chief counsel to the CIA’s Counterterrorism Center, went to Guantanamo, attended a meeting of Gitmo staff and discussed a memo proposing the use of aggressive interrogation techniques. That memo had been drafted by a psychologist and psychiatrist from Gitmo who, a couple of weeks earlier, had attended that training given at Fort Bragg by instructors by the SERE school.”

During Tuesday’s hearing, the Pentagon’s former general counsel William Haynes was repeatedly questioned about his role in authorizing interrogation techniques that amount to torture according to many legal and human rights groups. During two hours of testimony, Haynes responded to dozens of questions by saying he could not recall or remember details about the process of approving the interrogation techniques. Democratic Senator Jack Reed of Rhode Island blasted Haynes’ role in authorizing torture.

Sen. Jack Reed: “You said the Geneva Convention doesn’t apply, and they honestly ask, 'What does apply?' And the only thing you sent them was: These techniques apply — no conditions, nothing. So don’t go around with this attitude of you’re protecting the integrity of the military. You degraded the integrity of the United States military.’’

The Senate also released documents Tuesday confirming the US military hid the locations of some prisoners from the International Committee of the Red Cross in order to cover up the torture of prisoner.

Army Ousted Official for Questioning KBR Contract

Jun 18, 2008

The New York Times reports the Army official who managed the Pentagon’s largest contract in Iraq says he was ousted from his job when he refused to approve paying more than $1 billion in questionable charges to the former Halliburton subsidiary KBR. Charles Smith said that he was forced from his job in 2004, after informing KBR officials that the Army would impose escalating financial penalties if they failed to improve their chaotic Iraqi operations. Although KBR’s performance in Iraq has come under fierce criticism from lawmakers, the Pentagon recently awarded the company part of a ten-year $150 billion contract in Iraq. Until last year, KBR was known as Kellogg Brown & Root and was a subsidiary of Halliburton, the Texas oil services giant, where Vice President Dick Cheney previously served as chief executive. Congressman Henry Waxman described Charles Smith’s account as startling. Waxman said, “It confirms the committee’s worst fears. KBR has repeatedly gouged the taxpayer, and the Bush administration has looked the other way every time.”

KBR Accused of Overcharging Navy After Hurricane Katrina

Jun 18, 2008

Meanwhile, the Pentagon’s Inspector General is accusing KBR of overcharging the Navy in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. KBR was hired by the US Navy after the hurricane to provide meals to workers and service personnel. According to the Pentagon’s audit, the Navy paid approximately $4.1 million for meals and services that should have cost less than $2 million. The Pentagon’s audit requests that the Navy seek refunds of at least $8.5 million for “inappropriate” payments to KBR.

Israel & Hamas Agree to Ceasefire

Jun 18, 2008

Israel and Hamas have agreed to an Egyptian-proposed ceasefire that could ease the Israeli blockade of the Gaza Strip. Under the agreement, Israel has pledged not to engage in offensive action in the Gaza Strip, and Hamas has pledged to stop all Palestinian militant groups from attacking Israel from Gaza. The West Bank is not covered by the ceasefire which goes into effect Thursday morning. Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh pledged his support for the agreement.

Ismail Haniyeh: “The Palestinian demands were clear — lifting the siege and blockade, opening the crossing and ending the aggression — and we believe that these demands have been met. And the Palestinian people will see the fruits of these negotiations, dialogs and as well as the fruit of endurance for an entire year of total and chocking siege.”

Hamas has also agreed to intensify talks over the release of Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit. Hours before the ceasefire was announced, an Israeli air strike in Gaza killed six Palestinians. Meanwhile, the Israeli government is also now calling on Lebanon to open peace talks.

63 Die in Baghdad Truck Bombing

Jun 18, 2008

In Iraq, at least sixty-three people died Tuesday in a devastating truck bombing in Baghdad. The dead included four children and five women. It was the deadliest bombing in Baghdad in three months.

Report: US Contractors to Lose Immunity in Iraq

Jun 18, 2008

Meanwhile, The Independent of London reports the Bush administration has accepted that foreign contractors in Iraq will no longer have immunity from Iraqi law under a new security agreement now under negotiation. Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari told the paper that if there was a further incident like the one in which seventeen Iraqis were killed by Blackwater operatives last September, the Iraqis would arrest and punish the contractors held responsible.

Haditha Charges Dismissed Against Another Marine

Jun 18, 2008

In other Iraq news, a US military judge has dismissed charges against another Marine connected to the massacre of twenty-four Iraqi civilians in Haditha. Lt. Col. Jeffrey Chessani had been accused of failing to investigate the killings. Of the eight Marines originally charged, only one still faces prosecution. Six Marines have won dismissals of their charges and one has been cleared at court-martial.

EPA Warns of Contaminated Floodwater in Iowa

Jun 18, 2008

The Environmental Protection Agency is warning residents of Iowa and other Midwest states to avoid contact with floodwater, because it could be contaminated with sewage or other hazardous substances. Raw sewage and livestock manure is now flowing into rivers and streams because wastewater facilities have been inundated by the record floods. Parts of the Mississippi River are continuing to rise, raising new concerns. On Tuesday, a levee near Gulfport, Illinois burst. Meanwhile, agribusiness analysts say consumers will soon feel the effect of the flooding as the price of corn increases.

Richard Gilmore, President and CEO of the GIC Group: “There is a big loss in the emergence and growth of our corn. And at least two million acres have been affected. The range I’ve seen is between two to four million acres. And the last crop report took US production figures down — they dropped 380 million bushels. That was actually before the most severe effects of the flood. So, we are talking about a potential of a loss of over 650 million bushels if — and this is a big, big if — if they can’t replant.”

Bush Urges Lifting of Offshore Oil Drilling Ban

Jun 18, 2008

President Bush is expected to call on Congress today to lift a nearly three-decade ban on offshore oil drilling to combat the rising price of gas. Bush’s speech comes just days after Senator John McCain called for the ban to be lifted. On Monday, Senator Barack Obama said there is no evidence that lifting the ban on oil drilling would provide relief to consumers. Bush also wants Congress to open Alaska’s Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil drilling, a move that both McCain and Obama oppose.

Racist Anti-Obama Pins Sold at Texas GOP Convention

Jun 18, 2008

In other campaign news, the Texas Republican Party is coming under criticism for allowing the sale of racist pins at last week’s convention. One vendor was selling a pin that read “If Obama is President…will we still call it the White House?”

Denver Police Stock up on Pepper Spray Guns Ahead of DNC

Jun 18, 2008

The Denver Police Department is stocking up on pepper spray guns ahead of the Democratic National Convention. The city has ordered eighty-eight projectile launchers that fire plastic balls filled with cayenne pepper and other substances. Denver is purchasing the weapon from SWAT, Security with Advanced Technology. The news comes just weeks after SWAT announced plans to merge with the company PepperBall Technologies. Meanwhile, some residents of Denver are questioning why a half-dozen military helicopters flew over parts of the city on Monday as part of a secret security drill. The Denver Post reported the military aircraft buzzed above the Pepsi Center, the site of the Democratic Convention. A military spokesperson denied the drill was connected to the convention. Lt. Nathan Potter said, “It’s routine preparation for the global war on terrorism.”

Texas Execution of Charles Hood Postponed

Jun 18, 2008

In Texas, the execution of Charles Hood has been postponed for at least thirty days following a series of last-minute appeals. Hood’s lawyers have accused the judge in his case of having an affair with the prosecutor. Hood was scheduled to have been executed yesterday.

Fidel Castro Seen on TV with Raul Castro and Hugo Chavez

Jun 18, 2008

In news from Latin America, former Cuban leader Fidel Castro was shown on Cuban TV on Tuesday with his brother, President Raul Castro, and Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez. The video showed the first public images of Castro since January.


Jun 18, 2008

And a correction. In our headline summary on Friday, we showed an incorrect picture in a story on a Supreme Court ruling about American citizens being held in Iraq. When referencing one of the detainees, Shawqi Ahmad Omar, we mistakenly showed a picture for our TV audience of Ahmed Shawki, an Arab American activist in California. We apologize, and the error has been corrected in our online video archive.

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