Thursday, January 12, 2006

Today... in Washington Crime!

UPDATE: A far better article on Brig. Gen Miller and Col. Pappas of Abu Ghraib fame can be found here at the WaPo.

I was considering writing a new regular feature called "This Week in Washington Crime!" However, a quick review of today's news features, police blotters, Congressional Investigations (both into and out of), as well as Inspectors General, and International news showed that in order to keep up with the doings of Republican Washington it will be necessary to cut the time frame down to 12-24 hours. So... Welcome to... "Today... in Washington Crime!"

Today's lead story is a sleepy little article from Reuters in which it is reported that U.S. Army Major Gen. Geoffrey Miller has invoked his 5th amendment right not to incriminate himself in the courts-martial of two soldiers accused of mistreating detainees at Abu Ghraib prison. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld placed Miller in charge of setting up operations at Abu Ghraib in Iraq using the techniques he had perfected during his stint in command of the prison camp at Guantanamo Bay on the island of Cuba.

Miller, who had previously spoken freely and denied any wrong doing, perhaps took this action due to the recent development of Col. Thomas Pappas, the commanding officer at Abu Ghraib, having accepted immunity this week prior to being ordered to testify at upcoming courts martial.

As of this time, no senior officers have been charged in the abuses at Abu Ghraib.

In the meantime, International pressure to close the prison at Guantanamo Bay is growing daily. Dutch Defence Minister Henk Kamp said today that the prison should be closed as soon as possible. German Chancellor Angela Merkel expressed similar sentiments in advance of a visit to the United States in which she said she would be raising the issue with President Bush:
In an interview with German news magazine Der Spiegel, published over the weekend, Merkel said: "An institution such as Guantanamo cannot and ought not to exist long term in this way. Means for different treatment of the prisoners need to be found."

Kamp also said he disagreed with the term "illegal combatants", who are said to fall outside the terms of the Geneva conventions.

Meanwhile, hunger strikes amongst prisoners continue at the prison and the U.S. reports that it is "humanely" force feeding the strikers despite international prohibitions amongst nations and medical associations against force feeding.

Controversial military tribunals of prisoners at Guantanmo have restarted.

In a related item, American citizen Jose Padilla, who was held as an "enemy combatant" for three and a half years in a military brig in South Carolina before finally being charged with a crime and subsequently transferred to civilian custody, plead not guilty today in federal court in Miami.

Padilla is charged with conspiring to murder U.S. nationals and providing material support to terrorists as part of a North American cell that provided money, material and fighters for violent Islamic jihad. He was originally declared an enemy combatant and held incommunicado by order of George Bush alone under an accusation of plotting to explode a "dirty bomb" and blow up apartment buildings in major U.S. cities. None of the accusations under which he was held are referenced in his current charges.

Internationally, the European Union Parliament launched an investigation on Thursday into allegations that the CIA used EU countries for the illegal transport and detention of prisoners.
Leaders of the Parliament's seven political groups and assembly president Josep Borrell voted in favor of setting up a temporary committee consisting of 46 members to investigate the allegations.

The inquiry will have no legal powers, but the committee will recommend what political action should be taken against any countries found guilty of involvement, including the U.S.

The inquiry is to work in tandem with a probe by the Council of Europe, the 46-nation human rights watchdog, and has been given four months to carry out the investigation.

Back home in the states the NSA Inspector General is reported to have started an internal probe into whether the domestic spying program order by George Bush has broken any laws. The Department of Justice meanwhile is not investigating the illegal program but is instead investigating how information about the program was leaked.

NSA Whistleblower Russ Tice has been warned by the National Security Agency "that he should not testify to Congress about accusations of illegal activity at NSA because of the secrecy of the programs involved."

In a Jan. 9 letter to Mr. Tice, Renee Seymour, director of NSA special access programs stated that members and staff of the House and Senate intelligence committees do not have the proper security clearances for the secret intelligence. A stunning statement to say the least. Members of the House and Senate Intelligence committees do not have the security clearance to hear about an intelligence program.

Miss Seymour stated that Mr. Tice has "every right" to speak to Congress and that NSA has "no intent to infringe your rights."

However, she stated that the programs Mr. Tice took part in were so secret that "neither the staff nor the members of the [House intelligence committee] or [Senate intelligence committee] are cleared to receive the information covered by the special access programs, or SAPs."

Meanwhile, President Bush again defended his orders to spy on American citizens saying:

"I understand people's concerns about government eavesdropping," Bush said in response to a question about the program during a citizens forum here. "I share their concerns as well."

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Arlen Specter (R-Pa.) has announced plans to hold hearings on the spying program.

In a statement released after Bush's remarks, Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean said that rather than protect the nation, Bush's program may compromise efforts to fight terrorism by resulting in hundreds of cases against suspected terrorists being thrown out of court.

"President Bush's decision to sidestep the rule of law and spy on Americans without a court order may have dealt a serious blow to our ability to fight and win the war on terror," Dean said.

And finally, in a report from ABC
"Former CIA General Counsel Jeffrey Smith will testify in House hearings that there is no legal basis for President Bush's controversial National Security Agency domestic surveillance program."

ABC News has obtained a copy of a 14-page memo Smith wrote to the House Select Committee on Intelligence in which he argues that the wiretaps are illegal.

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