Report: Gitmo Detainees Denied Witnesses
"The U.S. military called no witnesses, withheld evidence from detainees and usually reached a decision within a day as it determined that hundreds of men detained at Guantanamo Bay were 'enemy combatants,' according to a new report.
"The analysis of transcripts and records by two lawyers for Guantanamo detainees, aided by more than two dozen law students, found that hearings that determined whether a prisoner should remain in custody gave the accused little opportunity to contest allegations against him.
"'These were not hearings. These were shams,' said Mark Denbeaux, an attorney and Seton Hall University law professor who along with his son, Joshua, is the author of the report. They provided an advance copy of the report to The Associated Press late Thursday and planned to release it Friday on the Internet." (AP)
Sekula-Gibbs Seeks Probe of Staffers Who Quit
"Two days after seven staff members quit en masse from her Capitol Hill and district offices, Rep. Shelley Sekula-Gibbs [R-TX] â who was sworn in this week as the interim Republican successor to ex-Rep. Tom DeLay [R-TX] â is calling for an official investigation into the actions of her former staffers....
"On Thursday afternoon, she sent a letter to House Chief Administrative Officer Jay Eagan, asking him to investigate the possibility that her ex-staffers tampered with office computers a day before they left....
"In a statement provided by her chief of staff, Lisa Dimond, Sekula-Gibbs said the staffers 'left without notice, and their departure raises suspicions. ... I learned through IT that on Monday, November 13, 2006, one full day before the walkout, these employees deleted records and computer files without my knowledge or permission.'" (Roll Call)
Senator Outlines Plans for Intelligence Panel
"Sen. John D. Rockefeller IV (D-W.Va.) spelled out his agenda for the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence yesterday, promising not only to look back at issues such as the surveillance of overseas phone calls, CIA detention activities and the use of prewar Iraq intelligence but also to look ahead at emerging global terrorist threats. Rockefeller will become chairman of the committee in January....
"Partisan disagreements have kept the panel from concluding the second phase of its review of prewar Iraq intelligence. The report includes a contentious section dealing with how information was used in public speeches to build support for the invasion. Rockefeller called that assessment one of 'our core oversight responsibilities.' He said it can be taken up 'without raking over the old coals again.'" (WaPo)
Pork King Stevens to Seek Another Term
"Veteran Republican Sen. Ted Stevens announced yesterday that he will be running for re-election in 2008 at the age of 84, ending speculation about a possible retirement....
"He gained the most national attention of his career when he chaired the powerful Appropriations Committee 1997 to 2005 except for the 18-month interlude when Democrats controlled the chamber. That position abetted Stevensâ career-long effort to steer federal funding back home to Alaska.
"However, he stirred controversy in 2005 after stepping down as chairman of the committee, though he still held a seat on the panel. In particular, a $223 billion allotment enacted in 2005 for a roadway connecting the small Alaskan city of Ketchikan to a lightly populated island was lampooned by both Democratic critics and Republican fiscal conservatives as âthe bridge to nowhere,â despite vociferous rebuttals by Stevens that the project would serve a legitimate economic development purpose.
"Opponents continue to try to block the state from proceeding with the bridge and another similar project in Alaska, and opponents of congressional âearmarkingâ of funds used the bridge as an issue in their campaigns this year." (CQ Politics)
Foley E-Mails Targeted by Investigation
"Florida authorities have opened a criminal investigation into the sexually explicit computer messages that former Rep. Mark Foley sent to former male congressional pages....
"The FBI is investigating whether Foley broke federal laws, and the House Ethics Committee is looking into whether senior GOP officials hid what they knew about the messages." (AP)
Some Americans Lack Food, But USDA Won't Call Them "Hungry"
"The U.S. government has vowed that Americans will never be hungry again. But they may experience 'very low food security.'
"Every year, the Agriculture Department issues a report that measures Americans' access to food, and it has consistently used the word "hunger" to describe those who can least afford to put food on the table. But not this year.
"Mark Nord, the lead author of the report, said 'hungry' is 'not a scientifically accurate term for the specific phenomenon being measured in the food security survey.' Nord, a USDA sociologist, said, 'We don't have a measure of that condition.'" (WaPo)
Blue Dogs Urge Pelosi to Keep Harman as Intelligence Chair
"Even as Speaker-designate Nancy Pelosi [D-CA] was suffering an embarrassing defeat in a party leadership fight Thursday, a group of moderate-to-conservative Democrats began publicly lobbying her to keep Rep. Jane Harman [D-CA] as the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee....
"Pelosi will have the authority to appoint the Intelligence Committee chair without consulting the Democratic Caucus. House Democratic insiders have repeatedly said they expect Pelosi to remove Harman from the Intelligence post, even though Harman has made clear that she wants another two-year term on the committee.
Rep. Alcee Hastings [D-FL] is next in line on the panel, but he was removed by Congress from his post as a federal judge in 1989 over bribery allegations, and some senior Democrats privately have warned Pelosi that she should not hand him the Intelligence gavel, particularly given the major role that GOP corruption played in the Democratic takeover of Congress." (Roll Call)
New Digs for Abramoff
"Convicted lobbyist Jack Abramoff's new home is a minimum-security prison that looks like a suburban high school campus. There are no fences, and inmates can be seen from the road exercising on an outdoor track next to a basketball court and working on landscaping projects without apparent close supervision....
"Abramoff is living in a two-story cinder block dormitory, in a six-bed cubicle with limited phone privileges." (The Blotter)
Ken Lay's Death Spurs Senate Bill To Allow Convictions to Stand
"The death of former Enron Corp. chief executive Kenneth Lay prompted Senate lawmakers to introduce legislation Thursday that would end the practice of dismissing convictions of defendants who die before an appeal is final.
"The bill by Senate Judiciary Committee members Dianne Feinstein, a Democrat from California, and Jeff Sessions, a Republican from Alabama, was written with help from the Justice Department, which had sought changes after Mr. Lay's death on July 5.
"Mr. Lay died just weeks after being convicted on criminal charges including securities and bank fraud; a federal district court judge in Houston dismissed the convictions in October. Under current U.S. law, criminal convictions are tossed out when defendants such as Mr. Lay die before they exhaust their right to an appeal.
"'We need to ensure that, in these types of cases, hard-won convictions are preserved and restitution remains available for the victims of crime,' Ms. Feinstein said in a statement on the legislation." (WSJ)
Soldier Gets 90 Years in Iraq Rape Case
"A soldier was sentenced Thursday to 90 years in prison with the possibility of parole for conspiring to rape a 14-year-old Iraqi girl and kill her and her family.
"Spc. James P. Barker, one of four Fort Campbell soldiers accused in the March 12 rape and killings, pleaded guilty Wednesday and agreed to testify against the others to avoid the death penalty." (AP)
Pentagon's Half-Billion Dollar Travel System Hardly Being Used
"The Pentagon that gave taxpayers a $434 hammer and a $600 toilet seat cover now has a half-billion-dollar travel booking system that is bypassed by more than eight in 10 users.
"Senate investigators found the Pentagon's Web-based product â despite its high price tag â fails to find the cheapest airfares, offers an incomplete list of flights and hotels and won't recognize travel categories used by the National Guard and Reserves....
"The investigators found that Defense Department travelers are contacting professional travel agents to find their hotels, flights and rental cars, and then using the computer system to enter those choices. Once the system is activated at an installation, travelers must use it to make their reservations, the Pentagon said.
"The result: a half-hour booking process that, according to testimony before the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations, would take travel professionals only five minutes." (AP)
Public to Get a Look at Libby Documents
"For the past few months all the public could know about the goings on during numerous closed-door hearings in Courtroom #16 were from one-line court filings indicating the proceedings were dealing with requests from I Lewis "Scooter" Libby - Vice President Cheney's former chief of staff - to include classified materials in his defense of perjury and obstructions charges in the CIA leak trial.
"Next month all that will change. Judge Walton will give the public a peek at the issues he has had to rule on concerning the thousands of classified document in question." (NBC News)
Feds in New Jersey Serve Subpoenas on Senator's Associates
"Federal agents have served a second round of subpoenas in the investigation of financial transactions involving newly elected Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), senior law enforcement sources tell ABC News....
"They are the second set in a probe involving Sen. Menendez's financial relationship with a community organization that received federal funding with Menendez's help." (The Blotter)
Pentagon Alters Homosexuality Guidelines
"Pentagon guidelines that classified homosexuality as a mental disorder now put it among a list of conditions or 'circumstances' that range from bed-wetting to fear of flying.
"The new rules are related to the military's retirement practices. The change does not affect the 'don't ask, don't tell' policy that prohibits officials from inquiring about the sex lives of service members and requires discharges of those who openly acknowledge being gay.
"The revision came in response to criticism this year when it was discovered that the guidelines listed homosexuality alongside mental retardation and personality disorders.
"Mental health professionals said Thursday they were not satisfied by the change." (AP)
Column: Past Sins May Keep Rumsfeld at Home
"As he packs up his office in the Pentagon, Donald Rumsfeld can look forward to more free time. Before he rings up his travel agent to book any overseas trips, he would do well to consult an attorney. . . .
" If Germany issues an arrest warrant, dozens of other countries with whom it has formal or informal extradition agreements could nab them, too.
"Is it likely a longtime ally would arrest a former U.S. defense secretary? Nah. Is it possible under the law? Absolutely." (Bloomberg)