Cheney Confirms That Detainees Were Subjected to Waterboarding
"Vice President Dick Cheney has confirmed that U.S. interrogators subjected captured senior al Qaida suspects to a controversial interrogation technique called "water-boarding," which creates a sensation of drowning.
"Cheney indicated that the Bush administration doesn't regard water-boarding as torture and allows the CIA to use it. 'It's a no-brainer for me,' Cheney said at one point in an interview.
"Cheney's comments, in a White House interview on Tuesday with a conservative radio talk show host, appeared to reflect the Bush administration's view that the president has the constitutional power to do whatever he deems necessary to fight terrorism." (McClatchy Newspapers)
Pre-Vote Leaks Rankle GOP
"For House Republicans, it seems that every week brings a new report about a GOP lawmaker under investigation by the Justice Department for alleged corruption. And with the elections just 12 days away, Republicans are crying foul, complaining bitterly that the negative press spurred by the public disclosure of those criminal probes could help cost them their House majority.
"Within just the past two weeks, Reps. Curt Weldon (R-Pa.) and Rick Renzi (R-Ariz.) have faced unwanted headlines blaring the fact that they are under scrutiny by federal prosecutors and the FBI. Both lawmakers have publicly denied any wrongdoing, but Weldon, who was already mired in a tough re-election campaign, has had to deal with the added problem of FBI raids on his daughterâs home, as well as the office of a longtime political ally. Federal agents also searched the Florida offices of a Russian energy company that did business with Karen Weldonâs lobbying firm....
"While a Justice Department run by Republican appointees who were nominated by a conservative Republican president would normally get the benefit of the doubt from GOP lawmakers and staffers, some party insiders are privately wondering whether ârogue elementsâ within the department â and more specifically the Public Integrity Unit, where corruption cases are handled â are trying to tip the election to Democrats by leaking news of these investigations so late in the cycle." (Roll Call)
Jurisdiction Issues Dog Member Probes
"The Justice Department has employed a sprawling lineup of investigators and prosecutors to conduct its ever-expanding roster of Congressional investigations, and in the process created a patchwork of probes across the nation.
"With at least 17 Members of the 109th Congress coming under federal investigation, Justice has used a pair of offices in its Washington, D.C., headquarters to conduct probes while at the same time coordinating with the offices of at least seven U.S. attorneys and roughly as many FBI offices to serve as ground troops for the inquiries.
"Aides at Justice, along with other experts and former prosecutors, said the process of sorting out which offices lead investigations and prosecutions can be a sometimes messy division of labor that focuses on questions of jurisdiction and resources." (Roll Call)
U.S. Embassy in Equatorial Guinea Owned By Torturer of Political Dissidents
"Last August, Donald C. Johnson, the Bush Administration's ambassador-designate to Equatorial Guinea, was asked as part of his confirmation hearing if the building that houses the U.S. embassy in that country was owned by Minister of National Security Manuel Nguema Mba. The Senate Foreign Relations Committee also wanted to know if Mba, the embassy's landlord, has âbeen accused by the U.S. or the United Nations Commission on Human Rights of participating in the torture of political opponents to the Obiang regime.â
"Johnson confirmed that Mba, the uncle of ruling dictator Teodoro Obiang, is the owner of the building that currently houses the embassy, but said that at 'the time the lease was entered into, [he] was not Minister of National Security.' Furthermore, Johnson said, the United States was 'not aware of any human rights accusations' against Mba at the time the lease agreement was signed.
"John Bennett, a former U.S. ambassador to Equatorial Guinea, did not find Johnson's testimony convincing. âTo say that he was not the âministerâ,â said Bennett, 'is being too cute.' It may have been technically accurate to say that Mba was not the minister at the time the lease was signed, Bennett explained, but Mba has been the de facto minister, with the official title of 'Minister Delegate,' for at least fifteen years. Bennett also pointed out that Mba's record as a human-rights violator is only a Google search away. The most damning search result is a 1994 United Nations report that details how Mba oversaw the torture and murder of Pedro MotÃº, a political opponent of the regime who had recently returned from exile." (Harper's)
Calif. Letter Debunks Intimidating Flier
"The California Secretary of State mailed letters Wednesday to counteract an intimidating flier linked to a Republican congressional candidate's campaign that warned immigrants they could go to jail if they vote.
"The bilingual letter, endorsed by several Hispanic civil rights groups, encourages U.S. citizens to vote Nov. 7, informs them of the official state requirements to register and tells them to ignore the "false and misleading" information in the earlier flier.
"The letter went out to all 14,000 Hispanic voters who received the flier sent this month. It was linked to the campaign of Tan Nguyen, who running for Democratic Rep. Loretta Sanchez's [D-CA] seat in Orange County. Written in Spanish, it warned: 'You are advised that if your residence in this country is illegal or you are an immigrant, voting in a federal election is a crime that could result in jail time.'" (AP)
Democrats' Dilemma: K St. or Hill?
"Most Democratic lobbyists, looking at the polls, have dollar signs in their eyes. But while they are salivating at the possibility of fatter paychecks if their party wins control of the House and maybe the Senate, a small group of Democratic K Streeters is considering forgoing the income boost to return to Capitol Hill for a government salary, should the party win control on Nov. 7.
"This minority of Democratic lobbyists, speaking privately so they wonât jeopardize current or future jobs, say they are flirting with the idea of rejoining an old boss or moving up the party hierarchy on the Hill so they can be a part of the action from the inside.
"Meanwhile, sources say people on the Hill quietly have reached out to some of their most trusted advisers downtown to see who might be willing to sacrifice the larger paychecks in favor of a Congressional badge." (Roll Call)
Burns Delivers Pork to Montana...
"[Seantor Conrad] Burns, a Republican with a seat on the Senate Appropriations Committee, says he has brought $2.2 billion in federal spending to Montana and that money would disappear if voters replace him with Democrat Jon Tester.
"How accurate is the senator's claim of 'delivering' $2.2 billion? To provide perspective on the reality behind the numbers, Missoulian State Bureau reporters evaluated just one portion of the total: $246 million in federal funds that Burns says he steered to businesses in Butte....
"Analysis of the federally funded projects in Butte shows that Burns' help in securing federal dollars for the city and its businesses has been substantial.
"The analysis also shows that lobbyists who formerly worked on Burns' staff were involved in appropriations; that not all the money stayed in Montana; and that in one case, $1 million included in Burns' $2.2 billion figure never made it to Montana at all....
"One of the largest beneficiaries of federal largesse in Butte is MSE, a company that now employs about 160 people there and about 10 others in offices out of state. MSE has done work for a variety of government agencies, working mostly on defense and energy projects, said Jeff Ruffner, company president." (Missoulian (Mont.))
But What Does He Expect in Return?
"Controversy continues for a Missoula space group with ties to Sen. Conrad Burns [R-MT].
"A new accounting review shows, among other things, the organization's chief executive received three different salaries at the same time. And one of the company's former employees said in a Missoulian interview that staff members were expected to contribute to Burns' re-election campaign....
"[Chairman of INSA's board of directors Milt] Datsopoulos said he is eager to learn more about the money INSA paid to registered lobbyist Leo Giacometto, Burns' former chief-of-staff.
Between 2003 and 2005, INSA awarded a no-bid contract and paid out $350,760 to Giacometto's lobbying firm, Gage LLC, and Compressus Inc., where Giacometto served as vice president and lobbyist, and where Burns' daughter, Keeley, served on the board of directors.
UM records also show that Giacometto served as UM's lobbyist in 2005, and was paid $79,750." (Missoulian (Mont.))
Rights Group Fires Publisher of Foley E-Mail
"A liberal gay rights group said Wednesday that one of its employees, acting anonymously, had created the Web site that first published copies of unusually solicitous e-mail messages to teenagers from former Representative Mark Foley, which led to his resignation.
"A spokesman for the group, the Human Rights Campaign, said it first learned of its employeeâs role this week and immediately fired him for misusing the groupâs resources." (NY Times)
On The Controversial Lancet Study
"President Bush has dismissed new statistics showing that more than 650,000 Iraqis have died as a result of the U.S. invasion and the continuing insurgency. But the U.S. military's own estimates suggest that the casualty rate for Iraqis is five times what it was at the beginning of 2004.
"And many scientists -- including four experts who anonymously peer-reviewed an article for the prestigious medical journal, The Lancet -- insist that the 654,000 figure, a measurement of what demographers call "excess mortality," is derived by a scientifically valid methodology from a statistically valid sample....
"The projection says that number of excess deaths can be said, with 95 percent confidence, to range between 393,000 and 943,000. It said that 92 percent of the excess deaths were from violence, mainly gunfire, but also explosions. In those instances where respondents allocated
"By way of comparison, Human Rights Watch has estimated Saddam Hussein's regime killed 250,000 to 290,000 people over 20 years." (UPI)
The Boeing Subsidiary That Handles Rendition Flights
"On the official Web site of Boeing, the worldâs largest aerospace company, there is a section devoted to a subsidiary called Jeppesen International Trip Planning, based in San Jose, California. The write-up mentions that the division 'offers everything needed for efficient, hassle-free, international flight operations,' spanning the globe 'from Aachen to Zhengzhou.' The paragraph concludes, 'Jeppesen has done it all.'
"Boeing does not mention, either on its Web site or in its annual report, that Jeppesenâs clients include the C.I.A., and that among the international trips that the company plans for the agency are secret 'extraordinary rendition' flights for terrorism suspects. Most of the planes used in rendition flights are owned and operated by tiny charter airlines that function as C.I.A. front companies, but it is not widely known that the agency has turned to a division of Boeing, the publicly traded blue-chip behemoth, to handle many of the logistical and navigational details for these trips, including flight plans, clearance to fly over other countries, hotel reservations, and ground-crew arrangements.
"The Bush Administration has defended the clandestine rendition program, which began during the Clinton years, as an effective method of transporting terrorists to countries where they can be questioned or held. Human-rights activists and others have said the programâs primary intent is to send suspects to detention centers where they can be interrogated harshly, and have criticized it as an illegal means of 'outsourcing torture.'â (New Yorker)
Federal Judge Rules Against EFF
"A federal judge has ruled Indiana can prohibit a California-based group from making automated calls attacking a Democratic congressional candidate.
"The candidate, Baron Hill, is a former House member trying to recapture his seat from Republican Rep. Mike Sodrel. The two are rivals for the third straight campaign in a district so divided that each man has won once, and the race is expected to be one of the closest in the country.
"Indiana Attorney General Steve Carter sued the Republican-oriented Economic Freedom Fund in September after receiving consumer complaints about the calls. Such calls are prohibited by state law unless previously agreed to by the recipient." (AP)
New Charges in Military Secrets Case
"Five members of a family accused of scheming to send sensitive information about Navy warships to China were indicted Wednesday on new conspiracy charges, prosecutors said....
"The government claims that Chi Mak passed information about U.S. naval technology from his employer to his brother and that his nephew, Billy Mak, then helped encrypt the files onto CD-ROM computer disk. That disk was found hidden in the luggage of Tai Mak and his wife after they were arrested in October 2005 at Los Angeles International Airport as they prepared to travel to Hong Kong and Guangzhou, China, authorities said." (AP)
Watchdog Group Accuses Churches of Political Action
"A nonprofit group has filed a complaint asking the Internal Revenue Service to investigate the role that two churches may have played in the re-election campaign of Kansasâ attorney general.
"The complaint by Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, a nonpartisan legal watchdog organization, cited a memorandum from the attorney general, Phill Kline, a Republican, directing members of his campaign staff to recruit churches to distribute campaign literature and serve as the sites for events." (NY Times)