Many Rights in U.S. Legal System Absent in New Bill
"The military trials bill approved by Congress lends legislative support for the first time to broad rules for the detention, interrogation, prosecution and trials of terrorism suspects far different from those in the familiar American criminal justice system....
"Included in the bill, passed by Republican majorities in the Senate yesterday and the House on Wednesday, are unique rules that bar terrorism suspects from challenging their detention or treatment through traditional habeas corpus petitions....
"The bill rejects the right to a speedy trial and limits the traditional right to self-representation by requiring that defendants accept military defense attorneys....
"By writing into law for the first time the definition of an 'unlawful enemy combatant,' the bill empowers the executive branch to detain indefinitely anyone it determines to have 'purposefully and materially' supported anti-U.S. hostilities. Only foreign nationals among those detainees can be tried by the military commissions, as they are known, and sentenced to decades in jail or put to death....
"At the same time, the bill immunizes U.S. officials from prosecution for cruel, inhumane or degrading treatment of detainees who the military and the CIA captured before the end of last year...." (WaPo)
Surveillance Bill Passes House, Stuck in Senate
"The House of Representatives passed a bill on Thursday that would provide congressional authorization for President George W. Bush's warrantless domestic spying program but subject it to new rules....
"The Senate, however, has been unable to agree on such legislation, preventing Bush from getting a final measure to sign into law before members of Congress go home to campaign for the November 7 elections. That had been a top Republican goal." (Reuters)
Swift May Have Violated EU Law By Cooperating with CIA Program
"The Belgian-based consortium known as Swift, which handles money transfers among banks, violated European privacy regulations when it turned over confidential transaction information to the Central Intelligence Agency and other American agencies, Belgiumâs privacy protection commission concluded today....
"Under European Union law, companies may not transfer confidential personal data to an entity in another country unless that countryâs privacy protections are deemed adequate. The union does not consider American protections adequate because the United States has never enacted comprehensive data protection laws. Under that rule, the commission found, Swift acted without a legal basis when it sent the data to the United States." (NY Times)
Abramoff to Report to Prison Nov. 15
"Disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff and former business partner Adam Kidan won new delays Thursday in the start of their prison sentences for fraud convictions stemming from their purchase of a gambling fleet.
"But U.S. District Judge Paul Huck rejected a joint request by federal prosecutors and defense lawyers for an additional 90 days beyond Monday's scheduled prison surrender date for both. Instead, the judge reluctantly agreed to give Abramoff until Nov. 15 and Kidan until Oct. 23 to remain free." (AP)
See Lobbyists in Their Natural Habitat
"You can offshore nearly any kind of job these days--ship your factory to Mexico and send your back office to India--but your lobbyists have to stay in Washington. The rest of the hard, old, face-to-face world may dissolve, but lobbying remains stubbornly rooted in the necessities of physical proximity to power and, of course, to tasty eats. At 101 Constitution, both of these can be found in fantastic abundance, and this has made the building a landmark for our political times, as the Watergate was for the 1970s and the "little green house" (where officials sold government favors in the Harding days) was for the 1920s. 101 Con is K Street in a box, a private-sector Pentagon where ten stories of lobbyists plot their next thrust on behalf of the life-insurance industry, the mining industry, or the retail hardware industry." (TNR, sub. req.)
After Investigation, Army Releases Statement Regarding Alleged Abandonment of Convoy
"U.S. troops apparently abandoned a truck convoy after it came under insurgent fire, as seen in a video obtained by ABC News. Two unarmed Halliburton truck drivers were executed at point-blank range once the troops left and another by sniper fire at the beginning of the attack, according to a surviving driver, Preston Wheeler, of Mena, Ark., who taped the scene.
"The Army says the troops on the scene reacted appropriately and did not abandon the convoy." (The Blotter)
GAO Finds Fault with VA Mental Health Services Funding
"The Department of Veterans Affairs failed to fully spend a promised $300 million since 2005 to fill critical gaps in mental health services for returning troops and others, congressional investigators said....
"'Veterans expect that wounds suffered in service, be they to mind or body, will be cared for by the nation they served,' Rep. Henry Brown Jr., R-S.C., said during a hearing he chaired Thursday on mental health issues. 'We will exercise greater oversight on this issue now to determine what VA is spending and how it is being spent, to ensure that funds allocated by the American people are used as intended.'
"The VA didn't respond to requests for comment on the report." (McClatchy Newspapers)