Presidential Power Grabs, Assets Seizure,
Revealing News Articles
July 27, 2007
Below are key excerpts of important news articles you may have missed. These articles include revealing information on U.S. presidential power grabs, an executive order permitting seizure of assets of critics of the Iraq War, growing government secrecy, and more. Each excerpt is taken verbatim from the major media website listed at the link provided. If any link fails to function, click here. Key sentences are highlighted for those with limited time. By choosing to educate ourselves and to spread the word, we can and will build a brighter future.
Destabilizing Iraq, Broadly Defined
July 23, 2007, Washington Post
Be careful what you say and whom you help -- especially when it comes to the Iraq war and the Iraqi government. President Bush issued an executive order last week titled "Blocking Property of Certain Persons Who Threaten Stabilization Efforts in Iraq." It could be interpreted as targeting the financial assets of any American who directly or indirectly aids someone who has committed or "poses a significant risk of committing" violent acts "threatening the peace or stability of Iraq" or who undermines "efforts to promote economic reconstruction and political reform" in the war-torn country. The text of the order, if interpreted broadly, could cast a far bigger net to include not just those who commit violent acts or pose the risk of doing so in Iraq, but also third parties -- such as U.S. citizens in this country -- who knowingly or unknowingly aid or encourage such people. The targeting of not just those who support perpetrators of violence but also those who support individuals who "pose a significant risk" of committing violence goes far beyond normal legal language related to intent and could be applied in a highly arbitrary manner, said Bruce Fein, a senior Justice Department official in the Reagan administration. Fein also questioned the executive order's inclusion of third parties, such as U.S. citizens who assist, sponsor or make "any contribution or provision of funds, goods, or services" to assist people on the Treasury list. "What about a lawyer hired to get someone off the list?" Fein asked. The Treasury Department's Office of Foreign Assets Control keeps a "Specially Designated Nationals and Blocked Persons" roll that includes those covered by several such executive orders. It most recently ran to 276 pages.
Note: To read the full text of the Executive Order, "Blocking Property of Certain Persons Who Threaten Stabilization Efforts in Iraq," click here.
Is this the real president of the United States?
July 23, 2007, Guardian (One of the U.K.'s leading newspapers)
Obscurity has been Cheney's hallmark since he took office in January 2001, and that's the way he likes it. "Am I the evil genius in the corner that nobody ever sees come out of his hole?" he quipped in 2004. "It's a nice way to operate, actually." Cheney is ... the most powerful vice- president in American history. "He has expanded the power of the vice-president fiftyfold," says Bruce Fein, a lawyer who served in the Reagan administration. So dominant has he been in a traditionally submissive role that some commentators are now wondering whether it is time to drop the "V" from his title. "Cheney is de facto president in all areas of policy, bar just a few aspects of the domestic agenda," Fein says. It was obvious the Cheney vice-presidency was never going to stick to convention from the day in July 2000 George Bush announced his running mate. After all, the man who recommended Cheney for the job was ... Cheney. The Bush cabinet was formed in Cheney's image. Figures who were to become seminal -- Donald Rumsfeld, Paul Wolfowitz, John Bolton, Scooter Libby -- were all Cheney's people. September 11 2001 ... was the moment for which Cheney had been preparing for many years. Since his days as White House chief-of-staff to Gerald Ford, living with the fallout of Nixon's destruction, Cheney had harboured ambitions to hit back at Congress and reinstate the untrammelled authority of the president. Within hours of the attacks on New York and Washington, while Bush was still floundering around in Air Force One, Cheney had assembled a legal team within his own office and was actively planning how to roll back the restraints on the president's executive power that had been introduced in the wake of Vietnam and Watergate.
Broader Privilege Claimed In Firings
July 20, 2007, Washington Post
Bush administration officials unveiled a bold new assertion of executive authority yesterday in the dispute over the firing of nine U.S. attorneys, saying that the Justice Department will never be allowed to pursue contempt charges initiated by Congress against White House officials once the president has invoked executive privilege. Under federal law, a statutory contempt citation by the House or Senate must be submitted to the U.S. attorney for the District of Columbia, "whose duty it shall be to bring the matter before the grand jury for its action." But administration officials argued yesterday that Congress has no power to force a U.S. attorney to pursue contempt charges in cases, such as the prosecutor firings, in which the president has declared that testimony or documents are protected from release by executive privilege. Mark J. Rozell, a professor of public policy at George Mason University who has written a book on executive-privilege issues, called the administration's stance "astonishing. That's a breathtakingly broad view of the president's role in this system of separation of powers," Rozell said. "What this statement is saying is the president's claim of executive privilege trumps all." The administration's stance "is almost Nixonian in its scope and breadth of interpreting its power. Congress has no recourse at all, in the president's view. . . . It's allowing the executive to define the scope and limits of its own powers," [Rozell said].
Power Without Limits
July 22, 2007, New York Times
The Bush administration, which has been pushing presidential power to new extremes, is reportedly developing an even more dangerous new theory of executive privilege. It says that if Congress holds White House officials in contempt for withholding important evidence in the United States attorney scandal, the Justice Department simply will not pursue the charges. This stance tears at the fabric of the Constitution and upends the rule of law. Congress has a constitutional right to investigate the purge of nine United States attorneys last year. The next question is how Congress will enforce its right to obtain information, and it is on that point that the administration is said to have made its latest disturbing claim. If Congress holds White House officials in contempt, the next step should be that the United States attorney for the District of Columbia brings the matter to a grand jury. But according to a Washington Post report, the administration is saying that its claim of executive privilege means that the United States attorney would be ordered not to go forward with the case. There is no legal basis for this obstructionism. The Supreme Court has made clear that executive privilege is not simply what the president claims it to be. It must be evaluated case by case by a court, balancing the need for the information against the president's interest in keeping his decision-making process private. The White House's extreme position could lead to a constitutional crisis. If the executive branch refused to follow the law, Congress could use its own inherent contempt powers, in which it would level the charges itself and hold a trial. Congress should use all of the tools at its disposal to pursue its investigations. It is about preserving the checks and balances that are a vital part of American democracy.
Bush Approves New CIA Methods
July 21, 2007, Washington Post
President Bush set broad legal boundaries for the CIA's harsh interrogation of terrorism suspects yesterday, allowing the intelligence agency to resume a program that was suspended last year after criticism that it violated U.S. and international law. In an executive order lacking any details about actual interrogation techniques, Bush said the CIA program will now comply with a Geneva Conventions prohibition against "outrages upon personal dignity, in particular humiliating and degrading treatment." Two administration officials said that suspects now in U.S. custody could be moved immediately into the "enhanced interrogation" program and subjected to techniques that go beyond those allowed by the U.S. military. Rights activists criticized Bush's order for failing to spell out which techniques are now approved or prohibited. "All the order really does is to have the president say, 'Everything in that other document that I'm not showing you is legal -- trust me,' " said Tom Malinowski of Human Rights Watch. The CIA interrogation guidelines are contained in a classified document. A senior intelligence official, asked whether this list includes such widely criticized methods as the simulated drowning known as "waterboarding," declined to discuss specifics but said "it would be very wrong to assume that the program of the past would move into the future unchanged." CIA detainees have also alleged they were left naked in cells for prolonged periods, subjected to sensory and sleep deprivation and extreme heat and cold, and sexually taunted. A senior administration official briefing reporters yesterday said that any future use of "extremes of heat and cold" would be subject to a "reasonable interpretation . . . we're not talking about forcibly induced hypothermia."
DeFazio asks, but he's denied access
July 20, 2007, The Oregonian (Oregon's leading newspaper)
Oregonians called Peter DeFazio's office, worried there was a conspiracy buried in the classified portion of a White House plan for operating the government after a terrorist attack. As a member of the U.S. House on the Homeland Security Committee, DeFazio, D-Ore., is permitted to enter a secure "bubbleroom" in the Capitol and examine classified material. So he asked the White House to see the secret documents. On Wednesday, DeFazio got his answer: DENIED. "I just can't believe they're going to deny a member of Congress the right of reviewing how they plan to conduct the government of the United States after a significant terrorist attack," DeFazio says. Homeland Security Committee staffers told his office that the White House initially approved his request, but it was later quashed. DeFazio doesn't know who did it or why. "We're talking about the continuity of the government of the United States of America," DeFazio says. "I would think that would be relevant to any member of Congress, let alone a member of the Homeland Security Committee." Bush administration spokesman Trey Bohn declined to say why DeFazio was denied access: "We do not comment through the press on the process that this access entails. It is important to keep in mind that much of the information related to the continuity of government is highly sensitive." Norm Ornstein, a legal scholar who studies government continuity at the conservative American Enterprise Institute, said he "cannot think of one good reason" to deny access to a member of Congress who serves on the Homeland Security Committee. This is the first time DeFazio has been denied access to documents. "Maybe the people who think there's a conspiracy out there are right," DeFazio said.
Producer of 9/11 Conspiracy Film 'Loose Change' Arrested for Deserting the Army
July 26, 2007, FOX News
One of the young filmmakers behind a controversial 9/11 conspiracy documentary was arrested this week on charges that he deserted the Army, even though ... he received an honorable discharge. Korey Rowe, 24, who served with the 101st Airborne in Afghanistan and Iraq, told FOXNews.com that he was honorably discharged from the military 18 months ago – which he said he explained to sheriffs when they pounded on his door late Monday night. "When they came to my house, I showed them my paperwork," Rowe said. "The cops said, 'You're still in the system.'" Rowe is one of the producers of "Loose Change," a cult hit on the Internet espousing the theory that the U.S. government and specifically the Bush administration orchestrated the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. The movie is set to be released in about 40 British theaters in late August, according to Rowe and fellow filmmakers Jason Bermas and Dylan Avery. Police arrested Rowe at his house in Oneonta, N.Y., about 10:45 p.m. on Monday and took him to the Otsego County jail, where he spent a day-and-a-half before he was released, he said. Rowe was turned over to officials at Fort Drum – the closest military base – who then booked him on a flight to Fort Campbell, Ky., where his unit is based, to try to straighten out why the military issued a warrant for his arrest. "A warrant for my arrest came down and showed up on the sheriff's desk," Rowe said. "Where it came from and why it showed up all of a sudden is a mystery to me." There were at least five sheriffs on hand for his arrest, Rowe said. "They pulled a whole operation. They cut my phone lines. They came from the woods. It was crazy – it was ridiculous," he said.
The twins who are 'one in a million'
July 20, 2007, Daily Mail (UK)
When 42-year-old Cathleen Gardiner's twins were born 17 years ago, doctors told her they were a "pair in a million". One had Down's syndrome, while the other did not. Here, Cathleen [tells] their touching and inspiring story: Since Sean was born 17 years ago, I have always taken the view that he is just as wonderful and special as my other two children. While he may have a disability, none of us have ever viewed him as a burden, and ... I refuse to see him as anything but a blessing. The doctors explained that as they were fraternal twins, meaning they came from two eggs ... Lisa was not affected by the condition. Lisa walked at 11 months, while Sean didn't take his first steps till he was three. By two, Lisa was quite the conversationalist, but Sean wasn't able to form sentences until he was nearly four. For the first five years of his life, Sean needed a great deal of care. There was no question of me going back to my job as a technical adviser in a computing company. Looking after him was a fulltime job. Yet despite the considerable difference between the twins, we never treated them differently. We gave them the same toys and spoke to them the same way. Our attitude was that by encouraging Sean to keep up with Lisa, even though he would never manage it, we would be helping him to fulfil his potential. We sent them to the same primary school after doctors advised us that Sean could go to a mainstream school, but we had to explain to Lisa that he wouldn't learn as quickly as she would. She told us ... that she'd help him with his school work. Having a non-disabled twin has really helped Sean to develop - the love they share has given him a unique support in a tough world, and I'm not sure he would have done nearly as well if he didn't have Lisa fighting his corner every step of the way.
Papers Detail Industry's Role in Cheney's Energy Report
July 18, 2007, Washington Post
At 10 a.m. on April 4, 2001, representatives of 13 environmental groups were brought into the Old Executive Office Building for a long-anticipated meeting. Since late January, a task force headed by Vice President Cheney had been busy drawing up a new national energy policy, and the groups were getting their one chance to be heard. A confidential list prepared by the Bush administration shows that Cheney and his aides had already held at least 40 meetings with interest groups, most of them from energy-producing industries. By the time of the meeting with environmental groups, according to a former White House official who provided the list to The Washington Post, the initial draft of the task force was substantially complete and President Bush had been briefed on its progress. In all, about 300 groups and individuals met with staff members of the energy task force, including a handful who saw Cheney himself, according to the list, which was compiled in the summer of 2001. For six years, those names have been a closely guarded secret, thanks to a fierce legal battle waged by the White House. Some names have leaked out over the years, but most have remained hidden because of a 2004 Supreme Court ruling that agreed that the administration's internal deliberations ought to be shielded from outside scrutiny. The list of participants' names and when they met with administration officials provides a clearer picture of the task force's priorities and bolsters previous reports that the review leaned heavily on oil and gas companies and on trade groups -- many of them big contributors to the Bush campaign and the Republican Party. It clears up much of the lingering uncertainty about who was granted access to present energy policy views to Cheney's staff.
Surgeon General Sees 4-Year Term as Compromised
July 10, 2007, New York Times
Former Surgeon General Richard H. Carmona told a Congressional panel Tuesday that top Bush administration officials repeatedly tried to weaken or suppress important public health reports because of political considerations. The administration, Dr. Carmona said, would not allow him to speak or issue reports about stem cells, emergency contraception, sex education, or prison, mental and global health issues. Top officials delayed for years and tried to "water down" a landmark report on secondhand smoke, he said. Released last year, the report concluded that even brief exposure to cigarette smoke could cause immediate harm. Dr. Carmona said he was ordered to mention President Bush three times on every page of his speeches. He also said he was asked to make speeches to support Republican political candidates and to attend political briefings. Dr. Carmona is one of a growing list of present and former administration officials to charge that politics often trumped science within what had previously been largely nonpartisan government health and scientific agencies. On issue after issue, Dr. Carmona said, the administration made decisions about important public health issues based solely on political considerations, not scientific ones. "I was told to stay away from those because we've already decided which way we want to go," Dr. Carmona said. He described attending a meeting of top officials in which the subject of global warming was discussed. The officials concluded that global warming was a liberal cause and dismissed it, he said.
Meet the 'Elders': Nelson Mandela, Desmond Tutu, Jimmy Carter, Muhammad Yunus and Many More
July 18, 2007, ABC News
The Elders, a new alliance made up of an elite group of senior statesmen dedicated to solving thorny global problems, unveiled itself today in Johannesburg. The members include [Nelson Mandela, the former South African president,] Desmond Tutu, South African archbishop emeritus of Capetown; former U.S. President Jimmy Carter; former U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan; Mary Robinson, former president of Ireland and Mohammed Yunus, the Nobel laureate and founder of the Green Bank in Bangladesh. The group plans to get involved in some of the world's most pressing problems -- climate change, pandemics like AIDS, malaria, tuberculosis, [and] violent conflicts. Under a large white futuristic dome, British billionaire Richard Branson and rock star Peter Gabriel, who conceived the idea for the Elders, gathered enough star power to change the world, or at least that's the hope. "The structures we have to deal with these problems are often tied down by political, economic and geographic constraints," Mandela said. The Elders, he argued, will face no such constraints. Seven years ago, Branson and Gabriel approached Mandela about the Elders idea, and he agreed to help them recruit others. "This group of elders will bring hope and wisdom back into the world," Branson said. "They'll play a role in bringing us together. "Using their collective experience, their moral courage and their ability to rise above the parochial concerns of nations, they can help make our planet a more peaceful, healthy and equitable place to live," Branson said. "Let us call them 'global elders,' not because of their age but because of individual and collective wisdom."
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Presidential Power Grabs, Assets Seizure, Government Secrecy