During his testimony about warrantless surveillance today before the House Judiciary Committee, Director of National Intelligence Michael McConnell said that out of the “billions” of conversations and e-mails intercepted abroad, only “a very small number” of Americans are “overheard.” McConnell gave no indication, however, of what he considered “small” to be, relative to “billions” of communications. Watch it:
Though McConnell claimed in the hearing that no Americans were the “targets” of “wiretaps” without a court order, Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) insisted that “much-needed checks and balances” must be “restored” in the nation’s surveillance laws.
UPDATE: The Gavel has more on the hearing here.
Today, a majority of the Senate voted 57 to 42 to give DC congressional representation. But it failed to get the 60 votes needed to overcome Sen. Mitch McConnell’s (R-KY) filibuster. Full roll call HERE.
UPDATE: “The fat lady has not sung yet, this war is not over,” said DC Rep. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D) in reaction to today’s vote.
Sometime after The Departed came out, I found myself wondering why we don’t see more films about non-Italian organized crime, especially the Russian mob which seems to be the up and coming thing. Then I saw a preview for Eastern Promises, a film about Russian gangsters (and to some extent their Chechen rivals) in London, and I thought it looked terrible. But Chris Orr said it was good and I went to see it and . . . it’s good! It contains a lot of what people liked about David Cronenberg’s A History of Violence, but I thought it added a deeper sense of place and rootedness reminiscent of screenwriter Steven Knight‘s fantastic Dirty Pretty Things from a few years back.
Reporting on the war demonstrations in Washington D.C. this past weekend, CNN’s Kathleen Koch perpetrated the falsehood that pro-war demonstrators support the troops while anti-war demonstrators do not.
In her report, Koch starts off talking about the thousands of anti-war demonstrators. She then proceeds to “balance out” the report with news on the much smaller counter-demonstration, referring to them as the “pro-troop demonstrators”:
[J]ust 13 blocks away, a smaller group of nearly a thousand pro-troop demonstrators tried to make their message heard.
Koch made no such “pro-troop” reference to those demonstrating against the administration.
CNN’s own promo on its website made the same distinction, pitting “anti war protesters” against “troop supporters”:
– Dave de Give
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Call to ban petrol cars by 2040 – BBC News. Some aggressive proposals across the pond, where British Liberal Democrats are calling for carbon neutrality by 2050 in the UK.
Ethanol sparks food fight between corn growers and buyers – Seattle Post-Intelligencer. “The burgeoning ethanol industry is creating a wave of prosperity for rural towns throughout the Midwest, but the energy bonanza is also pitting farming groups against each other.” Many farming groups don’t like high prices for corn. The American Meat Institute plus dairy, egg and turkey lobbyists have launched a Web site called Balanced Food and Fuel that spells out “the seemingly dire consequences of the growing demand for biofuel.” Corn growers have responded in kind.
Grim outlook for poor countries in climate report — Guardian Unlimited. “Professor Martin Parry, a climate scientist with the Met Office, said destructive changes in temperature, rainfall and agriculture were now forecast to occur several decades earlier than thought.” The effect on Africa and Asia will be especially hard. “By 2020, the report warns, up to 250 million Africans may be left short of water.”
Yesterday, Sens. Chris Dodd (D-CT) and Patrick Leahy (D-VT) reintroduced the Habeas Corpus Restoration Act as an amendment to a defense authorization bill, restoring the right of habeas corpus to detainees charged as “enemy combatants.” Firedoglake notes that Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) has already threatened to filibuster the bill. Call your senators (information HERE) urge them to support the legislation.
UPDATE: OpenLeft has more.
You’d think that General Petraeus’ civilian casualties data and the Defense Department’s civilian casualties data would at least show the same trend lines. You’d be wrong.
Noah Schactman reports on Bush administration efforts to lay the groundwork for massive bloodshed in Iraq:
Sunni political and tribal leaders are increasingly throwing in their lot with U.S. forces here against Al-Qaeda in Iraq and other insurgent types. But, to get them to come over to our side, the American military has fed them a steady diet of anti-Shi’ite propaganda.
Arrests and killings of Shi’ite militants are announced from loudspeaker blasts; President Bush’s bellicose rhetoric towards Shi’a Iran is reported on friendly radio programs. But the majority of this country is Shi’ite. Are we setting ourselves up as the enemies of the majority here? Are we priming the pump for an all-in sectarian battle royale? It seems like a possibility.
Robert Farley and Kevin Drum make some smart comments. I think this supports my view that our policy may, on some level, be deliberately aimed at fostering sectarian conflict in order to keep both sides friendly to the idea of an open-ended American military presence. Eric Martin has his doubts about that.
I’m reminded, however, of Alex Cooley’s commentary on Daniel Nexon and Thomas Wright (PDF) “What’s at Stake in the American Empire Debate?” from the May issue of The American Political Science Review:
In fact, the extreme implication of the Nexon/Wright model for U.S. policymakers would be to more vigorously pursue “divide-and-rule” policies in Iraq instead of its contradictory nation-building policies of “unite and rule.”
I don’t think one need necessarily see this as an incredibly deliberate development. Rather, the top political leadership in the country, from Bush and Cheney on down, has consistently failed to articulate meaningful objectives in Iraq beyond a stubborn refusal to answer calls for withdrawal. Under the circumstances, we shouldn’t be surprised that this priority filtered down over time and has, increasingly, led our strategy to evolve in a divide and rule direction rather than a nation-building one.
The Inspector General Act of 1978 states Inspectors General (IG) must be “independent and objective” in their analysis. The State Department IG, led by Howard Krongard, has a core mission of “promot[ing] integrity” and “prevent[ing] and detect waste, fraud, abuse, and mismanagement” within the Department.
But today, House Oversight Committee Chairman Henry Waxman (D-CA) wrote to Krongard under allegations from seven employees that he “has repeatedly interfered with on-going investigations to protect the State Department and the White House from political embarrassment.”
Waxman wrote that one “consistent allegation” is that Krongard believes his “foremost mission is to support the Bush Administration, especially with respect to Iraq and Afghanistan,” rather than “act as an independent and objective check.” Waxman also noted complaints of Krongard’s “partisan political ties.”
Among the allegations:
– Refused to send “any investigators” into Iraq and Afghanistan to “pursue investigations into wasteful spending or procurement fraud.”
– Stalled investigators from cooperating with a “Justice Department investigation into waste, fraud, and abuse relating to the new U.S. Embassy in Iraq.”
– Used “irregular” and incomplete investigative procedures to help exonerate a prime contractor of the U.S. embassy in Iraq of charges of labor trafficking.
– Impeded investigators’ efforts to cooperate with a Justice probe into allegations that a “large private security contractor was smuggling weapons into Iraq.”
– Censored portions of inspection reports on embassies so that information on security vulnerabilities was “not disclosed to Congress.”
The report adds that under Krongard, the IG office has seen an “exodus of trained staff” as “people come to work every day fearful” of his “daily antagonism.”
The allegations against Krongard reflect a disturbing trend in the IG offices under the Bush administration. Currently, at least four IGs are under investigation into allegations of “fraud, wasteful spending and abuse of power” — the very flaws they are supposed to be preventing.