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ThinkFast: June 17, 2008

A Senate investigation has found that “top Pentagon officials began assembling lists of harsh interrogation techniques in the summer of 2002 for use on detainees at Guantanamo Bay and that those officials later cited memos from field commanders to suggest that the proposals originated far down the chain of command.” It provides evidence that the policies were “not the work of out-of-control, lower-ranking troops.”

Yesterday, the Supreme Court agreed to hear a lawsuit brought by a Pakistani man who was living in the U.S. before being imprisoned after Sept. 11, 2001. The man was held for in solitary confinement for several months, “where he was subjected to daily body-cavity searches…as well as to beatings and to extremes of hot and cold,” after which he pleaded guilty to document fraud.

In a Wall Street Journal op-ed, former Justice Department official John Yoo condemns last week’s Supreme Court habeas corpus ruling as “judicial imperialism of the highest order,” claiming it gives rights to those “captured fighting against the U.S.” Glenn Greenwald responds, “[A] huge bulk of our ‘War on Terror’ prisoners, including those at Guantanamo, were not ‘captured fighting against the U.S.’ at all.”

Charles M. Smith, the Army official who oversaw a multibillion-dollar contract with KBR, “says he was ousted from his job when he refused to approve paying more than $1 billion in questionable charges to KBR.” “They had a gigantic amount of costs they couldn’t justify,” he said. His successors “approved most of the payments he had tried to block.”

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On the trail today: Sen. Barack Obama (D-IL) continues his “Change That Works For You” Tour today with a meeting with students in Taylor, Michigan. Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) “will try to appeal to oil-state interests” with an energy speech in Houston.

In a letter sent to Karl Rove’s attorney Robert Luskin, Democrats on the House Judiciary Committee said they may be willing to accept “that Rove appear ‘without a transcript or oath,’ but without any limit on the committee’s right to seek sworn testimony later.”

The New York Times writes that “McCain appears to have ceded some of his carefully cultivated reputation as a maverick.” On the big-ticket issues, McCain’s “stances are indeed similar to Mr. Bush’s brand of conservatism.”

In the past two fiscal years, nearly 20,000 soldiers have been discharged. Many of them run the risk of “financial ruin” while they wait for their “claims to be processed and their benefits to come through.” Injured soldiers are usually “discharged on just a fraction of their salary and then forced to wait six to nine months, and sometimes even more than a year, before their full disability payments begin to flow.”

“The global number of refugees and displaced people reached 67 million last year,” according to the UN refugee agency. Once again, Afghanistan and Iraq topped the list of the countries of origins for refugees with 3.1 million and 2.3 million respectively. In Iraq, “the number of internally displaced rose from 1.8 million at the start of the year to close to 2.4 million by the end of 2007” due to sectarian and political divisions.

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“Congressional leaders lost millions in last year’s economic downturn,” financial disclosure reports show. Yet “while House members suffered losses, senators defied the odds and saw their profit margins rise.” Both Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) “added hundreds of thousands to their holdings between 2006 and 2007.”

And finally: Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has made 22 trips to Israel during the Bush administration, including this past weekend. Yet as Time’s Jerusalem Bureau Chief Tim McGirk notes, “[S]he has little to show for it.” There was “no fanfare, no motorcades snarling up the city’s traffic,” and she couldn’t even book a room at her usual hotel, having to settle for a “less grand” one. Israeli TV announcers have even “coined her name as a verb, meaning to go endlessly around in circles, accomplishing nothing.”

What did we miss? Let us know in the comments section.