Saturday, July 02, 2005


NYT: Conservatives lobby against AG


Gonzales with O'ConnorWashington -- Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales, left, and Justice Sandra Day O'Connor chat at his swearing-in ceremony at the Justice Department in February.

In a story to appear in tomorrow's NY Times, the paper reports:

Within hours after Justice Sandra Day O'Connor's announced retirement from the Supreme Court, members of conservative groups around the country convened in five national conference calls in which, participants said, they shared one big concern: heading off any effort by President Bush to nominate his attorney general, Alberto R. Gonzales to replace her.

Late last week, a delegation of conservative lawyers led by C. Boyden Gray and former Attorney General Edwin Meese III met with the White House chief of staff, Andrew H. Card Jr., to warn that appointing Mr. Gonzales would splinter conservative support.

And Paul M. Weyrich, a veteran conservative organizer and chairman of the Free Congress Foundation, said he had told administration officials that nominating Mr. Gonzales, whose views on abortion are considered suspect by religious conservatives, would fracture the president's conservative backers.

The groundswell of opposition to Mr. Gonzales was just one sign of the conflicting forces suddenly swirling around Mr. Bush this weekend as he headed to Camp David to begin considering a replacement for Justice O'Connor, a decision his aides said would not be announced before he returned from a trip to Europe at the end of next week.

Members of Congress and conservatives close to the White House said that they were confident that Mr. Bush would use the first Supreme Court vacancy of his tenure to nominate a judge in the mold of Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas, as he has repeatedly promised in the past.

Full NY Times story.


Blog: It's Rove - July 2

Lawrence O'DonnellLawrence O'Donnell, Executive Producer "The West Wing," Panelist "The McLaughlin Group," & Former Chief of Staff, U.S. Senate Committee on Finance, today revealed on the Huffington Post (blog):
Rove Blew CIA Agent's Cover

I revealed in yesterday's taping of the McLaughlin Group that Time magazine's emails will reveal that Karl Rove was Matt Cooper's source. I have known this for months but didn't want to say it at a time that would risk me getting dragged into the grand jury.

McLaughlin is seen in some markets on Friday night, so some websites have picked it up, including Drudge, but I don't expect it to have much impact because McLaughlin is not considered a news show and it will be pre-empted in the big markets on Sunday because of tennis.

Since I revealed the big scoop, I have had it reconfirmed by yet another highly authoritative source. Too many people know this. It should break wide open this week. I know Newsweek is working on an 'It's Rove!' story and will probably break it tomorrow.

Source:  The Huffington Post.


AP: Senators discuss judicial confirmation - July 2


WASHINGTON (AP) - With the loss of Justice Sandra Day O'Connor's swing vote, senators are readying a fierce battle over President Bush's first Supreme Court nominee - a person who could determine the fate of several important court precedents in the future.

While the Senate is in a holding pattern until President Bush makes a nomination - which the White House said won't be until after he returns from Europe next Friday - Republicans and Democrats already are jockeying for advantage in a confirmation battle they say will reshape the courts.

"This is the first Supreme Court vacancy in more than a decade, and Justice O'Connor's replacement will greatly influence the future of this country," Sen. Russ Feingold, D-Wis., a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, said after O'Connor announced her retirement Friday.

Bush said he will consult with senators of both parties about his selection, something Democrats asked for repeatedly for months. The GOP-run Judiciary Committee is expected to start hearings within a month to six weeks after Bush sends the nomination to the Senate.

Sen. Specter

"My instinct is that there will not be a filibuster here," Judiciary Committee chairman Arlen Specter, R-Pa. (seen here left), declared minutes after the retirement announcement. Sen. Sam Brownback, R-Kan., added: "The person either goes on the Supreme Court or they don't go on the Supreme Court by 51 votes. That's what it should be."

Democrats are resigned to Bush nominating a conservative, but they are hoping to push him into picking someone like O'Connor, who showed an independent streak on the court despite being a lifelong Republican and a Reagan appointee.

O'Connor has been a crucial vote in holding the middle ground on landmark rulings from abortion to abuses in money and politics. Sen. Christopher Dodd, D-Conn., called her "a conservative, but who is in the mainstream of judicial thinking."

"Justice O'Connor has been a voice of reason and moderation on the court," said Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid of Nevada. "It is vital that she be replaced by someone like her, someone who embodies the fundamental American values of freedom, equality and fairness."

Republicans used the same buzzwords, with Majority Leader Bill Frist, R-Tenn., calling for a nominee who is "fair, independent, unbiased and committed to equal justice under the law" like O'Connor. But other Republicans took pains to point out that she wasn't as moderate as Democrats portrayed.

"She has provided the critical fifth vote in case after case after case, involving the important role that states play in our federalist system of government, and in the protection of religious liberties and religious expression in the public square," said Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, a Judiciary Committee member.

Bush has said in the past that he favors the judicial philosophy of Justices Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas but never has mentioned O'Connor. And he has said repeatedly that judges should not "legislate from the bench," meaning that their opinions should not be swayed by social or cultural trends.

Full AP story by Jesse J. Holland.


Reuters: Abortion protestors

Pro-choicer & Pro-lifer at Supreme Court
Intern with the National Organization of Women, Pem Brown (below left), holds up a sign next to Bound4Life member Justin Thompson at the U.S. Supreme Court in Washington, D.C., yesterday.
Senate Democrats urged U.S. President George W. Bush on Friday to replace Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor with someone in her centrist mold to unite America and avert a divisive confirmation battle.
REUTERS/Mannie Garcia.


ARN: Washburn v. Haigler on O'Connor successor


Today's Abilene Reporter News quotes locals predicting whom President Bush might appoint to succeed retiring Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, including Republican chair Paul Washburn & Democratic Chair Dave Haigler:

Washburn said a lot of people qualified for the bench would likely turn down Bush's offer because of what happened with previous Senate confirmations. One name Washburn threw out as a possible replacement was Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas.

"He's been on the Texas Supreme Court and did a good job," he said. "He's very well qualified."

Dave Haigler, Taylor County Democratic Party chairman, said Bush probably will opt for someone more conservative than O'Connor.

"I would say the court is going to swing a little more to the right," Haigler said. "I think the president is looking for someone who is a safe bet who will vote against Roe v. Wade if it comes up again, to water that decision down or reverse it."

One name Haigler threw out as replacement for O'Connor is Judge J. Michael Luttig of the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. Luttig clerked for Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia when Scalia was an appeals court judge.

Haigler said Luttig might be more apt to vote conservative if a Roe v. Wade case made it back to the Supreme Court.

-- Jason Sheehan -- ARN full story.

Comments by D.H.: My counterpart, Paul Washburn, has loyalties to Texas Republicans like Sen. John Cornyn, but it makes no sense for President Bush to appoint a Republican senator to anything, with the slim majority the Republicans now hold in the senate. Bush would be more likely to appoint Nevada Senator Harry Reid, a pro-life Democrat who is the Senate Minority Leader, because the Nevada Governor, Kenny Guinn, is a Republican who could appoint a Republican successor to Reid in the senate and get them one vote closer to the minimum 60 needed for cloture and being filibuster proof.

If being pro-life were all that important to Bush, that is. I say it's not. Party & personal loyalty is more important to Bush than any ideology. But he will throw a bone to the right-wing radicals if he can do so and still shore up his own sagging political fortunes.

No, I blogged a shortlist of 8 likely Bush picks on June 24, and I'll stick with those, Judge Michael Luttig being #1.


NYT: O'Connor Held Balance of Power

O'Connor in TexasNews Analysis (excerpt)
WASHINGTON (NYT) Justice Sandra Day O'Connor appears here, below left, at an event sponsored by the University of Houston Law Center.

Because Justice O'Connor has played such a pivotal role on the court for much of her 24-year tenure that her unexpected retirement is such a galvanizing event. Much more than the widely anticipated retirement of the predictably conservative Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist, her departure creates an opportunity for President Bush to shape the court.

The last such defining moment occurred with the retirement in 1987 of Justice Lewis F. Powell Jr., whose position on the court then resembled Justice O'Connor's today. President Ronald Reagan nominated a polarizing conservative, Robert H. Bork, whose defeat by a Democratic-controlled Senate after a protracted battle still resonates today.

A list of the issues on which Justice O'Connor has held the balance of power goes far to explain why holiday weekend preparations screeched to a halt in Washington on Friday morning as word spread of her decision to retire.

Just two years ago, she wrote the opinion for the 5-to-4 majority that upheld affirmative action in university admissions. Earlier, in a series of decisions interpreting the Constitution's guarantee of equal protection, she led or joined 5-to-4 majorities that viewed with great suspicion government policies that took account of race in federal contracting, employment and electoral redistricting. Her view was that the government should not be in the business of counting by race.

But in Grutter v. Bollinger, the University of Michigan case decided in 2003, she became persuaded that affirmative action in university admissions was still justified. "Effective participation by members of all racial and ethnic groups in the civic life of our nation is essential if the dream of one nation, indivisible, is to be realized," she wrote.

Until the pair of Ten Commandments decisions this week, which found her in dissent from the ruling that upheld a Ten Commandments monument on the grounds of the Texas Capitol, she had occupied a central position on the role of religion in public life.

Beginning with her earliest years on the court, Justice O'Connor adopted her own test for evaluating whether government policy amounted to an unconstitutional establishment of religion. Instead of a three-part test that the court used, she asked whether the government policy under review conveyed to nonadherents the message that they were "outsiders, not full members of the political community."

This led her to vote to prohibit public prayer at high school graduations and football games, but to insist on equal access for student religious publications and clubs. In 2002, she voted with the 5-to-4 majority that upheld the use of publicly financed tuition vouchers at religious schools. In her opinion this week concurring with the 5-to-4 majority that declared framed copies of the Ten Commandments hanging in Kentucky courthouses to be unconstitutional, she said the Constitution's religion clauses "protect adherents of all religions, as well as those who believe in no religion at all."

On the other most intensely fought social issue of the day, abortion, Justice O'Connor's successor will not be in a position to move the court away from its support of the core right to abortion, now at 6 to 3. But in the court's last major abortion ruling, five years ago, Justice O'Connor provided the crucial fifth vote to strike down Nebraska's ban on what were called "partial birth" abortions.

Full NY Times commentary.


Slate-Papers: O'Connor War of Succession - July 2

By Daniel Politi
Posted Saturday, at 6:10 AM CT

All the papers lead with Justice Sandra Day O'Connor's resignation. O'Connor was the first woman on the United States Supreme Court where she served for 24 years and was often a crucial swing vote on a number of contentious cases involving such divisive issues as abortion, affirmative action, and religion. [This story was blogged by DemLog yesterday here, here and here.]

O'Connor's letter to BushO'Connor's resignation, which came in the form of a three-sentence letter delivered to the White House (seen here at right, which was to be "effective upon the nomination and confirmation of my successor"), caught Washington by surprise as all speculation about a justice resigning in recent weeks centered around Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist. She gave no specific reason for her retirement except that she's 75 and wants to spend more time with her husband, who is said to have Alzheimer's disease.

The Los Angeles Times mentions that O'Connor looked worried and sad on the court's last day of the term on Monday, as she helped steady a weak Rehnquist and they walked off together. The New York Times is quick to point out that the resignation means the court has its first vacancy in 11 years, thereby ending the longest period without change since the 1820's. The Washington Post says that O'Connor's crucial tie-breaking role in the court made her "perhaps the most influential woman in public office in U.S. history" and public surveys often listed her as one of the most admired women in the country. (Slate has compiled past articles on O'Connor and her legacy is currently being discussed).

All the papers preview the upcoming battle over O'Connor's replacement, which promises to be heated because everyone sees it as key to the future of the Supreme Court. Politicians and interest groups were getting ready for Rehnquist's retirement but the fight over replacing the reliably conservative chief justice was not seen as being crucial because it would not have meant a change in the court's balance of power. Conservative and liberal groups are starting public campaigns that are likely to rival presidential ones in ferocity and money. "No matter what side you're on, everything you've believed in, everything you've cared about, everything you've fought for is at stake," Ralph G. Neas, president of the liberal People for the American Way, said to the NYT.

The NYT describes many of the possible candidates from the list that had already been drawn up in preparations for Rehnquist's retirement and compares their different styles. The different implications of O'Connor's retirement, however, mean that the list might change to add more women, as there are currently only two. (The WP dedicates a short article to each of the 12 candidates it considers to be on the shortlist, which includes three women).

Bush with O'ConnorSome have also suggested that Bush (seen here left with O'Connor) might put on hold his desire to appoint the first Hispanic judge. (Slate wrote about possible Supreme Court nominees last week).

The WP fronts, and the NYT goes inside with, the continuing search for missing U.S. troops in northeastern Afghanistan. On Tuesday, a Special Operations helicopter that was sent to the area to look for them was shot down, killing all 16 people aboard. [Blogged by DemLog yesterday here and here.] U.S. commanders lost contact with the missing troops on Tuesday shortly after they came under enemy fire. A spokesman for the Taliban said they killed seven of the men, but U.S. officials claim there is no evidence to support the claim. In the past three months there has been a sharp increase in violence in Afghanistan that has resulted in the death of 45 U.S. military forces (the NYT uses AP numbers and says 29 American troops have been killed, along with 465 suspected insurgents, 125 civilians, and 43 Afghan policemen and soldiers).

All the papers go inside with German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder deliberately losing a confidence vote in order to be able to hold early elections in September. [Blogged by DemLog here yesterday.] The chancellor currently has an 18 percent approval rating and the increasing divisions within his party led him to announce that his coalition does not have the ability to fix the German economy. The vote of no confidence means that Schroeder can now ask the president to dissolve parliament and, assuming the Supreme Court approves, there will be new elections.

The LAT gets word of a group of U.S. investigators who have concluded that Iranian president-elect Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is not the person escorting an American hostage in a 1979 photograph. [Blogged by DemLog yesterday here, here and here.] The investigators found several important discrepancies between the photograph that some claimed was of Ahmadinejad and others of him at the time. According to LAT's source, the investigation into Ahmadinejad's possible role in the hostage crisis is "still an open question" and continues to be investigated.

Miller & CooperAll the papers mention that lawyers for Matthew Cooper from Time magazine and Judith Miller from the New York Times (shown here at right) asked that if the reporters must be jailed that the sentence be limited to home detention, or to specific federal prisons. Lawyers for Cooper argued that he should not be incarcerated because Time magazine turned over the notes that reveal his sources. Miller's defense argued she also shouldn't be jailed because she has made it clear she will never hand in her sources, so jailing her would not result in Miller obeying the court. [This story was blogged here by DemLog yesterday.]

Full "Today's Papers" article.

Friday, July 01, 2005


AFP: Italy chews out US over CIA kidnapping

US Ambassador to ItalyUS ambassador to Italy, Mel Sembler, below left, leaves the Chigi palace in the Italian capital after meeting Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi.
Berlusconi demanded the United States respect Italian sovereignty after summoning Sembler to explain an alleged CIA abduction of an Islamic cleric in Milan two years ago, his office said.
(AFP/Andreas Solaro)


AFP: Dean says, follow Reagan's example - July 1

Democratic National Committee chairman Howard Dean, is seen below right.
Dean called on President Bush to emulate Ronald Reagan in his choice of O'Connor.
"President Reagan had the courage to stand up to the right wing extremists in his party by choosing a moderate, thoughtful jurist," Dean said.
(AFP/Getty Images/File)


AP: Aruba announces murder charges on Holloway case

ORANJESTAD, Aruba - Aruba's Attorney General Karin Janssen, below left, speaks to the Associated Press in her office in Oranjestad, Aruba, Friday, July 1, 2005, regarding the case of missing Alabama teen Natalee Holloway. (AP Photo/Leslie Mazoch)

Aruba prosecutorThree young men detained in the disappearance of an Alabama teenager were charged with murder shortly after their arrest more than three weeks ago, Aruba's chief prosecutor told The Associated Press on Friday.

The charges were withheld from the public at the time to protect the feelings of the family of 18-year-old Natalee Holloway, said Attorney General Karin Janssen.

"At the time, we didn't want to upset the (Holloway) family talking about murder while they searched," Janssen said.

Janssen, who has said several times in the past three weeks that no one was charged in the case, said they also kept the information quiet in order not to compromise their investigation. Authorities have said they have no physical evidence suggesting Holloway is dead.

Janssen said 17-year-old Joran van der Sloot, 17, and two Surinamese brothers who are his friends have been charged since their arrest -- 10 days after Holloway disappeared on May 30.

Also Friday, Aruba's government defended its handling of the investigation, saying many of the criticisms arose from misunderstandings of the Dutch legal system used on the Caribbean island.

Full AP-Yahoo News story.


Bush will pick Court successor soon

BushWASHINGTON -- President George W. Bush makes remarks on the retirement of U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor in the Rose Garden of the White House in Washington July 1, 2005. Justice O'Connor, the first woman on the U.S. Supreme Court and a moderate conservative who often cast the key decisive vote, announced her retirement on July 1, setting the stage for a major political battle over her successor. REUTERS/Jason Reed.

President Bush says he will pick a Supreme Court candidate in a timely manner so the vacancy can be filled before the start of the next term in October.  Source: The Herald-Sun.


AP: Justice O'Connor retiring

Justice O'ConnorJustice Sandra Day O'Connor wrote President Bush today announcing her retirement, "effective upon the nomination and confirmation of my successor."
Justice O'Connor, the first woman named to the United States Supreme Court, is seen in her office at the Supreme Court, in Washington in this file photo.
O'Connor, a key swing vote on issues such as abortion and the death penalty, said Friday, July 1, 2005, she is retiring.
(AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)


Reuters: Senate hearing on Middle East

Lugar & Biden
Senator Joseph Biden (D-DE), right, gestures during a hearing on challenges of the Middle East road map at the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Capitol Hill as senator Richard Lugar (R-IN), chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, looks on in Washington, June 30, 2005.
REUTERS/Yuri Gripas


AFP: Update on CAFTA

Sen. FristSenate Majority Leader Bill Frist, left.
The US Senate has approved a controversial free trade pact with Central America and the Dominican Republic by a close 54-45 vote, with a battle likely at its next stage in the House of Representatives.  (AFP/Getty Images/File)
See prior DemLog blog on CAFTA.


AP: Dean visits Cajuns


Dean in New OrleansHoward Dean, chairman
of the Democratic National
Committee, shown at right,
meets grassroots Louisiana
residents at the Essence
of the Democratic Party
grassroots fundraiser in
New Orleans, Thursday,
June 30, 2005.

(AP Photo/Megan Nadolski)


AP: Minnesota shuts down

Minnesota governor & speaker
Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, right, announces a partial Minnesota government shutdown during a news conference Thursday, June 30, 2005, at the State Capitol in St. Paul, Minn. House Speaker Steve Sviggum, R-Kenyon, left, joined Gov. Pawlenty to make the shutdown announcement. (AP Photo/Tom Olmscheid)


Reuters: German chancellor seeks election showdown

German challengerChristian Democratic Union
(CDU) leader Angela Merkel
walks to address the German
lower house of parliament
Bundestag in Berlin, July 1,

German Chancellor Gerhard
Schroeder achieved his goal
of losing a vote of confidence
in parliament on Friday to keep
alive his plan for a September
election showdown with CDU
conservative leader Angela
Merkel. REUTERS/Arnd Wiegmann.


Slate-Papers: "Time" will tell - July 1

By Eric Umansky
Posted Friday, at 4:25 AM CT

The Wall Street Journal's world-wide newsbox and Washington Post lead with--and others stuff--President Bush's pledge of $1.7 billion in increased aid to Africa over five years, most of it for fighting malaria. The New York Times leads with Time Inc.'s decision accede to a judge's demands and hand over reporter Matthew Cooper's notes about the outing of CIA agent Valerie Plame. "I found myself really coming to the conclusion that once the Supreme Court has spoken, we are not above the law and we have to behave the way ordinary citizens do," said Time Inc.'s editor in chief, Norman Pearlstine (shown in a CNN photo, below left). The Los Angeles Times leads with a California judge's decision to hand the state's ill-run prison healthcare system over to a receiver. According to estimates not disputed by the state, about one prisoner dies per week from neglect. USA Today leads with this summer's hottest trend: Gas theft. "Our drive-offs are up probably 100 percent" this year, said the head of one convenience store chain.

Norman PearlstineThe Post says up high that "some analysts and advocates" argued that the money Bush has promised for malaria would just "repackaging" and would in part replace funds Congress and the White House agreed to cut. But the paper relies on the advocacy groups for the numbers, rendering the stats at least questionable. The NYT doesn't focus on the critics' concerns but explain that the White House's last budget did indeed propose cutting anti-malaria funding, from $90 million down to $58 million. If Bush's plan is carried out, spending will dwarf that. Meanwhile, a Post editorial notes that the new proposal is "small potatoes" next to the anti-poverty proposal Prime Minister Blair pitched and Bush rebuffed.

Even with his bosses' decision, Cooper might not be in the clear--the prosecutor in the case said he still might want to ask Cooper some questions. And the same goes for Miller. Cooper said he disagreed with Time's decision and said he regretted having once handed the notes over to higher-ups.

Unlike Time, the NYT didn't have to struggle with handing over its reporter's notes; that's because the paper says it doesn't have any. The NYT's Miller did reporting on the agent outing but never wrote about it.

Oddly, the prosecutor in the case has suggested he knows who spoke to Miller. And though TP doesn't see it mentioned this morning, Cooper has already named one administration official who chatted him up about the CIA agent: Scooter Libby, Vice President's Cheney's chief of staff.

Miller & Cooper[DemLog blogged this story on Miller & Cooper (shown here, right), yesterday, in a piece entitled "Time gives in, NYT holds out, on confidential sources."]

The NYT fronts the Senate voting 54 to 45 to approve the Central American Free Trade Agreement. Its passage had been expected there and it now moves on to a real fight in the House. Many Democrats have complained that CAFTA doesn't have sufficient labor and environmental protections while others--on both sides of the aisle--want to make sure the sugar industry stays protected.

Central American Presidents

[President George W. Bush (center left) delivers a brief statement at the White House with Presidents (L-R) Elias Antonio Saca of El Salvador, Abel Pacheco of Costa Rica, Enrique Bolanos of Nicaragua, Ricardo Maduro of Honduras, Oscar Berger of Guatemala, and Leonel Fernandez of the Dominican Republic in a file photo after concluding discussions on the Central American and Dominican Republic Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA-DR). (AFP/File)]

The Times says inside that the Labor Dept put the kibosh on a study it funded that concluded labor standards in Central America basically blow. The NYT doesn't mention it, but for what it's worth, the report was actually outed a few months ago.

According to a frontpage Post piece, the Bush administration has been exaggerating the amount of help it's given anti-AIDS programs in Botswana. Having spent all of $2.5 million so far, the administration recently claimed credit for all the treatment being given Botswana. The head of the country's HIV program called the U.S. stats "a gross misrepresentation of the facts."

A Page One piece in USAT crunches the numbers from Iraq and finds that a third more GIs were killed in the past year than the one prior.

The WP says inside that a year ago an FDA researcher noticed a (not necessarily casual) link between Viagra and a rare form of blindness but nothing much was done until a medical journal reported similar findings recently.

Bush asking about AhmadinejadThe LAT and NYT front President Bush, shown at right, saying he'd sure like to know whether Iran's newly elected president was indeed among the captors at the U.S. embassy 1979 as a handful of the hostages allege. [DemLog blogged this story 3 times yesterday: one, quoting Iranian captors denying Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was involved; two, quoting the London Times citing President Bush's staff assuming Ahmadinejad was involved; and three, reporting on 300 House members co-signing a bill for sanctions against Iran because of this rumor.] Two of the former militants who oversaw the hostage-taking said the new president wasn't in on the job. "He called after the embassy was captured and wanted to join us," one told the NYT. "But we refused to let him come to the embassy or become a member of our group." [D.H.: I hate to say it, but all this reminds me of the demonizing that we in the West did to Saddam Hussein since his invasion of Kuwait, which culminated in our invasion of Iraq. One of these days, we're going to invade some country that really does have a nuclear weapon.]

The Post fronts the House voting to try to limit the Supreme Court's recent eminent domain decision. The legislation would deny federal funding for any local project that used eminent domain to clear the way for a for-profit venture. A similar bill has been introduced in the Senate.

The NYT, Journal, and Post all go high with Bank of America snatching credit-card company MBNA for $35 billion. The purchase makes B of A the country's largest dealer of general credit cards.

Another FBI triumph... From the Journal's Washington Wire:

Under siege for high-tech blunders, the FBI creates a Web site to educate Americans on the bureau's "information-technology initiatives." A news release announcing the move gave an incorrect Web address.

Eric Umansky writes "Today's Papers" for Slate. He can be reached at
todayspapers@slate.com .

Don't understand Today's Papers jargon? Check out the Today's Papers glossary.

Source: Slate Magazine's "Today's Papers" column.

Thursday, June 30, 2005


AFP: Iran hostage story prompts sanctions - June 30

WASHINGTON (AFP) - Allegations that Iran's president-elect, below left, played a key role in the 1979 US embassy takeover in Tehran has given new impetus to a House of Representatives bill slapping sanctions on the regime.

Iran's new presidentHouse lawmakers gave renewed support to The Iran Freedom Support Act, introduced by Republican Representative Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (news, bio, voting record).

The legislation, introduced by Ros-Lehtinen in January, already had 250 co-sponsors before the revelations, but the number of backers rose to over 300 after revelations that Iran's hardliner president-elect, Mahmood Ahmadinejad, may have played a role as a hostage taker. Full AFP story.


MMfA: O'Reilly lies that torture saves lives

Media Matters for America reports today that Fox News host Bill O'Reilly falsely claimed that the former chief interrogator at Bagram Air Force Base in Afghanistan told him "on the radio" that the use of harsh questioning techniques at Bagram had "saved thousands of lives." 
O'LiarlyA review of the transcript shows the interrogator said no such thing.
O'Reilly asked Gen. Wes Clark about this, and the general's response was: 

CLARK: Well, I say that, you know, it violates the Geneva Convention. I don't know whether this is true. I don't know if that's the only way to get it. And he didn't tell me that.

Media Matters for America full story.


Reuters: Blair, Bush dogged about memos

President George W. Bush spoke about the upcoming G8 Summit in Scotland while at the Freer Gallery in Washington, DC today.
Blair & BushBoth Bush and British Prime Minister Tony Blair, shown left at a recent White House visit, are being criticized because of the so-called Downing Street memo, a prewar document leaked from inside the British government, which recounts a meeting of the Prime Minister's national security team.
The memo says the Bush administration believed that war was inevitable and was determined to use intelligence about weapons of mass destruction to justify the ouster of Saddam.
REUTERS/Larry Downing.


Reuters: Developer seeks to condemn Souter's house

Supreme Court Associate Justice David Souter is shown in an official portrait in Washington, below right.
Justice SouterSouter, born in Melrose, Massachusetts on September 17, 1939, was nominated by former U.S. President George H. W. Bush and assumed his current post on October 9, 1990.
A California man, angry over a U.S. Supreme Court decision expanding government power to take private property, says he will try to use the ruling to seize the New Hampshire home of Justice David Souter and convert it into a hotel to be named the Lost Liberty Hotel. (Jason Reed/Reuters)


AP: Dean in New Orleans - June 30


NEW ORLEANS (AP) Democratic National Convention Chairman Howard Dean is attending a fund-raiser in New Orleans this evening.

DeanThe fund-raiser is being held as part of Dean's promise to bring the Democratic Party back to the grassroots -- part of the D-N-C's overall commitment to a 50-state strategy.

The fund-raiser, dubbed Essence of the Democratic Party, begins at 6 p-m at TwiRopa, a nightclub in uptown New Orleans.

Dean was elected governor of Vermont five times between 1992 and 2000. He ran for the 2004 Democratic presidential nomination but closed down his campaign after stumbling in the early primaries.  Source: AP-KATC-TV.



AFP: US freezes Syrian's assets

Syrian Interior Minister KanaanThe US government
moved to freeze the
assets of Syria's
interior minister
Ghazi Kanaan,
seen here at right,
and a military
intelligence chief.

The US accused
them of abetting
terrorism and
the region.



AP: Bodies recovered from Afghan crash

WASHINGTON (AP) All 16 U.S. service members aboard a downed helicopter in Afghanistan have been killed and their bodies recovered, the U.S. military says.  Full AP-Yahoo News story.


London Times: Bush interview

President Bush, below center, with Roland Watson, Washington Correspondent (left) and Gerard Baker, US Editor of the London Times.

Bush with London Times writersIn the 40-minute session in the Oval Office yesterday, Mr Bush was clearly striving hard to maintain the momentum of the past six months, a diplomatic push to align America more closely with its allies without deviating from its national interests. He promised more assistance for Africa, now steadily rising with each new summit meeting; more movement to meet the rest of the world something close to halfway on climate change, a phrase Mr Bush himself, however, conspicuously avoids using, suggesting he hopes to find agreement on means even if there is little on the principles.

But this war President is unflinching on the principal foreign policy challenge. He rejects the idea that the war in Iraq may actually be producing more terrorism, creating a place where eager jihadists are trained to plot murder around the world. And he remains messianic about his ambition of promoting democracy around the world -- not only in the Middle East, but in Africa and Europe.

Perhaps most revealing is his response to a question about Iran. His words are polite but the President's body language is eloquent. As I read him a quote from the latest rantings of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the Iranian President, and remind him that the Iranian President was a leader of the students who took Americans hostage in Tehran in 1979, he is visibly agitated. He glances at his advisers with a look of disgust that suggests that the chances of a diplomatic solution to the Iranian nuclear crisis are remoter than ever.

Full London Times story & interview with Bush.


AJ: Abductors deny Iran leader siege role

Al Jazeera Net -- Iranian veterans of the 1979 seizure of hostages at the US embassy in Tehran have denied claims that President-elect Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, below left, played a role in the siege.

Iran's new presidentTheir comments come after several former US hostages who were held for 444 days by student followers of revolutionary leader Ayat Allah Ruhollah Khomeini said they were sure Ahmadinejad was a key player in the abduction.

"Mr Ahmadinejad was never one of students following the path of the imam that took the spy den (US embassy). He was never there," said Mohsen Mirdamadi, a former hostage-taker who went on to become a member of parliament.

Full Al Jazeera story.


LA Times: Important Supreme Court trend

COMMENTARY (excerpt)
The High Court, Between the Lines
The court's majority this term consistently and sometimes passionately rose to protect the interests of criminal defendants, who have been some of the most consistent, if unmourned, legal "victims" of the so-called Rehnquist Revolution. And it did this to the visible and eloquent dismay of the three lions of the court's right: the chief justice and Justices Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas.

This niche trend is no small thing. It suggests that a working and stable majority on the court feels a growing level of discomfort toward some of the substantive and procedural rollbacks we've seen in the rights of criminal defendants, especially in capital cases, over the past generation.

One year ago today, for example, a juvenile who murdered before reaching age 18 could be given the death penalty. Today, that option is no longer available. One year ago, California law made it more difficult for a defense attorney to challenge a prosecutor's choice to exclude potential jurors. Today, that state law follows the federal constitutional rule designed to ensure that prosecutors do not exclude jurors based upon race.

One year ago, Texas prosecutors had gotten away with a shameless procedure that amounted to racial bias in jury selection. That procedure is now unconstitutional. One year ago, it was possible for a state to bar financial assistance for poor people who pleaded guilty to crimes but who then wanted to appeal their sentences. Today, that is unconstitutional.

One year ago, a prisoner seeking to raise a constitutional claim about her parole process had to overcome a nearly insurmountable appellate hurdle. Today, that hurdle, though still high, is much lower.

Taken together, these rulings say that there's a majority on the court no longer willing to wait for lower courts or state legislators or Congress to ensure more fairness and accuracy in capital cases in particular.
Full LA Times commentary, "The High Court, Between the Lines."


Reuters: Bodies found in copter crash


KABUL (Reuters) - The bodies of 13 U.S. troops have been recovered from the crash of a U.S. helicopter in eastern Afghanistan, but seven more U.S. soldiers are unaccounted for and some may have been captured, a BBC news report said on Thursday.  Full Reuters news story.


AP: Italy denies knowing of CIA kidnapping

Italy's Parliamentary Affairs Minister Carlo Giovanardi, below right, addresses the country's Senate in Rome this morning.
Italian parliamentary minister
Italy's government has summoned the U.S. ambassador to discuss allegations the CIA kidnapped a terrorism suspect from Milan and flew him to Egypt for questioning, Giovanandi said on Thursday.  REUTERS/Alessandro Bianchi.
The Italian government denied Thursday it had prior knowledge of the alleged CIA kidnapping of a radical Egyptian cleric in 2003, an operation that has led prosecutors to seek the arrest of 13 purported CIA operatives.  Full AP story.


AFP: Huey found in Afghan mountains

A photo released by the US Army shows a US military CH-47 Chinook helicopter in southern Afghanistan.
A US helicopter that crashed in Afghanistan with 17 servicemen on board was probably shot down, the military said.  (AFP/US Army/HO/File)

KABUL (AFP) - After being hampered by mountain terrain and rebels, the US military said that rescuers had reached the wreckage of a helicopter which crashed under fire in Afghanistan but the fate of 17 personnel on board was still unknown.  Full AFP story.


CNN: Time gives in, NYT holds out, on confidential sources

Time journalist Matt Cooper, seen here, below right.
Matt Cooper of TimeTime magazine warned of 'chilling' new limits on US press freedoms as it reluctantly agreed to hand over Coopers's notes to a grand jury probing the leak of a CIA operative's identity.  (AFP/Getty Images/File)

NEW YORK (CNN) - Time Inc. announced Thursday it would turn over the subpoenaed records from journalist Matt Cooper regarding the leak of a CIA operative's name, even though it "strongly disagrees" with the court order.

Cooper and Judith Miller of the New York Times were facing up to four months in jail for refusing to reveal their confidential sources in the matter to a grand jury, after the U.S. Supreme Court Monday refused to hear an appeal in the case.

Time Inc. said in a statement its decision to turn over the records should prevent their White House correspondent from serving any time.

"We believe that our decision to provide the Special Prosecutor with the subpoenaed records obviates the need for Matt Cooper to testify and certainly removes any justification for incarceration," the statement said.

A federal judge was scheduled to decide next week whether Cooper and Miller would have to go to jail.

At a meeting Wednesday, attorneys for both Miller and Cooper told U.S. District Judge Thomas Hogan that they intended to stick to their decision not to reveal their sources. He gave their attorneys until Friday to submit additional arguments and set a final hearing for July 6.

"The time has come to proceed," the judge said. "The rule of law is at stake."

Hogan also had said Time Inc. would face civil penalties of a "substantial sum" if it does not turn over documents, including Cooper's notes, to the grand jury as ordered.

Meanwhile, the journalist whose work began the chain of events that led to the contempt charges against Miller and Cooper, Robert Novak, said Wednesday that he deplores the fact that the two reporters could go to jail, although he insisted "they're not going to jail because of me."

As he has throughout the controversy, Novak, a syndicated columnist and CNN contributor, told CNN's "Inside Politics" that he cannot talk about the case now, but he said he does plan to reveal the circumstances once the case is settled.

"I will reveal all in a column," he said. "I'd like to say a lot about the case, but because of my attorney's advice, I can't. But I will, and there might be some surprising things."

In July 2003, Novak, citing unidentified senior administration sources, revealed Plame's identity as a CIA operative.

Plame's husband is Joe Wilson, a former U.S. ambassador to Iraq. Wilson charged that his wife's name was leaked to retaliate against him after he disputed Bush administration Judith Millerstatements that Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein had tried to purchase uranium in Africa.

Ironically, Judith Miller, left, faces jail time for refusing to reveal sources she developed during her reporting, even though she never actually wrote a story on Plame or Wilson. But Novak, who first revealed Plame's identity, has not been held in contempt.

Full CNN News story.
New York Times correspondent Judith Miller, left, arrives at Federal Court in Washington yesterday.  REUTERS/Jason Reed.


AP: US-Patriot Act not evict homeless

Richard Kreimer, a homeless man who sued and won $230,000 in 1991 after being ejected from a library in Morris County, N.J., poses outside Pennsylvania Station in Newark, N.J., in this file photo, below right.
Richard Kreimer, homelessIn an answer to a federal lawsuit brought by Kreimer, 55, who objected to being told to leave the Summit, N.J., train station, the city says its conduct is protected by the Patriot Act and the lawsuit should be barred. (AP Photo/Mike Derer)
The U.S. Justice Department criticized the New Jersey city Wednesday for invoking the USA Patriot Act to justify kicking homeless people out of its train station. Kevin Madden, a Justice Department spokesman, said Summit has no business invoking the anti-terrorism law in that way. ''The Patriot Act is a law enforcement tool to identify and track terrorists and stop them from further attacks on America,'' he said Wednesday. ''To apply it to this case is, shall we say, an overreaching application of the law.''  Full AP-Chicago Sun-Times news story.


Slate-Papers: Spy Gains? June 30

By Eric Umansky
Posted Thursday, at 4:08 AM CT

The Los Angeles Times and New York Times lead with the White House
handing more power to the government's intel czar, currently John Negroponte, shown below left with President Bush.

Intelligence CzarThe FBI's various intel efforts will be consolidated into one branch--the National Security Service--that will ultimately report to Negroponte.

The Washington Post goes above the fold with the intel changes but across the top with a government audit concluding that the feds wasted a few hundred million dollars as they hired airport screeners after 9/11. USA Today leads with new census figures showing growth in many big cities hit the skids after the boom-boom '90s.

The intel consolidation is intended to help break down the walls between the FBI and CIA--which, as the WP emphasizes, is why civil-liberties types aren't thrilled. "Spies and cops play different roles and operate under different rules for a reason," said an ACLU lawyer. In any case, the change is among 70 of the 74 recommendations made by the recent WMD commission that the White House endorsed yesterday. The others were mostly small bore or just vague. Among them: a pledge to formalize ways for dissenting analyses to make their way up the chain of command. The NYT flags one of the four recommendations that wasn't endorsed: a call to detail "accountability of individual intelligence units" in pre-war Iraq assessments.

The WP fronts a few former and current CIA spooks saying their Italian counterparts were indeed kept in the loop about the agency's plan to "snatch" a suspected al-Qaida man. The suspect was shipped to Egypt, where he was reportedly tortured. His case has been taken up by an Italian judge who has ordered the arrest of 13 CIA agents. The Post's agency sources said the Italian spooks agreed beforehand not to confirm anything if, as happened, the incident became public.

What the above Post piece doesn't address is previous reports that Italian secret police were about to arrest the suspect and perhaps some of his compatriots. "We do feel quite betrayed that this operation was carried out in our city," one investigator told the NYT.

Muslim Cleric Hassan Mustafa Osama Nasr"We supplied them information about Abu Omar [also known as Hassan Mustafa Osama Nasr, shown at right], and then they used that information against us, undermining an entire operation against his terrorist network."

The Wall Street Journal goes high with military officials saying that the downed transport chopper in Afghanistan appears to have been hit by a rocket, with all 17 soldiers--mostly special forces--likely killed. The Post and LAT explain why none of that is confirmed: The helicopter went down in a particularly remote area and fell into a deep ravine; there's bad weather; and the worst part, as a military spokesman said, "We are fighting our way to that helicopter."

The NYT off-leads a wide-angle piece on increasing instability in Afghanistan, where, the Times says, people are increasingly disenchanted with the U.S.'s presence. USAT paints a far less dire picture. "The fear we might withdraw or lessen our support is much greater than any feelings that the presence of the United States is not desirable," one Afghanistan analyst told the paper.

Everybody mentions that President Bush was briefly "relocated" last evening when (another) plane strayed into D.C.'s restricted airspace. The breach also prompted a short-lived larger evacuation order but not the panic of the last time it happened.

The NYT fronts the redesign of the proposed hardened Freedom Tower, which now features a 200-ft., NYPD-blessed, base of concrete and steel.

Miller & CooperThe NYT reefers a judge ruling that Time's Matthew Cooper and the NYT's Judith Miller, shown here at left, now have a week to squeal--about their sources in the outing of a CIA agent--or face prison. Cooper's corporate bosses have suggested they might hand over his notes, which Cooper says he doesn't want but would save him from the slammer.

A front-page Post piece says the president based his speech partly on the advice of two political scientists who've concluded that what Americans really care about is ... winning--the rest is white noise. "The most important single factor in determining public support for a war is the perception that the mission will succeed," said one of the profs. But the other academic--the one who wasn't recently hired by the White House--said that the president didn't do a good job last night and should have offered some benchmarks. "He may have stemmed the flow for a little bit, but I don't think he's given the public a framework for showing how we're making progress."

The above Post piece also includes this:

"We want people to understand the difficult work that's ahead," said a senior administration official who insisted on anonymity to speak more freely. "We want them to understand there's a political process to which the Iraqis are committed and there's a military process, a security process, to which we, our coalition partners and the Iraqis are committed. And that there is progress being made but progress in a time of war is tough." [Emphasis added]

Good to know the SAO was speaking freely and that the Post, in return for granting anonymity, demanded such straight talk.

Eric Umansky writes "Today's Papers" for Slate. He can be reached at todayspapers@slate.com . Source: Slate Magazine's "Today's Papers" column.

Wednesday, June 29, 2005


MMfA: O'Reilly calls guest fascist

Media Matters for America said today that Fox News host Bill O'Reilly, left, labeled civil rights attorney Christopher Murray's statement that public institutions should not display religious symbols "fascist" during a discussion about two recent U.S. Supreme Court rulings concerning the display of the Ten Commandments on public property.
But if such a view is "fascist," then so are the views of four Supreme Court justices, who made similar statements in their dissenting opinions in one of the cases.
Murray said "public institutions should be neutral, should not have religious displays," adding that "I think people are free to practice their religion on private property in the way that they want to, but I think public institutions should not play a role in presenting religious --" just before O'Reilly cut him off.
Full Media Matters for America story.


SoJo: The Supreme Court got it right on religion

by David Batstone, right, of Sojourners Mail
This week the Supreme Court issued two controversial judgments on the display of religious monuments in public places. The two 5-4 rulings allowed the Ten Commandments to remain as part of an exhibit of monuments on the grounds of the Texas statehouse but barred postings of the same biblical text in two Kentucky courthouses.

The majority opinions got it right this week. I readily admit to my detractors that we are dealing in shades of gray here. What I would like to draw attention to is the intention behind each decision.

The justices clearly affirmed the valuable contribution that religion makes to civic life. The Ten Commandments monument on the grounds of the Texas Capitol is one of 17 monuments and 21 historical markers that adorn a public park that envelopes the Capitol. Symbolically, the exhibit celebrates that religion has shaped American history and merits a place smack-dab in the middle of the public square.

"Of course, the Ten Commandments are religious," Chief Justice Rehnquist noted in his comments bolstering the majority opinion. He then added the linchpin: "Simply having religious content or promoting a message consistent with a religious doctrine does not run afoul of the Establishment Clause."

Some secularists are bent on stripping the role of religion in public life, of course. But they are dead wrong when they take the "separation of church and state" to mean that people of faith should keep their religious sentiments hidden away in the privacy of a closet in their home.

No Christian, Jew, Muslim, or other person of faith should feel coerced to suppress their faith in the workplace, at the social security administration office, or at school. Get over it, secularists, "G--" has never been a taboo subject in American society and never will be. People are free to show up in public wearing their faith on their sleeves.

The Supreme Court ruling against the Kentucky monuments had a quite different intention. In Kentucky, monuments displaying the Ten Commandments were posted alone by orders of county governments. They added secular documents only after a suit was filed - evidence that the government's motivation was religious, the Court said.

The key question in each case hinged on whether the display of religious monuments violates the First Amendment's prohibition against an official "establishment" of religion. The state, in other words, cannot identify itself with a particular religion. American legal tradition thereby protects the integrity of citizens to pursue their own religious traditions without the interference of the state.

Many Christian conservatives interpreted the Kentucky decision as yet another expression of hostility to their faith, and a deviation from the intent of the Constitution's framers. They operate under the assumption that "America is a Christian nation." But they are as wrongheaded as the secularists. I, for one, don't want the government to start speaking for God or claiming God's blessing, even if it is my faith tradition being referenced. Why would any devout Christian or Jew want a county courthouse to equate its application of law to the deep moral justice that the Ten Commandments demands?

In sum, the intention of the Court's decision was to undergird the free expression of religion, yet prevent the association of the state with a sole religion. Lest we lose ourselves in the application of law to these two particular cases, can we at least come to agreement regarding the importance of this distinction for American civic life?

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ABC: Controversial Patriot Act terms expiring


The Patriot Act was first presented to Congress five days after the terror attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, and passed 45 days later. Written into the law were so-called "sunset" provisions, which set about 10 percent of the sections to expire on Dec. 31, 2005, unless Congress votes to keep them in effect.

The law was passed by overwhelming majorities in both houses of Congress -- by a 98-1 margin in the Senate and 356-66 in the House -- but since then a growing number of legislators have become critical of it. Most of those expressing concern have been Democrats.

Concerns from the public likewise have grown. At first the critics were mostly immigrants' rights groups and civil liberties advocates, but a number of conservative organizations and gun rights advocates have joined the call to re-examine the Patriot Act.

Across the country, seven states -- Alaska, Colorado, Hawaii, Idaho, Maine, Montana and Vermont -- and 382 cities, counties and towns have adopted resolutions expressing concern about the Patriot Act's potential infringement on civil liberties. Nearly 300 more resolutions are being considered, including 19 statewide resolutions in states as diverse as Wyoming, Tennessee and Massachusetts.

Among the sections due to expire at the end of the year that have drawn criticism are:

Sec. 201, which expands the number of federal criminal offenses for which wiretaps can be issued;

Sec. 202, which creates new wiretap authority relating to computer crime;

Sec. 203(b) and (d), which allow information gathered in criminal investigations, including wiretaps, to be disclosed to intelligence, immigration and national security officials;

Sec. 206, which allows "roving" wiretaps under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) that follow the target of the investigation to any telephone used. Sec. 206 does not include any requirement that only conversations involving the target can be listened to, a provision included in other roving wiretap laws;

Sec. 207, which permits FISA wiretaps to continue for as long as a year and extends the duration of physical search orders;

Sec. 212, which allows the government to demand records and content from communications providers without consent, notice or judicial review in an emergency;

Sec. 214, which allows the government to get the telephone numbers dialed to and from a particular phone as well as Internet "routing" information that may contain some substantive content of the communications, with minimal judicial review under FISA;

Sec. 215, which lets the FBI use FISA court orders to seize any "tangible thing," including medical, library, business and travel records, from a wide variety of institutions with minimal judicial review;

Sec. 217, which allows the interception of "computer trespasser" communications without a judge's assent;

Sec. 218, which allows criminal investigators to use espionage powers, which require little evidence of criminal wrongdoing, in cases when gathering foreign intelligence is only a "significant purpose" of the investigation, rather than the "primary purpose";

Sec. 220, which allows law enforcement to go to any judge nationwide when seeking search warrants for electronic evidence, opening the door to judge-shopping.

Rest of this ABC News story. D.H.: Page 3 of this story discusses controversial provisions of the Act that are not expiring.

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