December 8, 2007

CIA told not to destroy tapes

CIA officials were advised by White House and Justice Department officials, as well as senior members of Congress, not to destroy “hundreds of hours of videotapes showing the interrogations of two operatives of Al Qaeda,� government officials said Friday, according to the New York Times.
The CIA came under scrutiny Thursday when it became public that the agency had destroyed tapes which recorded “harsh� interrogation techniques including water boarding in 2005 “in the midst of congressional and legal scrutiny about its secret detention program.�
The CIA and Justice Department announced a joint inquiry to the tapes’ destruction Saturday.

December 1, 2007

Clinton campaign workers held hostage by man with road flares

A man with a history of mental instability and fake explosives strapped to his chest held three people hostage for three hours at Hillary Clinton’s campaign headquarters in New Hampshire Friday, according to the Guardian and Reuters.
Leeland Eisenberg, 46, walked into the campaign office at lunchtime Friday, said he had a bomb strapped to his chest, and demanded to talk to Clinton about health care. Clinton was at a Democratic National Committee meeting in Washington at the time. Eisenberg let a woman and her child who were in the office go free, but held three others for six hours before surrendering peacefully to police.
After police slid a cellular phone under the door to try to attempt to negotiate with Eisenberg, Clinton offered to cooperate, but police did not want her talking to him.
The bomb turned out to be road flares.
Clinton cancelled a speech in Virginia to speak to the victims and their families.

November 18, 2007

House increases scrutiny over government eavesdropping

The House passed a bill Thursday night which increased court scrutiny over government surveillance, such as wiretapping and eavesdropping, over possible terrorist suspects and, in direct opposition to President Bush’s request, did not grant immunity to telecommunication companies that help the government eavesdrop on its customers, according to the Washington Post and New York Times.
The Democratic bill, which was passed 227-189, largely among party lines, was a reproach to Bush’s threat to veto any bill that did not protect telecom companies from civil lawsuits.

November 11, 2007

Mukasey confirmed as attorney general

Michael B. Mukasey was confirmed as the new attorney general by the Senate Thursday night, taking the place of Roberto Gonzales, who retired among scandal, according to the New York Times and the Washington Post.em>
Mukasey was confirmed in a 50-43 vote, despite Democratic criticism that he has yet to take a definite stance against torture, and has said he does not consider water boarding a form of torture.
“We cannot afford to take the judgment of an attorney general who either does not know torture when he sees it or is willing to look the other way,� Senator Kennedy, D-Mass, said, according to the Washington Post.
Mukasey, who is a retired federal judge, will be the Bush administration's third attorney general.

November 4, 2007

Kansas church pickets soldier's funeral, ordered to pay $11 million

Members of an extremely anti-gay church based in Topeka, Kansas were ordered to pay a total of $10.9 million in damages Wednesday after picketing a soldier’s funeral last year with signs that read “Thank God for dead soldiers,� and, “You’re going to hell,� according to the BBC.
Members of the Westboro Baptist Church, led by Fred Phelps, originally picketed funerals of AIDS victims, but recently began picketing soldiers’ funerals, who they say were killed because God is punishing them for the U.S.’s tolerance of gay culture.
In 2006, members of the church picketed Lance Corporal Matthew Snyder’s funeral. Snyder’s father, Albert Snyder, sued the church for invasion of privacy and causing emotional distress. He was awarded $8 million in damages on these counts as well as $2.9 million in compensatory damages.
The church is not part of any major denomination and only serves about 70 members.

October 27, 2007

House re-passes SCHIP

The House once again passed a child health insurance bill, defying the president’s veto last week, according to the New York Times.
The bill this time attracted less Republican votes, which makes it questionable whether they will have enough votes to override a presidential veto. Republicans said the bill was brought up and voted on too quickly, without enough Republican input.
Senate Democrats said they plan on passing the bill next week. “The House majority leader, Representative Steny H. Hoyer, Democrat of Maryland, said it was at least conceivable that the bill could be amended in the Senate, to meet some Republican concerns,� the New York Times said.

October 20, 2007

Democrats fail to override health care veto

House Democrats were 13 votes short Thursday of the 286 needed to override President Bush’s veto of the expansion to SCHIP, a child health care program, according to the New York Times.
The measure would have provided health insurance to 10 million children. Democrats failed to sway even one House Republican, but believe they can eventually prevail, and vowed to send a bill with minor changes back to Bush next month, according to the New York Times.

October 12, 2007

White House Tries to Stop Genocide Vote

President Bush and the White House put forth a “unified effort� Wednesday to stop a vote in Congress which would officially recognize the massacre and forced deportation of Armenians in 1915 as a genocide, according to The Guardian. The prosecution killed 1.5 million Armenians and forced many others into exile, The Guardian said.
In a statement from the White House, Bush said that he deeply regrets what happened to the Armenian people, but “this resolution is not the right response to these historic mass killings, and its passage would do great harm to relations with a key ally in NATO and to the war on terror,� according to the New York Times.
Abdullah Gul, the president of Turkey, wrote Bush and thanked him for understanding the problems the resolution would create in bilateral relations if it is accepted,� according to a statement from Mr. Gul’s office, the New York Times reported Wednesday.

October 6, 2007

Bush Vetoes Child Health Care

President Bush vetoed the children’s health insurance bill Wednesday in the fourth veto of his presidency, according to the New York Times and Wall Street Journal.
The bill, which received substantial bi-partisan support, would greatly increase funding for a child health care program.
Democrats in Congress have vowed to fight the veto, according to the Wall Street Journal, though it is questionable whether they will receive the two-thirds support needed to override the veto. Democrats say they are about 13-15 votes short.
“Because the Congress has chosen to send me a bill that moves our health care system in the wrong direction, I must veto it,� Bush said, according to the New York Times.

September 30, 2007

Gates Asks for $190 Billion

Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates asked for an extra $42 billion appropriation to fund the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan at a Congressional hearing on Wednesday, bringing the total fund request for 2008 to $189.3 billion, according to the Washington Post.
The extra $42 billion requested includes $14 billion for force protection and $6 billion to “support the Army and Marine combat formations currently in Iraq,� according to the Washington Post. The request also includes $6 billion for training; $9 billion to “ensure that critical equipment and technology is available for future missions;� and $1 billion to “train and equip Iraqi soldiers,� according to the Washington Post.
The Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman, Sen. Robert Byrd said the committee wouldn’t “rubber stamp� the request, according to the Wall Street Journal. The request will most likely begin a confrontation between President Bush and congressional democrats, according to the Wall Street Journal.

September 23, 2007

Congress Fails to Re-Enact Habeas Corpus

A bill fashioned to provide terrorist suspects the right to “challenge their detentions in federal court� failed in the Senate on Thursday despite majority support, according to the New York Times.
The move to end debate on the bill and vote on it immediately, a move called cloture, received 53 votes, seven votes short of the 60 needed to achieve a cloture. If the bill had passed it would have provided habeas corpus rights to non-Americans who have been labeled “enemy combatants,� rights which were suspended last year in a Congressional act signed by President Bush. Habeas corpus rights are meant to protect against indefinite imprisonment without a court review.
Democratic Senator Patrick Leahy said depriving prisoners of habeas corpus rights damaged America’s global reputation, according to Al-Jazeera. “It also allows our enemies to accomplish something they could never achieve on a battlefield: whittling away the liberties that make us who we are,� Leahy said, according to Al-Jazeera.
Republican Senator Jon Kyle disagreed. “Never has such an unprecedented legal right been granted to a prisoner of war or detainee,� he said, according to the New York Times.

September 16, 2007

Star Witness Testifies in Polygamist's Trial

The prosecution’s main witness in the trial against William S. Jeffs, the leader of a Mormon polygamist sect, testified Thursday that Jeffs forced her into marriage in 2001 at the age of 14, the New York Times reported.
The witness, identified as Jane Doe, testified that Jeffs was “God on earth to us,� according to The Guardian, and that she would forfeit her chance at the afterlife if she disobeyed him, according to the New York Times. Jeffs, 51, is charged with rape as an accomplice. The prosecution alleges that Jeffs forced Doe to marry her 19-year-old first cousin and pressured her into having sex with her husband, according to the Washington Post.
Doe testified again on Friday, saying that she begged for the ceremony to be postponed until she was 16 or for another man to be chosen, but Jeffs told her, “Your heart is in the wrong place; this is what the prophet wants you to do,� according to the Washington Post. At the wedding, Doe testified, she had to be persuaded through tears to say “I do� and to kiss her husband, at which time Jeffs commanded them to “go forth and multiply,� according to the Washington Post. Later, according to Doe, she told Jeffs she didn’t like to be touched and begged him to release her from marriage, but he denied her divorce, according to the Washington Post.
Jeffs, who was on the FBI’s most wanted list when he was arrested in August 2006, faces life in prison if convicted, according to the Washington Post.