Obama limits ex-presidents’ discretion on records
By MARK SHERMAN
January 21, 2009
WASHINGTON (AP) — President Barack Obama has issued an executive order that limits the ability of former presidents to block the release of sensitive records of their time in the White House.
Obama’s action Wednesday in his first full day in office overturns an earlier order issued by George W. Bush.
Obama said former presidents may ask to have certain documents kept private, but they no longer may compel the National Archives to do so.
Obama’s executive order also makes clear that neither former vice presidents nor relatives of former presidents who have died have authority to keep records private.
Bush’s executive order, issued in November 2001, prompted a federal lawsuit and the partial invalidation of the order.
Obama Promises New Era of Openness
By Kim Zetter
January 21, 2009
Wired Blog Network Sunshine and Secrecy Category
United States President Barack Obama announced today that his administration will roll back the secrecy that has ruled during the Bush Administration and implement a new era of government openness and transparency.
Referring to the Freedom of Information Act as one of the most important tools of oversight the nation possesses, Obama called on all government agencies to err on the side of openness and release information whenever possible, which directly contradicts orders by the previous administration to look for reasons to withhold information whenever possible. Just because you have the legal right to withhold information, doesn’t mean you should, Obama said at a White House press conference and staff swearing-in ceremony on Wednesday.…Continue reading
January 21, 2009
by Philippe Naughton
Barack Obama has wasted no time in getting down to the business of government,
asking prosecutors to halt controversial military trials at Guantánamo Bay within
hours of his inauguration.
The request was issued via the Department of Defence even as President Obama
and his wife Michelle waltzed their way through a series of glitzy inaugural
Mr Obama pledged during his campaign to close the prison camp on Cuba set up
in 2001 to hold detainees from the ‘War on Terror’. The camp’s legality has
always been questioned, and former inmates and human rights experts said the
harsh interrogation techniques deployed inside it amounted to torture.
Last night’s request was for a 120-day stay in the trials of five alleged 9/11
plotters – including the self-proclaimed ‘mastermind’ behind America’s worst
terror attack – and of a Canadian accused of killing a US soldier in Afghanistan.
Mr Obama had been expected to issue an executive order as early as today for
the full closure of the camp, but accepts that it might take months to rehouse
some 250 inmates still held there.
Clive Stafford Smith, the British human rights lawyer who has represented Guantánamo
Bay suspects, welcomed the announcement and said that he thought Mr Obama could
close the camp within his first 100 days in office.
“It’s great isn’t it? It isn’t much like the original
executive order that President Bush issued,” he said. “There is
no doubt it will stop the practices… Continue reading
What Obama Must Do A Letter to the New President
Dear Mr. President:
Like FDR three-quarters of a century ago, you’re taking charge at a moment when all the old certainties have vanished, all the conventional wisdom been proved wrong. We’re not living in a world you or anyone else expected to see. Many presidents have to deal with crises, but very few have been forced to deal from Day One with a crisis on the scale America now faces.
So, what should you do?
In this letter I won’t try to offer advice about everything. For the most part I’ll stick to economics, or matters that bear on economics. I’ll also focus on things I think you can or should achieve in your first year in office. The extent to which your administration succeeds or fails will depend, to a large extent, on what happens in the first year — and above all, on whether you manage to get a grip on the current economic crisis.
There is, however, one area where I feel the need to break discipline. I’m an economist, but I’m also an American citizen — and like many citizens, I spent the past eight years watching in horror as the Bush administration betrayed the nation’s ideals. And I don’t believe we can put those terrible years behind us unless we have a full accounting of what really happened. I know that most of the inside-the-Beltway crowd is urging you to let bygones be bygones, just as they urged Bill Clinton to let the truth about scandals from the Reagan-Bush years, in particular the Iran-Contra affair, remain hidden.…Continue reading
Kucinich: UN should investigate Israeli Gaza strikes
by Nick Juliano
Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-OH) called for an independent investigation to be led by the United Nations into the recent eruption of violence between Israel and Hamas along the Gaza strip that has killed scores of innocent civilians.
Monday brought a third day of Israeli bombing Gaza in what the state is calling its “all-out” war on Hamas. So far, 345 people have been killed by the bombs. At least 57 of the dead are civilians, including 21 children, according to the UN.
Kucinich said he wrote to UN General Secretary Ban ki-Moon urging an “independent inquiry of Israel’s war against Gaza.” The Democratic lawmaker said Israel’s attacks are an example of “collective punishment,” which violates the Geneva Conventions.
“The perpetrators of attacks against Israel must also be brought to justice, but Israel cannot create a war against an entire people in order to attempt to bring to justice the few who are responsible. The Israeli leaders know better,” Kucinich said in a news release Monday. “The world community, which has been very supportive of Israel’s right to security and its right to survive, also has a right to expect Israel to conduct itself in adherence to the very laws which support the survival of Israel and every other nation.”
Kucinich compared the latest bombing campaign to Isreal’s earlier strikes at southern Lebanon targeted at Hezbollah. Then too, he said, civilians were killed, infrastructure was destroyed and lawlessness took hold… Continue reading
January 13, 2009
by Larisa Alexandrovna
New information surrounding the December plane crash which killed GOP internet consultant Michael Connell casts doubt on some of the rumors and speculation surrounding his death but doesn’t close the books on the circumstances surrounding the Republican technology star’s tragic end.
Michael Connell, a high-level IT guru for the Republican National Committee and the US Chamber of Commerce, died Dec. 19, 2008 at 5:53 PM ET when his airplane crashed near Ohio’s Akron-Canton airport.
Although there has been speculation in the media about the possibility of sabotage in Connell death, authorities do not suspect foul play. The official investigation by the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) has not yet determined the cause of the crash; their final report is required to be produced within a year.
Connell’s ten year-old, seven-passenger, single engine Piper Saratoga II crashed into an empty house on Charolais Street in Lake Township, Ohio. The plane’s right wing clipped a flagpole in the front yard before it broke up, set fire to the garage, and tumbled some 50–60 feet along the ground toward the back yard of a neighboring home.
Connell was thrown from the burning plane and killed instantaneously by massive blunt force trauma, according to the Stark County coroner’s report. Although the body was not burned, fingerprints were required to confirm identity, according to Captain Lorin Geisner of the Greentown Fire Department.
According to Geisner, Connell’s personal items recovered from the crash site included a passport, a driver’s… Continue reading
January 13, 2008
Center for Constitutional Rights
The inauguration is almost upon us, and I am writing you with two important related matters. The first is a call to action to phone your senators with questions for Eric Holder’s hearing on his nomination to be the next Attorney General. The second is to send you a link to a report we released yesterday on the simple steps to closing Guantánamo.
While President-Elect Obama has said he will close the base,he has yet to say how or when, which are the most important questions. We are all excited at the chance for a new beginning: it is up to us to make it one we can be proud of. Please call your senators, and please download and distribute our report so we can end this terrible chapter in our history.
I. This Thursday, January 15th, the Senate Judiciary Committee will hold a hearing to decide whether nominee Eric Holder should be confirmed as the new Attorney General. While Holder’s public statements suggest he would be a marked improvement over Alberto Gonzales and Michael Mukasey, it is critical that the American public be certain that our nation’s chief lawyer has an unwavering commitment to upholding the rule of law.
Senate Judiciary Committee members have a serious responsibility to put an end to subverting law to politics – and to ensure that President-Elect Obama appoints an Attorney General who will help him restore, protect and expand our human rights. And it is… Continue reading
A BUZZFLASH NEWS ANALYSIS
by Meg White
As Bush gives his final press conference today, lamenting the “mistakes” of his presidency, some are wondering if he and other members of his administration will get a chance to tell such tales to a special prosecutor.
“History will look back,” he told reporters, most likely hoping the next administration’s Justice Department will solely look forward. Judging from the most recent comments from his successor, that may very well be the case.
“Will you appoint a special prosecutor — ideally Patrick Fitzgerald — to independently investigate the gravest crimes of the Bush Administration, including torture and warrantless wiretapping?”
Fertik submitted the question to Change.gov, the official transition Web site for the incoming Obama Administration. The site has a forum called “Open for Questions” where people can post items of particular concern for the Obama team to review. Fertik’s question got so much attention and approval from other users on the site that it made its way to the top of the Change.gov list and onto the Sunday talk shows, finally garnering this response from Obama when George Stephanopoulos asked the question directly:
“We’re still evaluating how we’re going to approach the whole issue of interrogations, detentions and so forth. And obviously we’re going to be looking at past practices and I don’t believe that anybody is above the… Continue reading
by Janice Matthews
911truth.org (link to article)
911truth.org was contacted this week by Charles W. (Bill) White, of Houston, who provided extensive information to Russ Baker in the writing of his explosive new Bush dynasty historical expose, Family Secrets: The Bush Dynasty, the Powerful Forces That Put It in the White House, and What Their Influence Means for America. More about him is in his letter to Senator Levin, below, wherein he expresses grave concern for the safety of nearly 6,000 Sailors and Marines who will carry out their duties aboard the Navy’s new nuclear-powered aircraft carrier, the USS George H.W. Bush.
Today, that ship was christened in spite of White’s caution. An AP article, “Bush Visits Aircraft Carrier Named After Father,” describes the new ship and her christening thus:
It’s the perfect gift for an old Navy flier: 1,092 feet of flattop.
“What do you give a guy who has been blessed and has just about everything he has ever needed?” asked President George W. Bush from aboard the Navy’s newest ship. “Well, an aircraft carrier.”
The USS George H.W. Bush, a steel-gray vessel longer than three football fields and built at a cost of $6.2 billion … is one of the Nimitz class of nuclear-powered aircraft carriers, the largest warships in the world.
“The ship that bears our dad’s name is more than 95,000 tons of aluminum and steel,” Bush said from a podium tucked under the flight deck. “She will carry nearly 6,000… Continue reading
Saturday January 10, 2009
One of the many sad ironies of the Bush era that is rapidly and mercifully drawing to a close is that after the president created a “central front in the war on terror” by invading Iraq, the amount of “terrorism” in the world skyrocketed. I call it the Bush Bubble:
At first, the administration seemed a little embarrassed by this result, and it engaged in various attempts, which I’ve documented over the years and summarized here, at disguising the increase. Interestingly, the public face for many of those shenanigans was John Brennan, formerly head of the National Counterterrorism Center and currently Obama’s transition intelligence adviser and pick for the newly created position of deputy national security adviser for counterterrorism.
In July 2005, announcing a new web-accessible database of terrorism incidents compiled by the RAND corporation and available at tkb.org, Brennan said, “We’re trying to be as open and transparent to the public as possible.”
That lasted a little over two years. Funding was withdrawn from the project on March 31, 2008, probably because people like me were using the analytical tools on the site to produce embarrassing graphs like the one above. Note that the data used in that graph was accessed a couple of months before the site’s demise, and the decrease shown for 2007 may reflect incomplete data. The government’s own figures, put out by the National Counterterrorism Center but going back only to 2004, show an increase in… Continue reading
21 hours ago
AFP at www.google.com/hostednews
WASHINGTON (AFP) — The outgoing White House administration will next week hold a joint “disaster scenario” exercise with top members of
the incoming team of president-elect Barack Obama, US officials said Friday.
“I’m not going to go into the details of it, but it is a disaster scenario where the government would be very much tested,” White House spokesman Scott Stanzel said.
“It is an exercise scenario, a hypothetical scenario that is designed to test and tax the capabilities of the federal government,” he added.
He did not specify whether Obama or vice president-elect Joe Biden would take part in Tuesday’s three-hour long exercise, saying merely it was part of regular training events and had not been motivated by any specific threat.
A huge security blanket is being thrown over Washington for Obama’s inauguration on January 20, with up to two million people planning to converge on the US capital to witness the nation’s first African-American president being sworn into office.
“It is a very public event … and one that gathers, you know, leaders in a very small environment, essentially. So obviously we have a lot of concern about it,” Stanzel said.
“But there is no credible threat at this point to the inauguration that is precipitating this.”
Stanzel said Tuesday’s exercise was part of President George W. Bush’s commitment to ensuring a smooth handover of powers in the first transition to take place since the September 11, 2001 attacks.
He said senior… Continue reading
by Peter Dale Scott
January 7, 2009
Paulson’s Financial Bailout
It is becoming clear that the bailout measures of late 2008 may have consequences at least as grave for an open society as the response to 9/11 in 2001. Many members of Congress felt coerced into voting against their inclinations, and the normal procedures for orderly consideration of a bill were dispensed with.
The excuse for bypassing normal legislative procedures was the existence of an emergency. But one of the most reprehensible features of the legislation, that it allowed Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson to permit bailed-out institutions to use public money for exorbitant salaries and bonuses, was inserted by Paulson after the immediate crisis had passed.
According to Congressman Peter Welch (D-Vermont) the bailout bill originally called for a cap on executive salaries, but Paulson changed the requirement at the last minute. Welch and other members of Congress were enraged by “news that banks getting taxpayer-funded bailouts are still paying exorbitant salaries, bonuses, and other benefits.”1 In addition, as AP reported in October, “Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y. questioned allowing banks that accept bailout bucks to continue paying dividends on their common stock. `There are far better uses of taxpayer dollars than continuing dividend payments to shareholders,” he said.”2
Even more reprehensible is the fact that since the bailouts, Paulson and the Treasury Department have refused to provide details of the Troubled Assets Relief Program spending of hundreds of billions of dollars, while the New York Federal Reserve has… Continue reading
FAMILY OF SECRETS: The Bush Dynasty, the Powerful Forces That Put It in the White House, and What Their Influence Means for America
By award-winning investigative journalist Russ Baker
ISBN: 1-59691-557-9; $30.00; Pub January 2009, familyofsecrets.com
Contact: Gene Taft, GeneTaftPR@aol.com, m: 917/701-4072, p: 301/593-0766 Peter Miller, Peter.Miller@bloomsburyusa.com, 646-307-5579
Revelatory new book on Bush family
publishing January 2009
How did Bush happen? How did George W. Bush, of all people, rise to the most powerful position in the world? This simple question sparked a five-year investigative odyssey by Russ Baker. What he found will force us to rethink virtually everything we thought we knew about the Bush family and its role in shaping recent American history.
In FAMILY OF SECRETS, Baker reveals that Bush, the people around him, and his policies are but an extreme, very public manifestation of what his family and its circle have always been about: an interlocking web of covert and overt machinations on behalf of a small cluster of elites-social, financial, industrial, military, intelligence-that enabled the Bush dynasty and propelled George W. Bush to the top.
Russ Baker’s deep background profile of the Bushes reveals a family with ongoing connections to the shadow world of intelligence, utilizing the dark arts of the trade to achieve their positions at the pinnacle of America’s political elite. Baker lays bare the stealth substructure that created the Bush dynasty, powered its rise, and brought America to its current state of crisis. Given the disastrous results of the last… Continue reading
In a companion essay (reprinted below), I discussed the response of some articles in the mainstream press to the claim, made by some defenders of Israel, that Professor Richard Falk should be removed from his current position of UN rapporteur on human rights abuses in the Palestinian Territories — a claim that was reflected in the refusal of Israel on December 14, 2008, to allow him to enter the country. I included in this essay a discussion of an article by reporter Joel Brinkley because, although it was published before Israel’s action against Falk 1 , it could be read as a defense of that action. Brinkley, who had previously worked for the New York Times , argued that Falk did not have the right “frame of mind” for his UN position. In the present essay, I will focus on Brinkley’s argument for this charge, suggesting that it shows that he does not have the right frame of mind for his own current position as visiting professor of journalism at Stanford University.
Brinkley’s Discussion of 9/11
Brinkley’s charge that Falk is unfit for his UN role is quite remarkable, given Falk’s stature. He is Professor Emeritus of International Law and Practice at Princeton University and currently Distinguished Visiting Professor at the University of California at Santa Barbara. He has had published (as author or editor) over 60 books by academic and other mainstream presses. He is also widely respected and sought after as a speaker and conference participant.… Continue reading
The United States gave Israel free reign Friday on whether to send troops into the Gaza Strip, insisting that the key to a ceasefire is an Israeli demand for Hamas to permanently halt rocket fire.
But the White House said it has asked Israel to try hard to avoid civilian casualties as reserves were called up for an expected ground incursion on top of a week of air strikes that has killed more than 400 Palestinians.
“We’ve been in regular contact with the Israelis,” White House deputy press secretary Gordon Johndroe told reporters when asked if US officials were trying to prevent a possible ground offensive.
US officials have urged the Israelis “to be mindful that any of the actions that they’re taking in Gaza avoid unnecessary civilian casualties and also to help continue with the flow of humanitarian goods,” he said.
“So I think any steps they are taking, whether it’s from the air or on the ground or anything of that nature, are part and parcel of the same operation,” Johndroe said.
“Those will be decisions made by the Israelis,” he said.
“Israel has a right to defend itself from these rocket attacks, and so we’ll see,” Johndroe said when asked about progress toward a ceasefire.
After briefing Bush about events in Gaza, just 18 days before he hands the White House to his successor Barack Obama, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said Washington was pursuing diplomacy with its partners in the Middle East.…Continue reading
By Thomas A. Schweich
Sunday, December 21, 2008
We no longer have a civilian-led government. It is hard for a lifelong Republican and son of a retired Air Force colonel to say this, but the most unnerving legacy of the Bush administration is the encroachment of the Department of Defense into a striking number of aspects of civilian government. Our Constitution is at risk.
President-elect Barack Obama’s selections of James L. Jones, a retired four-star Marine general, to be his national security adviser and, it appears, retired Navy Adm. Dennis C. Blair to be his director of national intelligence present the incoming administration with an important opportunity — and a major risk. These appointments could pave the way for these respected military officers to reverse the current trend of Pentagon encroachment upon civilian government functions, or they could complete the silent military coup d’etat that has been steadily gaining ground below the radar screen of most Americans and the media.
While serving the State Department in several senior capacities over the past four years, I witnessed firsthand the quiet, de facto military takeover of much of the U.S. government. The first assault on civilian government occurred in faraway places — Iraq and Afghanistan — and was, in theory, justified by the exigencies of war.
The White House, which basically let the Defense Department call the budgetary shots, vastly underfunded efforts by the State Department, the Justice Department and the U.S. Agency for International Development to train civilian police forces, build… Continue reading
It’s not about them–it’s about us
December 15, 2008
by Mike Ferner
During the rush to get the Nuremberg Tribunals underway, the Soviet delegation wanted the tribunal’s historic decisions to have legitimacy only for the Nazis. U.S. Supreme Court Justice, Robert Jackson, serving as the chief prosecutor for the Allies, strong-armed the Soviets until the very beginning of the tribunal before changing their minds.
In his opening statement Jackson very purposely stipulated, “…Let me make clear that while this law is first applied against German aggressors, the law includes, and if it is to serve a useful purpose it must condemn aggression by any other nations, including those which sit here now in judgment.”
Can there be a better reason for prosecuting George Bush and his administration for war crimes than those words from the chief prosecutor of the Nazis, a U.S. Supreme Court Justice, with the full support of the U.S. government? Robert Jackson’s words and the values this nation claims to stand for provide sufficient moral basis for putting Bush and Cheney, their underlings who implemented their policies and the perverted legal minds who justified them all in the dock. If those are not sufficient reasons, there is a long list of binding law and treaties — written in black and white in surprisingly plain English.
Bush imagined, and his attorneys advised, that he could simply wave aside these laws with “they don’t apply.” Imagine how a judge would treat even a simple traffic court defendant who… Continue reading
Michael Connell, the Bush IT expert who has been directly implicated in the rigging of George Bush’s 2000 and 2004 elections, was killed last night when his single engine plane crashed three miles short of the Akron airport. Velvet Revolution (“VR”), a non-profit that has been investigating Mr. Connell’s activities for the past two years, can now reveal that a person close to Mr. Connell has recently been discussing with a VR investigator how to tell all about his work for George Bush. Mr. Connell told a close associate that he was afraid that the George Bush and Dick Cheney would “throw [him] under the bus.”
A tipster close to the McCain campaign disclosed to VR in July that Mr. Connell’s life was in jeopardy and that Karl Rove had threatened him and his wife, Heather. VR’s attorney, Cliff Arnebeck, notified the United States Attorney General , Ohio law enforcement and the federal court about these threats and insisted that Mr. Connell be placed in protective custody. VR also told a close associate of Mr. Connell’s not to fly his plane because of another tip that the plane could be sabotaged. Mr. Connell, a very experienced pilot, has had to abandon at least two flights in the past two months because of suspicious problems with his plane. On December 18, 2008, Mr. Connell flew to a small airport outside… Continue reading
by David Edwards and Muriel Kane
December 19, 2008
As the departing Bush administration frantically attempts to shore up its place in history, MSNBC’s Keith Olbermann stands ready to kick the props out from under it again. A renewed claim that “no one could have anticipated” the attacks of 9/11 attracted his scorn in particular on Thursday’s Countdown.
“This is a White House talking point still, even though your average three-year-old could disprove it using an etch-a-sketch.” Olbermann sneered on Thursday, over the heading, “Insult the Dead-gate.”
Olbermann’s specific target was White House press spokesman Tony Fratto, who responded to a Fox News interviewer’s suggestion on Wednesday that before 9/11, “nobody was thinking that there’d be terrorists flying 767s into buildings” by agreeing, “No one could have anticipated that kind of attack — or very few people.”
“Yeah, well, it ain’t true,” Olbermann remarked, with open contempt dripping from his words, “and out of respect for the people who died that
day you damn well better stop saying it.”
Olbermann then ran through a list of pre-9/11 warnings of potential al Qaeda hijackings, noting, “A president’s daily brief as far back as December 1998 said bin Laden was ‘preparing to hijack US aircraft in hopes of trading hostages for jailed radicals.’ … The August 6, 2001 brief, of course, told President Bush — if he read it — that there were ‘patterns of suspicious activity in this country consistent with preparations for hijackings.’”
Olbermann did not mention either the… Continue reading