Sunday, March 12, 2006

Political links of the week, take 4

[See also: political links of the week take 3, take 2, and take 1.]

U.S. Expands Training to Address Iraqi Police Woes - An article in the LA Times documenting the lack of planning the US put into training Iraqi police units.
Problems with the fledgling [Iraqi police] force have been exacerbated by a lack of steady oversight, some U.S. officials say. For much of the last three years, U.S. advisors to the police units have been stretched thin as the United States focused on training Iraqi army recruits. That has led to a police force that has access to modern equipment, weapons and vehicles, but no track record of keeping control of its hardware, much less its personnel, the officials say.


Despite the planned overhaul, the training programs remain an exercise with extremely high stakes and little certainty of success.

The focus on the Iraqi army meant that while thousands of Iraqi and U.S. soldiers shared space at military bases and conducted joint operations throughout last year, by the end of 2005 there were only 700 U.S. police trainers for an Iraqi police force of more than 100,000.

Trainers now acknowledge that was a mistake that allowed the Interior Ministry forces to grow into an inscrutable bureaucracy of overlapping jurisdictions and tangled lines of authority.
Senate Votes to Ban Gifts and Meals of Lobbyists:
Facing accusations that lawmakers are not serious about breaking the tight bond between Capitol Hill and K Street, the Senate voted Wednesday to bar members of Congress and their aides from accepting gifts and meals from lobbyists.


The meals and gifts ban was part of a broader piece of legislation that includes provisions requiring lawmakers to disclose privately financed trips and that would double, from one year to two, the "cooling-off period" during which lawmakers who leave Capitol Hill for K Street are barred from lobbying their former colleagues.

The measure would also create a mechanism enabling lawmakers to strip so-called earmarks — the special interest projects that are sometimes inserted into bills at the behest of lobbyists — from legislation. And it would require, for the first time, the disclosure of big, paid grass-roots lobbying campaigns aimed at influencing government officials.
Possible U.S. case of mad cow being investigated:
A routine test indicated the possible presence of mad cow disease, said John Clifford, the USDA official. The agency would not say where the animal was from.

The cow did not enter the human or animal food chain, Clifford said.

The department is conducting more detailed tests at its laboratory in Ames, Iowa, and should have results in four to seven days.
US issues biometric passports despite concerns - (via BoingBoing)
The US has begun issuing passports that contain biometric information stored on remotely readable microchips, in spite of lingering security and privacy concerns.

Supporters of the new passports say they enhance border security, reduce the possibility of identity fraud and impose minimal burdens on travellers – all goals the US has been working towards since the September 11 attacks.

But civil liberties and privacy groups are uneasy about the formation of biometric information databases on US citizens and concerned that identity-theft rings, foreign government agents or even terrorist groups could "skim" information from the RFID chips or "eavesdrop" on the communication between official readers and the microchips.

Last month, security concerns about the new passports arose anew after a Dutch television programme detailed how, in July 2005, the Dutch security laboratory Riscure successfully penetrated the encryption scheme planned for use in forthcoming Dutch electronic passports.
Feingold to Introduce Resolution Censuring the President - In addition to the summary (included below), the press release from Senator Feingold's office also includes a fact-sheet detailing why the president's warrantless wiretapping program is illegal, complete with quotes from Bush (before the program was made public) showing that he was likely misleading the public.
U.S. Senator Russ Feingold has announced that he will introduce a resolution in the U.S. Senate on Monday to censure the President of the United States. Feingold’s resolution condemns the President’s actions in authorizing the illegal wiretapping program and then misleading the country about the existence and legality of the program. Feingold calls the resolution an appropriate and responsible step for Congress to take in response to the President’s undermining of the separation of powers and ignoring the rule of law.

"The President must be held accountable for authorizing a program that clearly violates the law and then misleading the country about its existence and its legality," Feingold said. "The President’s actions, as well as his misleading statements to both Congress and the public about the program, demand a serious response. If Congress does not censure the President, we will be tacitly condoning his actions, and undermining both the separation of powers and the rule of law."

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