Sunday, April 23, 2006

Political news of the week, take 10

[See also: political news of the week takes 9b, 9a, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, and 1.]

Ending Jam, Iraq Fills Government Posts:
Breaking months of political paralysis, Parliament installed the cornerstones of Iraq's first permanent post-invasion government on Saturday, approving a president, a speaker and their deputies, and formally giving the Shiite prime minister nominee the task of forming a cabinet.

Under the Constitution, the prime minister nominee, Jawad al-Maliki, has 30 days to complete the government, a duty that Iraqi and American officials have said will be crucial to restoring confidence in the public leadership and ending the raging sectarian violence that has brought this country to the brink of civil war.

"We are going to form a family that will not be based on sectarian or ethnic backgrounds," he said at a news conference on Saturday.


Violence around the country underscored some of the challenges the new government will face.

Four American soldiers were killed Saturday when a homemade bomb detonated next to their vehicle during a combat patrol south of Baghdad, the American military command said. A fifth American soldier died in a separate attack south of Baghdad, the military said.

An improvised bomb exploded in a marketplace in Miqdadiya, north of Baghdad, setting a shop on fire, according to the police. When firefighters arrived at the site, the police said, another bomb exploded, killing a firefighter and a civilian and wounding 15 civilians.
List of Guantanamo detainee names released - The US has finally released the names and nationalities of all those held at the Guantanamo Bay prison:
In all, 558 people were named in the list provided by the Pentagon in response to a Freedom of Information lawsuit by The Associated Press. They were among the first swept up in the U.S. global war on terrorism for suspected links to al Qaeda or the Taliban.

Those named are from Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia and 39 other countries. Many have been held at the U.S. prison at Guantanamo Bay for more than four years. Only a handful have faced formal charges.


The combatant status hearings at Guantanamo Bay were held from July 2004 to January 2005 after the Supreme Court ruled that the detainees had the right to contest their status before a judge or other neutral decision-maker.

All detainees at the prison during that period had such a hearing. Of the 558 detainees who received one, the panels classified 38 as "no longer enemy combatants," and the military later approved the transfer of 28 of those detainees from Guantanamo. A military spokesman said he had no information about the other 10.


"Lawyers have been asking for this stuff for 2 1/2 years," he [Mark Denbeaux, a law professor at Seton Hall University] said.
American Pleads Guilty as Iraq Corruption Inquiry Expands:
The American businessman at the center of a widening corruption inquiry in Iraq pleaded guilty on Tuesday to federal charges of conspiracy, bribery and money laundering for illegally obtaining millions of dollars of construction contracts at the heart of the American-led rebuilding program in 2003 and 2004.

The court papers describing the plea agreement, motions filed by the legal team representing the businessman, Philip H. Bloom, 66, and interviews with contractors and government officials in Iraq make it clear that the case is certain to expand. The court papers, focusing narrowly on Mr. Bloom's contracting work in the south-central Iraqi city of Hilla, indicate that at least three more senior Army Reserve officers are likely to be implicated.


In the guilty plea on Tuesday, Mr. Bloom admitted showering Mr. Stein [a former American government official in Iraq] and other officials with more than $4 million in bribes, gifts and stolen cash in return for steering huge reconstruction contracts to Mr. Bloom's companies. Mr. Bloom moved much of the money through wire transfers from banks in Romania, where he lived for many years, Switzerland and the Middle East to accounts controlled by his co-conspirators, the court papers say.
Prewar Intelligence Ignored, Former C.I.A. Official Says:
A former top official of the Central Intelligence Agency has accused the Bush administration of ignoring intelligence assessments about Saddam Hussein's weapons of mass destruction programs in the months leading up to the Iraq war.

Tyler Drumheller, the former head of the C.I.A.'s European operations, is the second C.I.A. veteran in recent weeks to attack the White House's handling of prewar intelligence. The criticism comes as the administration is already facing complaints from retired generals who have criticized the decision to go to war in Iraq and charged that civilian policy makers at the Pentagon ignored the advice of uniformed officers.

In an interview on the CBS News television program "60 Minutes" that will be broadcast Sunday evening, Mr. Drumheller said that White House officials had repeatedly ignored the intelligence community's assessments about the state of Iraq's chemical, biological and nuclear weapons programs.
Iran-Contra Figure the New Bush Iranian Intelligence Asset? - A post by Rep. Conyers:
Larisa at Raw Story is reporting that the Vice-President's office and the Department of Defense has been working with Manucher Ghorbanifar during its recent increased interest in Iran. For those of you that don't remember Ghorbanifar, he was the Iranian arms dealer and central figure in the Iran-Contra scandal through whom the Reagan White House armed the Contra militias in El Salvador in direct violation of Congress and federal law.

The CIA has issued a "burn notice" on Ghorbanifar meaning he is not to be trusted and shouldn't be considered a source for intelligence. However, Raw Story reports that Cheney and DoD are operating beyond the agency, having already placed the arms dealer on payroll and using him as an intelligence asset to monitor U.S. diplomatic efforts in Iran. Knight-Ridder reports that House Intelligence Committee Chairman Peter Hoekstra and the second-ranking Republican on the Armed Services Committee Curt Weldon met secretly with one of Ghorbanifar's associates in Paris last week.
Groups question US plan to detain sick travelers:
Infectious disease experts and the American Civil Liberties Union raised concerns on Friday about an agreement that would allow U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and customs agents to detain anyone who looked sick with bird flu.


"I was absolutely astonished when I saw that proposed federal regulation," Henderson said in an interview.

"It's so silly," added Henderson, who now works at the Baltimore-based Center for Biosecurity at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center.

Henderson noted that people can be infectious with influenza and other diseases long before they begin to feel sick or show any symptoms.

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