NSA Hearings Day 1

AG Alberto Gonzales’ prepared remarks are here.

Glenn Greenwald is doing an excellent job, blogging on location in D.C.

Also – Think Progress: “Gonzales describes the situation as a choice between following the law (the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act) and protecting America.”
more later.

Sunday super Sunday

The perspective from the United States seems more than a bit removed when it comes to racial baiting, unrest, and public debate regarding religion. We are so distant from such events as the recent civil unrest in France and the unqualified chaos that has resulted from the reprinting of months-old Danish cartoonery that not a soul flinches when our “born again” dear leader — aspiring liberator of all ten planets — concludes his speeches “may God bless America.” Talk about a blasphemy complex….

The debate over freedom of speech versus rules of faith rolled out into the streets of Syria Saturday, as fire was set to the Danish Embassy there. Journalists have been arrested and fired after reprinting the Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten‘s infamous Mohammad cartoons. Managing editor of the Paris nightly France Soir also lost his job. The discussion has turned philosophical with references to Salman Rushdie. U.S. newspapers did not print the cartoon, avoiding inevitable karmic consequences, while the White House wisely stayed mum on the controversy. As Zakaria writes, Washington sounded convincing for some time in successfuly repressing Islamic fundamentalism.

In Iraqi oil news, the New York Times reports that “government corruption” resulting in the diversion of Iraqi oil revenues into the hands of the insurgency is “threatening to undermine Iraq’s strugging economy.” This follows an L.A. Times report of a mortar attack on a petroleum facility in Kirkuk on Thursday, described by an Iraqi oil executive as the “most severe attack we have ever faced on an oil installation.”

The Washington Post has further analysis on the results of the NSA’s warrantless surveillance program. The front-page article is critical of the program, noting that few if any of the nearly 40,000 employees in the NSA are even capable of translating the phone calls, and concluding that nearly all of the citizens suspected of terrorist involvement as a result of eavesdropping were later cleared. According to Time, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales will assail the press for its coverage of the warrantless wiretaps story. Among the remarks prepared for Gonzales presentation to Arlen Specter and the Senate Judiciary Committee on Monday:

“These press accounts are in almost every case, in one way or another, misinformed, confused, or wrong.”

The law profs weigh in: UofC’s Stone, Georgetown’s Cole, NYU’s Feldman.

hugo chavez fidel castroVenezuelan President Hugo Chavez continues with threats to jail U.S. diplomats in Venezuela and close oil refineries to the U.S. while he purchases more weapons. After Sec. Rumsfeld compared Chavez to Adolf Hitler on Thursday, Chavez compared President Bush to the Nazi leader. The U.S. depends on Venezuelan for about 15% of its annual oil consumption, importing 1.5 million barrels a day.

AP: The U.S. will release 50 Iraqi detainees on Sunday, however, none of the four known female detainees are expected to be among these. The kidnappers of Christian Science Monitor reporter Jill Carroll demanded the release of all female Iraqi detainees as a condition for Carroll’s release.

Worldwide pleas for the Carroll’s releaes continue to roll in following the broadcast last week of a second video featuring the reporter in tears. Her friend, Jordanian-born journalist Natasha Tynes, has analysis.

jerome bettis beats the bears, c/o register-mailSeattle v. Pittsburgh. This better be a good one.

I like the “Bus” and “Big Ben,” plus they beat down da Bears this year — so I’m pulling for Pittsburgh. Either way, good Patriot-less football will be a bonus. Super Bowl XL.

Bush-Blair Memos Reveal Disregard for Diplomacy

Bush hearts Blair Happy Valentines DayDetails are finally coming in from the many-times FOIA‘d White House memos detailing correspondence between George W. Bush and Tony Blair leading up to the invastion of Iraq.

Revealed in the memo, minutes of a conversation between Bush and Blair on January 31, 2003:

President Bush assures Blair that violence is highly unlikely after Saddam’s regime is dismantled. Furthermore, the president expresses his desire to provoke war in Iraq with language that is unsupportive and downright insulting to the troops:

President Bush said: “The US was thinking of flying U2 reconnaissance aircraft with fighter cover over Iraq, painted in UN colours. If Saddam fired on them, he would be in breach.”

The fact that PM Blair approved Bush’s decision to go to war without researching the legality of the invasion and the legitimacy of the U.S. WMD findings a major controversy In the UK.

BBC Channel 4:

“The US would put its full weight behind efforts to get another resolution and would ‘twist arms’ and ‘even threaten’. But he had to say that if ultimately we failed, military action would follow anyway.”

Prime Minister Blair responded that he was: “solidly with the President and ready to do whatever it took to disarm Saddam.”

Think Progress documents the numerous times that Bush stated he was “not sure” about going to war with Iraq after presenting the idea as a sure thing in his conversation with Blair, i.e. “We are doing everything we can to avoid war in Iraq.”

See Channel4.com’s special report.