American Hostages: At Home and Abroad (updated)

American citizens and embassies abroad are given no assurance of help from the central U.S. government in the event of a hostage situation. At the same time, the White House is preoccupied with manipulating U.S. courts to deny fair trials to American citizens detained without clear charges (which in itself sounds like hostage-taking).

The lawyers for Jose Padilla told the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit that “the government has repeatedly altered its factual allegations to suit its goals, and it has actively manipulated the federal courts to avoid accountability for its actions,” according to the Sunday New York Times.

After actively petitioning the Court to transfer jurisdiction of the case, in November, Attorney General Albert Gonzales freshly indicted Padilla, who had been detained for over three years as a suspected al-Qaeda operative, with unrelated charges.

The administration, now wants the Court to vacate its decision so there will be no case for Padilla to bring to the Supreme Court (his lawyers filed an appeal in October).

The Times article later quotes a statement from the 4th Circuit, asking both sides to submit new briefs:

“in light of the different facts that were alleged by the president to warrant Padilla’s military detention and held by this court to justify that detention, on the one hand, and the alleged facts on which Padilla has now been indicted, on the other.”

(Stacy’s got more at Cafe Politico)

The current hostage situation in Iraq involving four members of the Christian Peacemaker Team is especially intriguing. While the “Christian” in CPT might imply that President Bush would be greatly concerned about crusaders of his faith being kidnapped and threatened with death by evil terrorists, this is far from the case.

While CPT is grounded in the Christian faith, and two of the four hostages are American, the organization is international, and committed to peace, regardless of religion.

Jonathan Bartley, director of the UK-based religious think-tank Ekklesia, which partners the CPT recently told The Observer:

CPT teams were there in Falluja; they told the world of Abu Ghraib months before it came out officially; they are recognised as an outstanding team with an incredible track record.

The only reason these hostages are still alive, after being kidnapped last month, is because the UK government sent Anas Altikriti, a senior sponsor of the British anti-war movement and a member of the Muslim Association of Britain to Baghdad.

In Baghdad, Alikriti held urgent meetings with trade union leaders, politicians and the Association of Muslim scholars – a group with close links to the Muslim Brotherhood and within days had an extension granted to the original deadline for the hostages execution. “It was absolutely extraordinary,” he told the Observer:

‘I cannot remember a time when people from opposite ends of the Muslim spectrum came together to say the same thing.’

That same week, a former Guantanamo Bay prisoner, British citizen Moazzam Begg, called for the hostages’ release.

Reuters recently reported that the Muslim Brotherhood is open to meetings with U.S. officials, but the American government is hesitant to act without the approval of the standing Egyptian government.

Obviously, “negotiating with terrorists=bad.” Of course, it would seem that anybody the U.S. negotiates with at some point seems to turn to “islamofascism.” (just tell me how Bush’s Saudi connection is NOT funding “islamofascists.”).

UPDATE: Washington Times confirms high-ranking Iraqi officials have been freed and returned to Iraq by U.S. forces.

Conservative commentator Debbie Schlussel blogs that to secure the release this weekend of German anthropoligist (and convert to Islam) Susanne Osthoff, “Germany traded the freedom of Hezbollah terrorist Mohammad Ali Hamadi, who tortured and murdered Navy Diver Robert Dean Stethem,” aboard hijacked TWA flight 847 in 1985.
(NOTE: this is completely speculative, as nobody else has reported this, including Reuters, who directly asked the question).
UPDATE Reuters confirms this report Tuesday morning.

Today, the Islamic Army of Iraq website broadcast a video in which an unidentifiable victim was murdered, followed by shots of Ronald Schulz‘s identification card. I recently wrote about this kidnapping here.

Families and friends “keep hope alive,” unsure of the fate of the above hostages.

Associates Press reports: “Insurgents in
Iraq have kidnapped more than 240 foreigners and killed at least 39 of them.”

The latest from a New America

Bush to Press December 19 (CTK)[updated at bottom] Senator Jay Rockefeller (D-WV) was one of the few Congressmen who were told of the NSA secret wiretapping in confidentiality. Today he released the handwritten letter he wrote to Vice President Cheney in 2003 voicing his concern. View the letter here (.pdf).

The web site of Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA) has release this statement tonight:

Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA) today asked four presidential scholars for their opinion on former White House Counsel John Dean?s statement that President Bush admitted to an ?impeachable offense? when he said he authorized the National Security Agency to spy on Americans without getting a warrant from a judge.

Mr. Dean says impeachable. Do you agree?

Rep. John Lewis (D-GA) suggested impeachment this morning on WAOK radio:”He deliberately, systematically violated the law. He is not king, he is president.””

Kitty Felde’s 20-minute interview with Sen. Boxer last night before her return to D.C. was broadcast today on KPCC and can be heard here.

Orin Kerr finds constitutionality may not be the issue in an extensive legal analysis at The Volokh Conspiracy.

Confirm Them can’t confirm Kerr’s admittedly tentative analysis, but is certain that this will be a huge issue come next month’s Alito hearings.

Digby refutes the statements supporting Bush’s secret spy program made by Gonzales and Hayden

Will Bunch elaborates on yet another New York Times revelation by Newsweek’s Jonathan Alter:

I learned this week that on December 6, Bush summoned Times publisher Arthur Sulzberger and executive editor Bill Keller to the Oval Office in a futile attempt to talk them out of running the story. The Times will not comment on the meeting, but one can only imagine the president?s desperation.

SoCalPundit goes spin-cycle on the president’s Monday morning press “smack down,” calling it too entertaining to be flagged by AP for its numerous inaccuracies lies. Ezra Klein posts Good Job. Liar, “but only because it deserves repetition.”

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UPDATE 1: AP Military Writer Robert Burns reports Tuesday morning from Iraq:

The number of U.S. airstrikes increased in the weeks leading up to last Thursday’s election, from a monthly average of about 35 last summer to more than 60 in September and 120 or more in October and November.

UPDATE 2: Total number of FISA applications rejected, 1979-2004: 4 (two of which were later granted, 1758 were approved in 2004). source: EPIC

UPDATE 3: (via Daily Pundit): The Washington Times reports:

U.S. forces yesterday flew eight newly released “high-value” Iraqi detainees out of the country aboard a special military aircraft, in a move other officials said was aimed at furthering a secret peace process with Sunni hard-line groups.
….An additional 16 high-value detainees — most of them depicted in a U.S. pack of cards identifying top Saddam officials — are to be released imminently or have already been freed, according to a senior U.S. official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity.

This wouldn’t amount to negotiating with the…….. nah.