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.”


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.

Chutes and Lehrers

With President Bush about to make his fifth speech in three days basking in the imagined milestone of Thursday’s Iraqi election, the majority of us will have his robodundant mantras reverberating cold-sweatingly through our psyches – which are beginning to collectively grasp the reality of the moment as a result of prolonged and forced disconnect.

The president signed John McCain’s anti-torture bill Thursday, after it glided to Congressional approval, despite the BushCo argument that the bill’s too tight a harness on intelligence operations by Bush, Cheney, Dana Rohrabacher, and the handful of other government officials who exist in a certain state of paranoia dominated by inevitable disaster.

You see, this president has never vetoed a bill, and he never will.

Because he doesn’t have to. By Friday, but one half day after Bush’s photo op with the oft-Rovictimized John McCain, David Addington, Scooter Libby’s successor as Cheney’s chief of staff and co-creator of the new hit video game “Grand Theft Democracy: Above the Law,” authored a presidential order PRACTICALLY VOIDING the torture-banning content of McCain’s bill.

Eric Schmitt quietly broke this story in the packed Saturday NY Times:

Mr. Addington, who was a primary architect of the presidential order, argued in the debates earlier this year that by explicitly prohibiting evidence obtained by torture, the administration would raise an unnecessary red flag. suggesting at least implicitly that prisoners in American custody were, in fact, being tortured, officials said.

Not to implicate that President Bush is a “flip-flopper,” as I understand that he must often change and disguise his actions and statements to protect our national security. See, if HE foils the next 9/11 plot with his secret plans, he’ll be able to one up the CIA, FBI, DHS, and Defense when he saves the day, inevitably defusing an active bomb MacGyver-style with seconds before RFK Stadium — or as some national security mavens have suggested — San Francisco, is blown into dust.

In what I wish I could say is completely unrelated news, NBC coincidentally reported last week that the Pentagon has been abusing its privileges by failing to destroy the records of domestic citizens under surveillance within the required six months.

President Bush is “stealing our civil liberties,” posts Pacific Views.

Bush / cheney - spying on you Macgyver style
The Bush(transcript and video) and Rumsfeld (script/audio/video) appearances over the past week on Jim Lehrer’s NewsHour are must-sees for anyone looking for insight as to how removed from reality these two actually are.

Rumsfeld’s 22 minutes of talking about “whatever is is we’re doing,” in which he insists that in every war, what the public views as bad turns out to be good in the end. “Just read a Civil War book,” he says.

Frightening when the leader of the military is basically making a halftime speech in the first game of the season, conceding to his team that when they end up in the playoffs, nobody will remember how brutally we got our ass beat in the first game.

Sadly, many Americans will agree, only because its easy to say, “he’s right,” when citing historical patterns. But to rely on hopes that history will probably repeat itself is the most disconnected and frightening thing I’ve ever heard. This BETTER not be science! As I understand, history includes EVERYTHING that has been recorded to have happened in the history of humankind (or, since the first Intelligent human was Designed, it wouuld seem very important to argue). But when past leaders, mob bosses, islamofascists and even the offspring of God have decided to stay the course with ideas or actions that were widely frowned upon — the only GOOD things seem to come out of it when THEY are history.

Rummy even goes back to his ol’ “I offered my resignation twice,” before saying “what I actually said was, do you believe you’d be better with me in command or not.”

Roger Cressey, former deputy of Counter-terrorism czar Richard Clarke, offered his analysis in the Sunday Washington Post:

…[W]hen terrorists destroyed the World Trade Center and a wing of the Pentagon, “the amount of domestic surveillance is an admission of fundamental gaps in our understanding of what is happening in our country.”

Dr. Sanity has a full diagnosis of the administration’s freshly opened sores.

This moment of suspended disbelief sponsored by our fundamental gaps in understanding…