Friday's must-reads


Geraldine Sealey
April 2, 2004 7:28PM (UTC)

9/11 panel: Hand over Clinton papers
The New York Times reports that the independent commission investigating the Sept. 11, 2001 terror attacks wants to know why the Bush White House is withholding thousands of pages of classified documents regarding foreign policy and counterterrorism from President Clinton's White House files.

"The White House confirmed on Thursday that it had withheld a variety of classified documents from Mr. Clinton's files that had been gathered by the National Archives over the last two years in response to requests from the commission, which is investigating intelligence and law enforcement failures before the attacks."

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"Scott McClellan, the White House spokesman, said some Clinton administration documents had been withheld because they were 'duplicative or unrelated,' while others were withheld because they were 'highly sensitive' and the information in them could be relayed to the commission in other ways. 'We are providing the commission with access to all the information they need to do their job,' Mr. McClellan said."

"The commission and the White House were reacting to public complaints from former aides to Mr. Clinton, who said they had been surprised to learn in recent months that three-quarters of the nearly 11,000 pages of files the former president was ready to offer the commission had been withheld by the Bush administration. The former aides said the files contained highly classified documents about the Clinton administration's efforts against Al Qaeda. The commission said it was awaiting a full answer from the White House on why any documents were withheld."

"We need to be satisfied that we have everything we have asked to see," Al Felzenberg, a spokesman for the bipartisan 10-member commission, said. "We have voiced the concern to the White House that not all of the material the Clinton library has made available to us has made its way to the commission."

Iraq death toll changes minds
A Knight-Ridder reporter interviewed residents near Camp Pendleton in California and found that some who once supported the Iraq war are changing their minds as violence there persists. "Leo Diaz, a young Marine from Texas based here at Camp Pendleton, went to Iraq full of faith in the president who sent him. Today, he is burdened by the horror of what he saw and shocked at Bush's 'frat boy' mentality in starting the war. 'I show up. I'm proud. I'm looking forward to do my part,' said Diaz, 22, whose father, uncle and grandfather served in the military. 'Turns out we find no weapons of mass destruction. People hurt, killed.' Diaz voted for Bush in 2000. But now he plans to vote for Democratic Sen. John Kerry."

"Interviews with a dozen people, not all of them voters, in the communities near Camp Pendleton found opinion was still in favor of the war, two-to-one. But many, like Diaz, express deep doubts about the reason Bush waged it and about the president himself. Diaz spoke on a day when the grisly news from Iraq hung heavily over Camp Pendleton, which sent 14,000 Marines to Iraq in recent weeks. Nine Americans - four civilian contractors and five soldiers -- were killed Wednesday in and around Al-Fallujah, a stronghold of support for former Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein that the Marines patrol."

" Polls taken over the past year have shown that support for the war has declined as the conflict has dragged on and casualties have mounted. But public opinion has been volatile. It went up with Saddam's capture and down with the announcement by former chief weapons inspector David Kay that Iraq had no weapons of mass destruction."

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Judge wants energy task force docs
The Washington Post reports that "a federal judge yesterday ordered several federal government agencies to release documents concerning their work on Vice President Cheney's energy task force or provide a legal reason for withholding them."

"The judge's order, which requires release of documents by June 1, could potentially open a new window into the workings of Cheney's task force. In a related 2001 case, the Justice Department has four times appealed federal court rulings that the vice president release task force records. That case, in which Cheney claims his office has executive privilege, is now pending before the Supreme Court."

" The National Resources Defense Council, an environmental advocacy group, and Judicial Watch, a government watchdog organization, have been trying for three years to obtain the records. The organizations claim the documents will show the extent to which the task force staff met secretly with industry executives to craft the Bush administration's energy policies, such as drilling for oil in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and weakening power plant pollution regulations. Justice Department officials did not respond yesterday to inquiries about whether they will appeal Friedman's orders."

" Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton called the judge's order "a brushback to the government I read it to mean we will finally get documents from the heart of the energy task force."

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Plame probe expanded
The New York Times reports that prosecutors looking into whether someone in the Bush administration broke the law by outing the identity of a CIA officer have expanded their inquiry "to examine whether White House officials lied to investigators or mishandled classified information related to the case, lawyers involved in the case and government officials say."

"In looking at violations beyond the original focus of the inquiry, which centered on a rarely used statute that makes it a felony to disclose the identity of an undercover intelligence officer intentionally, prosecutors have widened the range of conduct under scrutiny and for the first time raised the possibility of bringing charges peripheral to the leak itself. The expansion of the inquiry's scope comes at a time when prosecutors, after a hiatus of about a month, appear to be preparing to seek additional testimony before a federal grand jury, lawyers with clients in the case said. It is not clear whether the renewed grand jury activity represents a concluding session or a prelude to an indictment."

"The broadened scope is a potentially significant development that represents exactly what allies of the Bush White House feared when Attorney General John Ashcroft removed himself from the case last December and turned it over to Patrick J. Fitzgerald, the United States attorney in Chicago. Republican lawyers worried that the leak case, in the hands of an aggressive prosecutor, might grow into an unwieldy, time-consuming and politically charged inquiry, like the sprawling independent counsel inquiries of the 1990's, which distracted and damaged the Clinton administration."

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Bush: The corporate candidate
A new Los Angeles Times poll shows that "the public thinks Democratic presidential candidate John F. Kerry would better look out for their financial futures than would President Bush. Asked to name the candidate who would be 'best at protecting the financial security of the average American,' 47 percent named Kerry, while 34 percent picked Bush. Among independents, a group that could play a crucial role in determining the winner of the presidential election in November, the gap was even wider: 49 percent for Kerry and 26 percent for Bush."

"Those polled also view the Bush White House as much more aligned with business interests than the interests of ordinary workers, and they express widespread doubts about the integrity of corporate America. A 63 percent majority said the president was more concerned about corporations, while 21 percent said he was more concerned about workers."


Geraldine Sealey

Geraldine Sealey is senior news editor at Salon.com.

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