Thursday's must-reads


Geraldine Sealey
June 10, 2004 5:17PM (UTC)

Kerry has solid lead nationwide
If George W. Bush was looking for a "Reagan bounce" in the polls, it hasn't materialized, at least not in the new Los Angeles Times poll, which shows Kerry ahead of Bush outside of the margin of error: 51 to 44 percent. Polling was conducted from Saturday to Tuesday.

"Lifting Kerry is a powerful tailwind of dissatisfaction with the nation's course and Bush's answers for challenges at home and abroad. Nearly three-fifths believe the nation is on the wrong track, the highest level a Times poll has recorded during Bush's presidency ... Majorities disapprove of Bush's handling of the economy and Iraq, despite recent encouraging news on both fronts."

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But the Times pollsters also gauged public opinion in three critical battleground states, and found Bush ahead by double-digits in Missouri and even with Kerry in Ohio and Wisconsin.

DOJ seeks Plan B on Padilla
Justice Department lawyers are apparently so pessimistic about winning cases before the Supreme Court on Guantanamo detainees and enemy combatants, they're scrambling to assemble a criminal case against Jose Padilla that would charge him with providing material support to al-Qaida, Newsweek reports. The case would be built on an al-Qaida "new applicant form" that Padilla supposedly filled out in July 2000 to enter a terrorist training camp. It's a far cry from their original contention: That he was preparing to set off a dirty bomb in the United States.

"But officials acknowledge that the charges could well be difficult to bring and that none of Padilla's admissions to interrogators -- including an apparent confession that he met with top Al Qaeda leader Abu Zubaydah and agreed to undertake a terror mission -- would ever be admissible in court."

"Even more significant, administration officials now concede that the principal claim they have been making about Padilla ever since his detention -- that he was dispatched to the United States for the specific purpose of setting off a radiological 'dirty bomb' -- has turned out to be wrong and most likely can never be used against him in court."

"Lawyers within the Justice Department are now bracing for defeat in both the enemy-combatant and Guantanamo cases, both of which are expected to be decided before the Supreme Court ends its term at the end of the month, according to one conservative and politically well-connected lawyer ... While Supreme Court forecasts are hazardous at best, the conventional wisdom among former Supreme Court clerks is that recent disclosures about the Abu Ghraib prison scandal and internal administration memos disavowing compliance with international treaties involving treatment of prisoners has badly hurt the governments arguments before the court and turned two key 'swing' justices -- Sandra Day O'Connor and Anthony Kennedy -- against it, the lawyer said."

Meanwhile, the AP reports that Padilla's supposed "dirty bomb" as described by the Justice Department in a press conference on June 1, "uranium wrapped with explosives," would have been a dud.

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"I used a 20-pound (9-kilogram) brick of uranium as a doorstop in my office," American nuclear physicist Peter D. Zimmerman, of King's College in London, said to illustrate the point.

Lawsuit alleges torture for profit
The Wall Street Journal reports that human-rights lawyers have "filed a civil racketeering suit against two U.S. defense contractors working in Iraq for their alleged roles in the abuse of detainees in Baghdad's Abu Ghraib prison and elsewhere."

"The suit, filed on behalf of several Iraqis, accuses Titan Corp. of San Diego and CACI International Inc. of Arlington, Va., of forming 'an ongoing criminal enterprise designed to flout United States domestic and international laws prohibiting the torture, abuse and other mistreatment' of prisoners. The suit alleges that the contractors conspired to execute, rape and torture prisoners during interrogations to boost profits from military payments."

"The suit seeks payments for the alleged victims and a ban on future government contracts for Titan and CACI, whose employees worked as government interrogators and translators. The suit is short of details about the crimes that the companies and their employees are accused of committing, however, and lawyers pressing the case say they plan to seek government and corporate documents under court discovery rules that will bolster their accusations."

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"... Both companies rejected the allegations, with CACI in a statement calling them "irresponsible and outrageous." Titan spokesman Ralph Williams said the company knows of no government allegation against the company or any employee. CACI recently disclosed to investors that it is subject to five separate government investigations associated with its work at Abu Ghraib. It has said it is cooperating fully. The suit was filed by attorneys associated with the Center for Constitutional Rights, a New York-based legal advocacy group headed by Michael Ratner, who has handled a number of politically charged cases."

Medical records used in interrogations
The confidential medical records of prisoners at Guantanamo Bay have been used to glean information for interrogators to tailor methods for questioning individual prisoners, the Washington Post reports, "a breach of patient confidentiality that ethicists describe as a violation of international medical standards designed to protect captives from inhumane treatment."

"...Ethics experts said international medical standards bar sharing such information with interrogators to ensure it is not used to pressure prisoners to talk by withholding medicine or by using personal information to torment a detainee."

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" ... How military interrogators used the information is unknown. But a previously undisclosed Defense Department memo dated Oct. 9 cites Red Cross complaints that the medical files 'are being used by interrogators to gain information in developing an interrogation plan.' Maj. Gen. Geoffrey Miller, the commander of the facility at the time, denied the allegations, according to the memo."

Accenture deal blocked
"The House Appropriations Committee voted 35-17 to modify the Department of Homeland Security's $32 billion budget to prevent Bermuda-based Accenture from implementing a program that would track foreign visitors," Reuters reported.

"'It is simply wrong for the Department of Homeland Security to award an expatriate with the largest corporate contract to date,' said Connecticut Democratic Rep. Rosa DeLauro, a co-sponsor of the amendment. 'We have two other competitors who are paying their taxes in the United States,' DeLauro added. An Accenture spokesman told Reuters the company does pay U.S. taxes."

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" ... The bill must still pass the full House and Senate and be signed by the president before becoming law. The amendment specifies that the government cannot give contracts to a shell corporation in Bermuda or its subsidiary. It also removes a provision in the law allowing companies that have already incorporated overseas to continue to receive government contracts."


Geraldine Sealey

Geraldine Sealey is senior news editor at Salon.com.

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