Tuesday's must-reads

Geraldine Sealey
June 15, 2004 5:13PM (UTC)

Halliburton's egregious overcharges
Abandoning trucks because of flat tires: $85,000. Putting 100 workers up at a 5-star hotel: $10,000 a night. Lavish spending and mismanagement by a politically-connected firm: Priceless. Actually, there is a price being put on Halliburton's wasteful shenanigans in Iraq: $8 billion.

Knight-Ridder reports that: "Halliburton Inc. paid high-priced bills for common items, such as soda, laundry and hotels, in Iraq and Kuwait and then passed the inflated costs along to taxpayers, according to several former Halliburton employees and a Pentagon internal audit."


" ... The 36-page report by the Defense Contract Audit Agency said that Halliburton subsidiary Kellogg, Brown and Root had a billing system that was 'inadequate,' had numerous deficiencies and billing misstatements and that KBR didn't follow laws and regulations relating to spending and recordkeeping. Its contracting practices are so bad, the auditors said, that KBR shouldn't be allowed to bill the Pentagon directly without the government poring over every detail in advance."

Rumsfeld spooks in U.S.?
"Without any public hearing or debate, NEWSWEEK has learned, Defense officials recently slipped a provision into a bill before Congress that could vastly expand the Pentagon's ability to gather intelligence inside the United States, including recruiting citizens as informants."

"Ever since the 1970s, when Army intel agents were caught snooping on antiwar protesters, military intel agencies have operated under tight restrictions inside the United States. But the new provision, approved in closed session last month by the Senate Intelligence Committee, would eliminate one big restriction: that they comply with the Privacy Act, a Watergate-era law that requires government officials seeking information from a resident to disclose who they are and what they want the information for."


"Worst ever"
Paul Krugman seems to be channeling Sen. Pat Leahy today in his column in the New York Times. Picking up where the senator left off last week in his blistering critique of John Ashcroft's record as attorney general, Krugman explains why, "no question," Ashcroft is "the worst attorney general in history."

"We can't tell directly whether Mr. Ashcroft's post 9/11 policies are protecting the United States from terrorist attacks. But a number of pieces of evidence suggest otherwise. First, there's the absence of any major successful prosecutions ... Then there is the lack of any major captures. Somewhere, the anthrax terrorist is laughing. But the Justice Department, you'll be happy to know, is trying to determine whether it can file bioterrorism charges against a Buffalo art professor whose work includes harmless bacteria in petri dishes."

"Perhaps most telling is the way Mr. Ashcroft responds to criticism of his performance. His first move is always to withhold the evidence. Then he tries to change the subject by making a dramatic announcement of a terrorist threat."


"I was told to treat detainees like dogs"
Brig. Gen. Janis Karpinski told the BBC she was being made a "convenient scapegoat" for abuse ordered by others and that she was told to treat detainees like dogs.

"Gen Karpinski said military intelligence took over part of the Abu Ghraib jail to 'Gitmoize' their interrogations -- make them more like what was happening in the US detention camp at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, which is nicknamed 'Gitmo.'"


"She said current Iraqi prisons chief Maj Gen Geoffrey Miller -- who was in charge at Guantanamo Bay -- visited her in Baghdad and said: 'At Guantanamo Bay we learned that the prisoners have to earn every single thing that they have.'"

"'He said they are like dogs and if you allow them to believe at any point that they are more than a dog then you've lost control of them.'"

Ethically challenged
Tom DeLay is the subject of a "wide-ranging ethics complaint" filed by a Democratic congressman, the Washington Post reports.


"The complaint, which Rep. Chris Bell (D-Tex.) said he will send to the House ethics committee, accuses the House's second-ranking Republican of soliciting campaign contributions in return for legislative favors; laundering illegal campaign contributions through a Texas political action committee; and improperly involving a federal agency in a Texas partisan matter. The House's top two Democrats raised no objections when Bell told them he would file the complaint, according to Bell's office and party leadership aides."

"A grand jury in Austin has been looking into the Texas PAC's activities, although DeLay's aides say there is no evidence he is a target of the probe. DeLay has denied wrongdoing in all the matters cited in Bell's complaint."

Geraldine Sealey

Geraldine Sealey is senior news editor at Salon.com.

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