Under the Radar
CONGRESS — TENET AGREES TO COOPERATE WITH CONGRESSIONAL INVESTIGATION INTO NIGER FRAUD: Former CIA Director George Tenet has agreed to cooperate with a House investigation into the White House’s fraudulent pre-war claim that Iraq had sought uranium from Niger for a nuclear weapon. That assertion — the infamous “16 words” in President Bush’s 2003 State of the Union address — was a critical part of the administration’s case for war. In a new statement, House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Henry Waxman (D-CA) announced that Tenet will provide a deposition on the issue and testify before the committee on June 19: “Mr. Tenet has agreed to cooperate with the Committee’s inquiry into whether the White House overstated Iraq’s efforts to obtain uranium from Africa and its nuclear threat in making the case for war. Mr. Tenet has agreed to provide a deposition to the Committee prior to the hearing.” Under Tenet, the CIA had debunked the claims about uranium and Niger months before the 2003 State of the Union. The CIA “even demanded it be taken out of two previous presidential speeches.” Tenet now says the 16 words made it into the State of the Union because he delegated the review of that speech to his deputies. Tenet has been far more willing to discuss the Niger claims than Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. Waxman has been forced to subpoena Rice to appear at the hearing along with Tenet, and thus far Rice maintains she will not comply, claiming she has already answered Waxman’s questions “in full.” Also last month, the State Department refused to allow intelligence analyst Simon Dodge to be interviewed by House investigators; weeks before the 2003 State of the Union, Dodge examined the documents supposedly from Niger and determined they were “probably a hoax” and “clearly a forgery.”
CONGRESS — ALASKA CONGRESSMEN ATTEMPT TO EARMARK ‘BRIDGE TO NOWHERE’ FOR PERSONAL PROFITEERING: In 2005, Congress defeated the infamous “Bridge to Nowhere” earmark spearheaded by Sen. Ted Stevens (R-AK), which would have spent $200 million to connect mainland Alaska to an island home to 50 people. Roll Call reported yesterday that members of Alaska’s congressional delegation are persisting in making another bridge in the Alaskan tundra. Their pet project this time is for a bridge in the sparsely populated Knik Arm region, and the earmark “could mean a significant windfall for a number of people close to the Congressional delegation…some of whom purchased land in the area.” Both Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) and Rep. Don Young (R-AK) have several relatives and former aides who own land or stock in companies with property in the Knik Arm region. Most notorious, however, is Stevens, whose underlings stand to make hundreds of thousands of dollars from the bridge, including his former chief of staff and at least two former aides, each of whom owns tens of acres of land in the area. Sen. Stevens’s cronyism here is a continuation of years of abuse of power for personal gain. His son, Ben Stevens has received millions of dollars in consulting fees from several of Sen. Stevens’ projects (see the list HERE). For example, Sen. Stevens secured more than $10 million in federal aid to put the 2001 Special Olympics Winter Games in Anchorage. Ben Stevens ran those Olympics and received over $700,000 in salary for doing so. Sen. Stevens also helped settle a disputed contract favorable to VECO, an Alaskan oil company which recently pleaded guilty to bribing at least four Alaskan officials, including paying over $200,000 in bribes to Ben Stevens.
POVERTY — GIVING PRISONERS A SECOND CHANCE: With more than two million people in prison, the United States has the highest incarceration rate in the world. Ninety-five percent of the men and women in prison will eventually return to their communities. This means that over 600,000 prisoners will be released to their communities each year. “Most are low-income minority men, and most return to high poverty communities. They reenter their communities with significant barriers to successful returns,” such as ill health, dependence on drugs, poor education, and a lack of vocational training. Presently, two-thirds of released prisoners are rearrested within three years, and about half return to prison. In the Center for American Progress’s Task Force on Poverty’s recently released report, From Poverty to Prosperity, which lays out a national strategy to cut poverty in half, one of the conclusions was that “our nation could reduce crime, strengthen communities, and reduce poverty through a dedicated effort to help exiting prisoners find employment and reintegrate into their communities.” While much of the work must be done in the states, on the federal level, “a helpful first step would be passing the Second Chance Act of 2007 (H.R. 1593), which would provide demonstration and mentoring grants to states and nonprofits, create a National Offender Reentry Resource Center, establish a federal reentry Task Force, and enhance many currents reentry programs.” Rep. Danny Davis (D-IL), who introduced the bill in the House, recently said of the Second Chance Act: “It will reduce recidivism. It will help reunite families and protect communities. It will enhance public safety and save taxpayer dollars. It is the humane thing to do. It is the responsible thing to do. It is the right thing to do.” Contact your members of Congress today and tell them to pass the Second Chance Act.