Under the Radar
ETHICS — NEW E-MAILS SHOW ROVE, GONZALES HAD DEEPER ROLE IN U.S. ATTORNEY FIRINGS: New e-mails reveal that the plan for firing U.S. Attorneys originated in the White House. Both White House advisor Karl Rove and Attorney General Alberto Gonzales discussed the idea of firing all 93 U.S. attorneys in early Jan. 2005. The e-mails directly contradict White House Press Secretary Tony Snow’s assertion on Tuesday that the idea to fire all 93 attorneys was first suggested by former White House Counsel Harriet Miers and was “her idea only.” Miers proposed firing the prosecutors in Feb. 2005, a month after Rove and Gonzales did. Additionally, on March 6, White House spokeswoman Dana Perino denied that Rove had been involved in the prosecutor purge at all and yesterday, Sen. Mel Martinez (R-FL) said, “I’m not so sure if Karl Rove has much to do with this.” But the new e-mails also show that not only did Rove first propose the mass firing of all the prosecutors, he also came up with the idea of targeted firings. In a Jan. 9, 2005 e-mail with the subject line “Re: Question from Karl Rove,” then-Gonzales chief of staff Kyle Sampson, discussed with then-deputy White House Counsel David Leitch the idea of replacing “15-20 percent of the current U.S. Attorneys,” because “80-85 percent, I would guess, are doing a great job, are loyal Bushies, etc.” Sampson added, “[I]f Karl thinks there would be political will to do it, then so do I.”
TORTURE — PENTAGON REDACTED STATEMENTS OF KHALID SHEIKH MOHAMMED DISCUSSING TORTURE: According to a Pentagon transcript released yesterday, Khalid Sheik Mohammed confessed to masterminding 9/11 and “more than 30 other terror attacks or plots” at a military hearing held in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, although many government officials believe his claims may be “exaggerated.” Mohammed has long been the subject of extreme interrogation techniques, including water boarding. “CIA officers who subjected themselves to the water boarding technique lasted an average of 14 seconds before caving in. … KSM won the admiration of interrogators when he was able to last between two and two-and-a-half-minutes before begging to confess.” The CIA also reportedly abducted his seven and nine-year-old sons and flew them to the United States for interrogation. In his remarks to a military tribunal, Mohammed raised objections to the treatment he received, but his statements on torture were redacted by the Pentagon in its publicly released transcript: “I know American people are torturing us from seventies. [REDACTED]. I know they are talking human rights. And I know it is against American constitution, against American laws.” Mohammed claimed that CIA interrogators warned him he would be subjected to illegal treatment, calling it “bad luck.” Kenneth Roth of Human Rights Watch (HRW) questioned the legality of the closed-door sessions and whether Mohammed’s confession was actually the result of torture. “We won’t know that unless there is an independent hearing,” he said. “We need to know if this purported confession would be enough to convict him at a fair trial or would it have to be suppressed as the fruit of torture?” HRW has also called on the Pentagon to make public the full transcript.
IRAQ — PETREAUS WANTS TO ADD ANOTHER BRIGADE TO ESCALATION: Gen. David Petraeus “has requested another Army brigade, in addition to five already on the way, as part of the controversial ‘surge’ of American troops designed to clamp down on sectarian violence and insurgent groups,” the Boston Globe reports. The appeal — “not yet made public” — “would involve between 2,500 and 3,000 more soldiers and dozens of transport helicopters and powerful gunships,” bringing the “planned expansion of U.S. forces to close to 30,000 troops.” The Globe also reports that “military spokesmen in Baghdad have already reported that the number of sectarian killings and insurgent attacks have dropped significantly in the four weeks since US and Iraqi troops began to move into neighborhoods plagued by militias and gangs.” But as the Washington Post reported, “Sectarian attacks in Baghdad are down at the moment, but the deaths of Iraqi civilians and U.S. troops have increased outside the capital.” Moreover, analysts say that if violence is down in Baghdad, “it is likely because the Shiite militias operating there are waiting out the buildup in U.S. troops, nearly all of whom are being deployed in the capital. At the same time, Sunni insurgents have escalated their operations elsewhere.” The Post also reported that many of President Bush’s recent rosy claims about the escalation have been skewed or flatly false.