Friday, April 10, 2009

Fox News is throwing a party!

Report from MEDIA MATTERS:

This week, Media Matters for America released a damning new report that documents in startling detail how Fox News has been promoting anti-Obama "tea party" protests across the country scheduled for April 15. That's right, despite its repeated insistence that its coverage is "fair and balanced" and its invitation to viewers to "say 'no' to biased media," in recent weeks, Fox News has frequently aired segments encouraging viewers to get involved with tea-party protests, which the "news" network has often described as primarily a response to President Obama's fiscal policies.

Specifically, Fox News has in dozens of instances provided attendance and organizing information for future protests, such as protest dates, locations, and website URLs. Fox News websites have also posted information and publicity material for protests. Fox News hosts have repeatedly encouraged viewers to join them at several protests that they are attending and covering. Tea-party organizers have used the planned attendance of the Fox News hosts to promote their protests. Fox News has also aired numerous interviews with protest organizers. Moreover, Fox News contributors are listed as "Tea Party Sponsor[s]" on

For his part, Glenn Beck, Fox's conspiracy theorist in chief, isn't just helping with turnout. Discussing his participation in the upcoming protest at the Alamo in San Antonio on his syndicated radio program, Beck announced, "I'm going to do a fundraiser for them" to help defray costs. "So you can come and you can have lunch with me. ... I don't know any of the details, but I've heard it's like $500 a plate or something like that."

Of course, the gang over at Fox hasn't taken kindly to Media Matters' pointing out its shameless promotion of these blatantly, unabashedly political events. On April 9, one day after the release of Media Matters' report, Fox News' Neil Cavuto and Beck discussed how "left-wing organizations like Media Matters" are "angry ... at us for covering these protests." Jeez, why would anyone be angry that a "news" outlet is promoting, fundraising for, and taking part in political protests?

Perhaps sensing that people might be catching on to the major role Fox is playing in the events, Cavuto pre-emptively critiqued news coverage of the tea-party protests, essentially panning the evil liberal media for their coverage of the events before they've even taken place.

IRAQ - it ain't over! Thanks GWB!!

Military: Iraqi Truck Bombing Kills 5 US Soldiers

BAGHDAD (AP) -- A suicide bomber rammed his explosives-laden truck into a sandbagged wall Friday in northern Iraq, killing five American soldiers and two Iraqi policemen in the single deadliest attack against U.S. forces in more than a year.

A sixth American soldier and 17 Iraqi policemen were wounded in the blast that took place near the national police headquarters in southwestern Mosul -- Iraq's third-largest city and al-Qaida's last urban stronghold.

Suicide bombings -- a hallmark of al-Qaida's attack style -- continue to threaten the city, which U.S. troops must leave by June 30 under an agreement with the Iraqis. The approaching deadline has raised fears about what will happen after American soldiers depart.

Lt. Col. Michael Stuart, chief of U.S. operations in Tikrit, an Iraqi city north of Baghdad, said the target was the Iraqi national police complex in Mosul and not the U.S. patrol. He said the American patrol just happened to be on the same street when the attack occurred.

''It was just bad timing,'' Stuart told The Associated Press.

Friday's blast was the deadliest single bombing attack in more than a year. The U.S. military said that the last time five U.S. soldiers were killed in an attack was when a suicide bomber targeted an American patrol in Baghdad on March 10, 2008.

A suicide car bomb struck a U.S. patrol in Mosul on Feb. 9, killing four American soldiers and their Iraqi interpreter. Four U.S. soldiers were also killed Jan. 26 when two helicopters collided over the northern city of Kirkuk.

Friday's suicide bomber, who was driving a truck filled with grain, made a sharp turn as he approached the police complex, then rammed his truck through an iron barrier, hitting a sandbagged wall beyond it and detonating his vehicle near the station's main building, Iraqi police said.

The blast shook the entire complex and badly damaged nearby buildings, witnesses and police said.

A policeman, who identified himself as Abu Mohammed, said he saw the truck driving behind two U.S. Humvees on the street leading to the police headquarters. The Humvees entered the complex, came to a stop, and within seconds, the truck turned and rammed the iron barrier, he said.

Iraqi police opened fire, but the truck kept moving until it reached the sandbagged wall where it detonated -- just a few feet away from the Humvees, he said.

''The blast was very powerful and the situation was chaotic,'' he said.

The U.S. military said two people were detained in connection with the attack, which is under investigation. The names of those killed were being withheld pending notification of families.

Although U.S. combat troops have to leave of Iraqi cities by the end of June under the U.S.-Iraqi security agreement that went into effect this year, the top U.S. commander in Iraq, Gen. Raymond Odierno, told The Times of London this week that the American troops may have to stay in Mosul and another northern city, Baqouba, after the deadline because insurgents remain active there.

Mosul, about 225 miles (360 kilometers) north of Baghdad, had been relatively quiet in recent weeks compared to the Iraqi capital, where attacks killed at least 53 people this week.

American casualties have fallen to their lowest levels of the war since thousands of Sunnis abandoned the insurgency and U.S. and Iraqi forces routed Shiite militias in Baghdad and Basra last spring.

However, fighting continues in Mosul and elsewhere in northern Iraq -- a conflict that U.S. officials say is driven in part by ethnic rivalries between Sunni Arabs and Kurds. Many Sunni extremists are believed to have fled north after being driven from longtime strongholds in Baghdad and central Iraq.

Also Friday in Mosul, gunmen opened fire from a speeding car and shot dead Dahir Hashim, a Sunni politician and cousin of Mosul's governor-elect Athil al-Nujeifi, police said.

In a separate attack, a U.S. patrol of Striker vehicles was targeted by a roadside bomb, but no one was hurt in the Friday blast near Taji, about 12 miles (20 kilometers) north of Baghdad, said spokesman Maj. Dave Shoupe. Taji police said eight Iraqi laborers paving a road by the site of the blast were detained for questioning.

Meanwhile, Iraqi police in the southern city of Basra said Friday they arrested 65 people in overnight raids after an attack on a U.S. convoy in the area and the kidnapping of two guards working for a local Iraqi security firm the previous day.

The arrested included 20 people who were already on a wanted list and 45 others, mostly militiamen, said the city's police spokesman Col. Karim al-Zeidi.

The U.S. military said the American convoy was hit by a roadside bomb near Basra on Thursday, but there were no casualties. Separately, al-Zeidi said two guards working for an Iraqi security firm were abducted late Thursday from their car, which was left by on the side of the road near Basra along with the guards' weapons.

C.I.A. to Close Secret Prisons, Harsh Interrogations


WASHINGTON — The Central Intelligence Agency said Thursday that it would decommission the secret overseas prisons where it subjected Al Qaeda prisoners to brutal interrogation methods, bringing to a symbolic close the most controversial counterterrorism program of the Bush administration.

But in a statement to employees, the agency’s director, Leon E. Panetta, said agency officers who worked in the program “should not be investigated, let alone punished” because the Justice Department under President George W. Bush had declared their actions legal.

Mr. Panetta and other top Obama administration officials have said they believe that waterboarding, the near-drowning method used in 2002 and 2003 on three prisoners, is torture, which is illegal under American and international law. The International Committee of the Red Cross, which interviewed 14 prisoners, said in a report made public this week that prisoners were also repeatedly slammed into walls, forced to stand for days with their arms handcuffed to the ceiling, confined in small boxes and held in frigid cells.

Mr. Panetta said the secret detention facilities were no longer in operation, but he suggested that security and maintenance had been continuing at the sites at the taxpayers’ expense since they were emptied under Mr. Bush in 2006. Terminating security contracts at the sites would save “at least $4 million,” Mr. Panetta said.

The C.I.A. has never revealed the location of its so-called black sites overseas, but intelligence officials, aviation records and news reports have placed them in Afghanistan, Thailand, Poland, Romania and Jordan, among other countries. Agency officials have said that fewer than 100 prisoners have been held since the program was created in 2002, and about 30 were subjected to what the C.I.A. called “enhanced” interrogation techniques.

Mr. Bush transferred the remaining 14 prisoners to Guantánamo Bay in Cuba in 2006 but ordered some sites maintained for future use; only two Qaeda prisoners are known to have been held for several months since then.

In his first week in office, President Obama banned coercive interrogations and ordered the C.I.A. program closed. Mr. Panetta said that the C.I.A. had not detained any terrorism suspects since he took office in February and added that any suspects captured in the future would be quickly turned over to the American military or to a suspect’s home country.

Joanne Mariner, the director of the terrorism and counterterrorism program at Human Rights Watch, said the closing of the C.I.A. prisons was “incredibly heartening and important.” But she said that a criminal investigation of the C.I.A. interrogation program was nonetheless necessary, and she expressed concern that Mr. Panetta had not made clear what evidence the C.I.A. would need to detain a suspect.

Mr. Panetta’s statement, along with a classified letter about interrogation policy that he sent Thursday to the Senate and House intelligence oversight committees, underscored the new administration’s sharp break with policies that Mr. Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney often credited with preventing a repeat of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

By contrast, President Obama and Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. insist that the use of techniques they describe as torture betrayed American values, alienated allies and became a recruiting tool for Al Qaeda. A task force is now studying what interrogation methods should be permitted and how to ensure that prisoners turned over to other countries will not be mistreated.

In his statement, Mr. Panetta vowed to continue the “global pursuit” of Al Qaeda and its allies but said interrogators would use traditional methods and not physical force.

“C.I.A. officers, whose knowledge of terrorist organizations is second to none, will continue to conduct debriefings using a dialogue style of questioning,” Mr. Panetta wrote. He said C.I.A. officers were required to report abuse, even if it were carried out by a cooperating foreign intelligence service.

Mr. Panetta also said the agency would no longer use contractors to conduct interrogations. Former military psychologists working under contract for the C.I.A. helped devise and conduct the previous harsh interrogations, according to former agency officials. Senator Dianne Feinstein, Democrat of California and the chairwoman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, had proposed legislation barring contractors from conducting interrogations, saying the job was too important to outsource.

The Senate committee recently began an investigation of the C.I.A. detention and interrogation program, and senior Senate and House members have called for a broader and more public “truth commission” to investigate past counterterrorism programs.

Mr. Panetta said that the agency would cooperate with Congressional reviews but said that “fairness and wisdom” should dictate against a criminal investigation or other sanctions.

The C.I.A. statement comes at a time of continuing debate inside the Obama administration over which classified documents related to the agency’s interrogation program should be made public. After several delays, the Justice Department now has until April 16 to decide whether to make public legal opinions justifying the C.I.A.’s harsh methods.

Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. has argued for the release of the opinions and related documents, but some current and former C.I.A. officials say they believe that wholesale disclosures could harm counterterrorism efforts and hurt morale at the agency.