October 9, 2008

  • Economic Uncertainty Leads to Partisan Finger Pointing
  • Federal Appeals Court Blocks Release of Uiger Prisoners from Guantanamo
  • New Bill Seeks to Protect Traveler’s Privacy
  • What the Global Financial Crisis Means for Economically Developing Nations
  • Day Labor Series: Part One

Download Audio


Army Whistleblowers Say NSA Recorded Non-Terrorism Related Personal Calls of US Citizens

Two former arab linguists for the US Army Reserve have come forward claiming the National Security Agency ran phone conversation intercept operations targeting US citizens in the Middle east.  ABC News reports the transcribed and saved calls were recorded at Fort Gordon in Georgia and were often of an extremely personal nature.  According to the former intercept officers Adrienne Kinne and David Murfee Faulk, the calls were often made between service members and their friends and families.  Here’s Faulk speaking with ABC’s Brian Ross.
“One of my co-workers went to a supervisor and said, ‘but sir, these are personal calls.’ The supervisor said my orders were to transcribe everything.”
The Bush Administration has maintained that the spying is targeted at those with terrorist ties, specifically to Al Qaeda.  But the stories of the two whistleblowers completely counter those claims.  Melissa Goodman is a staff attorney with the ACLU’s National Security Project.
“The NSA is engaged in monitoring innocent communications of Americans.  They’re monitoring the communications of human rights workers and humanitarian aid workers and service members – extremely personal communications.  And not at all directed at terrorists.  I think it shows again and again that whatever you give the government, unchecked to spy on us, completely in secret, they can’t be trusted.”
Goodman says the ACLU is still working out how to include the new revelations in their ongoing lawsuit targeting the constitutionality of the most recent FISA legislation.  In a statement released today, Senator Jay Rockefeller, Chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, said the allegations are extremely disturbing and that the intelligence committee has requested information from the Bush Administration.  He went on to say the committee will – quote- “take whatever action necessary” to make sure the rules are followed and any violations are addressed.

FCC Investigates Pentagon Punditry
The Federal Communications Commission is investigating whether the Pentagon trained military professionals working as pundits in the media.  Peter Granitz reports from Washington.
The New York Times revealed the so-called Pentagon Propaganda Program last May. The program granted nineteen retired military officers – turned news analysts access to high-ranking officials and classified information. Some of those officials had personal relationships and investments in private military contractors. The Communications Act of 1934 requires networks to disclose whether information presented to the public was bought or traded for.  The investigation may determine whether there was a quid pro quo.
Officials at the FCC could not be reached because of Yom Kippur. Commissioner Jonathan Adelstein said in a statement this week his agency will also investigate five news networks that used the analysts. The networks have not been publicly mentioned.
It is unclear how long the investigation will last and what the possible consequences will be. Adelstein’s investigation may grow beyond the FCC: He urged the Department of Justice to conduct its own investigation. The Defense Department has also begun looking into the deceptions.  Peter Granitz, Free Speech Radio News.

Ukrainian President Dissolves Parliament, Calls for National Elections

A day after dissolving parliament in Ukraine, President Viktor Yushchenko has set special elections for December 7th. The move follows a collapse between Yushchenko and Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko, whose supporters pushed legislation to roll back presidential powers. Yushchenko was unable to build pro-western coalition support.  Both leaders also disagreed on how to respond to the situation in Georgia.  The move raises concern with some observers, who are concerned the elections will be an opportunity for factions with Russian ties to gain power.

War Costs Make Foreign Policy an Issue in Coming Canadian Elections
Next Tuesday, Canadians will go to the polls in a federal election. Today, candidates are reacting to the release of a parliamentary report on the costs of Canada’s mission to Afghanistan.  FSRN’s Kristin Swartz reports.
The report estimates that the mission will cost between $14 and $18 billion by 2011 when Canada’s 2,500 troops and support staff are scheduled to withdraw. It says that real costs, so far, are almost twice as high as what government has reported. The opposition New Democratic Party has criticized the mission for relying on military force rather than diplomacy and has called for an immediate withdrawal, today citing the high costs as one reason why. Liberal Party leader Stephane Dion denounced what he called a lack of transparency from the sitting Conservative government. This is the first time that a foreign policy issue has received much attention in this election campaign. The financial crisis has dominated the debate, with the Conservative Party’s lead in the polls narrowing, as voters become more fearful about their economic future.



Economic Uncertainty Leads to Partisan Finger Pointing
A large chunk of the debate about what to do about the faltering economy has to do with what allowed it to happen – and this is where the discussion becomes political and partisan. Democrats tend to point to de-regulation as the cause, and Republicans blame Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, two entities Republicans have long despised. Washington Editor Leigh Ann Caldwell explains.

Federal Appeals Court Blocks Release of Uiger Prisoners from Guantanamo

For the first time ever, a federal court ruled this week that a group of 17 Guantanamo detainees should be released into the United States. All 17 are minority Muslim Uigers from China, and the US acknowledges they face prosecution, torture or even death if they are repatriated to China. A federal judge ruled on Tuesday that if the US government asserts no evidence against them, they must be set free. The men were supposed to be on their way to Washington today to re-start their lives – instead, it looks like they’ll spend even more time in Guantanamo: a federal appeals court has blocked the original order, and then men are once again being held indefinitely, despite the fact the US government agrees it has no charges against them. They have been held since 2001. Emi Maclean, Staff Attorney at the Center for Constitutional Rights, says that it is clear the men pose no threat to national security, and that the case is simply about the Bush administration’s continued assertion that federal courts do not have the right to order the release of anyone indefinitely detained at Guantanamo. Maclean speaks to FSRN about what the latest decision means for the prisoners:

New Bill Seeks to Protect Traveler’s Privacy
Some travelers entering and leaving the United States are having their laptops, cell phones, and digital cameras searched and copied by customs and border patrol agents. Recently released documents indicate that the Department of Homeland Security quietly reversed a decades old restriction on extreme border searches without probable cause. Now there’s a new bill introduced in Congress to protect U.S. citizens’ privacy when they travel. Eric Klein has the story:

What the Global Financial Crisis Means for Economically Developing Nations
The Federal Reserve and European central banks cut interest rates Wednesday, in an effort to contain the current global financial crisis. And although rate cuts may grant some global finance relief, developing countries may still be in the lurch. Today at the World Bank annual meeting in Washington DC, which includes leaders from the International Monetary Fund and Finance Ministers from the world’s most powerful nations, World Bank President Robert Zoellick painted a bleak picture, saying the financial crisis cannot become a human one – but some say that is already happening. FSRN’s Karen Miller has more.

Day Labor Series: Part One
Two years ago, statistics indicated that on any given day, some 120,000 workers are either looking for day labor, or working as a day laborer. But now that a weakening economy is beginning to put construction, home improvement and landscaping projects on hold, day laborers are finding their job opportunities drying up and incomes dwindling. In the first of a two-part series, Max Pringle reports on how San Francisco Bay day laborers are coping.

You may also like...