Sunday, March 18, 2007


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The New York Times

March 17, 2007
McCain's Straight Talk Bus Rolls Through Iowa

Filed at 9:38 a.m. ET

AMES, Iowa (Reuters) - Struggling Republican presidential candidate JohnMcCain dusted off the ``Straight Talk Express'' bus and rolled through Iowathis week looking for the freewheeling magic that drove his first WhiteHouse bid.

The bus was big, blue and hard to miss on the rural highways of a stateMcCain bypassed in 2000 before losing the Republican nomination to PresidentGeorge W. Bush.

At each stop, he worked hard to recapture the maverick spark from sevenyears ago. In 2000 he was the unpredictable ''Happy Warrior'' but this yearhe is the establishment contender.

``Hey, I'm still the same candidate,'' McCain told reporters in Des Moineson Thursday as he kicked off the tour. ``I'm a little older but I'm stillhaving fun, convinced we're doing fine and that we'll win.''

The four-term Republican senator from Arizona dazzled the media seven yearsago with his rolling talkfests. Reporters crowded into the ``Straight TalkExpress,'' sitting cross-legged at his feet, perching on the back of chairsand squeezing into impossibly tiny corners to listen.


The New York Times

March 18, 2007
Sunni Militants Disrupt Plan to Calm Baghdad

WASHINGTON, March 17 - In January, when President Bush announced his plansto reinforce American troops in Baghdad, Shiite militias were seen as themain worry. Some analysts predicted that bloody clashes with Shiitemilitants in the Sadr City district in northeastern Baghdad were all butinevitable.

Instead, during the early weeks of the operation, deadly bombings by SunniArab militants have emerged as a greater danger. In particular, the threatposed by the Sunni group Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia was underscored whenAmerican troops seized a laptop computer from a senior operative in thegroup who was killed in late December.

Information from captured materials indicates that the group's leadershipsees "the sectarian war for Baghdad as the necessary main focus of itsoperations," according to an intelligence report that was described byAmerican officials.

Reflecting concern over the bomb attacks, especially car bombings, Americanmilitary officials have begun to emphasize that bringing security to theIraqi capital will involve not only the protection of Baghdad neighborhoods,but also raids to shut down bomb factories and uncover arms caches in thelargely Sunni areas on the outskirts of the city.

"The Baghdad belts are increasingly seen as the key to security in Baghdad,"Lt. Gen. Raymond T. Odierno, the American officer in charge of day-to-dayoperations in Iraq, said in an e-mail message. "I believe this is where youcan stop the accelerants to Baghdad violence. We have already found a largenumber of significant caches in these areas related to car bombs andI.E.D.'s,"or improvised explosive devices, commonly known as roadside bombs.


The New York Times

March 18, 2007
Protecting Wages in a Global Economy

Federal wage insurance is a pilot program for a small subset of workers, age50 or older, who lose their jobs to trade competition. Under the program, aworker who takes a lower-paying replacement job can receive a governmentsubsidy for two years, equal to 50 percent of the difference in earnings upto a total of $10,000, provided the new job pays less than $50,000 a year.

Congress is now examining whether wage insurance should be expanded to anational program and added to existing aid for the unemployed. There aresome attractive aspects to the program. But it should not be the firstpriority in dealing with job loss. Given the nation's limited budgetresources, it would be very difficult to incorporate wage insurance into thesocial safety net without cannibalizing other programs.

First, traditional unemployment insurance must be improved before wageinsurance is expanded. A joint federal/state program, unemployment insuranceis currently available to about 35 percent of workers and replaces, onaverage, about a third of their weekly earnings, usually for up to 26 weeks.Critics portray it as a license to loaf. But people who collect unemploymentinsurance generally find better-paying jobs than those who do not and aremore likely to find jobs with health insurance. That is a strong argument infavor of expanding unemployment insurance, not curtailing or replacing it.

There is also no reason to believe that taxpayer dollars are better spent onwage insurance than on retraining for displaced workers. States andlocalities have had good results from retraining, which could be bolsteredwith federal support.

On the positive side, wage insurance could be a pragmatic response to thedownward pressure on wages from globalization. Not everyone who loses a jobin today's economy is able to find a comparable new one. Wage insurancewould help keep displaced workers working and, possibly, help them toacquire new skills on the job. But there are still many unanswered questionsabout its efficacy.


The New York Times

March 18, 2007
Op-Ed Columnist

Talking About Israel

Democrats are railing at just about everything President Bush does, with neprominent exception: Mr. Bush's crushing embrace of Israel.

There is no serious political debate among either Democrats or Republicansabout our policy toward Israelis and Palestinians. And that silence harmsAmerica, Middle East peace prospects and Israel itself.

Within Israel, you hear vitriolic debates in politics and the news mediaabout the use of force and the occupation of Palestinian territories. Yet nomajor American candidate is willing today to be half as critical ofhard-line Israeli government policies as, say, Haaretz, the Israelinewspaper.

Three years ago, Israel's minister of justice spoke publicly of photos of anelderly Palestinian woman beside the ruins of her home, after it had beendestroyed by the Israeli army. He said that they reminded him of his owngrandmother, who had been dispossessed by the Nazis. Can you imagine anAmerican cabinet secretary ever saying such a thing?


The New York Times

March 18, 2007
Free-Speech Case Divides Bush and Religious Right

WASHINGTON, March 17 - A Supreme Court case about the free-speech rights ofhigh school students, to be argued on Monday, has opened an unexpectedfissure between the Bush administration and its usual allies on thereligious right.

As a result, an appeal that asks the justices to decide whether schoolofficials can squelch or punish student advocacy of illegal drugs has takenon an added dimension as a window on an active front in the culture wars,one that has escaped the notice of most people outside the fray. And as thestakes have grown higher, a case that once looked like an easy victory forthe government side may prove to be a much closer call.

On the surface, Joseph Frederick's dispute with his principal, DeborahMorse, at the Juneau-Douglas High School in Alaska five years ago appearedto have little if anything to do with religion - or perhaps with much ofanything beyond a bored senior's attitude and a harried administrator'simpatience.

As the Olympic torch was carried through the streets of Juneau on its way tothe 2002 winter games in Salt Lake City, students were allowed to leave theschool grounds to watch. The school band and cheerleaders performed. Withtelevision cameras focused on the scene, Mr. Frederick and some friendsunfurled a 14-foot-long banner with the inscription: "Bong Hits 4 Jesus."

Mr. Frederick later testified that he designed the banner, using a slogan hehad seen on a snowboard, "to be meaningless and funny, in order to get ontelevision." Ms. Morse found no humor but plenty of meaning in the sign,recognizing "bong hits" as a slang reference to using marijuana. Shedemanded that he take the banner down. When he refused, she tore it down,ordered him to her office, and gave him a 10-day suspension.


The Washington Post

Amid Concerns, FBI Lapses Went On
Records Collection Brought Internal Questions But Little Scrutiny

By R. Jeffrey Smith and John Solomon
Washington Post Staff Writers
Sunday, March 18, 2007; A01

FBI counterterrorism officials continued to use flawed procedures to obtainthousands of U.S. telephone records during a two-year period when bureaulawyers and managers were expressing escalating concerns about the practice,according to senior FBI and Justice Department officials and documents.

FBI lawyers raised the concerns beginning in late October 2004 but did notclosely scrutinize the practice until last year, FBI officials acknowledged.They also did not understand the scope of the problem until the JusticeDepartment launched an investigation, FBI officials said.

Under pressure to provide a stronger legal footing, counterterrorism agentslast year wrote new letters to phone companies demanding the information thebureau already possessed. At least one senior FBI headquarters official --whom the bureau declined to name -- signed these "national security letters"without including the required proof that the letters were linked to FBIcounterterrorism or espionage investigations, an FBI official said.

The flawed procedures involved the use of emergency demands for records, called "exigent circumstance" letters, which contained false or undocumentedclaims. They also included national security letters that were issuedwithout FBI rules being followed. Both types of request were served on threephone companies.

Referring to the exigent circumstance letters, Sen. Charles E. Grassley(R-Iowa) wrote in a letter Friday to Justice Department Inspector GeneralGlenn A. Fine: "It is . . . difficult to imagine why there should not havebeen swift and severe consequences for anyone who knowingly signed . . . aletter containing false statements. Anyone at the FBI who knew about thatkind of wrongdoing had an obligation to put a stop to it and report itimmediately."


The Washington Post

New Trend in Organ Donation Raises Questions
As Alternative Approach Becomes More Frequent, Doctors Worry That It PutsDonors at Risk

By Rob Stein
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, March 18, 2007; A03

The number of kidneys, livers and other body parts surgeons are harvestingthrough a controversial approach to organ donation has started to riserapidly, a trend that is saving the lives of more waiting patients but, somesay, risks sacrificing the interests of the donors.

Under the procedure, surgeons are removing organs within minutes after theheart stops beating and doctors declare a patient dead. Since the 1970s,most organs have been removed only after doctors declared a patient braindead.

Federal health officials, transplant surgeons and organ banks are promotingthe alternative as a way to meet the increasing demand for organs and togive more dying patients and their families the solace of helping others.

Some doctors and bioethicists, however, say the practice raises thedisturbing specter of transplant surgeons preying on dying patients fortheir organs, possibly pressuring doctors and families to discontinuetreatment, adversely affecting donors' care in their final days and evenhastening their deaths.

Nevertheless, the number of these donations is on the rise. It more thandoubled from 268 in 2003 to at least 605 in 2006, enabling surgeons totransplant more than 1,200 additional kidneys, livers, lungs, hearts andother organs.


George F. Will: Guns a threat -- for Democrats
By George F. Will -
Published 12:00 am PDT Sunday, March 18, 2007

By striking down the District of Columbia's extraordinarily strict guncontrol law, which essentially bans guns, a federal appeals court may haverevived gun control as a political issue. It has been mostly dormant sinceautumn 2000, when Al Gore decided he was less interested in it than incarrying states such as Michigan and Pennsylvania. The appeals court rulingappalls advocates of gun control laws, and should alarm the DemocraticParty.

The court ruled 2-1 that D.C.'s law, which allows only current and retiredpolice officers to have handguns in their homes, violates the Constitution'sSecond Amendment: "A well regulated militia, being necessary to the securityof a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not beinfringed."

This ruling probably will be reviewed by the Supreme Court, which 68 yearsago seemed to hold that the amendment's first 13 words circumscribe theforce of the rest. That is, there is a constitutionally protected right to"keep and bear" guns only insofar as the keeping and bearing are pertinentto service in state-run militias.

In 2000, advocates of stringent gun control thought they had won theirargument with historical evidence when an Emory University historian,Michael Bellesiles, published "Arming America: The Origins of a National GunCulture." This book, which was awarded the Bancroft Prize, the most covetedhonor for American history scholarship, argued that when the SecondAmendment was written, guns were not widely owned or reliable enough to beimportant. Therefore the amendment was written to protect the rights ofstates, not of individuals.

Before long, however, other scholars argued that much of Bellesiles'"research" consisted of meretricious uses of, fabrication of, or disregardof, evidence, and the Bancroft Prize was rescinded. And in 1989, SanfordLevinson of the University of Texas Law School had written in a Yale LawJournal article, "The Embarrassing Second Amendment," that the amendment'slanguage, properly read, is an embarrassment to those who favor whittlingaway the amendment's protection of the individuals' right to own guns.


The New York Times

March 18, 2007
Facing Life With a Lethal Gene

The test, the counselor said, had come back positive.

Katharine Moser inhaled sharply. She thought she was as ready as anyonecould be to face her genetic destiny. She had attended a genetic counselingsession and visited a psychiatrist, as required by the clinic. She hadundergone the recommended neurological exam. And yet, she realized in thatmoment, she had never expected to hear those words.

"What do I do now?" Ms. Moser asked.

"What do you want to do?" the counselor replied.

"Cry," she said quietly.

Her best friend, Colleen Elio, seated next to her, had already begun.


The Washington Post

What's Wrong With This Picture?
Race Isn't a Factor When My Generation Chooses Friends.

By Justin Britt-Gibson
Sunday, March 18, 2007; B01

"It's no big deal," I tell myself. I'm sitting on the subway in Manhattanwith Caroline, a woman I'm seeing. Her head rests on my shoulder, her auburnhair tangled in my scarf. Though it should be the last thing on my mind, Ican't help but wonder what inspires the elderly African American womanacross from us to shake her head disapprovingly: the Detroit Tigers cap I'mwearing or the company I'm keeping. After all, my beloved Tigers hadrecently defeated the New York Yankees in the American League playoffs. Thenagain, I'm also a young black man sharing an affectionate arm with a whitewoman.

As a 25-year-old member of the post-Gen X generation dubbed the"Millennials," I'm used to displays of warmth between interracial couplesbeing ignored or barely noticed. They're hardly on our minds at all.

A similar carefree attitude toward racial mixing reigned at Springbrook HighSchool in Silver Spring, where I shared cafeteria tables and Nintendocontrols with friends whose parents hailed from Pakistan, Haiti, Ethiopia,Colombia -- and Pittsburgh. To my parents' generation, our devil-may-careattitude toward diversity is striking, a symbol of racial progress.Ninety-five percent of 18-to-29 year olds have friends from different racialbackgrounds, according to a Washington Post-Kaiser-Harvard poll. ManyMillennials take it further: To us, differences in skin color are largelyirrelevant. That's not to say that young minorities never experience racialinequality. Prejudices still exist, and serious economic gaps still yawnbetween racial and cultural groups. But I feel fortunate to live in an erawhen, in choosing friends or dates, race can be among the least of myconcerns. Essentially, it's no big deal.

But it felt like a big deal on that subway -- much as it did two years agoin Rome when Federico, a new Italian acquaintance, casually inquired, "Doyou listen to black music?" I was a Temple University senior studying artand film in Italy's eternal city. It was my first night out with fellowstudents. We ended up at a small, smoke-filled dive where we met five20-something men who spoke in stilted English and didn't hide theirattraction to the women in our pack. Eager to ingratiate ourselves with thelocals, we accepted their invitation to join them.

I had been told by a black student previously with the program that manyItalians don't take kindly to people of color, so Federico's question setoff an alarm.

Lowering my beer, I calmly asked what "black music" was. When Federicoadmiringly cited artists such as Tupac, Notorious B.I.G. and Snoop Dogg, Irealized this was his way of describing hip-hop, that his intention was nodifferent from my own clumsy attempts to describe my adoration of Italiancinema. Federico just hoped to make a new hip-hop-appreciating friend -- andhe did.


The Washington Post

Congress's Oversight Offensive

By David S. Broder
Sunday, March 18, 2007; B07

Ten weeks into the new Congress, it is clear that revelation, notlegislation, is going to be its real product.

While President Bush threatens to use his veto pen to stop some bills andSenate Republicans block other measures from even reaching his desk, noforce in Washington can halt the Democrats' investigative juggernaut fromuncovering the secrets inside this administration.

The Justice Department, the Department of Veterans Affairs and parts of thePentagon already have undergone investigations by House and Senatecommittees. Similar excursions are almost certainly in store for the LaborDepartment, the Department of Health and Human Services, and the Departmentof Homeland Security -- indeed, any part of the federal establishment thataffects people's lives and touches on vital interests.

And in every case, inquiring minds will look for links to the White Houseand its burgeoning bureaucracy of young Republican activists, some of whomhave ridden herd on the agencies and departments with breathtakingarrogance.

The previously anonymous aides in the White House counsel's office and thepolitical affairs section headed by Karl Rove, whose names appear in thee-mails that led to the now- controversial firing of eight U.S. attorneys,are hardly the only self-important White House employees to order Cabinetofficers around.


The Washington Post

Borrowers, Beware

By James Grant
Sunday, March 18, 2007; B01

The top man at the Treasury Department urged calm last week in the face oflosses on Wall Street brought on by fears of defaults on the riskier kindsof mortgages. Really, he said, the damage is easily containable.

But of all people, Henry M. Paulson Jr., former head of the New Yorkinvestment banking house of Goldman Sachs, should know just how reasonablethis near-panic was. Easy credit has long been the American financiallifeblood. Anything resembling stringency on the part of our formerlycarefree lenders would tend to set the economy on its ear.

Easy credit financed the bull market in houses and the flood of homerefinancings. Americans felt richer and spent as though they were. It standsto reason that the withdrawal of this manna will lead them to spend less -- ith substantial collateral damage to the housing-centered U.S. consumereconomy, and, perhaps, well beyond. Our captains of industry owe as much totheir lenders' leniency as does any subprime, or high-risk, home buyer.They, too, have been able to raise money on terms unimaginable only fouryears ago.

All this sounds scary enough, and it is. But financial history offers somesolace. The U.S. economy excels in the art of facing up to error -- ofidentifying it, reappraising it and then repricing it. Loans, especially therisky kind, have been mispriced. They were, and are, too cheap. They will berepriced -- as they were, for example, in the aftermath of the junk-bond andreal-estate troubles of the late 1980s and early 1990s. Borrowing costs willgo up, and the value of the things that debt financed will tend to go down.In an attempt to ease the pain, the Federal Reserve will print more money.

A sign of the times was the announcement the other day by the top lender, Countrywide Financial, that it will no longer help theaverage Joe or Jane buy a house with not one dollar down. The era of lendinghome buyers 100 percent of the purchase price is over, it said. The othersurviving mortgage originators have been forced to adopt similar policies -- not as stringent as in Grandfather's day, but a radical departure from thefree-and-easy ways of the recent past.


The Washington Post

No, My Son Doesn't 'Act Black.' There's No Such Thing.

By Aleta Payne
Sunday, March 18, 2007; B03

Sam came home from the overnighter visibly crushed. He curled around hishurt as though he'd been punched in the gut, and he refused to say what hadhappened.

My husband and I fought panic as all the horrible things that might happento a 14-year-old away from home pounded through our brains. We cajoled andinterrogated as he tried to disappear into the living room sofa, untilfinally, enough of the story emerged to reassure us that our oldest sonhadn't been physically injured. But his suffering was still real.

His friends had asked him why he didn't act black.

My husband and I were dumbfounded. We had been challenged ourselves withvariations on this same question 30 years ago. But back then, we were beingteased by our African American peers, many of whom were growing up incommunities where they saw little opportunity for success or achievement andwhere frustration took root early. Sam's questioners were white suburbanteenagers, living college-bound lives of comfort.

Poised to start high school, Sam is at the age where he wants nothing morethan the acceptance of his peers. So this question staggered him. And whilewe learned the basics of the story then, the details have emerged -- syllable byreluctant syllable -- in the months since. That it had not happened that onetime but had built over months. That it was always the same small group ofboys who generally treated him as one of their buds. That he'd stopped beingable to laugh it off as the question wore at him.

"People think I should be able to rap or something," he said. "Like they seein movies and crap." Strong words from our almost silent son. "They want meto act like something I'm not."


The Washington Post

When Terrorists Become 'Warriors'

By Tom Malinowski
Sunday, March 18, 2007; B07

As an Irish American politician, the late, great Sen. Daniel PatrickMoynihan felt he had a duty to speak out against the Irish Republican Armyin Northern Ireland. He considered IRA members to be nothing more thanmurderers. From time to time, some of his constituents who sympathized withthe IRA would complain.

"There is a war in Northern Ireland," they pleaded. "The IRA are notterrorists; they are soldiers."

For as long as there has been terrorism, terrorists have justified theiractions by calling themselves warriors. A glance at the names such groupsgive themselves reveals how central warfare is to their self-image: theal-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, the Lord's Resistance Army, the Salafist Group forPreaching and Combat.

Conversely, throughout history, most governments fighting terrorist groupshave tried to delegitimize them as criminals and bandits.

After the Sept. 11 attacks, President Bush chose a radically differentapproach. He declared the fight against al-Qaeda to be a "war" -- evencomparing it to World War II and the Cold War -- and labeled suspects"combatants" who were subject to military detention. He ridiculed Sen. JohnKerry for suggesting that terrorists should be fought primarily by lawenforcement means. With the 2001 attacks, he said, "the terrorists and theirsupporters declared war on the United States of America, and war is whatthey got."

Did it occur to anyone in the administration that maybe, just maybe, "war"is precisely what Osama bin Laden wanted? Once America accepted hisrhetorical call to war, after all, bin Laden would not be just a massmurderer hiding in a cave. He could claim to be the leader of a mighty armygoing head to head with a superpower on a global battlefield, equivalent inAmerica's eyes to the greatest adversaries it had fought in the past.

Look at the statement bin Laden's deputy, Khalid Sheik Mohammed, made lastweek before his "combatant status review tribunal" at Guantanamo Bay. Thisman wore the status symbol of "combatant" proudly. After confessing toplanning the Sept. 11 attacks, he said: "I did it but this [is] the languageof any war." In war, he said, "there will be victims." Perversely, hecompared himself to George Washington and said that if Washington had beencaptured by the British, he, too, would have been called an "enemycombatant." The war paradigm has reinforced terrorists' narrative that theyare warriors, not outlaws, and thus are entitled to kill their enemies.


The Washington Post

Saudi Arabia Routinely Frees Detainees
Release of Guantanamo Prisoners Undermines U.S. Claims of Threat, AnalysisSays

By Joby Warrick
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, March 18, 2007; A05

In official documents, Detainee No. 266 was an accused al-Qaeda member whorefused to speak to his captors, much less admit or deny terrorism links.His Saudi countryman, Detainee No. 264, was a relief worker andself-described admirer of Americans who was handed over to U.S. forces byPakistani policemen seeking to collect a bounty.

On June 24, both men were released from the U.S. prison at Guantanamo Bay,Cuba, to the custody of Saudi Arabia. Which promptly freed them.

The two are among scores of Guantanamo detainees who have been quietlyrepatriated in the past three years amid growing pressure from their homecountries and international human rights advocates. Now, a new analysis bylawyers who have represented detainees says U.S. decisions undermine thegovernment's own claims about the threat posed by many of the prison camp'sresidents, some of whom are approaching their fifth year of detentionwithout formal charges or trials.

The analysis, based on government case files for Saudi detainees sent homeover the past three years, shows inmates being systematically freed fromcustody within weeks of their return. It also raises questions on howdetainees are selected for release: While some of the repatriated Saudiswere accused of lesser offenses -- such as working for charitableorganizations with alleged ties to al-Qaeda -- others were released in spiteof standing accusations that they belonged to al-Qaeda or the Taliban, oreven fought against U.S. or coalition forces in Afghanistan, records show.

The case files also offer insight into the nature of U.S. evidence againstthe detainees. For example, in half the cases studied, the detainees wereturned over to U.S. forces by Pakistani police or troops in return forfinancial rewards. Many others were accused of terrorism connections in partbecause their Arab nicknames matched those found in a computer database ofal-Qaeda members, documents show.


The Washington Post

Pakistani Lawyers Battle With Police
Anti-Musharraf Protests Erupt in Lahore

By Griff Witte
Washington Post Foreign Service
Sunday, March 18, 2007; A18

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan, March 17 -- Pakistani police clashed with protestersfor a second straight day Saturday over a decision by the president, Gen.Pervez Musharraf, to suspend the country's chief justice.

The latest round of protests came in the eastern city of Lahore, the sceneof demonstrations earlier this week. On Saturday, police lobbed tear gascanisters at lawyers in business suits who responded by throwing rocks,according to witness accounts and television footage.

Rashed Rahman, executive editor of the Post newspaper in Lahore, said thatabout 100 lawyers were injured when police charged them with batons. He saidpolice later ransacked about two dozen offices belonging to the protesters.

"The police apparently had orders to stop the protests at any cost, and theycame out swinging," he said. "The level of violence has clearly escalated."

Unrest has grown quickly in Pakistan since March 9, when Musharraf suspendedthe Supreme Court's chief justice, Iftikhar Mohammed Chaudhry, citingunspecified abuses of power. Chaudhry had been expected to rule on severalkey cases this year, including the timing of upcoming elections and onwhether Musharraf can retain his role as head of the army while also servingas president.


The Miami Herald

Posted on Sun, Mar. 18, 2007
Desperate army is scraping the bottom

An Army already stretched painfully thin is now being asked to find theadditional 25,000-plus troops to man President Bush's escalation in Iraq.It's now obvious -- prepare for additional combat rotations next year.

All the easy sweeping up of manpower already has been done. All the obviousmoves to rob Peter to pay Paul have been carried out just to keep thisunending war going.

Now comes the hardest part: Units that are completing their second or thirdyearlong combat tours are being extended for another four or six months.Other units, now home for their promised 12 months with their families, arebeing told they will go back to combat sooner than that.

Army National Guard units that had already served the maximum time on activeduty, in combat, are being told that the rules have changed and they'reagain being called back for Iraq service.

It doesn't matter that those Guard units were ordered to leave virtually allof their equipment in Iraq and have had none of it replaced so that theymight actually train for the eventuality that has befallen them. Nor does itmatter that there may not be equipment and vehicles waiting for them in Iraqwhen they get there.


The Miami Herald

Posted on Fri, Mar. 16, 2007
Failure to protect our civil liberties

In the furor this week over the firings of U.S. attorneys, Congress mustn'tforget the FBI's abuse of ''national security letters.'' Last week's reportby the Justice Department's Office of Inspector General documents how theFBI misused the power, broadly expanded under the Patriot Act, to secretlyobtain financial, consumer and electronic records of ordinary individualswithout court supervision. In the process, the FBI likely violated the civilliberties of thousands of Americans, and that's unacceptable.

Correct `deficiencies'

FBI Director Robert S. Mueller quickly owned up to the ''deficiencies'' andvowed to correct them. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales pointed the fingerat Mr. Mueller, but he, too, shares the blame for lax oversight of the FBI,which is part of the Justice Department. Members of Congress from bothparties called for curbs on the Patriot Act authority that the FBI abused.That would be appropriate given how cavalierly the FBI failed to protectAmericans' civil rights.

Prior to 9/11, the FBI was authorized to use national security letters todemand records belonging to a terrorist or spy suspect. In 2001, the PatriotAct extended that authority to records of anyone ''relevant to'' a terrorisminvestigation or intelligence activities.

The inspector general's report shows the use of such letters shot up afterthe Patriot Act. During the 2003 -- 2005 period examined, the FBI obtainedthe personal records of more than 52,000 people. The report found that theagency:

. Didn't set clear guidelines for using these letters or effective systemsto ensure proper authorization, compliance or record-keeping.

. Significantly underreported to Congress the number


The LA Times,1,6223973.story?coll=la-news-politics-national&track=crosspromo

Sharpened Edwards ahead in Iowa
The former Democratic vice presidential nominee's new outlook is winningsupport in the key state.

By Mark Z. Barabak, Times Staff Writer
March 18, 2007

OTTUMWA, IOWA - The toothy grin is still there, the pile of brown hair, thetalk of rich and poor, and that molasses drawl that splits words likebrain - bray-un - in two.

But this John Edwards is more seasoned and substantive than the one whoplaced second in the 2004 Democratic presidential race, and less sunny.

He assails Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.) for her early support of thewar in Iraq - Edwards renounced his war vote and apologized - and portraysSen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) as just another pandering politician.

He won't say whether he considers President Bush, at the least, a decentman. "I don't think he's been honest with the country about where we are nowin Iraq," Edwards said in a recent interview as he skimmed across the Iowacountryside.

Asked whether others running for president were decent people, he replied,"I'm just not going to get into evaluating everybody. I think that's whatvoters should do."


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