Friday, December 30, 2005

United Press International - Security & Terrorism - Law asks DoD to count civilian casualties

WASHINGTON, Dec. 19 (UPI) -- Legislation promoted by a slain American aid worker and passed by lawmakers at the weekend requires the U.S. military to report to Congress about what information it collects on civilian casualties in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Coups and Killings in Kabul

[From Time Magazine, November 22, 1982, pages 33-34]A KGB defector tells how Afghanistan became Brezhnev's Viet Nam.

Monday, December 26, 2005

Afghans Try Former Communist Intelligence Chief

KABUL (Reuters) - An Afghan former intelligence chief went on trial on Monday accused of war crimes and torture during communist rule in the 1980s, the first such trial to be held in Afghanistan after decades of warfare.

The Agency That Could Be Big Brother

Now the government is forced to search ethnic communities to find people who can speak Dari, Urdu or Lingala - and also pass a security clearance that frowns on people with relatives in their, or their parents', former countries.

AFGHANISTAN: ADB approves US $55 million for post-conflict country

KABUL, 23 December (IRIN) - The Asian Development Bank (ADB) on Wednesday approved the first part of a projected US $105 million programme to reform Afghanistan's fiscal management and public administration systems, with an assistance package totalling $55 million.

Judges on Surveillance Court To Be Briefed on Spy Program

Several members of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court said in interviews that they want to know why the administration believed secretly listening in on telephone calls and reading e-mails of U.S. citizens without court authorization was legal.

Saturday, December 24, 2005

NYT: NSA Eavesdropping Wider Than W.House Admitted

Calls to and from Afghanistan were of particular interest to the NSA, the Times said. This so-called ``pattern analysis'' on calls within the United States would often otherwise require a warrant if the government wanted to trace who calls whom.

U.S. Monitored Muslim Sites Across Nation for Radiation

Clandestine FBI and Energy Department teams have monitored private property in the United States for signs of radiation without warrants, U.S. officials said yesterday.

Spy Agency Mined Vast Data Trove, Officials Report

Calls to and from Afghanistan, for instance, are known to have been of particular interest to the N.S.A. since the Sept. 11 attacks, the officials said.

Spying Program Snared U.S. Calls

"The authorization given to N.S.A. by the president requires that one end of these communications has to be outside the United States," General Hayden answered.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

DAVID COLE: Debating Legal Authority for Domestic Spying

But to say that it's an incidental part of the military authorization to start spying on innocent Americans at home without going to a court, and specifically where Congress has said you have no authority, it is a crime to engage in spying on Americans at home, unless you do so pursuant to our specific rules, and we've set out a rule that says only for the first 15 days can you conduct a warrant-less tap, and after that, you have to go through a court.

Online NewsHour: A Closer Look at NSA

JAMES BAMFORD: The NSA's job is electronic eavesdropping, spying electronically, bugging telephones, listening to cell phones, reading e-mails.

Afghan Assembly Picks Opponent of President as Leader

In the parliament itself, members from virtually every point on the political spectrum will be dealing with a long list of contentious issues, including the U.S. role here, the legal weight of Islam, official corruption and opium poppy cultivation.

Karzai Opponent Is Named Head of Afghanistan's Lower Chamber

KABUL (Reuters) - Self-styled Afghan opposition leader Yunus Qanuni was elected president of the lower house of parliament on Wednesday, narrowly beating a former factional leader allied to President

Hussein Says U.S. Guards Beat Him

"I have been beaten on every part of my body, and the marks that show it are still all over me," Mr. Hussein told the court. "We were beaten by the Americans, and tortured, every one of us."

Spy Court Judge Quits In Protest

A federal judge has resigned from the court that oversees government surveillance in intelligence cases in protest of President Bush's secret authorization of a domestic spying program, according to two sources.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

The NSA and Domestic Surveillance -- December 19, 2005

REP. RON PAUL: We all should be dedicated to protecting the privacy of all Americans, and never giving permission to a narrow group of people in the executive branch.

Senate members seek spying probe

Republican Sens. Chuck Hagel of Nebraska and Olympia Snowe of Maine joined Democratic Sens. Carl Levin of Michigan, Dianne Feinstein of California and Ron Wyden of Oregon in calling for a joint investigation by the Senate Intelligence and Judiciary Committees into whether the government eavesdropped "without appropriate legal authority."

Sunnis Allege Fraud, Demand New Iraq Elections

Conservative Shiite Coalition Emerges as Early Leader in Parliamentary Returns

Mixed Results in Legal Fight Against Terrorism

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Four years after September 11, the Bush administration has claimed some legal victories in its war on terrorism, but critics say there have been few major convictions and not a single trial of anyone caught trying to carry out an attack.

Pentagon to Reduce Forces in Afghanistan

WASHINGTON (AP) -- U.S. troop levels in Afghanistan will be reduced by about 3,500 next spring, thanks to increased NATO forces and a growing Afghan army, the Pentagon said Tuesday.

Administration Cites War Vote in Spying Case

Mr. Bush strongly hinted that the government was beginning a leak investigation into how the existence of the program was disclosed.

Monday, December 19, 2005

Afghanistan's Parliament Opens for First Time in Three Decades

Vice President Cheney Attends First Session

First Afghan Parliament in Decades Sworn In

``It was decided by the U.S.,'' he said. ``It won't be able to do anything for Afghans because lots of MPs are illiterate and most are warlords who know nothing except killing people.''

Cheney Pledges Support to Afghan Democracy

KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) -- Vice President Dick Cheney, celebrating democratic milestones in countries where U.S.-led invasions have toppled oppressive regimes, promised Afghans on Monday that the United States will not abandon its commitment to their infant democracy.

Newly Elected Parliament Convenes in Afghanistan

KABUL, Afghanistan, Dec. 19 - Afghanistan's first democratically elected Parliament in more than 30 years convened today amid heavy security, and was sworn in before President Hamid Karzai, the former king, Muhammad Zaher Shah and foreign dignitaries, in a moment of national pride at the country's success in emerging from decades of conflict.

Saturday, December 17, 2005

President Acknowledges Approving Secretive Eavesdropping

The order signed by Bush, reported by the New York Times on Thursday, empowered the NSA to monitor international telephone calls and e-mails of U.S. citizens and residents without the warrant normally required by a secret foreign intelligence court.

Bush Says He Ordered Domestic Spying

President Bush's Address--As president, I took an oath to defend the Constitution and I have no greater responsibility than to protect our people, our freedom and our way of life.

Cheney to Visit Afghanistan, Other Allies

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney will go to Afghanistan for the first session of its new parliament next week and also make stops in Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Oman -- all allies in the U.S. war against terrorism.

Friday, December 16, 2005

First Afghan parliament in decades to meet Monday

Lineups of the 249-seat Wolesi Jirga, the lower house, and the 102-member upper house, or Meshrano Jirga, read like a Who's Who of protagonists of the bloody past -- to the bitter disappointment of many victims.

Bush Authorized Domestic Spying

The super-secretive NSA, which has generally been barred from domestic spying except in narrow circumstances involving foreign nationals, has monitored the e-mail, telephone calls and other communications of hundreds, and perhaps thousands, of people under the program, the New York Times disclosed last night.

Bush Lets U.S. Spy on Callers Without Courts

Under a presidential order signed in 2002, the intelligence agency has monitored the international telephone calls and international e-mail messages of hundreds, perhaps thousands, of people inside the United States without warrants over the past three years in an effort to track possible "dirty numbers" linked to Al Qaeda, the officials said.

President Backs McCain Measure on Inmate Abuse

WASHINGTON, Dec. 15 - Under intense bipartisan Congressional pressure, President Bush reversed course on Thursday and reluctantly backed Senator John McCain's call for a law banning cruel, inhumane and degrading treatment of prisoners in American custody.

Strong Quake Hits Northeastern Afghanistan, Shakes Pakistan

The U.S. Geological Survey said the magnitude-6.7 quake was centered in the remote Hindu Kush region of northeastern Afghanistan. It struck shortly before 2:30 a.m. local time in Afghanistan.

Sunday, December 11, 2005

Human Rights Day: Fighting Torture, Protecting Civilians (Human Rights Watch, 9-12-2005)

(New York, December 10, 2005) - As we commemorate International Human Rights Day, we highlight two challenges to the human rights movement that have taken on renewed urgency in 2005.

Saturday, December 10, 2005

In Kabul, a Stark Gulf Between Wealthy Few and the Poor

Four years after the ouster of the Taliban, as another frigid winter begins, most residents of the Afghan capital are without power, except for five hours every second or third night. Although hundreds of millions of dollars in foreign aid have been spent to fix the problem, conditions have worsened in the past year as improvements have lagged and the population surges.

Karzai Makes Parliamentary Appointments

The president's appointees to parliament come from various Afghan factions and include a former Taliban official and an ethnic Tajik former defense minister -- indicating Karzai wants to create a balance among rival groups as Afghanistan embraces democracy after decades of war.

EU Report on Afghanistan Shows Continuing Threats to Progress | Europe | Deutsche Welle | 10.12.2005

Afghanistan's efforts to establish democracy are threatened by widespread corruption, the cultivation of opium and insecurity, including the presence of illegal armies, the European Union said Saturday.

Rebuilding the Afghan Police – Germany Extends Project

Germany is extending its participation in helping rebuild the police force in Afghanistan by one more year, until December 31, 2006.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Torture's Terrible Toll by Sen. John McCain

We should not torture or treat inhumanely terrorists we have captured. The abuse of prisoners harms, not helps, our war effort. In my experience, abuse of prisoners often produces bad intelligence because under torture a person will say anything he thinks his captors want to hear -- whether it is true or false -- if he believes it will relieve his suffering.

Reject Attempts to Legitimize No-Torture Promises (Human Rights Watch, 7-12-2005)

(Strasbourg, December 7, 2005) — Council of Europe member states should flatly reject any proposals to establish standards for the use of diplomatic assurances in transfers of people to risk of torture, Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, and the International Commission of Jurists said in a joint submission published today.

Rice says U.S. personnel avoid cruel practices

Rice says U.S. personnel avoid cruel practices KIEV, Ukraine (AP) — Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice sought Wednesday to clarify U.S. policy on harsh interrogation methods, saying no U.S. personnel may use cruel or degrading practices at home or abroad.

Marathon of Mirth - Had enough Christmas parties yet? Bush has to host 26 of them. By John Dickerson

Imagine hosting a party for only the people you've always wanted to avoid. The president and the first lady will hold two such events next Thursday as they welcome the press corps into their home. They are less the hosts of these parties than their victims.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Losing the war on Afghan drugs

"Of course we're growing poppy this year," said the district chief. "The government, the foreigners - they promised us help if we stopped. But where is it?"

Secret CIA Prisons Moved From Europe to North Africa

“The CIA does not set the policy. The president, the secretary of defense, and the vice president set the policy,” said Johnson. “The CIA implements the policy, but when they carry out a policy that runs afoul of international law, they feel vulnerable.”

Monday, December 05, 2005

A major meeting on Afghanistan's future to be held in London in January should be postponed, an Afghan MP has said.

Ramazan Bashardost argues key decisions are being taken before the new parliament has held its first meeting.

Rice says intel thwarted attacks in Europe

The United States has fully respected the sovereignty of other countries that have cooperated in these matters," the secretary said. "The United States is a country of laws. My colleagues and I have been sworn to protect and defend the Constitution of the United States. ... The United States must protect its citizens."

Vargas, Woodruff to be 'World News Tonight' co-anchors

Vargas, Woodruff to be 'World News Tonight' co-anchorsBy Peter Johnson, USA TODAY Bob Woodruff and Elizabeth Vargas will succeed the late Peter Jennings as anchors of ABC's World News Tonight starting Jan. 3, ABC said Monday.

Sunday, December 04, 2005

Pave My Road and You'll Get Your School

AFTER two and a half tortured decades - Russian invasion, civil war, Taliban rule, a hunt for members of Al Qaeda and a war to oust the Taliban - Afghanistan is finally getting a glimpse of what representative national rule will look like.

Saturday, December 03, 2005

White House Defends Human Rights Record

''The president had made it very clear that we do not torture, he would never condone torture or authorize the use of torture,'' White House press secretary Scott McClellan said.

Details Emerge on a Brazen Escape in Afghanistan

WASHINGTON, Dec. 3 - The prisoners were considered some of the most dangerous men among the hundreds of terror suspects locked behind the walls of a secretive and secure American military detention center in Bagram, Afghanistan.

U.S. Holding at Least Twenty-Six “Ghost Detainees”

President Bush speaks about bringing terrorists to justice, yet not one of these suspects has actually been brought to justice John Sifton, terrorism and counterterrorism researcher for Human Rights Watch

Friday, December 02, 2005

US commits to grants for Afghanistan over five years

"Afghanistan has suffered three decades of destruction," US ambassador Ronald Neumann said after signing the accord. "It will take a long time to fix the damage that has been done not only to roads and buildings but to institutions and civil society," he said.

Guardian | Special reports | No quick Afghan exit

The European Union has allocated €1bn (£680m) to Afghanistan since the 2001 US-led invasion. It provides over two-thirds of the 10,000 peacekeepers in Nato's International Security Assistance Force (Isaf). Nearly half the cost of September's parliamentary elections, seen as a democratic milestone, was met from EU funds.