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Thursday, April 10, 2008

Bill Clinton Retells Hillary's 1996 Bosnia Story

ABC News' Sarah Amos and Eloise Harper Report: After a trip to Puerto Rico and two days entirely off the campaign trail, former President Bill Clinton eagerly discussed myriad topics with the crowd that awaited him in Boonville, Ind., and what he said of a trip his wife made to Bosnia in 1996 seemed a bit misleading.

"I am so glad to be here. And I'm glad that Indiana is gonna have a say in who the nominee of the Democratic Party is and the next president of the United States," began Clinton, adding, "but I don't want much to talk about politics today. I want to take a few moments to say, first, I am grateful to be here. I love coming to places that don't normally see presidents, don't normally see presidential campaigns. The backbone, and the heartbeat of America -- places like Boonville."

Clinton then spent and hour going over a series of subjects that argued why Hillary would be the best choice for the Democratic Party. While the majority of his speech was heavy on policy and ideas, Clinton did find occasion to wander off topic a few times.

One such subject that caused the former president to meander was his wife's disputed account of her trip to Bosnia as first lady. It is a subject that has gotten plenty of media attention, but has been kept out of President's Clinton's speeches. Today, as Clinton explained Hillary's dedication to taking care of U.S. veterans, he told the crowd how amused the whole controversy made him.

"A lot of the way this whole campaign has been covered has amused me," he said. "But there was a lot of fulminating because Hillary, one time late at night when she was exhausted, misstated and immediately apologized for it, what happened to her in Bosnia in 1995. Did y'all see all that. Oh, they blew it up. Let me just tell you. The president of Bosnia and Gen. Wesley Clark -- who was there making peace where we'd lost three peacekeepers who had to ride on a dangerous mountain road because it was too dangerous to go the regular, safe way -- both defended her because they pointed out that when her plane landed in Bosnia, she had to go up to the bulletproof part of the plane, in the front. Everybody else had to put their flack jackets underneath the seat in case they got shot at. And everywhere they went they were covered by Apache helicopters. So they just abbreviated the arrival ceremony. Now I say that because, what really has mattered is that even then she was interested in our troops. And I think she was the first first lady since Eleanor Roosevelt to go into a combat zone. And you woulda thought, you know, that she'd robbed a bank the way they carried on about this. And some of them when they're 60 they'll forget something when they're tired at 11:00 at night, too."

Sen. Clinton did not apologize, like Mr. Clinton asserted, she simply indicated that she mispoke when describing the Bosnia incident.

While the former president may have been amused by the whole incident, his telling of the course of events wasn't quite accurate. Hillary Clinton actually made the comments numerous times, including at an event in Iowa on Dec. 29, amd an event on Feb. 29 and one time -- bright and early in the morning -- on March 17.

Sen. Clinton wasn't as quick with her apology as President Clinton may remember either. In fact, it took a week for her to eventually correct herself, first talking to the Philadelphia Inquirer editorial board on March 24 and again apologizing the next day in Greensboro, N.C.

Clinton also spoke about the economic problems in America, Clinton bringing up his family's own finances, which have recently been the subject of much media attention.

"Now, because we went back to big deficits, every single day of the year we have to borrow money to cover millionaire's tax cuts," he said, pausing. "And I love saying this, because my family was the poorest family to move into the White House in 100 years. So I left the White House and made a lot of money. And the other day we released our tax returns. And I got criticized. I think the Wall Street Journal, they said, 'That guy must be hiding something. He paid 50 percent more taxes than most people with that kind of money do. So they asked me, I said, I told the accountant resolve that in favor of the government. I don't think the millionaires should get tax cuts when we had soldiers in the field and middle class people needed help and we had education and health needs."

As Clinton wrapped up his speech he asked the crowd not to get carried up in everything that can surround these campaigns, citing an ad Sen. Obama has running in Pennsylvania about not taking contributions from oil companies.

"Y'all seen this television ad on, where Hillary's opponent says I don't take money from oil companies? You seen that?" Clinton asked the crowd.

"Well, that's a good thing, but guess what? No living person who's ever run for office has done that. It's been illegal to take political contributions from oil companies for 100 years. It's almost like saying, you know, 'Vote for me, I brush my teeth every morning,' or, 'Vote for me, I never robbed a bank,' or, you know. I say that, because this is not about advertisements. This is about real life. This is a great country with limitless possibilities and profound challenges. And the young people of this country deserve the best president. That's the issue. The best president."

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McCain: I'll Cut Deficits Like Reagan (Who Tripled The Deficit)

"When Senator John McCain was asked here this afternoon how he plans to balance the budget, he said that he hoped to do so by stimulating economic growth - and approvingly cited the example of President Ronald Reagan," the New York Times reports.

"There was one thing he did not mention during his response: the deficit nearly tripled during the Reagan presidency, partly due to tax cuts and increases in military spending."

The exchange occurred at a town-hall-style meeting held in a tent outside Bridgewater Associates, an investment firm. A member of the audience stood up and asked Mr. McCain, who has called for balanced budgets, how he plans to do it.

"Basically, which is it?" the man asked Mr. McCain. "Straight talk: Do you want to raise taxes, cut entitlement spending, cut defense spending, or have a deficit?"

Mr. McCain did not explain how he plans to balance the budget, but spoke generally about hoping to stimulate the economy - and cited President Reagan.

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Is Hillary Clinton the next Bush?

One would expect a real contrast between Hillary Clinton and George W. Bush. One is a lame duck failing Republican President, the other is an aspiring Democratic presidential candidate. One is as right wing Republican as they get, the other is on the left wing on the Democratic party. So how could one claim that they are similar?

The simple answer is distraction. The public and the media are so focused on the contrasting policies of Hillary and Bush that little is said about their character. Bush is for as little government intervention as possible and belongs to the part of the party that reiterates that whatever the government does the private sector does better. His failures are so large that some see a devious attempt to make the government fail to prove his point. Conspiracy theories aside, the fact is that his performance failed to achieve Republican goals. Launching a war on false pretense, having it stretched beyond our worse predictions, failing to equip our soldiers, treat them well when they return home -- these are merely few of Bush's administration failures. Hillary Clinton, on the other hand, believes in government intervention more than other Democrats. Whereas Bill Clinton pulled the party to the center and enacted policies that limited government aid, Hillary believes in strong government role both in health care and in her recently announced plan to bail our home owners who cannot support their mortgage. In glaring contrast to GW, Hillary is articulate and has a good public presence.

But Bush political failings are not describing his character or the root cause of his failures. They are merely the results. What better describes Bush are his tenacity, unwillingness to compromise, to reach out, to listen to contrarian opinions, to admit a mistake, to change the course. Bush is unchangeable and will pursue his goals against all odds with total disregard to the costs he puts on anyone around him.

If the current Democratic primaries taught us anything, it is that Hillary Clinton is similarly tenacious, unwilling to compromise, to admit mistakes, to give up when odds of winning are so slim as to become unrealistic. She seems to pursue her own interests with total disregard to the damage she inflicts on the Democratic party.

So the question is, if against all odds Hillary Clinton becomes our next President, will we have four more Bush years?

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Candid Camera: Trove of Videos Vexes Wal-Mart

LENEXA, Kan. -- For nearly 30 years, Wal-Mart Stores Inc. employed a video-production company here to capture footage of its top executives, sometimes in unguarded moments. Two years ago, the retailing giant stopped using the tiny company.

At first, the decision threw Flagler Productions Inc. into a panic. Now it's Wal-Mart that's squirming.

In recent months, Flagler has opened its trove of some 15,000 Wal-Mart tapes to the outside world, with an eye toward selling clips. The material is proving irresistible to everyone from business historians and documentary filmmakers to plaintiffs lawyers and union organizers.

Since the '70s, Wal-Mart employed a Kansas video-production company to capture its corporate meetings and culture. But since that relationship has ended, things have changed. Paul Lin reports.

Among the revealing moments: A former executive vice president and board member challenges store managers in 2004 to continue his work opposing unionization. Male managers in drag lead thousands of co-workers in the company's corporate cheer. In another meeting, managers mock foolish or dangerous use of a product sold in its stores. In 1991, founder Sam Walton describes Hillary Clinton, then a Wal-Mart director, as "one of us."

The best part, maintains plaintiffs lawyer Gene P. Graham Jr., is that "Wal-Mart has no control over this stuff."

Wal-Mart isn't pleased. "It's difficult to understand how the company could now sell to third parties the material we paid it to produce on our behalf," says a Wal-Mart spokeswoman. "Needless to say, we did not pay Flagler Productions to tape internal meetings with this aftermarket in mind." She adds that the company is "reviewing our legal options."

The production company's founder and former owner, Mike Flagler, says he was hired on a handshake in the 1970s to help produce the events Wal-Mart holds each year for managers and shareholders, including entertainment portions of its annual meeting and important sales meetings. He filmed them as well.

He says he rebuffed Wal-Mart's suggestions that he reuse the tapes to save money. Instead, he held onto recordings of commercials, executive speeches and manager hijinks.

Corporate records typically are closely controlled through legal contracts that restrict access and use. Mr. Flagler says he never signed a contract with Wal-Mart for the production or video work. Flagler Productions says that that arrangement left ownership and control of the films with it.

In a Jan. 14 letter to Flagler, Marshall S. Ney, a lawyer for Wal-Mart, said the retailer has "claims to rights in the video library" and the film transcripts. Mr. Ney didn't return calls for comment, and Wal-Mart's spokeswoman declined to elaborate.

Unvarnished Look

Unlike the polished presentations delivered at business forums, the videos provide an unvarnished look at Wal-Mart leaders as the corporation grew into one of the world's largest, says Nelson Lichtenstein, a labor historian at the University of California at Santa Barbara who has viewed some of the tapes.

The video library might have remained under wraps if a new Wal-Mart executive hadn't decided to hire another company to stage a musical production for its 2006 stockholders' meeting. The decision sharply curbed Flagler's role. Wal-Mart dumped Flagler altogether as a producer in late 2006, nine days after Mr. Flagler sold the company for an undisclosed sum to two employees, Mary Lyn Villanueva and Gregory A. Pierce.

The current owners say Wal-Mart accounted for more than 90% of Flagler's revenue. The company's bank called in a loan, and the pair dismissed their 16-person work force, Ms. Villanueva says.

Flagler offered to sell the whole video archive to Wal-Mart for several million dollars, Ms. Villanueva says, although she won't disclose the exact price. Wal-Mart countered with an offer of $500,000, arguing the footage wouldn't be of interest elsewhere, the two owners say.

They sold their 20,000-square-foot production facility and moved into an 800-square-foot rented office. They now hope to sustain the company by selling access to the Wal-Mart videos. They charge $250 an hour for video research, and additional fees for a DVD copy of film clips.

Plaintiffs attorney Diane M. Breneman stumbled across the videos while working on a lawsuit she filed in 2005, on behalf of a 12-year-old boy, against Wal-Mart and the manufacturer of a plastic gasoline can sold in its stores. Her client was injured when he poured gasoline from the container onto a pile of wet wood he had been trying to light, and the can exploded. The lawsuit alleges that the containers are unsafe because they don't contain a device that prevents flames from jumping up the spout and exploding.

Wal-Mart's lawyers have argued in court filings that the retailer couldn't have known that the product "presented any reasonable foreseeable the normal and expected use."

Ms. Breneman says that when she first laid eyes on the racks of tapes, "I thought, 'How could anyone in the world allow this to exist?'" The videos, she says, deal with "everything anyone would want on Wal-Mart....They've got 30 years of people winging it."

Parody Testimonials

Ms. Breneman says Flagler Productions located videos of product presentations to Wal-Mart managers in which executives gave parody testimonials about the same brand of gasoline can. In an apparent coincidence, one manager joked about setting fire to wet wood: "I torched it. Boom! Fired right up." In a separate skit, an employee is seen driving a riding lawn mower into a display of empty gasoline cans. A Wal-Mart executive vice president observing the collision jokes: "A great gas can. It didn't explode." The tapes were made before the lawsuit was filed.

[Mary Lyn Villaneuva]

Ms. Breneman argues the footage provides evidence that the retailer could have foreseen the risk that customers would use the gas cans when starting fires. She says she plans to ask the Kansas City, Mo., federal court handling the case to allow the footage to be used as evidence. Wal-Mart's lawyer on the case didn't return calls seeking comment.

Flagler began getting calls from people all over the country -- many of them lawyers -- requesting videos on a variety of topics. "Once I know what it is they're looking for, I can find it," Ms. Villanueva says.

Washington lawyer Joseph M. Sellers is pursuing a gender-discrimination lawsuit seeking billions of dollars on behalf of past and present female Wal-Mart employees. Wal-Mart has denied discrimination and has appealed the class-action status of the case in San Francisco federal appellate court.

In reviewing the videos, Mr. Sellers's colleague found clips of Mr. Walton, the founder, lamenting the lack of women executives, and of Wal-Mart Chief Executive Officer H. Lee Scott Jr. at a 1999 meeting discussing cases of sexual harassment. Mr. Sellers contends the videos bolster his argument that senior Wal-Mart executives knew about the lack of women managers and about incidents of sexual harassment, and failed to address the problems in a timely way.

Mr. Graham, the plaintiffs lawyer, learned of the archive last fall through Ms. Breneman and alerted other lawyers. One attorney says he spent $15,000 to secure copies of video clips on the chance they might be useful in future cases.

Flagler now is becoming a must stop for a variety of parties interested in Wal-Mart. Critics of the company have been looking there for clips that support their views. The United Food and Commercial Workers International Union and Service Employees International Union, for example, sent employees to research footage in connection with their campaigns to force Wal-Mart to change its business practices.

[Gregory Pierce]

On March 31, the UFCW posted a video on YouTube that included clips from Flagler of Mr. Walton and other Wal-Mart executives telling employees they must always "do the right thing" and put integrity above convenience. The union was campaigning for Wal-Mart to drop its legal efforts to recoup monies paid for medical treatment of former employee Deborah Shank, who was seriously injured in an accident and had separately collected money for her injuries. Last week, Wal-Mart said it would drop its demand for repayment.

Sen. Clinton served on Wal-Mart's board of directors from 1986 to 1992, when she was first lady of Arkansas. During her presidential campaign, she has faced some criticism over Wal-Mart's labor record and the lack of women in upper management.

There is footage in the archive of Mrs. Clinton joining Mr. Walton, Wal-Mart's founder, on a stage at the 1991 opening of a store in Rogers, Ark. "I'm so proud of this company and everything it represents," Mrs. Clinton said. "It makes me feel real good about what we've been able to do."

Mr. Walton responded: "You're a great associate, Hillary." Turning to the crowd, he added: "She's one of us."

'Mixed Blessing'

Asked about the Flagler clip, a spokesman for her campaign cited remarks she made about Wal-Mart in a debate last year. When Sen. Clinton was asked whether Wal-Mart is "a good thing or a bad thing" for the nation, she described the retailer as "a mixed blessing."

Mr. Lichtenstein, the labor historian, says the Flagler archives provide a unique window into the company. "When they are talking to themselves, and there aren't shareholders present, you get a level of things being revealed," he says.

Write to Gary McWilliams at

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Obama and Clinton compete for Phila. endorsements

How many city and state lawmakers from Philadelphia support Hillary Rodham Clinton? Answer: Eight City Council members and eight state representatives.

Their names were listed in a press release distributed by Clinton's campaign today, about 90 minutes after local officials who are Obama supporters held a news conference announcing their pick in Pennsylvania's April 22 primary.

Standing together in City Hall, six Councilmembers, three state represenatives and two state senators said Obama was their choice.

In addition, City Council President Anna Verna, who did not attend the news conference, also informed Obama that he has her vote as leader of the 36th Ward in South Philadelphia.

"This decision is in her capacity as a political leader, not a councilwoman," said Verna spokesman Anthony Radwanski. He explained that she is confining her endorsement to her ward position so as not to speak for the leaders of other wards located inside of the Second Council District Verna represents.

Some of those wards are backing Hillary Rodham Clinton; some are behind Obama.

Verna did not take a formal vote in her ward, Radwanski said, "But she knows her committeepeople well enough to know who they are supporting."

The intent of today's Obama endorsements was to boost the show of local support for Obama, given two new television ads highlighting that Clinton has the backing of two popular officials: Gov. Rendell and Mayor Nutter.

The Council members announcing their support of Obama today were: Curtis Jones, Bill Green, Jannie Blackwell, Donna Reed-Miller, Jim Kenney and Wilson Goode, Jr.

Among the Pennsylvania lawmakers were Shirley Kitchen and Vincent Hughes, and state representatives Jewell Williams, Harold James and Tony Payton Jr.

"In Pennsylvania, we realize that top party officials are not with us as it relates to Senator Obama's candidacy," Jones said, "but there are three words that were born in Philadelphia and still resonate across the Commonwealth today, and they are 'We the People.'"

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Busted on GMA, Hillary Clinton on Walmart

Inheriting President Bush's war

US troops on patrol in Iraq
The withdrawal of US troops is a key issue in the presidential campaign

There were no real surprises in the recommendations of US Gen David Petraeus and Ambassador Ryan Crocker on what is next for Iraq.

It was simply a confirmation for the three presidential hopefuls, and a particularly frustrating one for the Democrats, that the Iraq war will loom large over the start of the next presidency, whoever wins the race for the White House.

The testimonies of the US's two top officials in Baghdad were essentially turned into a campaign stop for the three candidates, who tried to show off their skills as commander- in-chief and audition for the role president of the United States.

Republican Senator John McCain and Democrat Hillary Clinton, who are both on the Senate's armed services committee, came first.

Barack Obama, who sits on the foreign relations committee, had to wait for his turn much later in the day. Each candidate used the opportunity to repeat and highlight the key points of their strategy.

Hillary Clinton called for the start of an "orderly" withdrawal from Iraq, Mr Obama suggested a diplomatic surge that would involve talking to Iran and John McCain warned against a withdrawal that would lead to "genocide".

There were no surprise announcements there either, but observers scrutinised the performance of the candidates as they also tried to score points against each other.

Tepid debate

Mr McCain's intervention was partly a veiled attack against his two Democratic rivals because of their call for troop withdrawals.

President George W Bush
President Bush has an exit strategy for just one man - himself on 20 January, 2009
Harry Reid
Democratic Senate Majority leader

Senator Clinton picked up on it, when her turn came, saying it was not true to say "it is irresponsible or demonstrates a lack of leadership to advocate a withdrawal in a responsible and carefully planned manner".

By the time she spoke though, Mr McCain had already left the Senate.

Overall, though, US media coverage of the candidates appeared mostly factual, almost tepid - perhaps because the senators themselves gave very little in terms of fodder to be picked over.

But media coverage also underscored that while Iraq will be a headache for the next president, it is sinking as a priority for the American public as the US faces a possible recession.

All three candidates appeared sombre, poised and respectful of the US's top commander in Iraq - the Democrats were particularly keen not to appear as unpatriotic or undermining US troops fighting abroad.

Senator Clinton, who looked tired, was much more reserved than during the last Iraq hearing in September 2007, when she told Gen Petraeus that his report required the "suspension of disbelief".

End point

In their line of questioning, the three senators tried to show they understood the problems and had a plan to fix it. Mr Obama was, in some ways, the most pointed when his turn came in the Senate's foreign relations committee hearing late on Tuesday afternoon.

Gen David Petraeus
Gen Petraeus said the situation in Iraq was still unsatisfactory

He spoke the longest of all three and tried hard to draw Gen Petraeus into defining what exactly defined success. His argument centred around the idea that it was probably not possible to completely eliminate the influence of Iran and al-Qaeda in Iraq - so what goals was the US setting for itself in Iraq to quantify success?

"If... our criteria is a messy, sloppy status quo but there's not, you know, huge outbreaks of violence, there's still corruption, but the country is struggling along, but it's not a threat to its neighbours and it's not an al-Qaeda base, that seems to me an achievable goal within a measurable timeframe," he said.

He added, in what was described by the Washington Post as the quote of the day - "I'm trying to get to an end point, that's what all of us are trying to get to."

The frustration about Iraq, was a recurrent theme in the Democratic camp.

"We are stuck in a twilight zone in Iraq," said Democratic Senate Majority leader Harry Reid. "When violence is up, the president says we cannot bring our troops home.

"When violence dips, the president says we cannot bring our troops home. With 160,000 courageous American troops serving in Iraq, President Bush has an exit strategy for just one man - himself on 20 January, 2009."

Stable foundation

It is likely that when he speaks on Thursday, President Bush will back the recommendations of Gen Petraeus to pause the withdrawal of any more troops after the surge troops return home - that would leave around 140,000 US troops in Iraq for the next president to look after.

We're a generous people but our patience is not unlimited
John Barrasso,
Republican senator

The Bush administration's Iraq position has fuelled some accusations that it is trying to tie the hands of the next administration, and there have been concerns about the long term agreement of principles and status of forces agreement that the US and Iraq are discussing at the moment.

"The agreement will not establish permanent bases in Iraq and we anticipate that it will expressly foreswear them," said Ambassador Crocker during his testimony.

"The agreement will not specify troops levels and it will not tie the hands of the next administration. Our aim is to ensure that the next president arrives in office with a stable foundation upon which to base policy decision and that is precisely what this agreement will do."

Limited patience

Unable to change the current policy on troop presence in Iraq, Democrats are looking for other ways to influence the course of things.

A lot of the questions during the hearing were related to the cost of the war - currently estimated at $10bn (£5bn) a month - and the burden this constitutes for the American taxpayer.

The reconstruction of Iraq also relies heavily on US money, while Iraqi oil revenues are growing, with a surplus estimated at $30bn in US banks according to Senator Carl Levin, a Democrat and chairman of the armed services committee.

Democrats want to try to push legislation that would force Iraq to spend those revenues on reconstruction and in that there seems to be unusual bi-partisan agreement. Republican senators also asked why the Iraqis were not using more of their own money.

Republican Senator John Barrasso from Wyoming said: "We're a generous people but our patience is not unlimited."

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Obama Girl vs...McCain Mama?

This is a video response to Debate '08: Obama Girl vs Giuliani Girl

The Trouble With Brand Hillary

During the general election between Al Gore and George W. Bush, I was a volunteer in the Speakers Bureau of the Democratic National Committee. Among other responsibilities, I appeared regularly on talk radio and occasionally on TV to promote the Gore/Lieberman ticket. I also was called upon to defend President Clinton, as I had done on TV for the previous year, whenever his name was invoked in an attempt to tarnish Vice President Gore.

At the outset of the campaign, the media discussion shows in which I participated principally centered on matters of policy. Global warming, gay marriage, handgun controls, Arctic oil drilling, social security lock boxes, etc. Back and forth the debate went and the polls remained close. That is, until the presidential debates.

[The Trouble With Brand Hillary]
Hillary Clinton

At the debates, Mr. Gore misspoke when he said that he traveled with Mr. James Lee Witt of Federal Emergency Management Agency to visit Texas after the Parker County fires broke out. (He traveled with Mr. Witt to other disaster sites.) Mr. Gore also implied during this same time period that he helped invent the Internet. (He meant only to say that he supported funding for the research that led to its development.)

As small as these errors were, at that moment everything changed. The Bush campaign and its allies systematically started calling Mr. Gore a serial exaggerator at best and, implicitly, a fabricator at worst. The media latched onto it, the label stuck and, thereafter, every word Mr. Gore uttered was scrutinized through the lens of whether he was telling the truth or exaggerating. The cartoonists outfitted him as Pinocchio, and he never could shake the characterization.

I believe that this negative branding, more than the hanging chads, led to his defeat. Four years later, John Kerry fell into the Swift Boat trap, was painted as a liar and a flip-flopper and too lost a campaign he might otherwise have won.

Why is this relevant today? It is clear that how you are branded by your opponent, and whether the media picks up the theme, can be the key to success or failure in a presidential campaign. Frankly, overcoming negative branding may prove an insurmountable election hurdle. (Willie Horton ads and the Michael Dukakis photo in that tank are seared into the DNA of all Democrats).

Hillary Clinton has waged a campaign based, in large measure, on her national security experience. Her so-called "Day One" readiness. Indeed, she says plainly on the campaign trail that "We need a candidate that can go toe-to-toe with John McCain on national security." (Frankly, I think if Democrats join the issue in that way they are fighting on Mr. McCain's home field and going uphill, but that is a discussion for another day.)

Recently the Clinton campaign released a portion Sen. Clinton's White House daily activity logs. These logs provide the first independent means to evaluate her claim that her White House years provided her the relevant national security/commander-in-chief experience to be president.

A preliminary analysis of these logs has begun to reveal Mrs. Clinton's claims of experience to be overstated. If these logs continue to bear out that she is less experienced than she has claimed, she will, at best, be branded as an exaggerator. She then will face an onslaught that will make the Gore and Kerry attacks look like a walk in the park.

On a related point, Mrs. Clinton has been arguing to primary voters that she is more electable than Barack Obama because "she has been vetted fully so there will be no general election surprises." Well, the recently released tax returns appear to undermine this argument as well.

Specifically, these returns demonstrate the former President Clinton made tens of millions of dollars on the speaking circuit and by helping to broker business deals or make introductions around the world. This is his prerogative as a private citizen. What the returns do not tell us, however, is who paid for these speeches; who his clients were/are; whether he can unwind his business relationships (he is being sued by one of his clients for fraud in state court in California); what conflicts of interest or appearances of conflict reside in his seven-year, private-sector career. (Remember the difficulty Geraldine Ferraro's husband created for her candidacy?). A lot more openness and transparency will be required by Bill Clinton before it is known just how vulnerable Hillary Clinton is as a general election candidate.

Still, the Clinton Library has yet to provide the list of its largest donors, or explain how their donations were solicited; as well it is not yet known whether Hillary Clinton played a role in President Clinton's pardon decisions including the 11th-hour pardon of Marc Rich. The Republican National Committee and related advocacy groups will surely allege a coverup if all this is not disclosed before the general election.

Unless all this material is released and vetted fully before the primaries come to an end, Mrs. Clinton is asking Democrats to make a leap of faith that nothing will be revealed in the general election campaign that could prove fatal. From what is available presently, Mrs. Clinton may prove to be the most vulnerable Democratic candidate in the last three election cycles.

It has been said that those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it. There are warning signs that Democrats may be walking down that same path with Hillary Clinton.

Mr. Zeldin is the former independent counsel who investigated the tampering with Bill Clinton's passport. He is a part-time volunteer for the Obama campaign in the primary cycle.

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Clinton Firm's Deal Left Pennsylvania Churches In Shambles

There is an old axiom of government: all politics is local.

And while the saying is cliché, it can certainly prove true. How else does one explain the connection between former President Clinton, a hot shot Italian real estate speculator, and several Pennsylvania church-buying ventures that went terribly wrong?

It began in 2005, when an aide to Clinton helped a young Italian businessman named Raffaello Follieri connected with the business of the former president and his pal Ron Burkle. Follieri had an idea: to buy and redevelop old Catholic churches that were struggling in the wake of sex-abuse scandals. And Yucaipa Companies, which Burkle ran and on which Clinton served as a senior adviser to two funds, came on board.

But the scheme, while in some cases profitable, was also a house of cards. Using the Yucaipa money, Follieri purchased a Philadelphia church that he subsequently let rot. In a separate purchase in Pittsburgh, he instructed the church to be gutted of all its religious objects, then failed to come up with the money needed to finalize the deal.

Follieri's standing was soon on the rocks. In April 2007, Burkle sued the Italian in a Delaware state court for allegedly misappropriating more than $1.3 million. Follieri, he claimed, was spending the money on a lavish lifestyle, including gifts for his movie-star girlfriend Anne Hathaway (of Devil Wears Prada fame). The suit has since been settled. Last week, however, Follieri was arrested and charged with trying to pass a bad $250,000 check.

By that time, any connection between Clinton and Follieri, however tangential, had been severed. The former president began the process of leaving Yucaipa in December 2007 -- in part, The Huffington Post was told, out of anger over the Follieri mess.

But the episode illustrated some of the unique perils of Clinton's post-presidential career. Indeed, at various points in this primary season, Bill Clinton's activities have put him at contrast with his wife's presidential campaign. Take, for instance, revelations this past week that he had been paid $800,000 for speeches by an organization promoting the Colombia Free Trade Agreement -- a pact Sen. Clinton continues to oppose.

The Follieri story is similarly dicey. As Sen. Clinton campaigns across Pennsylvania, two communities in the state's largest cities have been affected by the spoiled real estate venture overseen by her husband's business. And while Bill Clinton, as his aides point out, was never directly associated with the project -- "President Clinton was not involved with the purchase of Vatican properties," said his spokesperson Jay Carson -- the former president did make out quite well during his time with Yucaipa.

According to recent tax filings, the former president earned $15.4 million from the private investment firm between 2003 and 2006.

* * *

In the fall of 2005, Follieri was introduced to Yucaipa through Bill Clinton's aide and gatekeeper Doug Band. The Italian claimed he had close ties to the Vatican that he would use to buy run down churches in need of new ownership. The Wall Street Journal reported that in exchange for Clinton and Burkle's help, Follieri offered to assist Sen. Hillary Clinton with the Catholic vote. The senator was not officially running for president at the time.

Soon after their meeting, Yucaipa invested $100 million in the Follieri Group. With those funds, Follieiri quickly purchased two church properties in Philadelphia. Both structures had long been dormant. And he promised sweeping changes, including environmental restoration and structural repairs.

Virtually none of it panned out.

At the Transfiguration Church, which cost the group more than $1 million, Follieri sought to create a "cultural center" in a working class neighborhood. But within a mater of months, things went south. The group did not provide basic upkeep and security. The site became an eyesore. Burglars broke into the church and its adjoining school. A local paper found the once-stately Roman Catholic parish had become a hangout for boozing teenagers, and eventually a homeless man started camping out under the rectory porch. In April 2006, a three-alarm fire was set to the school, forcing more than 100 firefighters to work three hours to put it out. The damage was immense and neighbors grew worried and angered at Follieri's absenteeism.

Frank Quintero, a spokesman for Yucaipa, said the company "made a good profit on the properties, by putting them in hands of responsible developers." As for Transfiguration, security there was no worse than that under prior owners, he said.

"That same homeless guy was probably milling around that church before we owned it and after we owned it," said Quintero. "It's not like we are miracle workers even though Follieri claimed to be in connection with the Vatican. These things take time."

But it was only after a scathing column in the Philadelphia Daily News that Follieri's representatives agreed to meet with the Transfiguration community. They promised more attention and offered a new proposal, to make the site affordable housing. That idea, however, was met with community opposition and like the cultural center it never materialized. Follieiri eventually bowed out. According to city records, Transfiguration was sold in May 2007 for the price of $1.25 million. Currently, it houses the Boys Latin Charter School.

"They were absentee landlords who didn't keep track of what was happening or care," Chris Brennan, the reporter who broke the story of Follieri's mishandling of the church, told The Huffington Post. "When they received some bad publicity from the Daily News, they got moving."

Another Follieri Pennsylvania venture was equally disastrous. In the fall of 2006, the Follieri Group offered a bid on St. Nicholas Church in Pittsburgh, a 108-year-old building and historic city landmark. The church was a staple of the Croatian community, and in 2005, the newly formed Croatian American Cultural and Economic Alliance tried unsuccessfully to buy the building for $250,000. Their bid, observers say, fell through after Follieri promised more money.

2008-04-10-group.jpgAs part of his plan for the property, Follieri had the church undergo massive internal changes. In the spring of 2007, all religious objects including the altar and statues were removed, and the murals were painted over. The community reacted with uproar.

"It is a very touchy subject. It was something that not just Croatians but many people in Pittsburgh had invested in," said Patricia Lowry, a reporter for the Pittsburgh Post Gazette who wrote about St. Nicholas's deconstruction. "People thought that the church should have found a way to sell the building to the Croatians because it was a big part of their heritage."

It was only after the church was gutted that the Follieri Group's financial problems were exposed. In May 2007, Burkle sued and it was revealed just how little cash Follieri had on hand. St. Nicholas held out hope that the deal would still go through. But by March 2008, it became clear that the money simply wasn't there.

Quintero, again, said that Yucaipa had worked to make all of its investments profitable, and that the conditions of the buildings often posed obstacles to their reconstruction.

"Some of the newspaper stuff is inaccurate," he said. "The other thing to keep in mind is that when we bought these properties, they were all dilapidated."

But local officials, at least in Pittsburgh, were nevertheless distraught over the way the transaction was handled. Years after it first bid on the church (the value of the property stayed, according to city records, at $70,200), the Croatian community is once again trying to buy ownership.

"You make all this publicity that Foliieri is buying it and then they don't," said Susan Petrick, secretary of Preserve Croatian Heritage Foundation in Pittsburgh. "They took out the pews that were non-religious. They took out the altars which were marble, they took out the statues and the would hope they would put them all back in, but I don't know about there intention."

* * *

By the time that the St. Nicholas deal fell through, Bill Clinton had already begun the process of divesting himself from Yucaipa. Depending on how certain funds perform, he stands in line to make millions of dollars in addition to the $15.4 million he has already earned.

"Regarding the status of President Clinton's relationship with Yucaipa," explained spokesman Jay Carson, "with the Presidential campaign in full swing the President is taking steps to ensure that there is an appropriate transition for his business relationships should Senator Clinton become the Democratic nominee."

The former president was not associated with the business aspects of the Folierri investment. His involvement, to the extent that there was any, was limited to his position as a senior adviser to Yucaipa. And while he and Follieri met on several occasions -- Follieri was individually called on stage and thanked by Clinton after pledging money for a Clinton Global Initiative project in New Orleans -- the former president does meet "hundreds of people every day," as Carson told The Huffington Post. "President Clinton, who meets with many people every day, has met Follieri several times."

Nevertheless, the Follieri episode had its affects on Clinton. A source with knowledge of why he left Yucaipa said the former president was embarrassed when news of the church-buying venture broke the same morning that world and business leaders were convening to discuss Clinton's global foundation.

He was also concerned that this episode and his broader association with Yucaipa had the potential of creating bad publicity for his wife's presidential bid. And as the Pennsylvania primary approaches, it remains to be seen if those concerns were merited.

Requests for comment from Follieri and officials with the Follieri Group went unanswered. Despite having been sued and severed from Burkle's firm, the contact information on the company's website turned out to be the phone number for Yucaipa Companies.

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They Knew

And we knew they knew and we were right. ABC News aired a segment on their daily news show that after a five month investigation, they could say that Bush’s most senior officials not only knew about the torture they were inflicting on suspected terrorists, but decided down to the last detail exactly how much torture to inflict.

The discussions in the White House were top secret and sources say, involve some of the President’s most senior and influential advisors, principals of the National Security Council. In dozens of private talks and meetings, sources said that a handful of top advisors discussed specific high-value al Qaeda prisoners and exactly how those prisoners would be interrogated. Whether, for example, they would be slapped, pushed, deprived of sleep or subjected to simulated drowning, called waterboarding. The discussion about the “enhanced interrogation techniques” were so detailed, sources said, the interrogations were almost choreographed, down to the number of times the CIA could use a specific tactic. Former CIA director George Tenet, in an interview last year with ABC News told Charles Gibson,

“It was authorized. It was legal, according to the Attorney General of the United States.”

It also was discussed and approved in meetings by the National Security Council’s Principals Committee, a group that included Vice President Cheney, Condoleezza Rice, Colin Powell, Donald Rumsfeld, George Tenet, John Ashcroft.

There’s your war crimes tribunal list right there. While ABC brings up two terrorists that were connected to 9/11–implying that even though our country’s leaders have dragged us down to torturing people, at least they directed it at bad men who committed the worst tragedy on American soil–but what they fail to connect are names like Maher Arar, Khaled al-Masri, Bisher al-Rawi and Mohamed Farag Ahmad Bashmilah. Names of innocent men who were guilty of nothing more than being Muslim and were renditioned and tortured for information they could not provide.

So while it is a small comfort that a MSM is actually acknowledging and validating things that the liberal blogosphere have been yelling about for years, it is but a incremental step towards the truth that all Americans must know.

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"We'll make you see death"


Photo provided by Human Rights Watch

A message written by Ali al-Hajj al-Sharqawi, smuggled from prison, describing Sharqawi's torture by Jordanian intelligence.

On a recent trip to Amman, Jordan, during a visit to the home of someone who had been detained by the Jordanian intelligence service in 2002, I was given two very thin strips of paper covered with Arabic writing and marked with a thumbprint. Curled up into a tight spiral, they were no bigger than the cap of a pen.

My contact, who had smuggled the papers out of intelligence detention a few years previously, told me that the message therein had been written by a prisoner who had been detained with him. He said it gave a detailed account of that person's experiences.

That evening, in my hotel room, an Egyptian colleague translated the text, word for word. Stunned by its contents, I transcribed the message into electronic form and sent it into cyberspace for safekeeping.

The message's author was a Yemeni terrorism suspect named Ali al-Hajj al-Sharqawi, who was arrested in Pakistan in February 2002. Though the message was undated, it was clear from the narrative that it had been written in October 2002.

Sharqawi said that he had been delivered to Jordan by the CIA. Unknown to the outside world, he was held as a secret prisoner by the Jordanian intelligence service: unregistered, cut off from all communication and hidden during visits by representatives of the International Committee of the Red Cross.

In the note, which he managed to slip to my contact without his captors noticing, he gave what he called a "short summary of my sufferings."

"They beat me up in a way that does not know mercy," Sharqawi wrote, referring to his Jordanian captors, "and they're still beating me. They threatened me with electricity, with snakes and dogs ... [They said] we'll make you see death."

Sharqawi described his interrogations, explaining that the Jordanians were feeding his responses back to the CIA. "Every time that the interrogator asks me about a certain piece of information, and I talk," Sharqawi said, "he asks me if I told this to the Americans. And if I say no he jumps for joy, and he leaves me and goes to report it to his superiors, and they rejoice."

I didn't dare leave Sharqawi's note in my hotel room, so I carried it in my purse for the two weeks that I remained in Jordan. During that time, I interviewed several Jordanians who had been held with Sharqawi and other prisoners who had been handed over to Jordan by the CIA. Former detainees spoke of a period, in 2002-2003, when the third floor of the intelligence service's detention facility was "full" of foreign prisoners who had been delivered by the CIA. Although the prisoners had been held in solitary confinement, they had managed to communicate by knocking on cell walls and speaking surreptitiously through cell windows.

How did it come to pass that these men -- non-Jordanians all -- had been brought to Jordan? The practice of extraordinary rendition, or turning over terrorist suspects abroad, goes back to the Clinton administration, when the CIA transferred several Egyptian terrorist suspects from countries such as Albania and Croatia to Egypt. After Sept. 11, 2001, however, the CIA's rendition practices changed. Rather than returning people to their home countries to face "justice" (albeit justice that included physical abuse and grossly unfair trials), the CIA began handing people over to third-party countries to be detained and interrogated -- countries known to use torture.

Jordan is not the only country to which the CIA has sent prisoners for proxy detention. Egypt has held several such prisoners, and Morocco is believed to have held some. Yet the Jordanian intelligence service has long had an exceptionally close and cooperative relationship with the CIA, so the CIA relied heavily on Jordan for holding prisoners outside of the protection of the laws.

Largely through my interviews in Jordan -- piecing together accounts by former and current prisoners -- I was able to identify 13 other non-Jordanians who, like Sharqawi, were apparently rendered to Jordan from American custody in the years that followed the Sept. 11 attacks. In all likelihood, the actual number of rendered suspects was higher, given the secrecy of the detentions and the enormous difficulties that detainees faced in communicating. None of the detainees whom I learned of had been held after 2004 -- though, again, the secrecy means that a full and comprehensive picture of the detainees and timeline will take time to emerge. There could be many more about whom we do not already know.

Responsibility for the renditions is truly international. While the United States and Jordan are most directly implicated, the countries in which the detainees were originally found are also complicit. Most of the rendered suspects were arrested in either of two places: Pakistan, particularly the city of Karachi; and Georgia, particularly from the Pankisi Gorge. One detainee reportedly said that he was held for three months at a U.S. prison in Iraq before being moved to Jordan, while many others later were held in secret CIA detention in Kabul or at the U.S. military base at Bagram, in Afghanistan.

A pressing question is where these men ultimately ended up. Since the rendered prisoners were not Jordanian, Jordan was a place of temporary detention and interrogation, not a permanent jailer. Even before my trip to Jordan, we knew that some of them -- including Sharqawi -- were now being held at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba. Sharqawi has been held there since late 2004 without ever being charged with any crime. A couple of others are believed to be in detention elsewhere, and at least one is free, but the whereabouts of other prisoners are unknown. It is possible that many or all of the remaining detainees -- which include citizens of Algeria, Tunisia and Syria -- underwent a second rendition, being transferred from Jordan back to their home countries without legal proceedings or any opportunity to challenge such a transfer. The treatment they may be enduring is unknown.

The Jordanian government continues to deny that it ever held rendered detainees. Not long after I received Sharqawi's note, I met with a group of senior Jordanian intelligence officials and put our information to them. My two colleagues and I were sitting on one side of a long conference table; our Jordanian interlocutors were on the other side. It felt like a debate. I did not confront them with the note, for fear that it would be confiscated, but I did mention Sharqawi as an example of someone who had been transferred by the CIA to Jordan. They frowned -- and categorically rejected the idea. Not only had Jordan never detained terrorism suspects delivered by the CIA, they asserted, but they had "disproved" such allegations in the past.

But the note from Sharqawi that I received is more than an allegation; it is tangible and compelling evidence. And the multiple, independent accounts I heard from former detainees are more than just allegations, too -- they form a pattern of consistent testimony. Add to this the flight logs of CIA flights to Jordan, which correspond with the dates of detainee transfers, and a clear picture starts to emerge.

The Jordanians can continue to deny their involvement, and the CIA can refuse to comment, but the fact of CIA renditions to Jordan has been documented. We know that they happened. The key objectives, at this point, are to achieve some measure of accountability for these abuses and to make sure that they don't happen again.

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Iraq War Memorial Planners Forced To Revise Length Again

The latest section of the memorial is dedicated while construction crews work on the next extension.

WASHINGTON—In the wake of the 4,000th U.S. military death in Iraq, the American Battle Monuments Commission announced Monday that, for the fifth time in the last 12 months, it will resume construction on the poignant final tribute to the brave men and women who continue to give their lives in the Iraq War.

According to ABMC spokesperson Charles Masterson, ground was first broken for the memorial on the National Mall in May 2003, shortly after President Bush declared the end of major combat operations in Iraq. Since the completion of the preliminary monument, however, nearly two dozen extensions have been added to the original structure to properly commemorate subsequent casualties in the conflict.

"After the president's 'Mission Accomplished' speech aboard the USS Abraham Lincoln, we took our cue and immediately began erecting a touching, lasting memorial to those who had made the ultimate sacrifice in order to bring a swift end to the war," Masterson said. "And, just a few months later, we incorporated a second stirring section into the monument to venerate the additional heroes who gave their lives defending freedom."

"At present, there is no time frame for completing the monument," Masterson added.

Masterson maintained that the memorial is a fitting paean to the Americans who continue to die in Iraq, while admitting that there have been some unforeseen spatial challenges presented by the rapidly advancing monument.

"With so many more patriots to honor, we've been forced to extend the memorial past the entrance to the Washington Monument and into the southbound lane of 14th Street," Masterson said. "Blocking traffic is a small price to pay, however, considering the debt of gratitude we owe our fallen soldiers. And we're confident Americans will continue to support us when we build the monument's east wing directly through the Capitol Building next month."

Enlarge Image Memorial Map

The initial memorial, a somber wall of polished black marble, hand-etched with the full names, ranks, hometowns, and the birth and death dates of the 139 military personnel killed during the invasion, was designed by world-renowned architect Kai Tomasson in July 2003. In October of that year, its stark yet elegant imagery was augmented with another 10-foot wall, and in March 2006, Tomasson submitted blueprints for the monument's second level. Though the memorial committee had spent its $12 million budget by late 2005, Tomasson volunteered his services for 19 additional adjustments before handing over the reins for this latest extension to DiForetti & Sons, a D.C.-area contractor known for reliability and honesty.

ABMC officials said they are dedicated to completing the Iraq War Memorial, despite mounting financial concerns. The commission has raised extra money through a number of individual contributions, including a donation of 50 sheets of plywood from the Home Depot, which will be used in the upcoming portion. In addition, a congressional subcommittee was formed to help secure funding and building materials for the remaining 15 to 20 years of construction.

iraq slideshow click

Iraq War: 5 Years Later

"The goal is to come up with cost-effective, creative solutions to respectfully eulogize our fallen heroes," said Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), who cited a recent decision to construct a part of the monument out of papier-mâché, and another proposal to type the names of newly fallen soldiers on sturdy index cards, which would be kept in a box near the memorial. "So we urge the president to sign our bill to allow the ABMC to strip marble slabs from the steps of the seldom-visited Jefferson Memorial in order to help complete this timeless monument."

"Because our grandchildren should be honored just as much for their service in Iraq," she added.

While some have complained that it is difficult to find family members' representations on the monument following a cost-cutting decision to include only the deceased's initials, the majority of loved ones have reportedly been pleased with the progress.

"I'm grateful that the government is so committed to honoring our troops," said a tearful Nancy Ruhl, holding several rubbings of etched initials that she hoped were her son's. "I'm just so glad that [Marine Lance Cpl.] Jack [Ruhl] got to see the memorial in between his third and fourth tours of duty, right before he was killed in the Anbar province and was added to it."

Once work is completed on the ongoing Iraq War Memorial, the ABMC will reportedly begin planning the War in Afghanistan Memorial Mobius Strip.

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Camp Justice

An adverse ruling from the Supreme Court may be less a legal setback for Bush than a political opportunity for the Republicans.

An adverse ruling from the Supreme Court may be less a legal setback for Bush than a political opportunity for the Republicans.

The future of the detention facility on the American naval base at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, inspires an unusual degree of bipartisan consensus, at least in theory. All three remaining candidates for President, the Republican John McCain and the Democrats Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, have called for Guantánamo to be closed. So have Condoleezza Rice, the Secretary of State, and Robert M. Gates, the Secretary of Defense; after touring Guantánamo in January, Admiral Mike Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said, “I’d like to see it shut down.” At a news conference in 2006, President Bush said, “I’d like to close Guantánamo.”

Still, Guantánamo is bustling. Although the number of detainees has fallen from a high of around six hundred and eighty to around two hundred and seventy-five, the base is gearing up for what could become a series of military commissions—criminal trials of detainees. The first is scheduled to begin in May. On a dusty plaza surrounded by barbed wire on an abandoned airfield, contractors are finishing a metal warehouse-type building, which will house a new, highly secure courtroom. On the former runways, more than a hundred semi-permanent tents have been erected, in which lawyers, journalists, and support staffs will work and sleep (six to a tent) during the trials. The tent city has been named Camp Justice. The Bush Administration, instead of closing Guantánamo, is trying to rebrand it—as a successor to Nuremberg rather than as a twin of Abu Ghraib.

The commission trials will be the latest act in a complex legal drama that began shortly after September 11, 2001. A few weeks after the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, the United States invaded Afghanistan, and on November 13, 2001, President Bush issued an order establishing military commissions to prosecute war crimes by members and affiliates of Al Qaeda. On January 11, 2002, the first prisoners from Afghanistan reached Guantánamo, which was at the time a sleepy Navy facility used for refuelling Coast Guard vessels. The Bush Administration made it clear that it did not believe that the detainees were entitled to any Geneva-convention protections. Then as now, the Bush Administration asserted that they could be held until the “cessation of hostilities,” meaning not the war in Afghanistan but the “global war on terror”—that is, indefinitely.

From the moment Guantánamo opened, it has been a target of criticism around the world. In 2005, the Amnesty International secretary-general said that “Guantánamo has become the gulag of our times, entrenching the notion that people can be detained without any recourse to the law.” There were allegations of excessively harsh interrogation practices at the detention center in its first years of operation, and the Army’s own reporting has substantiated at least one case of abusive treatment. There have been four apparent suicides at the camp and many more attempts. Even staunch American allies, like Tony Blair, in Great Britain, and Angela Merkel, in Germany, have criticized the facility. As McCain said in 2007, “Guantánamo Bay has become an image throughout the world which has hurt our reputation.” It is that sort of damage, as much as what has gone on at Guantánamo, that has prompted the calls for the closing of the facility.

Administration officials hope that the military commissions will change Guantánamo’s reputation, but that seems unlikely. To date, the commissions have been an abject failure; in more than six years, they have adjudicated just one case—a plea bargain for David Hicks, a former kangaroo skinner from Australia. In March, 2007, after more than five years in custody, he pleaded guilty to “material support to terrorism,” and was sentenced to nine months; he was returned to Australia, where he served out his sentence, and has now been released. Charges have been filed against fifteen detainees, but even if these cases come to trial—and considerable legal obstacles remain—many more prisoners will be left in limbo, without any charges pending against them or any foreseeable prospect of release. As the clatter of construction work shows, it is easier to talk about closing Guantánamo than to do it. Even shuttering it would not settle the most fundamental question raised by this notorious prison: what to do with its inmates. And attempts to resolve that dilemma are increasingly likely to play a role in the Presidential election.

Four times a week, a twelve-seat propeller plane belonging to Air Sunshine, a small airline based in Florida, lands at Guantánamo. The flight from Fort Lauderdale, just three hundred miles away, takes three hours, because the American airliner must avoid Cuban airspace. More than two thousand people work there; most are Navy and Army personnel, and about twelve per cent are civilian contractors. As in many military bases around the world, the local commanders compensate for Guantánamo’s isolation with a kind of hyper-Americanism. There are half a dozen fast-food restaurants, two outdoor movie theatres, miniature golf, and a bedraggled, but playable, nine-hole course. The roads are full of “Gitmo specials”—broken-down heaps that are traded to newcomers by people at the end of their tours.

Heading west from the base’s townlike center, you pass the first of its infamous landmarks—Camp X-Ray. A connected series of open-air cages surrounded by barbed wire, X-Ray was the destination for Guantánamo’s first prisoners. Photographs of these orange-suited detainees, many hunched over in awkward positions, became emblems of the base. The number of prisoners quickly exceeded the capacity of Camp X-Ray, and it was closed in April, 2002. Base leaders have long wanted to tear down the camp, but a federal judge, who is presiding over one of the many pending cases regarding Guantánamo, ordered X-Ray preserved as possible evidence. So the camp remains, filled with trash and overgrown with weeds.

Fifteen minutes farther down the road, overlooking a particularly beautiful rocky beach, is Camp Delta, the prison complex for the remaining detainees. When I first visited Guantánamo, in late 2003, most of the detainees were held in three areas of Camp Delta, Camps 1, 2, and 3, which look like higher-tech versions of Camp X-Ray. The detainees spent their days and nights in open-air cells, which were topped by metal roofs and surrounded by layers of barbed wire. Now, with fewer prisoners, these camps appear almost empty. (The camp authorities will not specify how many people are in each camp.)

About two dozen “highly compliant” prisoners are being held in Camp 4, which features a dusty courtyard in which inmates can move freely during the day and dormitory-style sleeping arrangements. The prisoners in Camp 4 also have access to a small library for books and movies (a National Geographic film about Alaska is popular), and they can take classes to learn to read and write Pashto, Arabic, and English.

The biggest change to Guantánamo has been the completion of Camp 5, in 2005, and Camp 6, the following year. Most of the detainees now reside there. They are modern federal-prison structures, brick-for-brick copies of a pair of existing facilities, one in Terre Haute, Indiana, and the other in Lenawee, Michigan. The scenes inside, for better or worse, resemble those at most Supermax facilities. The prisoners spend about twenty-two hours a day inside climate-controlled, eight-foot-by-twelve-foot cells, with no televisions or radios, and generally leave only for showers or for recreation in small open-air cages.

Painted on the floor of all cells are arrows pointing toward Mecca, and through the cell doors the detainees can hear each other pray five times a day. Each tier of cells appoints a prayer leader who gets a sign—“Imam”—on his door. About two years ago, there were a hundred detainees on hunger strikes demanding an end to their terms, or at least a finite sentence; the number has declined to about ten, although one inmate has been refusing food for more than eight hundred days, and another for nine hundred days. (These prisoners are force-fed twice daily, via a tube through the nose.) Interview rooms for interrogations are outfitted with blue couches for the detainees. Camp 6 had been intended as a medium-security alternative to Camp 5, but after a series of near-riots by the detainees, in 2006, it, too, was converted to maximum-security status. The so-called “high value” defendants are held at Camp 7. This is a secret location at the base and is never shown to reporters.

In a trailer “inside the wire,” adjacent to Camp 4, I spoke with Bruce Vargo, the Army colonel who runs the detention facility. “I think any facility matures over time, and I think that we’ve continued maturing and offering more programs to them, like the library,” he told me. “But they are still very dangerous men, and they take every opportunity they can. There are still assaults that take place weekly on the guards. Every day we have ‘splashings,’ so I made sure the guards have face shields to protect themselves from feces and urine.”

The catchphrase that Vargo and others at Guantánamo often used when describing their work was “safe and humane care and custody.” It was clear, however, that winning hearts and minds is not part of the agenda. “They wouldn’t be the type of people they are without being driven,” Vargo said. “They obviously are very intent on pursuing their cause. They will let you know that this place is just an extension of the battlefield.” He went on, “I would not say that we are building a fan base for the U.S. here. We are keeping bad guys off the battlefield.”

Vargo’s comments reflect the unchanging perspective of the Bush Administration, which holds that these detainees are, in the words of former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, “the worst of a very bad lot”—incorrigible soldiers in an unending war. But, in the absence of any meaningful due process, there is no proof that they are. Benjamin Wittes, a fellow at the Brookings Institution, has made a comprehensive review of the prisoners for his forthcoming book, “Law and the Long War.” For a period in 2006 when Camp Delta held about five hundred prisoners, Wittes examined all the available data—including the military’s assertions about the prisoners and any statements that they themselves made—and estimated that about a third of the detainees could reasonably be said to be terrorists or enemy fighters.

The legal battle over Guantánamo has followed a trajectory similar to the political fortunes of the Bush Administration as a whole. The first court challenges by lawyers representing detainees were filed by the Center for Constitutional Rights, the left-leaning legal-advocacy group in New York, and Joseph Margulies, a civil-liberties attorney. Now, however, the anti-Guantánamo cause has gone mainstream, and Air Sunshine flights often ferry attorneys from white-shoe law firms to visit their detained clients. Almost all the remaining detainees who want attorneys are represented by American counsel.

Initially, government lawyers asserted that because the detainees were held outside the United States they had no right to challenge their status in American courtrooms, or even to file writs of habeas corpus. The Presidential order of November 13, 2001, said that the detainees “shall not be privileged to seek any remedy or maintain any proceeding, directly or indirectly . . . in any court of the United States.” But, in 2004, the Supreme Court ruled, in Rasul v. Bush, that, because the Guantánamo base was under the exclusive control of the U.S. military, the detainees were effectively on American soil and had the right to bring habeas-corpus petitions in federal court. As Justice John Paul Stevens said in his opinion, the federal courts “have jurisdiction to determine the legality of the Executive’s potentially indefinite detention of individuals who claim to be wholly innocent of wrongdoing.”

In response to Rasul, the Department of Defense created a Combatant Status Review Tribunal, an administrative proceeding to justify each detainee’s “enemy combatant” status. According to the rules, however, the detainees are not entitled to counsel, are not allowed to see all the evidence against them, and receive only the opportunity to be present and, if they choose, to respond to unclassified charges against them.

These days, the review tribunals are conducted in a windowless double-wide trailer inside the wire, under the supervision of a Navy captain named Ken Garber. These are not trials but a rough cross between grand-jury and probable-cause hearings. Three officers preside over each tribunal, and they can recommend continued detention or transfer to another country. There is only a limited right to appeal, but each detainee receives an annual review of his status in another hearing. “We look at two questions,” Garber told me above the hum of the air-conditioners. “Are they still a threat? Do they still have intelligence value? A yes to either one is enough to keep them.” The tribunals have been widely criticized as one-sided—Eugene R. Fidell, a noted American expert on military law, has called them a “sham”—and, according to Garber, last year only thirteen per cent of the detainees agreed to participate in or attend their own annual review hearings.

The commissions, which were meant to serve as criminal trials for the detainees, have so far proved to be even more dubious. After the Rasul case, in 2004, the military began pretrial proceedings in the first of the military commissions. One defendant, Salim Ahmed Hamdan, who was alleged to be a driver and bodyguard for Osama bin Laden, challenged the procedures for the commissions, and in June, 2006, he won his case before the Supreme Court. In another opinion by Stevens, the Court held Bush’s order of November 13, 2001, as it related to military commissions, to be invalid, because the President could not create the commissions without the explicit assent of Congress. Stevens also rejected Bush’s long-standing contention that the Geneva conventions did not apply to the detainees.

Bush’s response to the ruling was notable both for what it revealed about the Administration’s stance on Guantánamo and for what it might mean for the politics of 2008. Far from being chastened by another rebuke from the Justices, Bush used the Hamdan case to return to the subject of the September 11th attacks and to challenge Congress to ratify his aggressive approach. In a carefully choreographed ceremony in the White House on September 6, 2006, Bush made a surprise statement. “We’re now approaching the five-year anniversary of the 9/11 attacks—and the families of those murdered that day have waited patiently for justice,” he said. “So I’m announcing today that Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, Abu Zubaydah, Ramzi bin al-Shibh, and eleven other terrorists in C.I.A. custody have been transferred to the United States Naval Base at Guantánamo Bay.” All had previously been held in secret C.I.A. prisons. Despite the skepticism that Bush and his team had expressed about Guantánamo, the President had, by placing the nation’s most notorious terrorist suspects there, given the detention facility a new vote of confidence.

Bush also announced that he was sending a bill to Congress to re-create the military commissions that the Supreme Court had just struck down. “As soon as Congress acts to authorize the military commissions I have proposed, the men our intelligence officials believe orchestrated the deaths of nearly three thousand Americans on September 11, 2001, can face justice,” he said. In other words, at the height of the midterm campaign season, Bush forced Congress to weigh the legal legacy of 9/11, his favored political terrain, and turned the commissions from an abstract debate about constitutional rights into a matter of getting Khalid Sheikh Mohammed to trial. It was a winning gambit, for a little more than a month later, on October 17, 2006, Bush signed the Military Commissions Act into law.

The Military Commissions Act was promptly challenged, and the Supreme Court is expected to rule on the case shortly. The act’s most vulnerable point, from a constitutional perspective, is a provision barring the detainees from filing writs of habeas corpus. The Administration argues that, even if detainees have rights under the Constitution to habeas corpus, the procedures in place at Guantánamo are an adequate substitute; lawyers for the detainees argue that the Administration has fallen far short of justifying the extreme step of suspending habeas corpus. Last December, at the oral argument of the current Supreme Court case, which is known as Boumediene v. Bush, a majority of the Justices—among them Anthony Kennedy, the Court’s swing vote—seemed skeptical of the Administration’s position, and the Court will likely strike down at least part of the Commissions Act. Again, it appears, a rebuke from the Court will prompt not a retreat by the Bush Administration but another attempt to double-down on its aggressive approach to the detainees. The Court’s ruling, in that sense, could be less a legal setback for the President than a political opportunity for his party.

Near Camp Justice, the authorities will use the “pink palace,” an old air-traffic-control terminal, for the trials of detainees regarded as minor figures. But the big trials, like that of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, will take place in the new metal building, in what for the most part resembles a modern federal courtroom in the United States. The defendants will sit at the end of long defense-counsel tables, next to their interpreters, and all counsel will have computers where the evidence and legal filings in the case can be displayed. The jurors, who will all be military personnel, will also have their own terminals. The law requires at least twelve jurors in capital cases, and at least five in commissions where the penalty is less than death. (In February, the Administration announced that it would seek the death penalty on charges against Mohammed and five others; last week, it added a capital case against Ahmed Khalfan Ghailani for his alleged role in the 1998 bombing of the American Embassy in Tanzania.)

In the new courtroom, I spoke to Brigadier General Thomas W. Hartmann, the legal adviser to the Office of Military Commissions, in the Pentagon, and, as such, the chief Administration defender of the commission process. Hartmann, an Air Force Reservist, is in civilian life general counsel to a Connecticut-based energy company. “When this is over, I’d like people to say these trials were conducted as fairly and as consistently as possible, and we followed the rule of law,” he told me, as we sat at one of the prosecution tables.

Hartmann said that the commission procedures mirrored those of courts-martial. “There will be no secret evidence—defendants will see all of the evidence presented to the jury against them,” he said. “If the prosecution wants to use hearsay evidence, it has to give notice to the defense and a hearing has to be held to see if it’s reliable.” Proof beyond a reasonable doubt is required for conviction, and defendants are given a military counsel (and also may hire an attorney), and they do not have to testify, with no inference to be drawn against them if they do not. Death sentences must be unanimous; two-thirds or three-quarters may be sufficient for conviction of lesser offenses.

But there is a heads-I-win, tails-you-lose quality to the proceedings. If a defendant is acquitted, he need not be released; he can simply be returned to detainee status at Guantánamo, to remain in custody until the end of the war on terror—raising the question of what sort of recourse the proceedings really provide.

“What’s unusual about what we’re doing is that we’re having the commissions before the end of the war,” Hartmann told me. “The Nuremberg trials were after World War Two, so there was no possibility of the defendants going back to the battlefield. We still have that problem. We are trying these alleged war criminals during the war. So, in order to protect our troops in the field, in general we are not going to release anyone who poses a danger until the war is over.” By this reasoning, even those Guantánamo detainees who are acquitted of the charges against them are analogous to Nazi war criminals.

The commissions are not, however, the only way for detainees to be released. In the past year or so, the U.S. government has engaged in extensive diplomatic efforts to find acceptable homes for detainees of lesser interest. Hundreds of prisoners have left this way; Saudi Arabia alone took about a hundred last year. In a rather forlorn attempt to control the detainees’ future behavior, each of those released is asked to sign a form that promises, among other things, that he “will not affiliate himself with al Qaeda or its Taliban supporters” and he “will not engage in, assist, or conspire to commit any acts of terrorism.” If detainees refuse to sign, they are released anyway. According to critics, the release of so many detainees in such a short period amounts to an admission by the Administration that the detainees were never as dangerous as had been claimed. “Now that it’s clear that Guantánamo is such an embarrassment, they are just shipping as many of them out the door as they can, and just keeping enough of them to save face,” Clive Stafford Smith, who has long represented detainees at Guantánamo, said. “It’s a political process that has little to do with terrorism.”

Of the two hundred and seventy-five or so detainees now in Guantánamo, about sixty have been approved for transfer, if countries can be found to take them. (This issue is complicated by the fact that the United States has not been able to negotiate handovers to some countries, notably Yemen. Other detainees say that they will be tortured in their home country; cases involving Algerian and Tunisian nationals making this claim are pending in federal court in Washington.) Of the remaining detainees, Hartmann anticipates that there is sufficient evidence to bring commissions against only between sixty and eighty. In sum, there are more than a hundred and thirty detainees for whom Administration officials acknowledge they have no plan, except indefinite detention without trial.

The design of the courtroom itself suggests another problem with the commissions. For trials in America, journalists and other members of the public sit inside the courtroom; in Guantánamo, they will watch from behind soundproof glass, which can be screened off, with the sound eliminated, at any time.

“You know why the courtroom has the sealed-off press section, don’t you?” Stafford Smith said. “All they care about is the evidence of the accused being tortured. They keep saying that the accused will see all the evidence, but the accused already knows he’s been tortured. The point is to make sure that the media and the public don’t see the evidence of torture. The key thing that they say is classified is evidence of torture and abuse.”

That is not how Hartmann sees it. “The window is there in case the prosecutors want to use classified information, and they have advised that there will be relatively little used,” he said. Still, classified information often involves “sources and methods” of intelligence gathering, and details about the interrogations of the detainees are likely to be kept from the public. This, of course, comes in the context of admissions by the government that several of the leading defendants, including Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and Abu Zubaydah, were subjected to waterboarding—the use of near-drowning during questioning. “The statute says that torture is illegal, and statements derived from torture are inadmissible,” Hartmann told me. But is waterboarding torture? “These are evidentiary matters to be decided in the courtroom,” he said.

To try to forestall trials centered on the alleged torture of the defendants, the prosecutors have assembled “clean teams”—investigators who were not directly involved in the interrogation—to build cases against Mohammed and the others which exclude any evidence that might be tainted. “The clean teams are a joke,” Stafford Smith said. “It’s impossible to ‘unhear’ what they said when they were tortured.” But it is true that prosecutors in American criminal trials, when confronted with potentially illegally obtained evidence, sometimes devise ways to present the same facts to the jury. Still, the mere possibility that evidence will be aired about the waterboarding of Mohammed and the others suggests the political, not just the legal, dimension of the commission cases.

“We will all deal with the legacy of Abu Ghraib, but that is not the commissions,” Hartmann said. “The commissions are not the detention facilities, they are not the C.S.R.T.s”—the review tribunals. “They are not even Guantánamo Bay and Camp X-Ray. The commissions are the commissions, and people are going to see that they are fair.”

That claim of fairness suffered a significant blow last fall, when Air Force Colonel Morris D. Davis, the chief prosecutor for the commissions, resigned his post in protest. Davis, who has served as a military lawyer for twenty-four years, took the job in September, 2005. He told me that he operated without interference for about a year. The situation changed when Susan Crawford, a protégée of Vice-President Dick Cheney who is close to his counsel and chief of staff, David Addington, was named the “convening authority” of the commissions and Hartmann took over as legal adviser. Crawford was a political appointee, and her position made her a kind of one-person grand jury. Davis came to believe that Hartmann and Crawford were more concerned with the Administration’s interests than with the integrity of the process.

“The commissions had such a bad image that it was important from the start to do things as openly and transparently as possible, so I spent a long time trying to get evidence declassified,” Davis told me. Crawford and Hartmann, he said, made it clear that they thought that declassifying the evidence was too much trouble and that “we’ve got to get this moving quickly, even if it means doing it behind closed doors.”

Davis went on, “I knew that a few of our likely defendants had been waterboarded, and I just made a decision that we were not going to use any evidence from them that was coerced, and no one challenged that opinion.” But Hartmann, Davis says, questioned whether Davis had the authority to judge the admissibility of evidence.

In the end, it was the structure of the commissions, rather than any single decision by his superiors, that prompted Davis to resign. “I thought the whole idea was for Hartmann and Crawford to be the referees, not beholden to the defense or the prosecution,” he said. “But if Hartmann is in our office each day, assigning lawyers, deciding which cases to bring, what evidence to use, and then supervising the case—that wasn’t right.” (Hartmann denied virtually all of Davis’s version of events; a Department of Defense investigation determined that there was no wrongdoing on his part. Crawford declined to comment on her role. Davis is retiring from the Air Force this summer.)

It remains to be seen if the first two trials, scheduled to open in May and June, will even begin. One is the Hamdan case; in the other, Omar Khadr, a Canadian national who was fifteen years old when he was captured, is accused of killing an American soldier with a hand grenade. Among the outstanding legal questions in these cases are whether conspiracy is a war crime, and whether the defendants, to prepare their own cases, can interview Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and the other high-value detainees. And there is the issue, also currently unresolved, of whether Khadr should be charged as an adult. Most of the death-penalty defendants, meanwhile, have not yet even been assigned defense attorneys, and their trials are likely months away, at best.

Even if the commissions can somehow begin, the larger question of what to do with the remaining detainees is, for now, unsettled. One response to that quandary is a controversial proposal, by the law professors Neal Katyal and Jack Goldsmith, that is attracting a great deal of attention in the small world of national-security law—and which may offer an electoral lifeline for the Republicans this fall.

Katyal and Goldsmith make unlikely allies. A law professor at Georgetown and former Clinton Administration official, Katyal won widespread renown when he argued and won Salim Hamdan’s case before the Supreme Court in 2006. Goldsmith is a former Bush Administration official who, despite leaving the government in 2004, in part over concerns about civil liberties in the war on terror, remains a strong national-security conservative. (He is now a professor at Harvard Law School.) But the two men shared a conviction that both military commissions and ordinary criminal prosecutions would be impractical for a few of those captured on distant battlefields. Together, they came up with an alternative: a national-security court.

According to their proposal, which was recently the subject of a conference sponsored by American University’s Washington College of Law and the Brookings Institution, sitting federal judges would preside over proceedings in which prosecutors would make the case that a person should be detained. There would be trials of sorts, and detainees would have lawyers, but they would have fewer rights than in a criminal case. Hearsay evidence may be admissible—so government agents could testify about what informants told them—and there would be no requirement for Miranda warnings before interrogations. Some proceedings would be closed to the public. “It’s a new system that’s needed only in extreme circumstances,” Katyal said. “It’s not a default option.”

Civil libertarians are, for the most part, aghast. “It’s the liberals who support this, the ones who should know better, that are dangerous,” Ben Wizner, a staff attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union, who has long dealt with detainee issues, said. “The real problem is that there is an emerging consensus that we need to have some legal authority to detain people without trial, and that’s wrong. The government has proved it can criminally prosecute people in terrorism cases—in the African embassy-bombing cases, in the John Walker Lindh case, and others. That’s what the government should do—prosecute them, or release them.” Katyal says, “Would I love every case to be tried in criminal court? Of course. The reality is, when you’re dealing with foreign investigations, particularly concerning events that occurred a long time ago, there are going to be a small handful of cases that you can’t try in criminal court.” Wizner and others assert that the jurisdiction of any new court would be sure to expand and swallow up more suspects for greater periods of time.

In any case, according to lawyers inside and outside government, the Bush Administration may launch a proposal for a national-security court this summer or fall, after what they presume will be its next loss in the Supreme Court. “It looks like when Boumediene comes down the Court may say to the President and Congress that they need more procedures for the detainees,” Goldsmith said. “So, to correct the problem, the President might consider sending something up to Congress this summer or fall. It would help the Republicans in the fall election.” The measure would force congressional Democrats to take a stand on the issue in the middle of the campaign—just as Bush did successfully with the Military Commissions Act after the Hamdan defeat. “It worked very well in 2006,” Goldsmith said. “The only way the Democrats have to not make it an election issue is to give the President the powers he seeks.”

As long as the detainees remain at Guantánamo, the military continues to interrogate them. In this sense, the rationale for the detention center has been unchanged since 2002. Of course, many of the detainees have been talking for five years or more, and it is reasonable to wonder if they have anything left to say.

The head of the Guantánamo Task Force is Admiral Mark Buzby. Moments before he entered a conference room for our interview, an aide brought in the Stars and Stripes and a one-star admiral’s flag and set them behind his chair. Buzby is relentlessly on message about the continuing value of the interrogations. “We ask them, ‘Tell us how you did that forgery stuff.’ That’s as timely now as it was back then,” he told me. “We are filling in the mosaic.” Buzby noted that the detainees’ interrogation sessions were sometimes catered by the base’s fast-food outlets. “They want those Subway sandwiches!” he said. “Sometimes they just want to talk. Meanwhile, he’s chomping on his Subway B.M.T. It’s all about that give-and-take and that rapport-building. We still get regular questions in for us to ask from the front in the field. We’ll show him a map: ‘Thanks a lot, have a Big Mac.’ ”

It is hard to verify such assertions, because the task force does not allow access to the detainees or to the information they provide. However, many detainees who have been released, and the lawyers for those who remain, contend that the continued interrogations amount to harassment of people who never knew anything of intelligence value in the first place.

Still, the question now, as Buzby acknowledges, is whether Guantánamo, as a symbol and recruiting device for terrorists, endangers more lives than it can possibly save. “It’s really for others to weigh whether what we do here is of sufficient value to offset how this place is viewed internationally,” Buzby said. For the man in charge on the ground at Guantánamo, the situation with the detainees has devolved into, at best, a lingering standoff. “I don’t think any of us envision that they will be here in thirty years, but the question is what to do with them,” he said. “The good news is, we got ’em. The bad news is, we got ’em.”

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