Monday, February 18, 2008

Under The Radar

The Senate approved an intelligence bill that bans waterboarding, "temperature extremes and other harsh tactics that the CIA used on al-Qaeda prisoners after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks." The measure will limit the CIA "to using 19 less-aggressive interrogation tactics outlined in a U.S Army Field Manual." CIA Director Michael Hayden recently acknowledged that the agency had used the tactic of waterboarding on at least three prisoners nearly five years ago. Other administration officials, such as Attorney General Mike Mukasey, have refused to say that waterboarding is torture. The White House has even left open the possibility of using the technique in the future. While Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) has previously called waterboarding "very exquisite torture" and co-sponsored a bill to ban any military use of the technique, he voted against yesterday's Senate bill banning waterboarding -- effectively siding with President Bush, who has vowed to veto the bill.

Rep. Jerry Lewis (R-CA), under investigation for funneling money to a contributor's clients, "was among the top lawmakers securing money for special projects in this year's spending bills," according to Taxpayers for Common Sense. Lewis ranked second among all House members in "solo earmarks." Though the current status of the Lewis investigation is uncertain, in May 2006, "federal authorities in Los Angeles began looking into the relationship between Lewis and Washington lobbyist Bill Lowery, a former congressman from San Diego." In 2007, "Lewis collected $59,000 in donations from Lowery, members of his lobbying firm, and clients, some of whom received earmarks supported by Lewis." The investigation is an offshoot of the Randy "Duke" Cunningham case, in which the former congressman is serving jail time after pleading guilty to accepting bribes.

ADMINISTRATION SHUTS DOWN WEBSITE TRACKING U.S. ECONOMIC INDICATORS: With the U.S. economy faltering, conservatives have attempted to deflect attention from the crisis by blaming the media's negative coverage and insisting the United States is not headed toward a recession, despite what economists are predicting. The Bush administration's latest move is to simply hide the data. Forbes had awarded one of its "Best of the Web" awards. As Forbes explains, the government site provides an invaluable service to the public for accessing U.S. economic data. Economic Indicators is particularly useful because people can sign up to receive e-mails as soon as new economic data across government agencies becomes available. While the data will still be available online at various federal websites, it will be less readily accessible to members of the public. The Bush administration has decided to shut down this site because of "budgetary constraints," effective March 1, even though Bush recently submitted a record $3.1 trillion budget to Congress for FY '09.

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