FUBAR

Federal agencies fail to meet civil liberty mandates

Key Federal agencies have failed to meet legal requirements to protect the civil liberties of Americans and an oversight board charged with enforcing the mandates hasn’t met since 2006, USA Today reports.

Flagged by the study were the Departments of Defense, State and Health and Human Services. All have failed to comply with a 2007 law that requires them to appoint civil liberties protection officers and provide Congress with information showing their programs don’t undermine the public’s rights, civil liberties and privacy.

The law was passed by Congress in 2007 but the administration of former President George W. Bush showed little interest in forcing the agencies to comply.

Should we close the Guantanimo prison?

Is Gitmo worth the grief? President Barack Obama wasn’t in office 24 hours before he ordered military prosecutors to seek a 120-day suspension of legal proceedings for terrorist suspects at the U.S. base in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. Obama followed up with an executive order directing the Pentagon to close down the prison within the next 12 months.

NSA spied on journalists, other Americans 24/7

Russell Tice, a former analyst for the uber-secret National Security Agency, says former President George W. Bush’s warrantless wiretapping program including spying on millions of Americans, including journalists, 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Tice, appearing on Countdown with Keith Olbermann on MSNBC, says Americans were targeted under the pretense of profiling them for elimination from the NSA’s high-tech surveillance programs but — in fact, the agency was keeping tabs on the day-to-day lives of American citizens who have no connection with terrorism.

Tice specifically identified journalists as a target of the expanded NSA spying but said others groups were targeted as well.


The influence game: How lobbyists work an inaugural

The sushi was plentiful, the jazz ensemble loud and the guest list included just what the party-givers wanted: members of Congress, incoming Obama administration officials and celebrities.

The invitation-only reception at the National Museum of Women in the Arts was among scores that lobbyists and corporations are hosting around the capital to mark Barack Obama’s presidential inauguration on Tuesday. For those staging such events, the celebrations are a chance to rekindle old relationships, start new ones, flash influence and impress clients.

Guess who’s paying for all the fun and festivities?

Donors from the securities and investment industries — which stand at the vortex of the Wall Street meltdown — have been the most generous in helping to pay for Barack Obama’s inauguration festivities.

According to the Center for Responsive Politics, which analyzed the contributions disclosed so far by the Presidential Inaugural Committee, 118 donors who identified themselves as being part of those industries have shelled out $3.6 million to help pay the estimated $40 million bill for inauguration balls and other events.

Foreclosures up 81 percent

U.S. foreclosure activity jumped 81 percent in 2008, with one in every 54 households getting at least one filing notice, suggesting various state laws and private programs to slow the process have been ineffective, RealtyTrac reported on Thursday.

Nearly 3.2 million foreclosure filings on 2.3 million properties were made last year, the Irvine, California-based research firm said. Filings include notice of default, auction sale or bank repossession.

When you torture, criminals go free

We did torture a Guantanamo Bay prisoner, to the point of twice almost killing him. That judgment comes from Susan Crawford, the Bush administration official responsible for convening the military commissions to try the detainees.

As a result, she has withdrawn war crimes charges against Mohammed al-Qahtani. Crawford has impeccable credentials — a retired judge, inspector general of the Pentagon under Dick Cheney and general counsel for the Army in the Reagan administration. She spoke out in an interview with The Washington Post.

U.S. official admits Guantanamo detainee tortured

The Pentagon official overseeing the tribunals for Guantanamo Bay detainees has concluded that the U.S. military tortured a Saudi national who allegedly planned to participate in the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, The Washington Post reported on Wednesday.

"We tortured Qahtani," Susan Crawford said in an interview with the newspaper. "His treatment met the legal definition of torture. And that’s why I did not refer the case" for prosecution.

Gitmo: A good idea gone bad

In theory, a special prison at Guantanamo Bay for captives in the war on terror made sense. It would be totally under U.S. control and unlike prisons in Afghanistan and Pakistan there was no chance the inmates could break out or bribe their way out.

It would give U.S. intelligence officials the leisure to question the prisoners, using approved techniques in effect since World War II, and decide whom to release, whom to try for war crimes and whom to hold until the cessation of hostilities.

Tax problems threaten Obama’s treasury nominee

A Capitol Hill grilling is likely for Timothy Geithner, President-elect Barack Obama’s pick to head the Treasury Department, after public revelations he failed to pay $34,000 in taxes several years ago.

Senate Democrats are pressing to schedule a quick confirmation hearing for Geithner on Friday, hoping to tee up swift approval of his nomination on Inauguration Day. But newly released information about the tax goofs by Geithner, regarded as a brilliant financial markets specialist well-positioned to deal with the nation’s considerable economic problems, could complicate the process.