More spy abuse by FBI, Pentagon

The Pentagon has misled Congress and the US public by conniving with the FBI to obtain hundreds of financial, telephone and Internet records without court approval, civil-rights campaigners said Sunday.

The American Civil Liberties Union, which has successfully challenged key planks of US anti-terrorism legislation, said it had uncovered 455 “National Security Letters” (NSLs) issued at the behest of the Department of Defense.

A howl of protest

That screech you hear is the sound of brakes being applied to the Army’s plans to replace the Tomb of the Unknowns at Arlington National Cemetery.

Arguably the most sacred spot in America, the majestic white sarcophagus has developed cracks and the elements have eroded its marble surface, rendering its inscriptions less distinct.

Ex-Pentagon official: ‘Iraq a nightmare’

A former top US military commander in Iraq said the current White House strategy in Iraq will not achieve victory in the four-and-a-half-year war, which he described as “a nightmare with no end in sight” in a hard-hitting speech.

In the bluntest assessment of Iraq by a former senior Pentagon official yet, retired Lieutenant General Ricardo Sanchez also lambasted US political leaders as “incompetent,” “inept,” “derelict in the performance of their duty” and suggested they would have been court-martialed had they been members of the US military.

Getting arrested can be deadly

More than 2,000 people died in the United States during arrests between 2003 and 2005, according to data published by the Department of Justice for the first time Thursday.

As many as 54 percent were killed by police, 12 percent died because of a drug or alcohol overdose, 11 percent committed suicide, seven percent succumbed to accidents and five percent died due to illnesses or natural causes, according to statistics from 47 US states, and the US federal capital city, released in accordance with a 2000 law.

CIA goes after its watchdog

The work of the CIA’s in-house investigator who found fault with the agency’s handling of the Sept. 11 attacks is being subjected to an internal review, published reports say.

The move, which is highly unusual, has raised concerns that CIA Director Michael Hayden is trying to squelch the investigations of Inspector General John Helgerson, The Los Angeles Times and The New York Times reported Friday, citing anonymous officials.

Democracy is not always the answer

With barely more than 4 million citizens, the tiny state of Singapore in Southeast Asia would hardly qualify as a template or role model for anything or anybody. Even clockwork-like Switzerland seems a relative superpower at 7.5 million in populace. Why would anyone care one way or the other what Singapore’s first prime minister thinks or says or criticizes?

Defending Christianity

It’s awful, this thing called Christianity, many are saying today, and my disagreement with that judgment has at least something to do with the kinds of sermons I hear on Sunday mornings in a 139-year-old church in a small Colorado town.

Just recently, for instance, the rector talked to the congregation about living the Christian life not only by summoning up extraordinary moral courage to do large and difficult things on those rare occasions when circumstances might demand that of us, but through constant efforts to be kind.

The case against capital punishment

The late Rod Serling might have made this case the opening episode of the Twilight Zone, punctuated by that eerie theme music that is still so identified with otherworldly experiences. Or maybe the better vehicle would be “Catch 22,” where there is no way out of a dilemma.

Screening for the health dangers

The White House recently released its new homeland security strategy and, unlike the initial 2002 version, this one focuses far more on natural disasters as opposed to terrorist strikes. That’s a welcome change not simply because Hurricane Katrina was a humbling experience, but because globalization’s growing connectivity means a naturally occurring pandemic is the most likely mega-disaster we’ll face in the near term.

At least the French got it right

When President Bush was putting together his Coalition of the Willing — or, in some cases, the Coalition of the Not Very Willing but We Better Do It Not to Offend America — France was a notable nonstarter for the invasion of Iraq.

Although France sent troops to Afghanistan, this shrugging “non” was greeted on this side of the Atlantic with all the sympathy and understanding of a great nation — that is to say, with one thunderous Bronx cheer from sea to shining sea.