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Gonzalez confirmation hearing ignored US / Jordan torture links and legislative junket to Israel to witness 'anti-terror' exercizes

CIA officials declined comment yesterday regarding Israeli and BBC reports of a cover-up of secret U.S. prisoner torture in Jordan; and the law firm which funded the congressional defense and homeland security mission to Israel also represented President Bush in the Florida 2000 vote recount and is linked to a 9/11 widow's lawsuit against Mr. Bush for his actions during the actual two-hour period of the attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon

by Tom Flocco

story.bush.announce.pool.2.jpgWashington—January 7, 2005——According to an Israeli newspaper, the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency is holding top Al Qaeda suspects in a top-secret interrogation facility in Jordan while employing "interrogation methods...banned by U.S. law." 

However, the line of questioning regarding reports of recent secret torture of detainees in Jordan was left virtually untouched during yesterday's Senate confirmation hearing to consider the nomination of President Bush's White House Counsel Alberto Gonzalez to the post of U.S. Attorney General.

Senate Judiciary Committee members also failed to question Gonzalez about another report from Lebanon revealing that top members of the House and Senate Armed Services Committees--and 'other leading U.S. legislators' who also traveled to Israel--may have awarded billion-dollar homeland security contracts to Israel in exchange for interrogation training and torture techniques.

Greenberg Traurig LLP, a prominent Washington law and lobby firm linked to Bush and his brother--the Florida governor, sponsored and partially paid for the mission to Israel where U.S. House and Senate members, government private contractors and pro-Israel lobbyists were "briefed by top experts" and "witnessed exercises related to anti-terror warfare," according to the Lebanon Daily Star.

An Israeli paper reported that over the past three years the White House never indicated that Jordan, a country with close relations and cooperation with the U.S., was being used to minimize leaks related to the cover-up of American interrogation procedures and torture methods.

Haaretz, which reportedly learned about the Jordanian jail from international intelligence sources, also revealed that "Human Rights Watch claims 11 suspected senior Al-Qaeda members are being held somewhere so secret that
President George Bush asked CIA officials not to report it to him." [The original Haaretz breaking report appeared on 10-13-2004]Israeli link possible in US torture techniques

The international intelligence sources who spoke to Haaretz are "considered experts in surveillance and analysis of Al Qaeda and are involved in interrogating the detainees," according to the Israeli daily.

Haaretz added that "their detention outside the U.S. enables CIA interrogators to apply interrogation methods that are banned by U.S. law, and to do so in a country where cooperation with the Americans is particularly close, thereby reducing the danger of leaks."

The report said the CIA was granted special permission by U.S. law enforcement authorities to "operate 'other laws' at the secret facility with regard to interrogation methods." 

Senate Judiciary members failed to ask Gonzalez about the actual content of his discussions with the President regarding implications related to the Israeli reports, and whether past torture would place U.S. prisoners of war in future jeopardy--especially if Al Qaeda prisoners were recently 'farmed out' to be tortured in Jordan.

The issue is so secret, denials and/or 'no comments' so likely that only the sworn testimony of armed services legislators, intelligence committee members and Defense Department officials would possibly reveal the truth.

The senators never asked Gonzalez about Mr. Bush's specific reactions to the formulation of the original leaked Justice and Defense memos; and Ranking Democrat Patrick Leahy declined to explain his failure to press Gonzalez to explain his stonewall of Leahy's numerous written requests for additional documents while discussing the issue during the hearing.

Senate Judiciary members Jeff Sessions (R-A:), Saxby Chambliss (R-GA), Lindsey Graham (R-SC), John Cornyn (R-TX), and Edward Kennedy (D-MA) are also members of the Armed Services Committee--indicating that some of them participated in the Israeli mission and were likely briefed or viewed demonstrations of torture techniques.

The torture issue is important because the Senate Judiciary Committee members failed to ascertain whether such interrogation techniques--whether secret or not--have already placed the safety and welfare of U.S. troops in serious jeopardy.

One of the lobbyists accompanying the Greenberg Traurig-funded congressional and defense contractor delegation included Jack London--chairman, president and CEO of CACI International Inc., an American defense contractor firm.

CACI was implicated in sworn congressional testimony by U.S. Major General Antonio M. Taguba in the torture of Iraqis at Abu Ghraib prison, according to a report leaked by Taguba.

The official itinerary for House and Senate members, the January 11-17, 2004 Defense Aerospace Homeland Security Mission to Israel--obtained from Jerusalem Fund of Aish HaTorah, revealed that CACI's Jack London and House/Senate Armed Services members visited Beit Horon, "the central training camp for the anti-terrorist forces of the Israeli police and the border police," in the occupied West Bank.
None of the senators on the Armed Services Committee who questioned Gonzalez referred to the Israeli mission, what they saw, and whether they were aware that Gonzalez and the President were discussing the legality of prisoner torture while using Jordan to facilitate interrogation involving the secret use of torture within a recent time-frame.

According to the Star report, "two CACI employees, Steven Stephanowicz and John Israel, were named in the leaked report by Major General Antonio M. Taguba on the abuses at Abu Ghraib prison."

"Taguba wrote that Stephanowicz, a 'contract U.S. civilian interrogator,' 'allowed and/or instructed MPs (military police), who were not trained in interrogation techniques, to facilitate interrogations by 'setting conditions' which were neither authorized or in accordance with applicable regulations/policy. He clearly knew his instructions equated to physical abuse.' "

The reported added that John Israel, and interpreter, did not have the appropriate security clearance, according to General Taguba.

The Senate Judiciary members also failed to question Gonzalez about a March, 2003 Associated Press report referring to "the (U.S.) military listening closely to Israeli experts and picking up tips from years of Israeli Army operations in Palestinian areas and Lebanese town."

The AP reported added that "In January and February, 2003, Israeli and American troops trained together in southern Israel's Negev Desert...Israel has also hosted senior law enforcement officials from the United States for a seminar on counterterrorism." 

The Lebanon Star reported that Batya Feldman of Israel's Globes Financial News Service said the U.S. delegation's visit provided Israeli companies with "an excellent opportunity to encounter big bucks in homeland security," which also included seminars given by U.S. lobbyists called "How to Approach the Homeland Security Department," and "How to Sell to the U.S. Defense Department.

Senate Judiciary Chairman Arlen Specter (R-PA) and Ranking Member Patrick Leahy (D-VT) never asked Alberto Gonzalez whether he knew that United States Armed Services Committee House and Senate members viewed torture-related training and were briefed on the issue by Israeli officials.

Gonzalez was careful not to challenge members in the face of fierce questioning that he may have been aware of quid-pro-quo prison "interrogation training" (known to insiders as "R-2-I," short for "resistance-to-interrogation") in exchange for the awarding of billions of dollars in Homeland Security contracts to Israel.

The Greenberg Traurig law firm which partially financed the Armed Services congressional mission to Israel is also closely linked to the Bush family and a number of other related but controversial issues.

Ellen Mariani

A Greenberg Traurig attorney met with 9/11 widow Ellen Mariani's step-daughter prior to her commencement of an estate takeover attempt against Mrs. Mariani, casting shadows on the New Hampshire widow's future legal options as she seeks to hold Mr. Bush and others accountable in a court of law for government failures before and during the actual two-hour period of the September 11 attacks.

On October 4, 2003, the step-daughter, Lauren Peters, filed a motion to remove the New Hampshire 9/11 widow as Administratrix of her deceased husband Neil's estate and to appoint Peters as Administratrix.

Peters' motion to challenge control of the 9/11 estate of Louis Neil Mariani was filed just 22 days after Mariani had filed a Racketeering Influenced Corrupt Organization Act (RICO) lawsuit against President Bush, Vice President Richard Cheney, members of the cabinet and other high government officials to hold them accountable for their actions during the 9/11 attacks.

The law firm is not only linked to Mariani's suit, but also directly to the President and his brother.

Greenberg Traurig represented President Bush in the Bush-Gore 2000 vote recount controversy in Florida and the firm hired Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia's son John Scalia on election day 2000, after which Justice Scalia cast one of the deciding votes to commence the Bush presidency.

A Greenberg Traurig partner also represents Bush's brother, Florida governor Jeb Bush, in his Tallahassee office.

100 Senators will have to consider the message they are sending to the world if they approve the Gonzalez nomination--given the White House Counsel's serious links to torture and the irrevocable military and civilian contractor actions that may have already removed America from the moral high-ground regarding the treatment of prisoners and how it may affect the safety of U.S. troops.

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