NEWS ROUNDUP: February 7

Injury from blast killed Bhutto, report says
Investigators from Scotland Yard have concluded that Benazir Bhutto, the Pakistani opposition leader, died after hitting her head as she was tossed by the force of a suicide blast, not from an assassin’s bullet, officials who have been briefed on the inquiry said Thursday. …

It is unclear how the Scotland Yard investigators reached such conclusive findings absent autopsy results or other potentially important evidence that was washed away by cleanup crews in the immediate aftermath of the blast, which also killed more than 20 other people.

Secret talks led to Pakistan cease-fire
Two Pakistani officials said Thursday that their government held secret talks with Taliban fighters and tribal elders near the Afghan border before a cease-fire just announced by the militants. …

Tehrik-e-Taliban is led by Baitullah Mehsud, an al-Qaida-linked commander based in South Waziristan whom Musharraf’s government has blamed for a series of suicide attacks across Pakistan, including the Dec. 27 assassination of former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto.

CIA destroyed tapes as judge sought interrogation data
At the time that the Central Intelligence Agency destroyed videotapes of the interrogations of operatives of Al Qaeda, a federal judge was still seeking information from Bush administration lawyers about the interrogation of one of those operatives, Abu Zubaydah, according to court documents made public on Wednesday.

The court documents, filed in the case of Zacarias Moussaoui, appear to contradict a statement last December by Gen. Michael V. Hayden, the C.I.A. director, that when the tapes were destroyed in November 2005 they had no relevance to any court proceeding, including Mr. Moussaoui’s criminal trial.

It was already known that the judge in the case, Leonie M. Brinkema, had not been told about the existence or destruction of the videos. But the newly disclosed court documents, which had been classified as secret, showed the judge had still been actively seeking information about Mr. Zubaydah’s interrogation as late as Nov. 29, 2005.

New charges of Gitmo torture
Khan’s lawyers are armed with more than 500 pages of top-secret notes taken during recent sessions with their client at Guantanamo; they will use the material to describe his interrogation and detention to the Intelligence Committee. Though details are highly classified, his lawyers claim that he and others were tortured and videotaped, charges that Hayden and other CIA officials deny. On Feb. 5, Hayden admitted to Congress that the CIA had used waterboarding on Khaled Sheik Mohammed and two others. The CIA continues to assert that it does not engage in torture.

Mosul situation veers from ‘Baghdad model’
The battle for Mosul that will play out in the coming weeks and months could be a very different struggle than the successful U.S. campaigns against al-Qaeda militants in Baghdad and elsewhere.

Baghdad and much of Iraq are slowly coming under the control of U.S. and Iraqi forces. This city of 1.8 million people remains an urban stronghold for al-Qaeda in Iraq.

Obama: The shock of the red

Take a look at what happened on Tuesday in the nearly all-white counties of Idaho, a place where the Aryan Nations once placed a boot print of hate — “the international headquarters of the white race,” as they called it.

The neo-Nazis are long gone. But in Kootenai County, where the extremists were holed up for several decades, a record number of Democrats trudged through heavy snow on Super Duper Tuesday to help pick the next president. Guess what: Senator Barack Obama took 81 percent of Kootenai County caucus voters, matching his landslide across the state. He won all but a single county.

Manufacturer in $2 million acord wth U.S. on deficient Kevlar in military helmets
A North Dakota manufacturer has agreed to pay $2 million to settle a suit saying it had repeatedly shortchanged the armor in up to 2.2 million helmets for the military, including those for the first troops sent to Iraq and Afghanistan.

Twelve days before the settlement with the Justice Department was announced, the company, Sioux Manufacturing of Fort Totten, was given a new contract of up to $74 million to make more armor for helmets to replace the old ones, which were made from the late 1980s to last year.

Veterans not entitled to mental health care, U.S. lawyers argue
Veterans have no legal right to specific types of medical care, the Bush administration argues in a lawsuit accusing the government of illegally denying mental health treatment to some troops returning from Iraq and Afghanistan.

The arguments, filed Wednesday in federal court in San Francisco, strike at the heart of a lawsuit filed on behalf of veterans that claims the health care system for returning troops provides little recourse when the government rejects their medical claims.

Sex asault sit v. Halliburton klled
A mother of five who says she was sexually harassed and assaulted while working for Halliburton/KBR in Iraq is headed for a secretive arbitration process rather than being able to present her case in open court.

A judge in Texas has ruled that Tracy Barker’s case will be heard in arbitration, according to the terms of her initial employment contract.

The CIA operation that should have prevented the Iraq war
When Saad Tawfiq watched Colin Powell’s presentation to the United Nations on February 5 2003 he shed bitter tears as he realised he had risked his life and those of his loved ones for nothing.

As one of Saddam Hussein’s most gifted engineers, Tawfiq knew that the Iraqi dictator had shut down his nuclear, chemical and biological weapons programmes in 1995 — and he had told his handlers in US intelligence just that.

And yet here was the then US secretary of state — Tawfiq’s television was able to received international news through a link pirated from Saddam’s spies next door — waving a vial of white powder and telling the UN Security Council a story about Iraqi germ labs.

Clarity sught on electronics searches
Nabila Mango, a therapist and a U.S. citizen who has lived in the country since 1965, had just flown in from Jordan last December when, she said, she was detained at customs and her cellphone was taken from her purse. Her daughter, waiting outside San Francisco International Airport, tried repeatedly to call her during the hour and a half she was questioned. But after her phone was returned, Mango saw that records of her daughter’s calls had been erased.

A few months earlier in the same airport, a tech engineer returning from a business trip to London objected when a federal agent asked him to type his password into his laptop computer. “This laptop doesn’t belong to me,” he remembers protesting. “It belongs to my company.” Eventually, he agreed to log on and stood by as the officer copied the Web sites he had visited, said the engineer, a U.S. citizen who spoke on the condition of anonymity for fear of calling attention to himself.

In my view: Iraqi blogger

When I first immigrated to the US in 2005, I was interested in foreign policy issues and spent most of my time working to end the occupation of Iraq and stop the blind support and unlimited aid to Israel.

Then I had a life-changing incident in 2006, when I was stopped at an airport in New York and prevented from boarding to my airplane because my T-shirt had the words “we will not be silent” in both Arabic and English printed on it.

A TSA [transportation security officer] told me that coming to a US airport with Arabic words on my T-shirt was equivalent to visiting a bank while wearing a shirt that read “I’m a robber”.

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