Happy Birthday, Bill of Rights

On December 15, 1791 the U.S. Bill of Rights was adopted. This was considered the first and most important business of the new government, for many states only agreed to adopt the U.S. Constitution on the condition that it be quickly amended to restrict the power of the central government. Having recently experienced creeping infringement of personal liberties, the former colonists feared that the checks and balances of a tripartite form of government might prove an insufficient protection…..William L. Hosch,  Britannica Blog.


The Conventions of a number of the States having, at the time of adopting the Constitution, expressed a desire, in order to prevent misconstruction or abuse of its powers, that further declaratory and restrictive clauses should be added, and as extending the ground of public confidence in the Government will best insure the beneficent ends of its institution;

Resolved, by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America, in Congress assembled, two-thirds of both Houses concurring, that the following articles be proposed to the Legislatures of the several States, as amendments to the Constitution of the United States; all or any of which articles, when ratified by three-fourths of the said Legislatures, to be valid to all intents and purposes as part of the said Constitution, namely:

    Amendment I
    Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.    

    Amendment II
    A well regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed.

    Amendment III
    No soldier shall, in time of peace be quartered in any house, without the consent of the owner, nor in time of war, but in a manner to be prescribed by law.

    Amendment IV
    The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

    Amendment V
    No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a grand jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the militia, when in actual service in time of war or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same offense to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.

    Amendment VI
    In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the state and district wherein the crime shall have been committed, which district shall have been previously ascertained by law, and to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation; to be confronted with the witnesses against him; to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor, and to have the assistance of counsel for his defense.

    Amendment VII
    In suits at common law, where the value in controversy shall exceed twenty dollars, the right of trial by jury shall be preserved, and no fact tried by a jury, shall be otherwise reexamined in any court of the United States, than according to the rules of the common law.

    Amendment VIII
    Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted.

    Amendment IX
    The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.

    Amendment X
    The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the states, are reserved to the states respectively, or to the people.

Is Chalabi in, or is Chalabi out?

Buried down at the bottom of this news article:

    Ibrahim Bahr al-Uloum, who resigned as oil minister last week over increases in consumer fuel prices, also resumed his old post after the prime minister and president asked him to do so, Iraq’s Council of Ministers said.

I am under the impression that Ahmad Chalabi had taken over as oil minister. Well, is he or isn’t he? No mention if Chalabi has stepped down.

Afghanistan Casualties Doubled in 2005

Sadly, it appears that the number of American troops killed in Afghanistan this past year have just about doubled the casualty rate of each of the preceding years. Troop deaths of other coalition members are also at their all time highest level. There are currently 19,000 American troops in Afghanistan.

See the numbers here for Operation Enduring Freedom.

Earlier Wiretap Accusations

With all attention focused on the New York Times’ expose of illegal wiretapping of Americans without the benefit of a court issued warrant, that story withheld for a year, it was not the first time that accusations have come up that the NSA was indeed illegally listening in on Americans’ calls. As this article from back in April of 2005 illustrates, it appears there were some accusations by Governor Richardson of New Mexico that the NSA was monitoring his telephone calls at the request of John Bolton, then Under-Secretary of State for arms control and international security.

    Gov. Bill Richardson is concerned that some of his phone calls were monitored by a U.S. spy agency and transcripts of them were given to the president’s nominee for ambassador to the United Nations, John Bolton.

    Richardson called Sen. Chris Dodd, a Connecticut Democrat, to express his concerns after Dodd revealed that Bolton had on 10 occasions asked the National Security Agency for the intercepts of phone conversations involving Americans.

    …(Richardson’s spokeman Billy) Sparks said Richardson’s call to Dodd was triggered when he read an online story by Washington journalist Wayne Madsen. The story said intelligence community “insiders” claim the NSA circumvented a ban on domestic surveillance by asserting that the intercepted calls were part of “training missions.”

In a later article in May of 2005, Wayne Madsen listed a chain of allegations of illegal wiretaps and monitoring of Americans by the NSA which no longer seem so farfetched.

    Intelligence community insiders claim that a number of State Department and other government officials may have been subject to NSA “training” surveillance and that transcripts between them and foreign officials likely ended up in the possession of Bolton and his neo-conservative political allies, including such members of Vice President Dick Cheney’s staff as David Wurmser (a former assistant to Bolton at State), John Hannah, and Lewis “Scooter” Libby.

    Possible affected individuals include: Secretary of State Colin Powell and Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage and their conversations with their counterparts and officials around the world; Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs William Burns and his telephone conversations with International Atomic Energy Agency director general Mohammed el Baradei and Britain’s top non-proliferation official William Ehrman (Bolton was frozen out of negotiations between Burns, Britain, and Libya over the stand down of the Libyan weapons of mass destruction program) (also Burns’s conversations with Syrian Foreign Minister Farouq al Shara over charges by Bolton that Syria possessed WMDs and conversations between Burns and former chief UN Iraq weapons inspector Hans Blix); various phone calls made by Chairman of the President’s Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board Brent Scowcroft; U.S. Special Envoy on North Korea Charles “Jack” Pritchard and his telephone conversations with U.S. ambassador to South Korea Thomas Hubbard, Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian Affairs James Kelly, and Richard Armitage; New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson and his telephone conversations with Secretary of State Powell and North Korea’s deputy UN ambassador Han Song Ryol; phone conversations between Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Joseph Biden and his Iranian counterpart, Majlis foreign affairs chair Mohsen Mirdamad and between Biden, his staff, and William Burns and Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs Marc Grossman; and President Jimmy Carter’s phone conversations with Cuban officials before and during his May 2002 trip to Cuba (Carter said he found no evidence to support Bolton’s claims of Cuban biological weapons development).

I suppose that since George Bush has come out and admitted he gave the order for the illegal wiretaps to be carried out by the NSA, they won’t have to use the “training mission” excuse any more. Now comes the questions about who was monitored illegally and to what purpose.

Iraqi Army Desertions

Buried away toward the bottom of this news article are a few interesting paragraphs about the morale of at least one Iraqi Army battalion:

    Meanwhile, gunmen Friday attacked an Iraqi army checkpoint in the city of Adhaim, in religiously and ethnically mixed Diyala province, killing eight soldiers and wounding seventeen, an Iraqi army officer said on condition he not be identified for fear of reprisal.

    “There were too many to count,” said Akid, a 20-year-old soldier from Diwanayah being treated for gunshot wounds to both thighs. “They tried to kill everybody.”

    Akid, who would only give his first name for fear of reprisal, said his battalion of about 600 men had already suffered over 250 desertions after a Dec. 3 ambush in Adhaim killed 19 Iraqi soldiers.

    “They gave up,” he said. “They said, ‘The hell with this.'”

I wonder if this is one of the Iraqi battalions cited by the Pentagon as being ready to take over from American troops. If so, it may be a very long time before our soldiers can come home.