April 21st, 2009
03:00 PM ET
5 years ago

Top Republican lawmaker warns against closing Gitmo

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell expressed his concerns Tuesday about President Obama's timeline to close the Guantanamo Bay prison by January.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell expressed his concerns Tuesday about President Obama's timeline to close the Guantanamo Bay prison by January.

(CNN) - Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell expressed his concerns on the Senate floor Tuesday about President Obama's timeline to close the Guantanamo Bay prison by January 2010.

The Kentucky Republican senator warned the administration about closing the detention center without a plan detailing where the current detainees will be relocated or released.

"Americans want some assurances that closing Guantanamo won't make them less safe - and for good reason," McConnell said in his opening remarks on the Senate floor. "The administration needs to tell the American people what it plans to do with these men if they close Guantanamo."

President Obama's war funding request for more than $80 billion includes funds to close the U.S. detention facility in Cuba, but McConnell said the administration lacks a clear plan regarding where to place the "most dangerous men alive."

"The administration has made a priority of closing Guantanamo. But its first priority should be to assure the American people that the detainees at Gitmo will never again be able to harm innocent people," McConnell said.

The Obama administration has not announced what it officially plans to do with the more than 200 detainees at Guantanamo Bay, but the president is seeking third-party countries to take in some of the inmates. In an April meeting with French President Nicolas Sarkozy in Europe, Sarkozy offered to accept one detainee.


Filed under: Guantanamo Bay • Mitch McConnell
April 21st, 2009
02:59 PM ET
5 years ago

New EPA chief says agency 'back on the job'

WASHINGTON (CNN) – In a hallway lined with portraits of her predecessors, Lisa Jackson is reminded daily of her unique status - as the first African-American to head up the Environmental Protection Agency.

"I don't think of it every moment. ... [But] what I hope that we see at the end of this are activists who look like me - activists who represent the future demographic of our country because that's who's going to be the EPA in the future."

And walking the halls also brings forth a sentimental feeling.

Jackson's father was a postal carrier - one of the few jobs she says was available to African-American men in the South when she was growing up. He died when she was a teenager, and she's reminded of him often when she's at work. The building housing EPA headquarters originally was built for the then-U.S. Department of Post Office in the 1930s.

But it's also her background as a mother, graduate from Princeton and Tulane universities and an African-American from New Orleans' 9th Ward that she says allows her to tackle the issues facing the environment.

As Hurricane Katrina battered the vulnerable Louisiana city in 2005, Jackson was on the verge of a career change: New Jersey Gov. Jon Corzine asked her to head up the state's Department of Environmental Protection. She says it was a hard choice because Katrina destroyed more than just her family's home - it destroyed the entire community.

Full Story


Filed under: EPA
April 21st, 2009
02:43 PM ET
5 years ago

McCain gets conservative primary challenger

Simcox will challenge John McCain in a Senate primary.
Simcox will challenge John McCain in a Senate primary.

(CNN) – Arizona Sen. John McCain - whose support of illegal immigration reform nearly derailed his presidential bid two years ago - will face a Senate primary challenge next year from Minuteman founder Chris Simcox.

Simcox, who has resigned from the volunteer organization with the mission of preventing illegal crossings of the U.S. border, will formally announce his Senate bid on Wednesday.

"John McCain has failed miserably in his duty to secure this nation's borders and protect the people of Arizona from the escalating violence and lawlessness," Simcox said in a statement. "He has fought real efforts over the years at every turn, opting to hold our nation's border security hostage to his amnesty schemes."

"Coupled with his votes for reckless bailout spending and big government solutions to our nation's problems, John McCain is out of touch with everyday Arizonans. Enough is enough," he added.

McCain's presidential hopes were nearly dashed after teaming up with Massachusetts Sen. Ted Kennedy on the Comprehensive Immigration Reform Act of 2007, a measure that provided a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants currently residing in the United States.

McCain later backtracked from calling for a path to citizenship and, at a CNN debate in January 2008, said he would not have voted for the legislation if it reached the Senate floor.

"No, I would not, because we know what the situation is today," he said of voting for the bill he sponsored. "The people want the borders secured first."

A week before Monday's Homeland Security field hearing on border security in Phoenix, Arizona, McCain criticized the Obama administration's plan for immigration reform.

He said he could not support the plan, which he said "does not adequately address either securing the border or a legal temporary worker program."

"We need to act on the pressing issue of border security now, and then seek comprehensive immigration legislation that includes a temporary worker program," McCain said in a statement April 14. "Any legislation that does not address these two key components is not real reform."

McCain did not face a primary challenger in 2004 and won reelection with over 75 percent of the vote.


Filed under: John McCain
April 21st, 2009
02:40 PM ET
5 years ago

Cafferty: Waterboarding 2 members of al Qaeda 266 times constitute a crime?

 Join the conversation on Jack's blog.
Join the conversation on Jack's blog.

Those hotly debated Bush era interrogation memos include this little nugget: CIA officials waterboarded two al Qaeda suspects 266 times. Interrogators waterboarded Abu Zubaydah at least 83 times in August of 2002; and they used the tactic against Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the self-described planner of the 9/11 attacks, 183 times in March of 2003. That’s about six times a day.

These memos show waterboarding was used more frequently and with a greater volume of water than CIA rules allowed. Time magazine suggests the use of the tactic seemed to “occasionally get out of control.” Don’t you wonder what they learned from Khalid Sheik Mohammed the 183rd time they waterboarded him that they didn’t know after waterboarding him 182 times?

In an about-face today, President Obama opened the door to the possibility of criminal prosecution for former Bush officials who authorized this stuff. He says it will be up to the attorney general to decide whether or not to prosecute them. Up until now, the president insisted there would be no investigation of those who ordered the torture, or those who carried it out.

To read more and contribute to the Cafferty File discussion, click here.


Filed under: Cafferty File
April 21st, 2009
02:30 PM ET
5 years ago

Polls: Americans split over torture investigations

President Barack Obama Tuesday said that it will be up to Attorney General Eric Holder to decide whether or not to prosecute the former officials for legally allowing the techniques that many view as torture.
President Barack Obama Tuesday said that it will be up to Attorney General Eric Holder to decide whether or not to prosecute the former officials for legally allowing the techniques that many view as torture.

WASHINGTON (CNN) - Americans appear to be split on whether former Bush administration officials who drew up the legal basis for interrogation techniques used on terror suspects should be criminally prosecuted.

President Barack Obama Tuesday left open the possibility of such criminal prosecution, saying that it will be up to Attorney General Eric Holder to decide whether or not to prosecute the former officials for legally allowing the techniques that many view as torture.

Thirty-eight percent of people questioned in a national poll conducted by Gallup two and a half months ago favored a criminal investigation by the Justice Department into the possible use of torture during the interrogation of terror suspects. Another 24 percent favored an investigation by an independent panel that would issue a report of findings but not seek any criminal charges. Thirty-four percent opposed both a criminal investigation or an independent panel investigation.

An ABC News-Washington Post poll conducted about a week earlier, in mid January, also indicated that Americans were split on the issue. Half of those questioned favored investigations, while 47 percent opposed.

Both surveys found a partisan split, with Democrats generally calling for investigations and Republicans mostly opposed.

FULL POST


Filed under: Polls
April 21st, 2009
02:29 PM ET
5 years ago

Judge vetoes Blagojevich's reality TV plan

A Federal judge has denied ousted Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich's request to travel to Central America to take part in a reality TV show.
A Federal judge has denied ousted Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich's request to travel to Central America to take part in a reality TV show.

CHICAGO, Illinois (CNN) – A Federal judge has denied ousted Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich's request to travel to Central America to take part in a reality TV show.

Blagojevich had signed on to "be dropped into the heart of the Costa Rican jungle" in a celebrity competition, according to the NBC television network.

But his participation depended U.S. District Court Judge James Zagel lifting travel restrictions imposed when the former governor was indicted on federal corruption charges, the network said.

Zagel, in a Tuesday morning hearing, called it "a bad idea" and suggested Blagojevich find another way to earn money, according CNN affiliate WLS-TV.

FULL POST


Filed under: Rod Blagojevich
April 21st, 2009
01:44 PM ET
5 years ago

Caroline Kennedy denies Vatican ambassador rumors

WASHINGTON (CNN) – Caroline Kennedy is denying persistent speculation that she will be President Obama's pick to be the next U.S. ambassador to the Vatican.

Kennedy, arriving at the White House Tuesday afternoon for an event celebrating the President's signing of national service legislation named after her uncle Sen. Edward Kennedy, told CNN she has no plans to serve as ambassador to the Holy See.

"No, not that I'm aware of," she said about the post after agreeing to take just one question.


Filed under: Caroline Kennedy
April 21st, 2009
01:18 PM ET
5 years ago

San Fran mayor officially announces his bid for governor

The San Francisco mayor on Tuesday formally declared his intent to enter California's gubernatorial race.
The San Francisco mayor on Tuesday formally declared his intent to enter California's gubernatorial race.

(CNN) – Gavin Newsom has made it official. The San Francisco mayor on Tuesday formally declared his intent to enter California's gubernatorial race.

The California Democrat used the new media social-networking sites Twitter, YouTube, and Facebook to announce his bid to succeed the current governor, Republican Arnold Schwarzenegger.

"We can't afford to keep returning to the same old tired ideas and expect a different result," Newsom said in a three-minute YouTube announcement on his Web site, GavinNewsom.com. "I'm a candidate for governor of California because I know we can do better."

But Newsom could face a tough challenge in the Golden State's Democratic primary, with competition from Lt. Gov. John Garamendi and state Attorney General Jerry Brown.

"Gavin Newsom has a formidable obstacle in former California governor and current Attorney General Jerry Brown, who much better known statewide and has deep roots in the Democratic party, especially with Hispanic voters," said CNN senior political analyst Bill Schneider.

"Newsom has said that he's the Barack Obama in the race and that Brown is the Hillary Clinton, meaning that Newsom is young and fresh and that Brown is out of date. Brown tells me he thinks that argument is silly and irrelevant," Schneider said. "There is one issue that Newsom is linked, and that is gay marriage. He allowed same-sex marriages in San Francisco until the courts intervened. This could be a plus for him in the Democratic primary but a problem in the general election."

Updated after the jump

FULL POST


Filed under: California
April 21st, 2009
12:48 PM ET
5 years ago

Obama leaves door open to prosecution of Bush officials

ALT TEXT

President Obama said Tuesday it will be up to Attorney General Eric Holder to decide whether or not to prosecute the former officials. (GETTY IMAGES)

WASHINGTON (CNN) - President Barack Obama left open the possibility of criminal prosecution Tuesday for former Bush administration officials who drew up the legal basis for interrogation techniques that many view as torture.

He said it will be up to Attorney General Eric Holder to decide whether or not to prosecute the former officials.

"With respect to those who formulated those legal decisions, I would say that is going to be more a decision for the Attorney General within the parameter of various laws and I don't want to prejudge that," Obama said during a meeting with Jordan's King Abdullah at the White House.

"There's a host of very complicated issues involved there. As a general deal, I think we should be looking forward and not backwards. I do worry about this getting so politicized that we cannot function effectively and it hampers our ability to carry out critical national security operations."

Obama reiterated his belief that he did not think it is appropriate to prosecute those CIA officials and others who actually carried out the interrogations in question.

"This has been a difficult chapter in our history and one of (my) tougher decisions," he added.

The techniques listed in the Bush-era memos released last week "reflected... us losing our moral bearings," he said.


Filed under: President Obama
April 21st, 2009
12:15 PM ET
5 years ago

Romney: 'Obama has failed his early foreign policy tests'

(CNN) – Mitt Romney went on the offensive Tuesday, slamming President Obama's foreign policy initiatives and calling the president a "timid advocate of freedom."

In an op-ed in the National Review, the former Massachusetts governor accused Obama of going easy on dictators and passing blame for the actions and policies of former administrations.

"As American soldiers sacrificed blood in Afghanistan and Iraq to defend liberty, President Obama shrank from defending liberty here in the Americas," Romney wrote. "Vice President Biden was right that the new president would be tested early in his administration. What the world learned was not good news for freedom and democracy. The leader of the free world has been a timid advocate of freedom at best. And bold action to blunt the advances of tyrants has been wholly lacking."

The former candidate for the 2008 Republican presidential nomination said Obama may have failed in his early foreign-policy tests, but that he hopes the president will offer more than "silence, smiles, and a handshake" when dealing with foreign nations and leaders in the future.

"We are still very early in the Obama years – the president will have ample opportunity to defend America and freedom, and to deter nuclear brinkmanship. I am hoping for change," he wrote.


Filed under: Mitt Romney • President Obama
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