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Bush signs legislation to protect phone records
Law & Politics | 2007/01/13 08:48

President Bush Friday signed into law new federal legislation seeking to protect traditional, wireless, and internet phone calling consumers by preventing phone companies from selling their private phone records without customer authorization and criminalizing attempts to obtain those fraudulently. The Telephone Records and Privacy Protection Act of 2006 passed the Senate in December in response to the Hewlett-Packard corporate spying scandal that broke this past summer.

The Act prohibits "making false or fraudulent statements" to phone company employees in an effort to obtain confidential phone records. It also forbids "accessing customer accounts through the Internet" without authorization. Those who contravene the Act can face up to 10 years in prison.

Bush sending more troops to Iraq
Law & Politics | 2007/01/11 16:36

President Bush laid out his "New Way Forward" in Iraq on Wednesday night, saying the United States should beef up its forces there by 21,500 troops, add $1.2 billion in reconstruction aid, and let Iraqi forces take the lead in joint combat operations.

"The changes I have outlined tonight are aimed at ensuring the survival of a young democracy that is fighting for its life in a part of the world of enormous importance to American security," Bush said in a nationally televised address. "The question is whether our new strategy will bring us closer to success. I believe that it will."

Bush's optimism was immediately challenged by Democratic leaders, who repeated their opposition to increasing troop levels. Even some Republicans criticized the plan.

The president acknowledged previous failures.

"Where mistakes have been made, the responsibility rests with me," he said. Past efforts to quell violence in Baghdad failed, he said, because "there were not enough Iraqi and American troops to secure neighborhoods" and "there were too many restrictions on the troops we did have."

He said his plan would remedy such flaws.

In earlier operations, the president said, "political and sectarian interference prevented Iraqi and American forces from going into neighborhoods that are home to those fueling the sectarian violence."

"This time, Iraqi and American forces will have a green light to enter those neighborhoods," Bush said.

Bush taps Fielding as new White House counsel
Law & Politics | 2007/01/09 18:41

US President George Bush announced Tuesday that Fred F. Fielding will serve as the new White House counsel. Fielding, who has advised Bush throughout his presidency and sat on the 9/11 Commission, will replace Harriet Miers, who announced her resignation last week. Bush praised Miers, saying "she has devoted herself to the rule of law and the cause of justice," and called Fielding "uniquely qualified" to replace her.

Fielding served as General Counsel to President Reagan from 1981-86 and deputy counsel under President Nixon from 1970-72, and is regarded by observers as having the political experience that Bush may need to face challenges to executive authority from the new Democratically-controlled Congress. Fielding, 67, leaves his position as a partner at Wiley, Rein and Fielding in Washington, DC.

Bush to deliver his new strategy for war in Iraq
Law & Politics | 2007/01/08 18:56

President Bush will deliver a much-anticipated address to the nation Wednesday night on his new strategy for the war in Iraq. Media reports say the president is expected to announce an increase of as many as 20,000 U.S. troops in Iraq. New Democratic leaders in Congress have already criticized the idea of a surge in forces, saying they do not believe that adding combat troops will contribute to success.

Also Monday, White House officials say President Bush will nominate U.S. Ambassador to Iraq Zalmay Khalilzad to be Washington's representative to the United Nations. White House spokesman Tony Snow says U.S. Ambassador to Pakistan Ryan Crocker will replace Khalilzad in Iraq. Snow says an official announcement is expected from the State Department later today.

If confirmed by the U.S. Senate, Khalilzad would replace John Bolton. Before taking the position in Iraq, Khalilzad served as Ambassador to Afghanistan from November 2003 to June 2005. During that time, he also served as the special presidential envoy to Afghanistan. A report today in The New York Times says Mr. Bush's new Iraq strategy will set a series of goals for the Iraqi government to meet.

The newspaper says the U.S. "benchmarks" will call for Iraqi leaders to draw more Sunni Muslims into the political process and ease restrictions on members of the formerly ruling Baath Party.

US sends mixed messages on Saddam's execution
Law & Politics | 2007/01/04 07:45
US forces left security during Saddam Hussein's execution to Iraqi authorities Saturday but would have handled the hanging "differently", US Maj. Gen. William Caldwell said during a press conference in Baghdad Wednesday.

Caldwell said that US-led coalition forces transported Saddam to the execution site, left him in the care of Iraqi authorities, and then withdrew from the premises, and had no part in the searching of witnesses for unauthorized media equipment, including mobile phones and video devices: “We were not involved in any search of any people, we had nobody present, we did not dictate any requirements that had to be followed. … The multinational force had absolutely no direct involvement with that whatsoever.”

The release of an unofficial video of the hanging, allegedly taken by a witness with a camera phone, has prompted protests from Sunnis, outrage outside of Iraq, and an investigation by the government of Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki into its taping and distribution. The video shows that Saddam was taunted by his guards before the hanging took place.

Bush Looking Forward to Working with New Congress
Law & Politics | 2007/01/03 19:31

President Bush says the new year brings new opportunities for progress, and he is looking forward to working with the new Congress.

"The Congress has changed. Our obligations to the country have not changed," he said. "Tomorrow, members of the 110th Congress will take their oath of office and I congratulate them. I welcome their arrival into town. I am looking forward to working with them."

President Bush says he is encouraged by what he says have been productive meetings with leaders from both parties. He says it is time to set aside politics and focus on the nation's future.

Democrats won control of both the House of Representatives and the Senate in November elections that focused largely on voter discontent over the war in Iraq.

With the president preparing what he says will be a new way forward in Iraq, Democratic leaders plan to start their legislative agenda with domestic issues, including a higher minimum wage.

President Bush says the new Congress should make sure it spends the people's money wisely. He says legislators should reform the federal retirement program and subsidized medical care.

He wants Democrats to give him a line-item veto and to rein in spending on legislative earmarks that direct money to specific projects in members' districts, a tactic that has come to be known as pork-barrel politics.

"One important message we all should take from the elections is that people want to end the secretive process by which Washington insiders are able to get billions of dollars directed to projects, many of them pork-barrel projects that have never been reviewed or voted on by the Congress," he said.

The president says he will send Congress a five-year budget proposal that will balance the federal budget by 2012. He says his proposal will restrain spending, but will continue to fund the fight against terrorism.

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