Wednesday, September 27, 2006

The Return of the Credibility Gap: New Intelligence Report Belies Bush's Assertions on Iraq War

A Damning Indictment of Administration's Iraq Pronouncements That Will Surely Revive Memories of LBJ's Lies About the Vietnam War

PLUS: A Blatant GOP Attack on Your Constitutional Right to Vote

WEDNESDAY EXTRA
By Skeeter Sanders

It was just a month ago when this blogger opened this space with the following sentence:

"The time has come -- indeed, the time is long overdue -- to face the fact that the Bush administration is hopelessly out of touch with reality about the war in Iraq."


You may recall reading in this space that President Bush, in his weekly radio address on September 2, flatly declared that "our commanders and diplomats on the ground believe that Iraq has not descended into civil war. They report that only a small number of Iraqis are engaged in sectarian violence, while the overwhelming majority want peace and a normal life in a unified country."

But even as Bush was pre-recording his radio address at the White House on the previous day, the nation's top military commanders were reporting on Capitol Hill that "Conditions that could lead to civil war exist in Iraq. . . And concern about a civil war within the Iraqi civilian population has increased in recent months."

Now, as a direct result of a leaked report by the nation's 16 intelligence agencies, the administration has been proven to not only to be out of touch with reality on Iraq, but it is pursuing its policy -- and the broader war on terror -- based on a dangerous "tunnel vision" view of the politics of the Middle East and Persian Gulf region.

The report, portions of which were declassified and made public last Tuesday, damns as lies President Bush's repeated public assertions that "America is winning the war on terror" and effectively renders impotent his attacks on critics of the Iraq war by strongly confirming their argument that it has worsened the terrorist threat.

It also marks the return of that which plagued -- and eventually doomed -- the administration of President Lyndon Johnson during the Vietnam War: The infamous "credibility gap."

Iraq War Has Become a "Cause Celebre" for Jihadist Extremists, Report Says


Rather than stem the threat of new terrorist attacks against the United States and other Western nations -- as the administration has repeatedly asserted -- the war in Iraq has instead become a "cause celebre" for Islamic extremists, breeding a deep resentment toward the U.S. and increasing the spread of terrorist cells around the world, according to the National Intelligence Estimate, an analysis by the nation's 16 intelligence agencies.

The report -- which was leaked to The New York Times and published the previous Sunday -- said that despite inflicting serious damage to the leadership of the al-Qaida terrorist network, the danger or new terrorist attacks has increased as is now as great, if not greater, than it was on the day before the September 11, 2001 attacks.

The report notes that while the Bush administration's campaign to democratize Iraq -- and, by extension, the Middle East -- may be beginning to slow the spread of sectarian extremism, the political changes the campaign is causing are "destabilizing transitions that will create new opportunities for jihadists to exploit."

The report cites "vulnerabilities" resulting from "anti-U.S. and anti-globalization sentiment" on the rise and "fueling other radical ideologies." Other Muslim extremist groups around the world, the report said, "are radicalizing more quickly, more widely and more anonymously in the Internet age."

Like a Disease That Gains a Resistance to Drug Treatment


Much like a virulent disease that gains a resistance to drug treatment, the report said, the jihadist movement has adapted in response to the Iraq invasion, becoming more decentralized, with many terrorist groups now operating independently from al-Qaida.

It warns darkly that "If this trend continues, threats to U.S. interests at home and abroad will become more diverse, leading to increasing attacks worldwide. The confluence of shared purpose and dispersed actors will make it harder to find and undermine jihadist groups."

Among the report's conclusions:

• The increased role of Iraqis in managing the operations of al-Qaida in Iraq might lead the terror group's veteran foreign fighters to refocus their efforts outside that country.

• While Iran and Syria are the most active state sponsors of terror, many other countries will be unable to prevent their resources from being exploited by terrorists.

• The underlying factors that are fueling the spread of the extremist Muslim movement outweigh its vulnerabilities. These factors are entrenched grievances and a slow pace of reform in home countries, rising anti-U.S. sentiment and the Iraq war.

• Groups "of all stripes" will increasingly use the Internet -- as al-Qaida has done for the past several years -- to communicate, train, recruit and obtain support.

Timing of Report Angers Bush, Forces GOP On Defensive. . .


A visibly angry Bush acknowledged that he ordered National Intelligence Director John Negroponte to declassify and release the report on Monday and lashed out at those who leaked it.

"Here we are, coming down the stretch in an election campaign, ans it's [the report] on the front page of your newspapers," the president told reporters at a White House news conference with visiting President Hamid Karzai of Afghanistan. "Isn't that interesting? Somebody has taken it upon themselves to leak classified information for political purposes."

Bush has good reason to be angry: The disclosure of the report just weeks before the November 7 midterm elections not only undermines his weeks-long public claims that winning the war in Iraq is central to winning the war on terror, but it also destroys the Republicans' campaign strategy of focusing on terrorism and national security by forcing the unpopular war in Iraq front and center as a campaign issue.

. . .And Plays Right Into the Hands of the Democrats


That, in turn, plays right into the Democrats' insistence that the war in Iraq is a costly and dangerous distraction from the overall war on terror. And sure enough, Democrats were quick to seize upon the report's disclosure.

"The Bush administration's failed policies in Iraq are fueling global terrorism and making America less safe," said Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nevada). "These results are the unfortunate consequences of the administration's decision to cherry pick prewar intelligence, ignore our senior military leaders, and completely fail to plan for the post-Saddam occupation."

Senators Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-New York) and Carl Levin (D-Michigan) -- both of whom sit on the Senate Armed Services Committee -- called for the release of the full report, noting that the president ordered only the report's findings be made public.

"Release of the key findings alone will not give the American people enough information," the senators said in a written statement. "This, in our opinion, is selective declassification."

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-California) sought a rare closed-door session of the House to discuss the report's classified findings. Her request was rejected on a nearly straight party-line vote of 217 to 171.

In an interview with The Associated Press, Pelosi said the intelligence estimate "is not a corroboration of what the president is saying. It is a contradiction of what the president is saying."

Even President Pervez Musharraf of Pakistan, who was also in Washington for a Wednesday meeting with Bush, found himself drawn into the political firestorm.

Asked during an interview with CNN about an assertion in his new book that he opposed the invasion of Iraq because he feared that it would only encourage extremists, Musharraf replied, "I stand by it, absolutely. It has made the world a more dangerous place."

A White House in Full Damage-Control Mode


White House homeland security adviser Frances Fragos Townsend took issue with the report's damning conclusion that the number of jihadists has increased.

"I don't think there's any question that there's an increase in rhetoric," Townsend she said. "But I think it's difficult to count the number of true jihadists that are willing to commit murder or kill themselves in the process."

At his Tuesday news conference, Bush angrily insisted that critics who believe the Iraq war has worsened terrorism are naive and mistaken, noting that al-Qaida and other groups have found inspiration to attack the U.S. for more than a decade. "My judgment is, if we weren't in Iraq, they'd find some other excuse, because they have ambitions," he said.

For Bush, a Haunting Revival of Vietnam-Era "Credibility Gap"

For the president -- who's already fighting growing perceptions that the Iraq war is turning into another Vietnam -- the disclosure of the NIE report could not have come at a worse time.

Not only will it likely skewer the outcome of the November election -- where Republicans are fighting to keep control of Congress -- but it also will surely revive long-dormant memories of the infamous "credibility gap" over the Vietnam war four decades ago that ultimately destroyed Lyndon Johnson's presidency.

The slogan was originally coined in a 1965 editorial in the now-defunct New York Herald Tribune to describe Johnson's massive escalation of American involvement in the Vietnam conflict.

A number of events helped to confirm public suspicion that there was a significant "gap" between the Johnson administration's public declarations of controlled military and political resolution in Vietnam and the reality of what was actually going on there.

Those events included the Viet Cong's surprise Tet Offensive in 1968, the infamous My Lai massacre in 1969 that brought disgrace and dishonor to the U.S. and especially the publication by The New York Times of the Pentagon Papers in 1971 which exposed the fact that the Johnson White House deliberately hoodwinked Congress in 1964 into authorizing force against North Vietnam in retaliation for an alleged attack on U.S. ships in the Tonkin Gulf that never actually took place.

"Credibility Gap" Also Haunted Nixon -- Twice


The term was later applied to the discrepancy between the evidence of President Richard Nixon's complicity in the Watergate scandal and his repeated claims of innocence.

Audiotapes secretly recorded in the White House caught Nixon ordering a cover-up of the 1972 break-in of the Democratic Party's national headquarters at Washington's Watergate complex. Disclosure of the tapes ultimately led to his forced resignation in 1974.

Ironically, the term "credibility gap" was itself a takeoff on the phrase "missile gap," which was used repeatedly by then-Senator John F. Kennedy (D-Massachusetts) during the 1960 presidential campaign against Nixon to criticize the then-vice president and his fellow Republicans in Congress for their alleged complacency in regard to a supposed Soviet superiority in possessing long-range nuclear missiles.

One month after Kennedy took office in 1961, he discovered that the missile gap did exist -- but that the U.S. was, in fact, far ahead. The "missile gap" was revealed to be the product of exaggerated and possibly self-serving Air Force intelligence reports, and was spoken of no more.

Bush and Congressional GOPers Can No Longer Be Trusted


By now, it should be painfully obvious that the White House and its Republican allies in Congress are not telling the American people the truth about what's really going on in Iraq. Time and time again, events in Iraq have proven their public pronouncements to be highly inaccurate at best and outright lies at worst.

How can you believe a White House that makes statements about Iraq that are being repeatedly contradicted by those who are best-positioned to know: Those who are over there? And Bush's Republican cronies who control Congress are interested in only one thing -- getting re-elected -- so they will say anything to stay in power.

If the last six years have taught Americans anything, it's that one-party rule is dangerous to a healthy democracy. For the sake of our country, we must end one-party rule on November 7.

* * *


ELECTION BILL: A Blatant GOP Attempt to Impede Your Right to Vote


Speaking of one-party rule, the Republican-controlled House had just passed a bill that, if it becomes law, will require every U.S. citizen to obtain a passport and present it as proof of citizenship when they show up to vote.

A birth certificate won't cut it under this legislation, dubbed the Federal Election Integrity Act of 2006. It was pushed through by right-wing GOPers hell-bent on what they say is combating "voter fraud."

But the measure is so transparently aimed at suppressing turnout for Democratic candidates that the end result would inevitably be a perpetuation of GOP control of all the branches of government for generations.

How?

U.S. passports aren't cheap. It costs $85 to obtain one, not counting the cost of having your photos taken for one. For nearly everyone, the total cost, photos included, would be $95 to $100. According to the State Department, only 27 percent of Americans now possess passports.

If you plan to travel to Canada or to Mexico after 2007, you'll have to obtain a passport to cross the border back into the U.S. This blogger, who lives in Vermont, travels frequently across the Canadian border to visit friends in Montreal. Shelling out $95 for a passport to travel to Canada is a pain in my wallet, but I can live with it.

To pay $95 to $100 for a passport in order to vote is, however, something else entirely. This bill is blatantly unconstitutional on its face and in the words of George Herbert Walker Bush, "this will not stand."

Measure Imposes an Unconstitutional "Poll Tax"

To require millions of Americans to pay $95 to $100 to obtain a passport in order to vote is to effectively impose a poll tax -- which is strictly forbidden under the 24th Amendment of the Constitution.

The 24th Amendment is quite explicit:

"The right of the citizens of the United States to vote in any primary or other election for President or Vice President, for electors for President or Vice President, of for Senator or Representative in Congress, shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state by reason of failure to pay any poll tax or other tax."

Millions of low-income Americans -- who tend to vote overwhelmingly for Democrats -- would be effectively prevented from exercising their constitutional right to vote because many cannot afford to pay the $95 to $100 required to obtain a passport.

Moreover, the primary purpose of a U.S. passport is to provide proof of citizenship for Americans who travel outside the country. Since only 27 million Americans travel abroad -- and that's way down from the 40 million who traveled outside the country before the 9/11 attacks -- the measure is a massive inconvenience.

Why force the American people -- the vast majority of whom will never travel abroad -- to apply for a passport at 95 to 100 bucks a pop that they'll otherwise never use? It makes absolutely no sense whatsoever.

Kick These Constitutional Ignoramuses Out of Office!

That this measure passed the GOP-controlled House at all is proof positive that not only is this measure a blatant attempt to interfere with your constitutional right to vote, but those who passed it are dimwits who are shamefully ignorant of the Constitution that they're all bound by their oath of office to "uphold and support [Read also: obey]."

These idiots deserve to get thrown out of office on November 7 for cooking up this hair-brained scheme, which should never see the light of day in the Senate. If there was ever a reason for senators to filibuster a bill to death -- or even kill it in committee -- this one is most definitely it.

Contact your senator and tell them in no uncertain terms that this idiotic bill deserved to be tossed into the trash can where it belongs.

# # #

Volume I, Number 44
Copyright 2006, Skeeter Sanders. All rights reserved.


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Monday, September 25, 2006

Conservatives Abandon S.S. Bush, Part II: Christian Rightists Say They're Being Ignored

Evangelicals Unhappy With Bush, GOP For 'Not Paying Attention' to Gay Marriage and Other 'Values' Issues; IRS Crackdown on 'Pulpit Politicking' Not Helping Matters

PLUS: Gloomy New Intelligence Report on Iraq War a Huge Headache for Bush Six Weeks Before Election

SPECIAL REPORT
By Rose French and Gillian Flaccus

The Associated Press

Christian conservatives, traditionally a reliable Republican Party constituency, aren't necessarily a GOP gimme this time around.

There is an undercurrent of concern that some evangelicals, unhappy that the Republican-controlled Congress and President Bush haven't paid more attention to gay marriage and other "values" issues, may stay home on Election Day -- or even vote for Democratic Party candidates.

Possibly adding to the evangelicals' unhappiness is a closely-watched battle between the Internal Revenue Service and a California church that some fear could have a "chilling effect" on the ability of religious leaders to speak from the pulpit on hot-button social issues during the fall election campaign.

"Conservative Christians are somewhat disenchanted with Republicans," said Kenyn Cureton, vice president for convention relations with the executive committee of the Southern Baptist Convention, the nation's largest Protestant denomination with nearly 16 million members.

Religious conservatives are unhappy that the Republicans haven't paid enough attention to "values issues" on the campaign trail, he said, noting that even a push this summer against same-sex marriage came too late, overshadowed by Iraq and the war on terror.

"It has not escaped our notice that they waited until just a few months from the November elections to address our agenda," Cureton said.

Jonathan Gregory, 38, a deacon at Grace Baptist Church in Bethpage, Tennessee, said he may not vote for the Republicans this fall, even though he considers himself a Republican and has voted for Bush.

"I will vote conservative across the board, depending on the candidates' stance on abortion, gay marriage and their support of the military," Gregory said.

AP Poll: Bush Draws 42 Percent Negative Approval Rating Among Evangelicals

Voters like Gregory were once considered the president's strongest supporters. Exit polls showed 78 percent of white evangelicals voted for Bush in 2004, providing him with his three-million-vote victory margin over his Democratic challenger, Senator John Kerry of Massachusetts.

But an Associated Press-Ipsos poll conducted September 11-13 indicated that 42 percent of white evangelicals now disapprove of the job Bush has done as president.

His approval rating among white evangelicals is still much higher (58 percent positive) than his grade among Americans generally (39 percent positive), but the poll also shows Democrats have made slight gains among moderate white evangelical voters.

Conservative Christian groups have started trying to mobilize evangelical voters this fall by focusing on issues such as gay marriage and abortion. A "Values Voters" summit that attracted several potential 2008 presidential candidates took place last Friday in Washington.

The Colorado-based Focus on the Family has started voter-registration drives in eight states, according to the group's Web site (http://www.fotf.org/). The Southern Baptist Convention is helping promote a Focus on the Family DVD about gay marriage.

The DVD and booklet about gay marriage entitled "Why Not Gay Marriage?" aims to "equip Christians with answers to some of the most-often-asked questions in the gay-marriage debate," according to fotf.org.

Neither group is endorsing candidates -- by law, they're not allowed to do so because of their tax-exempt status -- but they are encouraging Christians to vote on "values issues," Cureton said.

The nearly 70-minute Focus on the Family DVD gives answers to 10 questions, such as "How will my same-sex marriage hurt your marriage?" and "Is it healthy to subject children to experimental families?"

For Many Christian Conservatives, Gay Marriage Is Issue No. 1

David Masci, senior research fellow at the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life, said gay marriage is approaching abortion in terms of the weight it's given among conservative Christians.

"This issue [gay marriage] has become important enough for them that they want people to be conversant in it," he said. "It's a battle being fought on so many fronts."

In November, eight states will have referendums on state constitutional amendments banning same-sex marriage: Arizona, Colorado, Idaho, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Virginia and Wisconsin.

Aiming to fill the void left by the collapse of the once-highly-influential Christian Coalition, Focus on the Family, founded by Christian radio host James Dobson, is seeking church and county coordinators in at least one of those states — Tennessee.

Other states the group is targeting include Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Montana, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Ohio, according to a news release posted on the group's Web site last month.

Church coordinator duties include "encouraging pastors to speak about Christian citizenship, conducting a voter-registration drive, distributing voter guides and get-out-the-vote efforts." County coordinators recruit "key evangelical churches, friends and family and supporting church coordinators with periodic phone calls."

Southern Baptists created the "iVoteValues" initiative in 2004 to increase evangelical Christian voter registration, education and mobilization, Cureton said. Several groups participated in the movement, including Focus on the Family and the Family Research Council.

Those efforts are continuing this year, with churches holding nonpartisan voter registration drives and pastors encouraged to preach on "values issues," particularly since conservative Christians may be disillusioned this time around, Cureton said.

"Religious Left" Is No Longer Remaining Silent

Harry Knox, director of the religion and faith program at the Human Rights Campaign, the nation's largest gay-rights group, said religious progressives are beginning to speak out on gay marriage and other issues.

He said, for example, that the Human Rights Campaign recently launched its "Out In Scripture," a free weekly online resource to help clergy in planning their sermons and spiritual discussion groups.

"People on our side of the conversation, who have been silent for a long time, are tired of being silent," Knox said.

A council of gay-friendly Christians marked the anniversary of the September 11 terrorist attacks with a call to remember statements by conservative Christian leaders that blamed gay men and lesbians for the attacks, "bringing God's wrath upon the nation."

Those targeted by such comments "are equally victims, 365 days of the year, of the kinds of teachings that Christian extremists espouse," said the Reverend Mel White, a former ghostwriter for the Reverend Jerry Falwell and other conservative Christian leaders.

"It's over, it's over," White, founder of the gay Christian lobbying group Soulforce, said repeatedly about progressive Christians' public silence. "We will not anymore stand silently by while they blame us for the ills of this nation, when we are at the very heart of what this nation represents."

Religious Groups Also Worried About IRS

A closely-watched legal fight between the nation's tax collector and a California church -- ironically, a liberal congregation -- may also be contributing to the conservative evangelicals' disillusionment with the GOP.

Loud applause bounced off the stained glass windows of the church sanctuary Thursday as leaders of an Episcopalian congregation in Pasadena announced they would resist an IRS investigation into an anti-war sermon delivered before the 2004 presidential election.

"Only by standing now can we protect ourselves from the chilling effect on our own First Amendment rights of free speech and free exercise of religion that these summonses represent," Bob Long, senior warden at All Saints Church, said as the pews erupted in a long standing ovation.

"We are asking our lawyers today to advise the IRS of our intention to challenge the IRS summons in a court of law and to prepare ourselves for this proceeding."

Long said the church's 26-member vestry, or board of directors, voted unanimously early Thursday to reject the IRS' demands, which included an interview with the rector, copies of e-mails and internal correspondence and utility bills.

The decision sets up a high-profile confrontation between an Episcopal congregation of 3,500 members that is putting its tax-exempt status on the line and the IRS, which generally tries to keep such inquiries private.

IRS spokesman Terry Lemons said he could not comment on a specific case and would not say whether the agency would request a court hearing.

"We recognize the constitutional rights of freedom of speech and religion," Lemons said in a statement. "But there is no constitutional right to be exempt from federal taxation."

Fears of "Chilling Effect" on Religious Leaders' Free Speech

The dispute has attracted the attention of religious leaders on both the right and the left, who say the IRS actions could make it more difficult for them to speak out on moral issues such as gay marriage and abortion during the midterm election campaign.

At Thursday's news conference, church officials were flanked by about 40 representatives of other Christian churches, Jewish synagogues and Muslim mosques.

"We smell intimidation, it smells rotten, and we should not allow any aspect of intimidation to be directed to any member of our great country," said Dr. Maher Hathout of the Islamic Center of Southern California in Los Angeles.

Rabbi Neil Comess-Daniels of the Beth Shir Sholom synagogue in Santa Monica suggested church supporters of all faiths contribute to a fund to help the All Saints church pay its legal fees. Comess-Daniels made the first pledge as the Reverend Ed Bacon, the church's rector, looked on.

IRS More Closely Scrutinizing Religious Groups This Election Cycle

The IRS has pledged to scrutinize churches and other religious nonprofits during this year's mid-term elections and in the 2008 election cycle.

The agency completed investigations of 90 tax-exempt churches and religious-affiliated charities in 2004 and found wrongdoing in 70 percent of the cases. Four -- none of them churches -- lost their tax-exempt status. In 2005, the agency began audits of 70 churches and charities and has 40 cases pending so far this year.

Earlier this week, the conservative Alliance Defense Fund and the Family Research Council sent letters to thousands of pastors informing them about their right to speak to congregations on issues in this year's elections, including abortion and gay marriage.

Pastor's Anti-Iraq War Sermon at Heart of Dispute


The IRS' dispute with All Saints centers on a sermon titled "If Jesus Debated Senator Kerry and President Bush" that was delivered by guest pastor the Reverend George Regas on October. 31, 2004.

Though he did not endorse either President Bush or his Democratic challenger, Senator John Kerry of Massachusetts, he said Jesus would condemn the Iraq war and Bush's doctrine of pre-emptive war.

"I believe Jesus would say to Bush and Kerry: 'War is itself the most extreme form of terrorism. President Bush, you have not made dramatically clear what have been the human consequences of the war in Iraq,'" Regas said, according to a transcript.

The IRS reprimanded the church in June 2005 and asked that it promise to be more careful. Church officials refused.

All Saints member Sally Howard of West Hollywood said she agreed with the vestry's decision.

"The church should not back down from speaking to issues of peace and justice. And if that means that the church is going to face loss of its tax-exempt status, then that will be," she said. "We do not want to be in that position of being neutral or being silent because of the political ramifications."

Howard said Regas never urged parishioners to vote for any particular candidates. "He has never, and he didn't that day, he's never stated that a particular person should be voted for," she said.

For Religious Groups, Loss or Denial of Tax Exemption Can Be Financially Fatal

According to the IRS, the only church ever to be stripped of its tax-exempt status for partisan politicking was the ultra-conservative Church at Pierce Creek near Binghamton, New York, which was penalized in 1995 after it ran full-page ads in USA Today and The Washington Times attacking then-Arkansas Governor Bill Clinton during his successful 1992 run for the White House.

That congregation -- now known as The Landmark Church -- was for many years the home congregation of activist Randall Terry, founder of the militant anti-abortion group Operation Rescue.

In 1999, the IRS denied tax-exempt status to the Christian Coalition, founded by conservative televangelist Pat Robertson, for its "overtly partisan lobbying" for Republican candidates.

That decision, combined with the departure the following year of Robertson -- who himself ran for the 1988 GOP presidential nomination -- and the resignation in 2001 of its high-profile executive director, Ralph Reed, has left the coalition deeply in debt and in organizational disarray.

# # #

WAR ON TERROR: Intelligence Report Showing Iraq Invasion Worsened Terrorist Threat Is a Huge Headache for GOP Six Weeks Before Election

By Skeeter Sanders

Just when the Republicans thought they had patched up a politically embarrassing feud over legislation spelling out how to prosecute terrorist suspects, the nation's spy agencies dropped a new political bombshell six weeks before the November midterm elections.

A classified report published Sunday by The New York Times and The Washington Post concludes that the war in Iraq has spawned a new wave of Islamic radicalism and increased the global threat of terrorism.

The new National Intelligence Estimate, a document compiled in April by the nation's 16 spy agencies under the umbrella of the new national intelligence director, John Negroponte, severely undermines a central pillar of the Republican Party's November campaign platform: that the 2003 invasion of Iraq and the ouster of Saddam Hussein made America safer, not weaker.

The report, Trends in Global Terrorism: Implications For the United States, says "the Iraq war has made the overall terrorism problem worse," an official familiar with the document told The Times.

The Post said the report described the Iraq conflict as the primary recruiting vehicle for violent Islamic extremists.

While the U.S. has seriously damaged al-Qaida and disrupted its ability to carry out major operations since the September 11, 2001, attacks on New York and Washington, the report noted, radical Islamic networks have spread and decentralized.

With opinion polls showing the GOP possibly losing control of both houses of Congress on November 7 -- in large part due to unhappiness over the war in Iraq -- the report stating categorically the opposite puts the president's credibility on the war into question.

Bush has argued repeatedly in pre-election speeches that Iraq is the central front in the war on terrorism and that demands for a US troop withdrawal from the country by the opposition Democrats underscores why the center-left party should not be trusted with the nation's security.

GOP Compromise Over Treatment of Terror Suspects Could Still Be Derailed By Lingering Dispute Over Classified Evidence

The bombshell revelation comes just days after a bitter Republican intra-party feud between the White House and Congress over how to prosecute suspected terrorists appeared to come to an end last Thursday with the announcement that the Bush administration and Senate GOP rebels announced an agreement on rules for the interrogation and trial of suspects in the war on terror. President Bush urged Congress to put it into law before adjourning for the midterm elections.

The agreement contains concessions by both sides, though the White House yielded ground on two of the most contentious issues. The Bush administration agreed to drop one provision narrowly interpreting international standards of prisoner treatment and another allowing defendants to be convicted on evidence they never see.

But the deal could still be torpedoed by conservative House Republicans upset over the possible disclosure of classified evidence. While the bill has been agreed to by the Senate, House GOP conservatives have said they were concerned with a stipulation that requires access by defendants' lawyers to classified evidence if it's used in an attempt to convict their clients.

This stipulation could expose highly sensitive information, they said.

Representative Duncan Hunter (R-California), chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, said Friday he would support the bill but was still reviewing the rules surrounding evidence.

Regarding the CIA program and "the protection of their people, this [bill] does the right thing and it does protect them," said Hunter.

Hunter had earlier indicated that he was not satisfied with the provision on classified evidence. "We're going to look at it closely," he said on Thursday. "And we have some recommendations with respect to classified information."

But White House national security adviser Stephen Hadley said the bar would be "very high" and that classified information would not be automatically shared with terrorists. "Our view is we think it's a good approach because the likelihood of that occurring would be very remote," Hadley said.

The agreement follows more than a week of bitter squabbling among Republicans that had threatened to derail an anti-terrorism agenda put together by the White House and GOP leaders going into the November 7 elections. It was announced at a time when support for Bush's proposal in both houses of the GOP-controlled Congress had been crumbling.

The House and Senate are expected to vote next week on the legislation.

# # #

Volume I, Number 43
Special report on evangelicals Copyright 2006, The Associated Press.

"The 'Skeeter Bites Report" Copyright 2006, Skeeter Sanders. All rights reserved.


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