- The Washington Times - Friday, February 21, 2003

Insider notes from United Press International for Feb. 21 …

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Bush administration officials are quietly passing the word through Iraqi opposition contacts that top Ba'athist officials could benefit from a kind of witness protection program if they cooperated with the United States in handing over information such as where the caches of weapons of mass destruction are located, once Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein has been toppled, according to the Beirut newspaper An Nahar. Washington has a black list of top echelon Iraqi officials who will be arrested and brought to justice once the war is over. But anyone on the list who collaborates with the United States and its allies — reports An Nahar — will be granted immunity from prosecution and the United States will "find them a safe shelter … in case they don't wish to stay in Iraq," An Nahar reports.

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Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi has temporarily become a telemarketer in the cause of peace in Iraq. European diplomatic sources say Gadhafi has called every leader in Europe making the case for giving U.N. weapons inspectors more time to search for the stockpiles of weapons of mass destruction the Bush administration says Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein's is hoarding. Last week, he phoned Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, a Bush supporter, and they talked for over an hour. This week his main target was Spain's Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar — another supporter of forcing the issue if Saddam doesn't disarm — and again the conversation was a lengthy one, but a senior Spanish source said Gadhafi failed to change Aznar's mind.

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Among the nearly 200 people arrested under the Prevention of Terrorism Act, Pota, in Jharkhand, India, are Gaya Singh, 12, and Rajnath Mahto, 81, surely the world's youngest and the oldest terrorist suspects. Police are holding them for supporting the Naxalites, members of the banned extreme leftist People's War Group. Singh is not the first minor to be arrested under Pota. A confidential police file revealed that the total number of children arrested under Pota is 10. But the police themselves admit to using a rather wide interpretation of Pota to make arrests. "Anyone caught with a copy of the Communist Manifesto or Mao's Red Book becomes a suspicious character. We then watch him and often find clinching evidence," a senior police official from Ranchi said. In another recent case, 14-year-old Janki Bhuinya was arrested under the anti-terror law since the police suspected his father of being connected with the Maoist Communist Center. The legality of arresting minors under Pota is questionable, what is equally clear what an 81-year old man could do that would qualify as terrorism.

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Americans flying home from Canada will hardly be relieved by the news that the U.S. government bullied the Canadian Air Transport Security Authority to commandeer at least two high-tech CTX 5500 scanners and re-direct them to the United States. The million dollar machines are made by InVision Technologies of Newark, Calif. The feds put the squeeze on the Canadians to help meet congressionally imposed deadlines requiring American airports to have installed electronic luggage-screening systems by December 2002. The mandate set off a massive back order for the machines. InVision Vice President David Pillor estimates that 1,500 machines are still needed to comply with the federal rule. "We just don't have the industrial capacity to meet the demand," he noted. Only two companies in the world manufacture explosives-detector systems certified by the FAA, and Washington has not been shy about pressuring airports to acquire them.

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President Bush commented that democracy's a wonderful thing when asked about last weekend's global protests. Whether he feels the same about the U.S. courts is another thing; six members of Congress have joined a coalition of American soldiers to file a lawsuit challenging Bush's authority to wage war against Iraq. The lawsuit was filed last week in a federal court in Boston for MFSP, "Military Families Speak Out," along with a motion for a preliminary injunction to prevent Bush and Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld from conducting hostilities against Iraq. Lead attorney John Bonifaz said the basis for the case was "Article One, Section 8, of the U.S. Constitution, which states quite clearly that Congress, and only Congress, has the right to declare war, and Congress has not declared war on Iraq." Bonifaz said Bush's dash towards war demands judicial intervention.


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