"Weeks before the first bombs dropped in Iraq, the Bush administration began rebuilding plans," reports ABC News, which has obtained a copy of a 99-page contract worth $600 million from the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) - the most money the agency has ever spent in a single country in a single year. Among the companies believed to be bidding are Bechtel, Fluor, Parsons, the Washington Group and Halliburton, Vice President Dick Cheney's old firm," ABC reports. "All are experienced. But in addition, all are generous political donors - principally to Republicans."
The Reporters' Committee for Freedom of the Press has issued an updated report showing "how the war on terrorism affects access to information and the public's right to know." The report includes sections on "covering the war," "military tribunals," "domestic coverage," and "the USA PATRIOT Act." The World Press Institute has just issued a similar report.
Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia banned broadcast media from his speech on March 19 at an appearance where he received an award for supporting free speech. "That was one of the criteria that he had for acceptance," said James Foster, executive director of Cleveland's City Club, which gave Scalia its "Citadel of Free Speech Award."
"A Cold War-era office with a shadowy name and a colorful history of exposing Soviet deceptions is back in business, this time watching Iraq," reports Connie Cass. "The Counter-Disinformation/Misinformation Team's moniker is more impressive than its budget. It's a crew of two toiling in anonymity at the State Department, writing reports they are prohibited by law from disseminating to the U.S. public. The operation has challenged some fantastic claims over the years -- a U.S.
Russell Mokhiber, editor of Corporate Crime Reporter and author of a regular Commondreams.org feature "Ari & I: White House Briefings," was at George W. Bush's first primetime news conference in over a year and a half. He says, "Last night's [press conference] might have been the most controlled Presidential news conference in recent memory.
"On February 24, Newsweek broke what may be the biggest story of the Iraq crisis," FAIR writes. "In a revelation that 'raises questions about whether the WMD [weapons of mass destruction] stockpiles attributed to Iraq still exist,' the magazine's issue dated March 3 reported that the Iraqi weapons chief who defected from the regime in 1995 told U.N. inspectors that Iraq had destroyed its entire stockpile of chemical and biological weapons and banned missiles, as Iraq claims." The CIA denied the Newsweek story.
"The political battle over the Bush administration's planned war in Iraq is filtering down to impact the U.S. media and advertising industry. A growing number of groups opposed to the war allege cable networks are censoring citizens' political views by refusing to accept placements of their anti-war TV ads. Some peace groups are thwarting the networks' rejection by buying local time in major cities for the same anti-war ads.
Where's the money in Argentina? What does U.S. oil cost in Colombia? The Resource Center of the Americas has prepared a list of 10 "important stories about Latin America that major news media distorted or ignored in 2002."
One sequel that's not receiving much media attention is the "Domestic Security Enhancement Act of 2003," a follow up to the "USA Patriot Act of 2001." The Center for Public Integrity obtained a copy of the draft legislation that had been secretly prepared by the Justice Department.
The Reporters' Committee for Freedom of the Press has established a weblog to cover freedom of information and other issues related to the new Department of Homeland Security, which came into existence officially on Jan. 24. "Behind the Homefront" is a "daily chronicle of news in homeland security and military operations affecting newsgathering, access to information and the public's right to know."