Live Blog: Chen Guangcheng Makes Phone Call to Congressional Hearing to Ask for Hillary’s Help

Chen Guangcheng

A short time ago, activist Chen Guangcheng made a direct call from his hospital room to a Congressional Hearing on China.

Calling in to the Congressional Executive Commission on China, dissident Chen Guangcheng told lawmakers he is concerned for the safety of his family and he wants to thank Secretary of State Hillary Clinton for her efforts to help him over the past few days.

“I hope I can get more help from her,” he said over speakerphone to the two Republican lawmakers who were present.

The 40-year-old lawyer became famous last week after had taken refuge in the U.S. embassy after escaping more than a year and a half of house arrest. In a deal between the U.S. and China, Chen was then released to a Chinese hospital and is now under Chinese control. Chen initially said he wanted to stay in China but shortly after leaving the embassy he changed his mind.

“The thing I (am) most concerned (about) right now is the safety of my mother, my brothers, and I really want to know what’s going on with them,” Chen said through a translator at Thursday’s congressional hearing.

Chen said he wanted to come to the United States for some “rest,” because he has not rested for 10 years.

I’ve highlighted the portions of the article that refer to Hillary. It sounds to me as if Chen does trust Hillary. Maybe I’m naive, but I don’t see why he would be specifically asking for her help if he did not.

There is a lot of news breaking on this story, so I thought I’d put it up as a live blog so we could discuss what’s happening in China right now. I haven’t been following the story closely, but it appears to me that some very delicate negotiations are probably going on behind the scenes.

I really don’t think it’s helpful for Mitt Romney and Republican lawmakers who have no way of knowing what is really happening to be attacking the Obama administration in the midst of a human rights crisis. Hasn’t there always been tradition of the other party stepping back in situations like this and waiting for the outcome before attacking? Maybe I’m wrong, but I don’t think I’ve ever seen anything like it.

Here is what Mitt Romney had to say earlier this afternoon.

Romney, in a speech in Portsmouth, accused the administration of seeking to hasten Chen’s departure from the embassy placing economic concerns above Chen’s freedom.

“The reports are, if they are accurate, that our administration, willingly or unwittingly communicated to Chen an implicit threat to his family, and also probably sped up, or may have sped up the process of his decision to leave the embassy because they wanted to move on to a series of discussions that Mr. Geithner and our secretary of state are planning to have with China,” Romney said.

“It’s also apparent according to these reports, if they are accurate, that our embassy failed to put in place the kind of verifiable measures that would ensure the safety of Mr. Chen and his family,” Romney added. “If these reports are true, this is a dark day for freedom. And it’s a day of shame for the Obama administration. We are a place of freedom here and around the world, and we should stand up and defend freedom wherever it is under attack.”

So far, I haven’t been able to find any evidence that Hillary pushed Chen to leave the U.S. Embassy. I’ve read that he wanted to leave because he found out that his wife had been beaten. From the Guardian UK

The activist, who is blind, left the US embassy in Beijing after agreeing to a deal allowing him to stay in China and study law at university, with reassurances from authorities.

But it appears he changed his mind after being reunited with his wife, Yuan Weijing, and their children at the hospital, talking to friends about the risks, and learning from Yuan about apparent threats made by local officials in the eastern province of Shandong, where the family lived under a brutal regime of illegal house arrest for 19 months prior to his escape.

So Chen learned about the threats to his family after he got to the hospital and talked to his wife. He didn’t learn this from U.S. officials while he was in the Embassy. So why is Romney saying that? IMHO, it is totally inappropriate for any politician of any party to be making public statements in the midst of an international crisis. If Republicans have concerns about the situation, they should be working behind the scenes, not attacking the very people who are trying to help Chen.

Later in article the guardian reports that on Wednesday night State Department spokesperson Victoria Nuland:

said in a statement that no US official spoke to Chen about physical or legal threats to his family and nor did the Chinese relay any such threats to American diplomats.

She added that Chen had expressed his desire to stay in China throughout talks.

But she confirmed US officials had passed on the Chinese warning that his family would be returned to Shandong if he stayed at the embassy.

“The problem is not that they relayed it to him – as they should have done – but that it should have raised alarm bells. You have to conclude that if the authorities were ready to play these games they were probably not ready to guarantee his safety,” said Nicholas Bequelin of Human Rights Watch.

Gary Locke, the US ambassador, told reporters he could say unequivocally that Chen was never pressured to leave the embassy.

Even if the State Department erred, I think it is wrong for Romney to be attacking the administration in the middle of tense and delicate negotiations taking place on the other side of the world.

What do you think? I’m continuing to read about this case and will add more links in the comments.


“If this is transparency, who needs it?”

“If this is transparency, who needs it?” Steven Aftergood, Director of the Project on Government Secrecy at the Federation of American Scientists, speaking of the Obama Administration’s White House visitor log policy, the results of which he labeled “very thin gruel” (Apr. 13, 2011).

“A White House official conceded the system has limitations, asserting it was designed not as an archive but ‘first and foremost to protect the first family, second family and White House staff while imposing the smallest administrative burden possible.'” POLITICO, “White House Visitor Logs Leave Out Many” (Apr. 15, 2011).

from the site “Quotes of the Month” hosted by American University’s Washington College of Law, Collaboration of Government secrecy.

One of the major Obama campaign promises was to bring more transparency to governing. The English/international version of   Speigel on line has a compelling series up this week called “Disingenuous Transparency”focusing on how government whistle blowers have suffered under the Obama administration.  The series is extremely relevant given that the U.S. government has finally “officially” released the Pentagon Papers on the Vietnam War as a show of ‘openness’. The article accuses Obama and the administration of stonewalling and basically ignoring court instructions.  The sad thing is that the compelling article filled with compelling examples will probably never reach a large audience.

I have been following the case of Thomas Drake–a former employee of NSA–who is accused of providing the Baltimore Sun with internal information on government wiretapping. Drake’s case predates the more famous case of Bradley Manning and Wikileaks.  There have been other cases.

In May 2010, a court convicted former FBI interpreter Shamai Leibowitz was sentenced to 20 months in prison for providing government information to a blogger.  Another prosecuted whistle blower of Stephen Kim who was  a North Korea expert at the State Department.  Kim supposedly supplied state secrets to Fox News. Another high profile case is that of former CIA agent Jeffrey Sterling who allegedly provided information to author James Risen a 2006 exposé entitled  “State of War.”    The Obama Justice Department has prosecuted these cases to the fullest extent possible.

The Drake case fell apart in a similar way that the charges of Oliver North fell apart during the Iran-Contra Scandal of the 1980s.  It was felt that the prosecution of Drake would expose too much national security information. Drake accepted a plea of misdemeanor charges for “exceeding his authorized use of a government computer”.  Again, the tie back to Daniel Ellsberg and the Pentagon Papers is relevant.

But the government withdrew the evidence supporting several of the central charges after a judge ruled Drake would not be able to defend himself unless the government revealed details about one of the National Security Agency’s telecommunications collection programs. On two other counts, documents the government had claimed were classified have either been shown to be labeled unclassified when Drake accessed them or have since been declassified. Faced with the prospect of trying to convict a man for leaking unclassified information, the government frantically crafted a plea deal in the last days before the case was due to go to trial.

The collapse of the case against Drake may have repercussions beyond just this one case.

This is the third time the government’s attempt to use the Espionage Act to criminalize ordinary leaking has failed in spectacular fashion. The first such example—against Pentagon Papers leaker Daniel Ellsberg—got dismissed when the government’s own spying on Ellsberg was exposed.

Spiegal characterizes this case as “an embarrassing setback for the White House”.  It seems that the candidate that promised translucency is fighting to keep secrets at a pace previously never experienced.  That says a lot given the paranoia of Nixon and the fierce defense of the so-called imperial presidency by the Bush/Cheney administration.

Under Obama, more whistleblowers are being held accountable than in all previous decades. Lucy Dalglish, executive director of the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, told the Associated Press that the US government is going after whistleblowers “very, very aggressively.”

Government whistle blowers are supposedly protected by an act of Congress passed in 1989 called The Whistle Blower’s Protection Act. It was designed to encourage government employees to step forward with instances of government abuse that they’ve witnessed. You’ll notice the date roughly corresponds to the time the Iran-Contra situation was fresh.   Since then, the law has been weakened.

“It is no surprise that honest citizens who witness waste, fraud and abuse in national security programs but lack legal protections are silenced or forced to turn to unauthorized methods to expose malfeasance, incompetence or negligence,” Stephen Kohn, the executive director of the National Whistleblowers Center wrote in an op-ed contribution to the New York Times on Monday.

He wrote that Congress and the executive branch would be well advised to follow the example of their predecessors. In fact, the first protective law in the US for “whistleblowers” is almost as old as the country itself — it originated in 1778.

Speigal characterizes the Obama administration as having an active policy of “stonewalling” and “blocking” any avenue that would provide a safe path for federal whistle blowers.

The Obama administration also uses other avenues for stonewalling and blocking. At times, those efforts take on grotesque dimensions, as in the case the Pentagon’s September order to pulp the entire first printing run of “Operation Dark Heart.” The memoir by army officer Anthony Shaffer over his time in the Afghanistan war contained what were alleged to be military secrets. The destruction of the 9,500 books cost taxpayers an estimated $47,300. When the second edition was released, 250 passages were blacked out.

This pressure clashes with the increasing openness of the Internet age. Four decades ago, Daniel Ellsberg had to photocopy selected passages from the “Pentagon Papers.” Today, WikiLeaks indiscriminately places tens of thousands of documents on the Web. “It revels in the revelation of ‘secrets’ simply because they are secret,” well-regarded attorney Floyd Abrams, who represented the New York Times in its “Pentagon Papers” case against the government, wrote six months ago in the Wall Street Journal.

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Tuesday Reads: Osamarama

Good Morning!! Grab your coffee and pull up a chair. I’ve got some interesting links for you this morning. It’s mostly Osama-related with a few non-Osama links thrown in.

I guess we need to brace ourselves for 24/7 Osama bin Laden news until further notice. The White House is leaking information in dribs and drabs, the corporate media is in hysteria mode, and the conspiracy theories are already spreading like wildfire.

The biggest problem for the Obama administration is going to be the supposed “burial at sea.” Let’s hope they have extensive photo and video evidence that that actually took place. Some 9/11 relatives are very upset about this. They wanted to see the body.

Rosaleen Tallon kissed her three children good night and went to sleep feeling at peace. The terrorist responsible for the death of her brother, New York firefighter Sean Patrick Tallon, was dead. Her two boys and her little girl had been assured that the “bad man” behind the attacks that claimed their uncle was gone.

But when Tallon awoke Monday to the news that Osama bin Laden had been buried at sea, she was stunned. That was one corpse she would like to have seen for herself, Tallon said, her fiery words underscoring the change this suburban science teacher has undergone in the last decade.

“I wouldn’t be honest if I didn’t say I was a little dismayed — a lot dismayed,” Tallon said as her 20-month-old son, Paddy, nestled in her arms while savoring a red lollipop. “I think that was too hasty. I would’ve liked the American people to say without a shadow of a doubt, ‘Yes, that’s him.’ “

Hey, why didn’t they put bin Laden’s body in the Capital rotunda and let people view it until they had their fill? But seriously, the “burial at sea” thing is really problematic. At Corrente, Lambert isn’t buying it.

But how are we going to drag the body through the streets, if it’s floating in the Indian Ocean somewhere? Can’t anybody here play this game?

NOTE On the bright side, this does explain why the corpse wasn’t a festive centerpiece at the White House Correspondents Dinner. I’d been wondering about that.

Perhaps Lambert will be pleased to know that the folks over at Alex Jones’ Infowars agree with him. Here’s a sample of the posts going up over there.

Inside Sources: Bin Laden’s Corpse Has Been On Ice For Nearly a Decade

A multitude of different inside sources both publicly and privately, including one individual who personally worked with Bin Laden at one time, told us directly that Osama’s dead corpse has been on ice for nearly a decade and that his “death” would only be announced at the most politically expedient time.

That time has now come with a years-old fake picture being presented as the only evidence of his alleged killing yesterday, while Bin Laden’s body has been hastily dumped into the sea to prevent anyone from finding out when he actually died.

In April 2002, over nine years ago, Council on Foreign Relations member Steve R. Pieczenik, who served as Deputy Assistant Secretary of State under Henry Kissinger, Cyrus Vance, and James Baker, told the Alex Jones Show that Bin Laden had already been “dead for months”.

Pieczenik would be in a position to know such information, having worked directly with Bin Laden when the US was funding and arming the terror leader in an attempt to drive the Soviets out of Afghanistan in the late 70′s and early 80′s (a documented historical fact that talking heads in the corporate media are actually denying today in light of developments).

“I found out through my sources that he had had kidney disease. And as a physician, I knew that he had to have two dialysis machines and he was dying,” Pieczenik told Jones during the April 24, 2002 interview.

Intel Chief: They Killed “Make Believe Osama”

Former Pakistani intelligence chief Hamid Gul went on the Alex Jones Show today and characterized the unverified assassination of Osama bin Laden as symbolic theater.

Gul said the event was a “make believe drama” designed to be used for Obama’s upcoming re-election campaign.

The supposed hit as described by the government and the corporate media is the “stuff of folk lore, for legend-making and the ballad,” Gull explained.

Hamid Gull went on to cite the late Prime Minister of Pakistan, Benazir Bhutto, who told David Frost in late 2007 that Osama bin Laden was murdered by Ahmed Omar Saeed Sheikh, who is also one of the men convicted of kidnapping and killing journalist Daniel Pearl.

Apparently the right wing blogs are also claiming the Navy Seal secret operation was a complete fake, except they think Osama is still alive. Here’s a report at Think Progress: Meet The Deathers: Andrew Brietbart Website Pushing Conspiracy Theory That Osama Might Not Be Dead

Mere hours after President Obama announced the death of Osama bin Laden, supported by incontrovertible DNA evidence, the conspiracy theorists are hard at work. Andrew Breitbart, a prominent right-wing commentator with close ties to the Republican Party and the Tea Party, is pushing the theory on his website Big Peace.

On Breitbart’s website, J. Michael Waller, suggests Obama take a number of extraordinary steps so he can “make sure [Osama] is dead.” Pictures are apparently not enough. Walker asserts that he needs to be able to “walk right up to bin Laden’s corpse and view it.”

See? They needed to lay the corpse out in the Capital rotunda so that every American who wanted to feast his or her eyes on it. Hell, maybe Lambert’s right–they should have dragged it through the streets to satisfy the more bloodthirsty among us. {Sigh….} I have a feeling that pretty soon I’m going to get very tired of hearing about Osama bin Laden.

In case you believe that Osama was really killed by Navy Seals in the past few days, here is a fascinating article at Wired’s Danger Room blog on the advanced technology used by the folks who hunt terrorists. Apparently they carry around thumb and eye scanners to identify the culprits they are looking for. That’s in addition to taking DNA samples.

At the Wall Street Journal, Ralph Gardener asks, “Is fist-pumping the right reaction?” He never really answers the question, but I found myself disturbed by the reactions last night too. But hey, Americans are generally pretty tacky–just look at the TV shows they watch nowadays. Hoarders? American Idol? Geeze.

At CNN there is an article about the “spending spree” that followed the 9/11 attacks.

In the decade between Sept. 11, 2001, and the death of Osama bin Laden on Sunday, the U.S. government has spent hundreds of billions of dollars with the aim of making Americans safer.

Agencies were created, expanded or given new missions. The government hired thousands of new employees to analyze intelligence, track terror financing and support the nation’s rapidly expanding national security apparatus.

Gee, can I get a dispensation from paying for all that–like all the religious nuts who don’t want to pay for abortions or dispense birth control pills or provide medical care for women who get abortions?

I’ll end with a few non-Osama-related news stories. A former Chicago Bears player who committed suicide by shooting himself through the heart (to preserve his brain for study) has been found to have had severe brain damage.

On Monday, scientists at Boston University who examined Duerson’s brain tissue said he suffered from a “moderately advanced” case of chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), a degenerative brain disease associated with repeated blows to the head.

His brain showed pronounced changes in the frontal cortex amygdala and the hippocampus, which control judgment, inhibition, impulse, mood control and memory, said Dr. Ann McKee, a co-director of the Center for Study of Traumatic Encephalopathy at the Boston University School of Medicine and director of the Bedford VA CSTE Brain Bank.

“When you look at it microscopically, it’s undisputable,” said McKee, who has detected CTE in approximately 40 of the 50 brains she has examined, a pool that includes athletes and military veterans.

Known for his aggressive and hard-hitting defense, Duerson is the 14th of 15 former NFL players studied at the brain bank to be diagnosed with CTE. Overall, the condition has been found in more than two dozen deceased professional football players.

Football should really be banned, at least for kids. It will never happen though.

Astronomers create 3D map of 3-Billion-Year-Old Universe

Using light from 14,000 distant yet powerful cosmic beacons, astronomers have pieced together the largest and most detailed 3-D map of the ancient universe.

Previous versions plotted the locations of galaxies within 7 billion light-years of Earth. The new version, however, charts clouds of hydrogen in a swath between 10 billion and 12 billion light-years away — farther in distance and deeper in time than any 3-D map before it.

The hydrogen clouds could help answer some of astronomers’ more profound questions about the universe, including the nature of dark energy.

“We’re looking for a bump in the data that may tell us how fast universe is expanding,” said cosmologist Anže Slosar of Brookhaven National Laboratory, one of the researchers who presented the map May 1 at the American Physical Society meeting in Anaheim, California. “We don’t have enough data to see the bump yet, but we expect to get there in a few years.”

Julian Assange says that Facebook is an “appalling spying machine.”

Asked about his thoughts on the role that social media has played in shaping the recent revolutions in the Middle East, the WikiLeaks founder went in another direction. “Facebook in particular is the most appalling spying machine that has ever been invented,” he said. “Here we have the world’s most comprehensive database about people, their relationships, their names, their addresses, their locations and the communications with each other, their relatives, all sitting within the United States, all accessible to U.S. intelligence. Facebook, Google, Yahoo — all these major U.S. organizations have built-in interfaces for U.S. intelligence. It’s not a matter of serving a subpoena. They have an interface that they have developed for U.S. intelligence to use.”

He continued, still not answering the question: “Now, is it the case that Facebook is actually run by U.S. intelligence? No, it’s not like that. It’s simply that U.S. intelligence is able to bring to bear legal and political pressure on them. And it’s costly for them to hand out records one by one, so they have automated the process. Everyone should understand that when they add their friends to Facebook, they are doing free work for United States intelligence agencies in building this database for them.”

If you like to look at the night sky, there will be a nice show this month when Venus and Jupiter appear very close to each other. May 11 is the day to check them out, I guess.

That’s all I’ve got for today. What are you reading and blogging about?


White House Pushing Bogus Meme about Egyptian “Transition”

Barack Obama and Hosni Mubarak in Egypt

Today multiple news sources are suddenly reporting practically word for word a new meme on the Egyptian “transition” that is obviously coming from the Obama administration. And the message has been coordinated with Egyptian Vice President Omar Suleiman. Mubarak is being gradually edged out, and the U.S. needs to make sure they stay in control of the situation. Obama must make sure to prevent real democracy from taking hold in Egypt.

So the new meme is that Mubarak will be kept around as a powerless figurehead, but first he needs to make some changes in the constitutional rules of succession so that Suleiman can legally be in charge of the “transition” government. Why Suleiman? Supposedly because the guy who is supposed to succeed Mubarak, Ahmad Fathi Sorour, is “much worse” than even Suleiman the torturer. Yet there is never any credible explanation for why Solour is so terrible that it’s better to have a torturer in control of the lead-up to US-controlled “free and fair” elections

From the Village organ: What Mubarak must do before he resigns.

If today Mubarak were no longer available to fulfill his role as president, the interim president would be one of two candidates. If he chooses to leave the country, say for “medical reasons,” the interim president would be Omar Suleiman, the former intelligence chief who was recently made vice president. Egyptians, particularly those of us calling for an end to Mubarak’s three-decade rule, see Suleiman as Mubarak II, especially after the lengthy interview he gave to state television Feb. 3 in which he accused the demonstrators in Tahrir Square of implementing foreign agendas. He did not even bother to veil his threats of retaliation against protesters.

On the other hand, if Mubarak is pushed to resign immediately we would have an even worse interim president: Fathi Surur, who has been speaker of the People’s Assembly since 1990.

Ahmad Fathi Sorour

And he would be worse because?

Surur has long employed his legal expertise to maintain and add to the arsenal of abusive laws that Mubarak’s regime has used against the Egyptian people. Since neither Suleiman nor Surur would be able to amend the constitution during the interim tenure, the next presidential election would be conducted under the notoriously restrictive election rules Mubarak introduced in 2007. That would effectively guarantee that no credible candidate would be able to run against the interim president.

So before Mubarak resigns he must sign a presidential decree delegating all of his authorities to his vice president until their current terms end in September.

But Suleiman “has long employed his [military and intelligence] expertise” to cooperate with U.S. rendition and torture policies. Why is he better? Why should anyone believe that Suleiman will push for real democracy? Give me a break! The U.S. wants Suleiman in charge because he is their guy.

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“A chance to move beyond rhetoric to support the democratic movement sweeping over Egypt”

From Sunday. LA Times Babylon & Beyond blog:

More than 80 American academics, including Noam Chomsky and several California scholars, posted an open letter online Sunday to President Obama [...]

From the Tahrir demonstrations

Here’s the open letter, as posted on the Institute for Public Accuracy site:

Dear President Obama:

As political scientists, historians, and researchers in related fields who have studied the Middle East and U.S. foreign policy, we the undersigned believe you have a chance to move beyond rhetoric to support the democratic movement sweeping over Egypt. As citizens, we expect our president to uphold those values.

For thirty years, our government has spent billions of dollars to help build and sustain the system the Egyptian people are now trying to dismantle. Tens if not hundreds of thousands of demonstrators in Egypt and around the world have spoken. We believe their message is bold and clear: Mubarak should resign from office and allow Egyptians to establish a new government free of his and his family’s influence. It is also clear to us that if you seek, as you said Friday “political, social, and economic reforms that meet the aspirations of the Egyptian people,” your administration should publicly acknowledge those reforms will not be advanced by Mubarak or any of his adjutants.

There is another lesson from this crisis, a lesson not for the Egyptian government but for our own. In order for the United States to stand with the Egyptian people it must approach Egypt through a framework of shared values and hopes, not the prism of geostrategy. On Friday you rightly said that “suppressing ideas never succeeds in making them go away.” For that reason we urge your administration to seize this chance, turn away from the policies that brought us here, and embark on a new course toward peace, democracy and prosperity for the people of the Middle East. And we call on you to undertake a comprehensive review of US foreign policy on the major grievances voiced by the democratic opposition in Egypt and all other societies of the region.

You can view the signatories here. You can also download a pdf. And, to leave feedback, apparently you can to egyptletter.blogspot.com.

Earlier on Sunday, the Carnegie Endowment published the following statement from its Working Group on Egypt, urging for free and fair elections and recommending a suspension of economic and military aid to Egypt until certain conditions that would ensure a free and fair election are met:

Amidst the turmoil in Egypt, it is important for the United States to remain focused on the interests of the Egyptian people as well as the legitimacy and stability of the Egyptian government.

Only free and fair elections provide the prospect for a peaceful transfer of power to a government recognized as legitimate by the Egyptian people. We urge the Obama administration to pursue these fundamental objectives in the coming days and press the Egyptian government to:

  • call for free and fair elections for president and for parliament to be held as soon as possible;
  • amend the Egyptian Constitution to allow opposition candidates to register to run for the presidency;
  • immediately lift the state of emergency, release political prisoners, and allow for freedom of media and assembly;
  • allow domestic election monitors to operate throughout the country, without fear of arrest or violence;
  • immediately invite international monitors to enter the country and monitor the process leading to elections, reporting on the government’s compliance with these measures to the international community; and
  • publicly declare that Hosni Mubarak will agree not to run for re-election.

We further recommend that the Obama administration suspend all economic and military assistance to Egypt until the government accepts and implements these measures.

The Working Group on Egypt is a nonpartisan initiative bringing substantial expertise on Egyptian politics and political reform, and aimed at ensuring that Egypt’s elections are free and fair and open to opposition candidates.

Laura Rozen’s report on the Egypt working group’s statement provides further insight:

A bipartisan group of former U.S. officials and foreign policy scholars is urging the Obama administration to suspend all economic and military aid to Egypt until the government agrees to carry out early elections and to suspend Egypt’s draconian state of emergency, which has been in place for decades.

“We are paying the price for the fact that the administration has been at least of two minds on this stuff, and we should have seen it coming,” said Robert Kagan, co-chair of the bipartisan Egypt working group, regarding what many analysts now say is the inevitable end of Hosni Mubarak’s thirty year reign as Egypt’s president.

Though the Obama administration has tried to look like it’s not picking sides in urging restraint from violence amid five days of Egyptian unrest calling for Mubarak to step down, “the U.S. can’t be seen as neutral when it’s giving a billion and a half dollars” to prop up the Mubarak regime, Kagan said.

And, from Zaid Jilani at Think Progress:

The position of the Obama administration has been unclear. While administration officials have condemned abuses of civil liberties, they’ve also fallen short of endorsing Mubarak’s ouster or ending support for the regime, with Vice President Joe Biden even going as far as to say that Mubarak isn’t a dictator.

The United States gives nearly $2 billion in aid to the Egyptian regime every year, and offers diplomatic and military cooperation that helps bolster Mubarak. As protesters continue to be beaten, tortured, and killed by internal security forces, it’s important to know that these abuses are being subsidized by U.S. taxpayer dollars. Threatening to reduce or eliminate this monetary assistance to the Egyptian regime would be a powerful tool that the United States could use to help advance democracy and promote freedom in the country.

In light of the open letter from Chomsky et al and the statement from the CEIP’s working group on Egypt, I thought it might be helpful to recap what the Obama Administration said yesterday.

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