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The Situation: Monday, August 15

Editor's Note: The Situation Report is a running log of dispatches, quotes, links and behind-the-scenes notes filed by the correspondents and producers of CNN's Washington Bureau. Watch "The Situation Room" with Wolf Blitzer on CNN 3 p.m. ET to 6 p.m. ET weekdays.

Investigations opened into Muslim prisoner rights violations







Capitol Hill
Cindy Sheehan

Posted 4:39 p.m. ET
From Terry Frieden, CNN America Bureau

Justice Department investigators launched seven new investigations this year into alleged violations of civil rights of Muslims because the allegations were of a "potentially criminal or egregious nature," according to a new report by the Justice Department inspector general.

While some allegations are still being investigated, Inspector General Glenn Fine said several allegations of physical abuse were found to be fabricated.

The incidents involved allegations at unidentified federal corrections facilities, not military facilities such as Guantanamo Bay or Abu Ghraib prison. The inspector general said he is still investigating the FBI role at Guantanamo Bay, including how agents handled reports of inappropriate behavior.

In the required biannual report delivered to Congress Monday, Fine also disclosed that in his separate probe of abuse of September 11 detainees at the Metropolitan Detention Center (MDC) in Brooklyn, officials at the facility had discovered hundreds of videotapes in February 2005 that were relevant to his probe but were never turned over to the Bureau of Prisons and the inspector general as required.

"Some of the videotapes included additional instances of video- and audio-taped meetings between detainees and their attorneys at the MDC," the report said.

In the seven new investigations of serious allegations by Muslim inmates, Fine said, his staff is still examining some of the recent claims by prisoners in U.S. corrections facilities. But in the document -- mandated under the Patriot Act -- Fine said his investigators had determined that several of the allegations were fabricated.

Still under review is an allegation that an assistant warden ordered a prison guard to confiscate an inmate's prayer rug and Koran and to dispose of them in the garbage incinerator. In another case a corrections officer allegedly ordered an inmate to stop praying and made derogatory remarks about his religious beliefs. In a third case a prison official allegedly ordered an inmate to drop his Koran on the floor outside his cell, where the officer kicked the prayer book and walked away.

However, the inspector general said separate investigations into physical abuse during the first six months of this year found those claims to be untrue.

Will Iraq become an Islamic state?

Posted: 3:10 p.m. ET
From Wolf Blitzer, CNN Washington Bureau

Increasingly and very disturbingly, U.S. officials are asking this question: Did the U.S. go to war in Iraq in order to see an Islamic state emerge? As the Iraqis try to wrap up a new draft constitution, this has become a real and serious question.

There are Iraqi leaders, mostly among the Shia, who want Islam to be "the source" of all laws in the constitution. Other Iraqis say Islam should be "a source" in the constitution. Either way, many secular Iraqis, especially women, are nervous. They fear that such matters as marriage and divorce, for example, could be under the control of Iraq's Imams, or religious leaders.

That could clearly undermine equality for women in the new Iraq. Already, there have been many press reports suggesting some women who don't wear the veil in the southern and largely Shi'ite part of the country are beaten. There have also been reports that barbers who shave men's faces are targeted for assassination.

How these matters play out in the coming days and weeks will have an enormous impact on the future of Iraq.

Roberts documents

Posted: 2:54 p.m. ET

From Bill Mears, CNN America Bureau

Supreme Court nominee John Roberts supported the idea of allowing prayer in public schools, writing as a White House lawyer in 1985 that such efforts were "within the constitutional power of Congress."

But while critical of the Supreme Court for banning school prayer, he also said legislative efforts to go around the courts were "bad policy."

The memo, part of more than 5,000 documents released by the Ronald Reagan Library and National Archives Monday, is the latest in series of papers related to Roberts government service.

The Senate Judiciary Committee had asked for the the material as it prepares for confirmation hearings next month for Roberts, the federal appeals court judge nominated to replace retiring Justice Sandra Day O'Connor.

In a November 21, 1985 memo, Roberts criticized the Supreme Court's decision prohibiting "meditation or voluntary prayer" in Alabama school. Roberts wrote the ruling's conclusion that "the Constitution prohibits such a moment of silent reflection -- or even silent 'prayer' -- seems indefensible."

The Morning Grind

Posted: 9:30 am ET
From John Mercurio, CNN Political Unit

Dove Huntin' at Camp Casey

Judging from the (false) rumors coming out of Camp Casey this weekend (Walter Jones is on his way!??! Bono too?!?), it's clear someone wants to take Cindy Sheehan's cause onto a larger stage this week. Aides to the U2 singer and the GOP congressman both denied they'll join Sheehan in Crawford. A spokeswoman suggested to CNN that Bono, who spent an hour with Bush in Gleneagles just last month, is unlikely to pull a stunt like that now.

Of course, Vigo Mortensen was there last week, and other rumored celebrity arrivals (Susan Sarandon, for example) might actually pan out, quenching the sun-drenched but news-parched press folk. And one thing we can confirm about this tragic but growing spectacle is that the White House needs one thing it clearly lacks: An exit strategy. (We're talking about Crawford here, not Iraq). Because the last thing Bush needs this week are more pictures of SUVs driving past antiwar protesters on his way to another RNC fundraiser.

Working against Bush on this story, of course, is the continued smooth sailing of his SCOTUS nomination. On that, the Reagan library today releases about 5,000 pages of John Roberts' documents from his days as associate counsel to President Reagan. The National Archives distributes the documents on CD at 11 a.m. EDT. But unless reporters find smoking guns, literally, on those discs, we suspect it's back to Crawford for Day Nine of one mother's (not so) lonely struggle to speak to her president.

With her ranks swelling to some 300 antiwar demonstrators (almost half the size of Crawford's total population), Sheehan said she'll wait three more weeks for Bush to open his door to her. For his part, the president has no public events, and no private conversations with Sheehan, on his schedule today. (Crawford weather forecast: Scattered t-storms, high of 90 degrees. Chance of rain: 40 percent).

Sheehan penned an op-ed for the Progressive Media Project that was published in today's San Jose Mercury-News. In it, she described her meeting with Bush in '04, two months after her son Casey was killed. "I was in deep shock and grief at the time, and all I wanted to do was to show him pictures of Casey and tell him what a wonderful man our son was," she wrote. "But today things are very different. My shock has worn off, and now I've got a lot of anger along with my grief."

Yesterday, the scene in Crawford took an even more bizarre (made-for-TV) twist when a neighbor decided to launch his own protest near the protest site. The fed-up rancher, Larry Mattlage, fired a gunshot harmlessly in the air. Police said he didn't break any laws.

Mattlage told reporters he was frustrated by the growing protest near his property. He said he fired the shot was because "well, I'm getting ready for dove season." But when asked if he was sending a message, he sharply answered, "figure it out for yourself."

In a memorable moment before TV cameras, Mattlage said, "When they first came out here I was sympathetic to their cause, right? They as American citizens have a right to march, to protest, but it's like help me, if you had your brother-in-law in your house for five days wouldn't it start stinking after a while. Be ready for him to go home wouldn't you? Five weeks of this is too much."

Calling it "a battle of the port-a-potties", he said, "they made their point and everybody understands it."

Something tells us there's more to the Larry Mattlage story than we saw yesterday. Stay tuned.

Political Hot Topics

Posted 9:30 am ET
From Stephen Bach, CNN Washington Bureau

CONSTITUTIONAL DEADLINE: Iraqi leaders remained deadlocked Sunday over major issues in the country's new constitution, raising the possibility they would fail to meet the Monday deadline and push the country toward a political crisis. With several questions unresolved, Shiite leaders said Sunday that they were considering asking the National Assembly to approve the document without the agreement of the country's Sunni leaders. Such a move would probably provoke the Sunnis, whose participation in the political process is seen as crucial in the effort to marginalize the Sunni-dominated guerrilla insurgency. NY Times: Iraqis Consider Bypassing Sunnis on Constitutionexternal link

LOW RATING AMONG RECENT TWO-TERMERS: President Bush's standing with an American public anxious about Iraq and the nation's direction is lower than that of the last two men who won re-election to the White House -- Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton -- at this point in their second terms. But solid backing from his base supporters has kept Bush from sinking to the depths reached by former presidents Harry Truman, Richard Nixon, Jimmy Carter and Bush's father. Yahoo! News: Bush Approval a Low for Recent 2-Termersexternal link

"GANG" LABEL MAY BE A LIABILITY FOR '06: Senator Mike DeWine is in the thick of the Supreme Court debate. He's a member of the Judiciary Committee, which will hold hearings starting Sept. 6 on Roberts' nomination. He's also part of the self-styled Gang of 14, a bipartisan group of senators whose negotiations this spring averted a showdown between Senate Democrats and President Bush over judicial nominations. In DeWine's opinion, the deal set the stage for Roberts' likely confirmation. But it may be creating problems for some of the dealmakers. DeWine is one of six "gang" members up for re-election next year. USA Today: Filibuster compromise pins a target on dealmakersexternal link

AUGUST'S BUSIEST STAFFERS: While the rest of Capitol Hill has cleared out for summer vacation and beach reading, the lawyers on the Senate Judiciary Committee are reading memos, law review articles, legal opinions and hearing transcripts to prepare their bosses. Their goal is to ready themselves nearly to the point that they--and more important, the senators on the Judiciary Committee--are not surprised at the hearing. It is a little-seen but essential part of the choreography leading up to the televised confirmation hearings. Chicago Tribune: Senate legal staffers burning midnight oilexternal link

ANSWERING MACHINE PROVES DURBIN WRONG: A law professor who used Senate Minority Whip Richard Durbin as a source for a column last month about federal Judge John Roberts -- a column that Durbin later disputed -- has a taped phone message that he says proves the accuracy of his reporting. "The taped message is consistent with my notes as well as my email and telephone communications with editors," George Washington University law professor Jonathan Turley wrote in a letter earlier this month to Durbin. Washington Times: Durbin offered proof of columnexternal link

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